Growing in Families
Growing in Families
One hot afternoon Juan was busily making repairs on the car. Close by was Manuel, watching his father work. The tool Juan was using slipped, causing him to hurt his hand and to cry out in pain. In play the next day, Manuel pretended to repair his bicycle with the same tool he had seen his father using. Maria was watching him play when the tool slipped from his hand also. She heard Manuel cry the very same words his father used the day before.
That evening Maria told Juan what she had seen happening with Manuel. They discussed the importance of their personal influence in the life of their son. Since both parents wanted Manuel to become a well-adjusted, responsible adult, they prayed together that God would help them always to set the right example before their son.
Perhaps you have had a similar experience in your home. Can you recall imitating something you saw one of your parents do? Or maybe you have seen one of your own children copy your behavior. This lesson is about the nurturing which takes place in the home. The purpose of nurturing is to help individuals develop into wholeness and maturity in the likeness of Christ. The family unit is one of the most important places where such nurturing takes place. God’s Word has much to say about this important subject, which can give direction to your life and ministry. May its importance be impressed upon you as you strive to build the body of Christ through the various nurturing ministries.
The Biblical View of Marriage
The first two chapters of Genesis tell of the marvelous creative acts of God. This account includes the creation of the heavens and the earth. It reveals God’s placement of the sun, moon, and stars in the heavens and their purpose. He filled the earth with many beautiful plants, each capable of reproducing itself. He filled the land, sea, and sky with a fascinating variety of creatures, bringing His creative acts almost to completion. Then, when He reviewed all that He had done, God said that it was very good.
God’s final, crowning act of creation was the making of man. Man was to be made in the image of his Creator. To this point, God had not made any creatures or plants like Him. Now, however, from the dust of the earth God shaped a body and breathed life into it. This creature, patterned after the Creator, was man. He was different from all other creatures, because he was a moral being: he had the potential to know and choose between good and evil. In this way he was like his Maker. He also had the ability to communicate with God.
Man was different from other creatures not only because he was a moral being, but because he was alone. All other creatures were created as pairs, male and female, but man labored in the Garden of Eden by himself. Then God said, “‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him’” (Genesis 2:18). Thus, God took a part of the man’s side and made a woman to be his companion. She was to be his helper and share the responsibility of caring for the Garden. She was to complement her husband’s efforts, provide companionship for him, and with him populate the earth.
God created man in a very special way for a very special purpose: He could respond to God’s love and glorify Him. In addition, God made the human pair with the capacity for a special relationship. The husband-wife relationship was designed to be the basic relationship in a family and one which provides social identity. Since God created the man and the woman for each other, He is the one who designed the family.
The Genesis account emphasizes that the husband-wife relationship is a helping one. God intended for husbands and wives to live together in such a way that the needs of each would be met. They have the capacity to relate to and share the emotional, intellectual, and spiritual experiences of life. In addition, marriage provides for the most intimate physical relationship possible between marriage partners. God blessed this union and made it possible for the man and the woman to reproduce and populate the earth.
We see, then, that in addition to caring for creation and each other’s needs, God’s purpose for Adam and Eve was to have children. The ability to bear and rear children is a natural function of human life. While Adam and Eve were to share the most intimate relationship with each other, they were also to develop a loving relationship with their children. As parents, they were to provide a family setting in which they could nurture their children in the fear and admonition of God. Their lives and their teaching were to be an expression of their love for and trust in God. In this way their children would have an appropriate model. The children could thus grow into mature adulthood and eventually raise their own families by the same principles that had guided their parents.
The Bible clearly shows that from the beginning of history, nurturing is an important part of the husband-wife and the parent-child relationship. It also reveals that nurturing in the family is God’s plan. Through precept and example, a pattern for family life emerges from the Scriptures. It is summed up well in Proverbs 22:6, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” The suggestion is that God designed families to provide helpful nurturing relationships so that individuals can develop to wholeness and find fulfillment.
The Nature of Marriage
The marriage relationship is so special that it is recognized in all societies by certain means. Often the marriage of a couple is formalized by either a civil or religious ceremony or by a customary ritual. Whether rites are elaborate or simple, some procedure is usually followed which formally recognizes a man and a woman as a basic family unit: husband and wife.
The marriage of a man and a woman is based upon certain expectations and commitments between them. Review carefully Genesis l:26–28 and 2:20–25, you will find several factors which characterize the marriage relationship.
1. Marriage was ordained by God as a relationship only between a man and a woman. God designed them for each other in a special way. This is the natural sexual order God intended.
2. Marriage is an intimate relationship which is viewed as “oneness” between the man and woman. This is revealed in the way God made woman from a part of man’s side. This is an excellent illustration of the unity which should be found in marriage. Adam saw Eve as a vital part of his own body. When God made Eve’s body, He designed it differently from the body He had shaped for Adam. The difference in their bodies prepared them for physical intimacy with each other. In every way God prepared each of them for intimacy with the other.
3. Marriage is a monogamous relationship. While many cultures recognize and permit polygamous marriages, the Bible does not show this to be true with Adam and Eve. The major emphasis which is seen in the Bible is that God intended marriage to be between one man and one woman.
4. Marriage is to be a permanent relationship. Husband and wife are to be united until one of them dies. In marriage they are united as one flesh in a covenant before God, and that commitment is binding between them so long as they both live.
5. Marriage marks the beginning of a new family unit. When a man and woman are united as husband and wife, this establishes a new family with an identity different from the family in which either was born and raised. Moreover, social recognition is given to this new unit and the laws of marriage and property now apply. In some cultures the new husband and wife no longer live with their parents. Instead they establish a new home and begin having their own children.
6. Marriage is a comfortable trusting relationship. There should be no shame between the husband and wife. The Bible refers to this in Genesis 2:25. Even though they were naked, Adam and Eve felt no shame. They were aware of their differences, but they were fully satisfied in the innocence and purity of their commitment to each other.
From the Genesis record it is clear that God designed a loving, intimate, and fulfilling relationship which He wanted a husband and wife to share with each other. This relationship was to express love and provide a basis for nurturing and caring for each other. Such an environment would be the natural setting in which children could be reared to appreciate the blessings of God on their home and in each aspect of their lives.
Nurturing in Marriage
The marriage relationship originally established by God and reaffirmed to Adam and Eve after their sin continues today. The apostle Paul teaches that the husband is the head, or leader, of the wife and the home (1 Corinthians 11:3). He also affirms that husbands and fathers are basically responsible to provide for the needs of their families. If a man does not support his family, then he is to be considered worse than someone who does not even believe in God (1 Timothy 5:8). We must not forget that Paul is speaking to Christian husbands and wives in these Scriptures.
The story of Adam and Eve which we have considered in Genesis 1 and 2 continues in chapters 3 and 4. As you read these chapters, you will see that Adam and Eve made a serious mistake which was to affect every aspect of their lives. No longer could they remain in the Garden of Eden where there was an abundance of food. Because of their sin in disobeying God’s commands, they were forced to leave the Garden and live and work in a place filled with thorns. Now they had to toil and labor just to have food and a place to live. Their position in relation to the created order had changed. Thus, instead of being responsible for it they became slaves to it. And because of this sin, their relationship changed with each other. Eve had been created to be her husband’s helper, but now God placed Adam as the leader of the home. In addition, Eve now had to endure much suffering when she gave birth to her children. Because of Adam’s sin the ground was cursed. The abundance he had known in the Garden was gone. Henceforth he would have to work very hard to support his wife and family. Sin also became the basis of the problems that arose in their marriage relationship.
The marriage relationship is regarded by God as sacred. Jesus refers to the husband-wife relationship as one in which God has joined two people together (Mark 10:9). Since God created all things to be good, we can conclude that marriage was intended to be a good association. Not only did God ordain marriage, but He also gave instructions in His Word to husbands and wives about how they could live together and make their home happier.
It is especially important that married people learn the basic teachings of God’s Word about marriage if they are to have a loving, nurturing relationship. Specific instructions are given to the husband and wife, teaching them how to live before each other honorably and effectively as Christian believers. Let us first consider the teachings given to the husbands.
Instructions to Husbands
In speaking to the family relationship, the apostle Paul admonished each husband to love his wife in a way which is patterned after the way Christ loves His church. When you genuinely love someone, you sincerely care about that person and you want only the best for her. Your love will cause you to do everything in your power to take care of her and to think of her welfare before you think of your own. Christ demonstrated His love for the church by dying to redeem the ones He loved and to make them presentable to Him. Husbands should have this caring attitude also.
A man who loves his wife and family works to support them. He uses his skills and abilities to provide food, shelter, and clothing for them. A loving husband does not forget nor neglect his responsibilities to his family.
A loving husband cares about his wife’s feelings. A husband who loves his wife does not talk or think badly about her. Instead, he says and does things which express his love for her. He does not abuse her for her mistakes and faults, but in patience and love he seeks to help her find solutions for these problems. His understanding and patience create a favorable environment in which improvement is likely to occur.
A husband who truly loves his wife cares enough about her to understand her emotional needs. He takes the time to talk about the problems that concern her. He expresses his love for her and does all he can to make her feel secure in her relationship with him. He gives her the emotional support necessary to help her be a better wife and mother.
One who loves his wife and appreciates her role in the family unit seeks to nurture her spiritually. The wife should see in her husband a person who loves God and provides an example for the family to follow in serving and worshipping God. He takes the lead in family devotions, helps in the neighborhood as a Christian neighbor, serves in the church as a vital part of the body, and applies the Word continually to life situations. Above all, he upholds his wife and family in prayer, thanking God for them and for the privilege of being a steward of the things of God. God is pleased when a man leads his family in this manner.
A wife draws security from the marital relationship when she realizes that she is a vital part of her husband’s life and that he loves her. She draws additional assurance when he expresses confidence in her opinion when decisions need to be made which affect her and the family. The husband nurtures his wife by esteeming her as the most important person in his life. The knowledge that she is needed and wanted is a vital part of the marriage-family relationship.
Another important way a husband provides nurturing support and love for his wife is by helping her in her role as a parent. The husband and father should teach his children that they are to love, respect, and obey their mother. A loving husband never permits his wife to suffer reproach or abuse from the children. The wife must know that she has the backing of her husband in the family as she establishes and enforces rules for the home as she disciplines the children.
Paul emphasizes the duty of the husband to care for the sexual needs of his wife. In 1 Corinthians 7:3–5 he instructs husbands not to withhold themselves sexually from their wives except by mutual consent for a temporary period of time. The Scriptures teach that sexual intimacy is a part of the marital contract between a husband and wife, and it should not be used in a negative, selfish way against a spouse. To refuse to be sexually intimate with one’s wife opens the doors for Satan to tempt both the husband and wife to sin in this area of their lives.
Instructions for Wives
The wife is also given instructions about her relationship with the husband. Paul teaches that the wife should submit herself to her own husband (Ephesians 5:22). In this context, the implication is that the husband is to exercise the leadership role in the family. The wife demonstrates submission by recognizing and accepting her husband’s leadership role, acknowledging through this the divine order for the family and therefore, the authority of God in her life. Submission is not meant to imply that the woman is inferior to her husband, nor is it intended to be a license for the husband to behave as a tyrant toward his wife. Submission is the recognition of the roles God has given for family life. The husband has been taught to give his love to his wife, but the wife has to be willing to receive it if his love is to be effective in her life.
The wife has a nurturing role in the marriage in the way she relates to her husband. Her husband needs to know that she appreciates his efforts to provide for her. She should express her appreciation for his efforts, provision, and concern in ways that let him know she is mindful of all his leadership entails. She can also be supportive by using wisely the family resources which she handles. Moreover, her ability to stand by her husband faithfully when he faces problems and set-backs will lend the kind of loving encouragement that is necessary in hard times.
A loving wife tries to make the home a pleasant and restful place for her husband. A clean home, prompt meals, and a pleasant, loving attitude toward the responsibilities of the home show the husband that his wife cares deeply about him. A wife who approaches her responsibilities in this way will
undoubtedly find that her husband will respond in a loving and caring manner toward her too.
The committed Christian wife will nurture her husband as he leads the home and family in the worship and service of God. She will indicate her support of his leadership through the high value she places on spiritual things in the home as well as in the church. Such a wife will keep her relationship right with God so that it will make her relationship with her husband better. This harmony in the home will be an appropriate testimony to their family of the practicality and reality of true Christian living and it will speak to neighbors as well. It will make their service to God in their local church more effective, for their lives will reflect the love, peace, and joy of God which flows out of their daily lives.
A husband has emotional and physical needs that a Christian wife will be concerned about. She will want to do all she can to be supportive of her husband, showing him that she cares about his needs and that he can depend on her. She will lovingly provide the intimacy necessary to enrich her relationship with her husband. As Paul told the husband to be mindful of his wife’s sexual needs, he also gave the same instruction to the wife regarding the husband’s sexual needs (1 Corinthians 7:3–5). Through sexual intimacy, the wife can express her full acceptance of her husband and give to him her deepest affections. In turn she will probably find that as she meets her husband’s needs, he will respond positively to meet hers.
From our examination of the Ephesians passage, we see that God wants Christian marriage and home life to be happy and fulfilling. The responsibility for these rests equally on each spouse. Each one is to nurture the relationship carefully so that it will lead to a happy home and an abundant life together.
The Nature of Families
When the word family is mentioned, many people may think of the home in which they were born and raised. If you are an adult not living with your parents, perhaps you can recall some special event or custom which was practiced by your parents when you were a child. If so, this event probably still brings fond memories to your mind. The term family has a special, endearing meaning for many people. It is the social unit in which our life began, and it continues to influence us in important ways.
In Genesis 1:28 you will note that God wanted Adam and Eve to have children. Children are viewed in Scripture as a part of God’s heritage and blessing. They are His reward (Psalm 127:3). In Proverbs 17:6 we are told that grandchildren are a blessing and that the glory of the child is in his “fathers” (or ancestry). God’s design for the family is this: a husband and wife are to become a father and mother. This is as He ordained it, and it is good and right.
Children normally live with their mother, father, brothers, and sisters until they become adults. There may be an age in your culture when children begin to leave their parents’ home and establish homes of their own. As adults, they are expected to earn their own living and provide for their own needs. This is the natural progression in life.
Some cultures may have different family unit arrangements. Children may be cared for by persons other than the parents. These may be uncles and aunts or grandparents. The child soon learns who is responsible for his needs, and he depends on them for food, shelter, protection, and security. Parents have certain duties and obligations for a child during his developing years. However, when the child becomes an adult, he assumes these responsibilities for himself. Parents teach their children during their childhood and adolescence how to take care of themselves, act responsibly, and prepare for their role as adults.
Since most of the years of a person’s life are lived as an adult, we must give special attention and training during the pre-adult years. The basic lessons in life are usually learned in the home. Our first teachers are usually our parents. A strong bond of love and intimacy should be developed between the parents and the child. This bond of love and caring should continue all through a person’s life. The parent-child relationship is very special and provides meaning and guidance for a lifetime.
We see the nature of the family in every culture. In each, a cycle of life can be observed. Children are born tiny and helpless. As they grow, they are taught the lessons of life which are important for the adult years. There is usually an age when the maturing son or daughter is regarded as adult. Each is now required to behave responsibly as an adult member of the society. The marriage of these young adults normally produces children, and the cycle begins again.
Nurturing in Family
Perhaps you can recall the previous discussion in this lesson about the effect of sin on marriage. The results of that sin by Adam and Eve brought serious problems into their family for them as parents and for their children. Many ideas and teachings exist about the proper way parents should train their children. However, for Christian parents, the best teachings are to be found in the Bible. These are the instructions given by the One who designed the family. As such, these lessons should naturally provide the best information.
In Ephesians 6:4 (KJV), fathers are instructed to raise their children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Nurture is a term that has several related meanings. It means to educate with good instruction and training. It also includes disciplinary correction as a means to assist the learning process.
Parents are further instructed to teach their children in the “admonition of the Lord.” To admonish means to purposely call one’s attention to something. The parent may have to use a rebuke or warning to help the child learn. To admonish also implies that children are to be trained and taught in every part of their being. They learn physical discipline as they develop their motor skills in work and play. They are taught to develop their intellectual abilities. Children are given the proper instruction about how to express themselves emotionally. And certainly they are given thorough teaching which will cause them to mature spiritually.
Growth to maturity is a learning process. Children receive new understanding from several sources. They can be nurtured by the environment, by example, and by explanation. All of these areas of learning are important, and parents can use them effectively to train the child properly.
Children learn many lessons just from the environment in which they live and develop toward maturity. Parents can increase their effectiveness in nurturing their children by providing the kind of setting in the home that will contribute to the learning process. Christian parents can do much to develop a Christian atmosphere. Music, reading materials, toys and games, art, and wholesome forms of entertainment are just a few things which influence children and have a teaching impact on them. Have you noticed how a child begins to imitate the sounds which are around him? Perhaps he hears a song on the television or radio, and later the parents hear him trying to sing the same song. The Christian influence can readily be a part of the child’s life if parents will fill the environment with those things which impart or influence the Christian message. These things usually have a positive impact on the child.
Parents have the wonderful opportunity to nurture their children by the example of their own lives. Children are very impressionable. What they see their parents doing is going to be viewed as what is right. Very quickly they will imitate their parents’ behavior and actions. Christian parents who lovingly nurture their children will strive to teach biblical truth by their personal example. The example of the parents has a long-term impact on their children. Quite often children continue to be influenced by parental examples even after they become adults.
Christian parents have the obligation and opportunity to nurture their children by explaining what they should learn. Children are blessed and greatly benefited by sitting with parents and having the Bible stories read and explained to them. The lessons of Scripture are lessons of life for children. They learn quickly to judge their own behavior by the examples from the Scripture. Their minds begin to develop an understanding of the basic life-giving truth of God’s Word. This knowledge becomes the basis for understanding the moral laws of God. This growing knowledge of God’s Word which begins in childhood can, and usually does, have an effect which reaches into the adult years.
The proper nurturing of children requires that parents discipline and correct their behavior in a loving and caring manner. As the children grow, the parents will notice that they increasingly seek to have their own way. Quite often, children do misbehave, but God has commanded that children obey their parents and honor them (Ephesians 6:1). It is the parents’ responsibility to teach the children what is right and wrong and then to require that the children obey their teaching. It is not good for children to disobey their parents and not receive proper corrective discipline. Parents have an obligation before God to nurture their children with the type of discipline that both teaches and corrects them. The result of this kind of discipline is that children develop the strength to exercise self discipline when they become adults.
The purpose of nurturing in the family is to develop those qualities of life in children which will bring them to maturity and wholeness. Most important is the development of the child’s knowledge and understanding about God and His Word. This provides a solid basis for moral reasoning and judgment. Children must also learn how to be good, responsible members of their society and community. They should be nurtured in such a way that they are prepared to train their own children someday.
While the most basic nurturing should occur in the family setting, additional nurturing should take place in the church setting, where the family worships together with other families. Children need to see the value of each family as it is faithful in its witness and service in its community. They should be led to see the church as a place of spiritual learning, corporate worship, fellowship, and service. The example parents set in terms of their church attendance and their support of its ministries will undoubtedly form a lifelong influence on their children.
Nurturing in the family relationships has a very important emphasis in God’s Word. God designed these relationships: the relationship of marriage and that of being parents and children. His Word gives us adequate and important teachings about the way to develop a happy and joyful home. Christian husbands and wives will discover that their marriages will be much more meaningful and gratifying as each seeks to please God first and then his or her spouse. Parents who value the Christian teachings and who instill God’s truth in their children from a very early age will usually discover that their children grow to be more responsible and better adjusted adults.