Theological Perspective of Family
Each human being strives for building a happy family, healthy relationship, and perfect life. However, many people claim that it is impossible to reach this aim without God’s blessing and His might, which are crucial for turning those desires into reality. All dreams may become true if only a person has faith. It has been known for ages that family is not just a sociological unit, but a deeper and more complicated phenomenon. In the ideal world, it should be a union of two individuals sharing a close relationship that can hardly be broken or torn apart. Looking at the family from the Christian point of view, one will easily notice how powerful the very concept is: no family can exist without being blessed by God. Even though the importance of a family is crucial from various perspectives, its deeper emotional and moral meaning can be to a great extent revealed on the basis of the Scripture verses and ideas. Moreover, in many cases, primarily the Biblical counseling is helpful for couples that are striving to overcome the modern cultural crisis. This paper focuses on the concept of a family in Christianity as a basic life unit of relations between a man and woman that is called to bring new life into the world. In order to conduct this study, the paper is divided into three parts that research the family from the Christian point of view by referencing to the Scriptures, researching the family-related challenges in the contemporary society, and providing helpful ideas that can be used by Christian counselors in practice.
Part 1. Family as a Christian Concept
According to the Bible, a man and a woman were created by God and were initially considered an inseparable unit as Eve was made from Adam’s rib. Being created for one another, their union is special and should be regarded as sacred and aimed at reproduction. Although the family values and views have been changing with the rapid development of the society and culture, Christian communities all over the world still try to preserve the purity and sacredness of it. According to the traditional teachings, in order to have a happy life in a good and caring family, it is important to follow the most basic points: friendship, respect, love, passion, devotedness, loyalty, kindness, and patience, among many others (Lepine, 2013). God blesses love within a family and asks to protect it like a treasure. Hence, the attitude of the partners toward each other should be the same, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another” (Lepine, 2013). These lines from Ephesians 4:32 teach how to treat the spouse, never to let down, and respect them no matter what. If a member feels support and love of the family, it is as perfect as it only could be. Similar vows are usually given in church at the wedding ceremonies; they call for careful abidance.
The book of Genesis 7:27, 28 claims, “God made the family to be the basic unit of life” (Watke, 2000). It is the first and most significant pillar of each community and society, as well as “focal point of Christianity” (Ramer, 2003). Numerous religious studies have agreed that family is a basic unit, the main purpose of which is to create an atmosphere of harmony and peace for a decent “bringing people into the world” (Watke, 2000). Nevertheless, before a family is created, everything starts with the relationship between female and male, which are “the closest and most intimate” individuals that share the incomparable friendship, which is the strongest and the purest in the world (Watke, 2000).
The relationship between a husband and wife are discussed as those that must be based on mutual respect, love, and devotion. Proverbs 18:22 says that the one, who “finds a wife, finds a good thing” and is always favored by God (Smith, 2015). On the other hand, marrying a person, who previously divorced another, is considered as “committing adultery” in Luke 16:18. Hence, divorce is a sin for all Christians and religious people. In order to have a blessed life without difficulties and obstacles, one should avoid breaking own or other’s family because of any reason.
The Holy Bible describes a perfect family and the way it should function. These pieces of advice are more than only words to read. They require thorough rethinking and taking them deep into one’s mind and heart for proper reflection and understanding. One of the best pieces of advice is given in Romans 12:10-13, “Love one another with brotherly affection” (Smith, 2015). The first and most significant type of love that each person experiences come from the nuclear family: parents, brothers and sisters. In addition, it is beneficial to remember this treatment and share it with a spouse. It can become a pillar, which will help a couple withstand all the problems. The very verse in its continuation calls for the honorable treatment and spirituality, as well as hope and patience (Smith, 2015).
However, together with the rules for relations between a husband and a wife, the Bible offers some suggestions regarding the child-rearing and parenting. One of the bothering issues in the family life is the treatment of children by means of shaming and humiliations. In this case, the parenting movement takes place, the goal of which is to help couples get rid of “the harmful leadership and disciplinary tactics” (Ramer, 2003). Otherwise, offspring grow with disrespect and a hidden feeling of anger. The Scripture provides different rules regarding the relations between parents and children. It calls people to honor their fathers and mothers in order to have a long life on earth with God’s blessing (Lepine, 2013). Another teaching from Proverbs 1:8 encourages children to listen to the instructions given by fathers and not to forsake teachings of mothers. Hence, one can see that mutual support and understanding are strongly encouraged in every Christian family.
The issue of respect within the family, especially from children is emphasized in Ephesians 6:4. Paul’s first commandment is to “honor your father and mother;” however, on the other hand, it also calls parents for avoiding any situations that may provoke anger in their children, instead they are asked to “bring them up in discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Smith, 2015). Hence, these verses address not only children but also parents, who teach and serve as an example of decent and true Christian behavior.
Part 2. Cultural Influences on the Theological Perspective of a Family
Modern people do not follow all the advice provided by the Bible. Day by day, the society experiences changes in the system of values as the development of all spheres of modern life is rather rapid. Unfortunately, more often than not, these changes regarding the family values are of a negative character. It may be claimed that the theological side of a family is declining if taking into consideration the traditional views on how it should function. The Christian part of this issue is rather sensitive as modern people have forgotten the most basic feature of a family: eternity together, no matter what.
It seems that the key problem of today is the lack of value of a family in itself. People have been obviously neglecting the oaths they gave in front of their closest people, the priest, God, and their spouse at the wedding ceremony in a church. However, they are not just words to be said but duties to be followed and praised. From the Christian point of view, the marriage is one of the most important and strongest pillars that support this world. Hence, if one is not willing to adhere to the promise given in a church, it is better not give it at all. In order to improve the modern attitude towards the value and significance of a marriage and family life, the society has to base its culture on the Christian advice instead of trying to influence and rewrite the established morality and devotedness to religion. It is shameful to say, but, a great number of people indeed have no idea what the true meaning of marriage and family is. It is difficult to estimate the reasons lying behind this notion, perhaps, due to “same-sex marriage activists’ impact”, or, maybe, simply because people have become so much engaged in own business, work, and personal problems that they have forgotten about the basic Christian values (Köstenberger, 2011).
Among the greatest problems of the society at the present time may be named the following: single parenting, single-sex marriages, and too-young families. These issues have caused numerous debates within the society and have become a matter that politicians often relate to in order to catch an attention of the electorate (Edgell, 2005). The controversies concerning the family types mentioned above are becoming even sharper, when new Churches claim that “people, who are not part of traditional families” may somehow feel mistreated and “left out” (Edgell, 2005). Even though the Church usually is loyal and aims to support harmonious relations between all people, it cannot regard single-sex relations and marriages as sacred unions. The main argument against such families can be the impossibility to give birth to children. The inability of such couples to fulfill this duty can be the evidence that such a union is wrong in God’s eyes. However, nowadays, with the reference to the union that comprises love, trust, and respect, such couples can still be considered a good family if compared to the relations that disregard any norms of decency and Biblical rules. Unlike in the past, if a person is single due to different reasons, he or she should not be alone because of social considerations (Ransom, 2002). The modern Church has established certain regulations, which support individuals, who choose single life (Edgell, 2005). However, it is still recommended to create a family or join the clergy.
Another disturbing situation is caused by the high divorce statistics. Initially, divorces were unaccepted by God; however, today, they are allowed by the civil registration offices and even by some Christian Churches. Though, the practice is considered absolutely intolerable and unacceptable from the Christian point of view, getting divorced has become so much spread that it is not even weird anymore to come to a priest and ask for a chance to go through a complete wedding ceremony with another person (Köstenberger, 2011; Edgell, 2005; Ransom, 2002). Unfortunately, the cultural influence of the modern society has altered the church’s definition of a family, which has become completely different from the one depicted in the Bible. One of the things that are believed to make the today’s world better is the return to the traditional values and following them in the everyday life. Therefore, today, the so-called old-fashioned life views are highly promoted by different branches of Christianity; all they aim at the same – to improve the situation with divorces (Vorster, 2008).
In today’s world, the family patterns have also been undergoing some crucial changes. The pros of the modern society may be summarized as following: women have more chances for self-realization without significantly distracting from their main duties at home. Today, the Church is supporting those women, who are striving for some independence by having a good job and career. This trend of a working male and stay-at-home female faded long time ago. In fact, it is a disputable issue to define whether this trend is good or bad.
The facts are not always positive as the overall effects of these changes are associated with the life-view transformations, which often impacts people’s lives, breaks families, and lead to personal disasters. The most frequently observed negative outcomes are “growing rates of divorce, out-of-wedlock birth and father absence,” as well as abortions and pregnancies at a very young age (Vorster, 2008). This course of social development is rather disturbing as it destroys all rules and regulations of living a harmonious and happy life in a family circle, surrounded by friends and close people. The loss of value of a family institution also puts at risks the basic Christian beliefs. The Scripture promotes traditions that have existed for many years by revealing how different and empty the modern lifestyle is as compared to the earlier times (Vorster, 2008). It is important to make people aware of the issues mentioned above and show them the proper direction in dealing with difficult situations.
Part 3. Christian Counseling of Families
In many cases, Christian counselors can help people in complicated life situations and support their desires to improve their lives and relations in a family. Mistakes and errors are in human nature; therefore, usually, they cannot be avoided. Instead, they have to become the positive experience that will make individuals stronger. Speaking about the relations with others, such experiences, as well as views and values, of a person are crucial for avoiding conflicts, harmonizing relationships, and living happily. Therefore, the initial orientation is to make people value family as an exclusive and irreplaceable notion.
In many teachings, Christian pastors tend to focus on the crucial meaning of a family, emphasizing the attempts of a nobleman to protect “himself, his family and the church” (Newheiser, 2006). According to Psalm 51, supporting the family and warning others from the sins are the primary tasks of a person (cited in Newheiser, 2006). Hence, it is important to consider family as a sacred unit that plays a crucial role in the life of any believer. The Bible provides special rules and suggestions for a husband and a wife; therefore, their union is extremely important and has to be highly valued. At the same time, people have to remember that communication is a foundation of mutual understanding. Communication breakdown in the family can cause serious problems, especially in the case it lasts for a long time. For the conflict resolution, Newheiser (2006) recommends “logging out of one’s own eye,” paying attention to own duties instead of rights, seeking forgiveness from a spouse if being wrong, and granting forgiveness in return. People should make efforts not to let the root of bitterness grow, learn self-control, and seek peace and pursue it. The family members have to resolve conflicts without anger and keeping peace in their hearts (Newheiser, 2006). A husband and a wife have to treat each other as one unit that cannot be separated no matter what. They should pray together, have common aims and interests. Doing everything together is an effective and correct way to preserve closeness and love to one another, as well as avoid negative feeling and attitudes (Newheiser, 2006).
The world is filled with sufferings and cruelty. Nevertheless, any Christian has to avoid contributing to this cruelty. In the case some problems in the family relations appear, they need to be solved as soon as possible in order to keep love and friendliness and avoid enmity or indifference (Rossi, 2013). The Biblical texts provide a number of hints for the Christian counselors, who want to help the families that are facing some more or less serious challenges. Hence, being the word of God, Bible is the primary tool of every counselor as it contains the divine wisdom. For instance, getting estranged is not a rare issue that may happen to couples that already have adult children, or those, who disapprove the choice of one another, for example. In such cases, it is important not to let this feeling last for too long and become a common state of relations in a family. The Bible provides the following examples of estrangement: Adam and Eve’s estrangement from God, Cain’s estrangement from God after killing his brother, Joseph estrangement from his family for years after he was sold into slavery, King David and Absalom’s estrangement, among the other well-known example from the Scripture (Rossi, 2013). In such a way, even the Biblical context can let a person feel that he or she is not alone, and someone has already had similar problems before. At the same time, the Christian counselor can give good and effective advice concerning the solution of a problem. Even though the circumstances and dynamics can vary, it is important to remember that the relations were not such at their beginning; initially, they were loving and caring. Rossi (2013) emphasized that the main reasons for any estrangement usually are the “real or perceived breaches in trust.” However, it is always important to remember that emotional wound caused by such issues can appear only if previously, there was a strong connection between two people. Even though the estrangement is often predetermined by the sin of one or both partners, each person has to analyze the underlying reasons for the caused pain and wounds. With time, hurt and anger replace love and care, and this issue should be addressed as soon as possible. In such a case, pride is one of the biggest obstacles to helping the family reunite (Rossi, 2013). Among the causes that may separate children and parents, one should also remember about the control issues that lead to resentment and rebellion, as well as money and jealousy that contribute to the feelings of being underestimated or cheated.
While providing advice to the victims in such situation, one should emphasize the fact that the family wounds are deep, and pain cannot fade away if the problems are ignored. Nevertheless, the offenses of others should be put only in Gods’ hands but never cause any revenge or long-term aggressiveness (Pulaski & Lihn, 2004). Moreover, it is important to understand that many of the abusive decisions are impulsive. Hence, people have to control their behavior with their close ones and forgive them. In order to be able to do so, working with the person’s spirit and learning to understand own emotions and desires are the essential tasks for an individual that tends to have a harmonious family life.
The longer the estrangement lasts, the more difficult it is to get together afterward. It is “the death that never dies” and causes much pain (Rossi, 2013). Therefore, it is an important task of any counselor to make people understand this point. Understanding and accepting are the first steps to healing. Even if a person has to accept the loss, it is still crucial to make the situation as less traumatic as possible. Living in regret is not a good option. Hence, a person has to trust God and accept the inevitable losses as a useful experience necessary for personal improvement.
Family is one of the core concepts of Christianity and the basic desire of every human being. The religious perspective of a family is rather strict and clear: no divorce, separation, fights, and hatred. A family should leave in peace and calmness in order to deliver and raise kind, wise, and respectful offspring that are the main purpose of getting married and living together. In the Holy Bible, God promotes the family as a precious gift aimed at mutual protection, help, and care. The Scripture praises love, respect, patience, and devotion within not only a family but also the society in general. Numerous verses also include references to how children should treat their parents; this conduct is supposed to become an example for the future generation of their children. The relationship between the two partners should be transparent, pure, and honest. Only in this case, the real family exists.
In terms of a family, today, the main aim of Christianity is to revive a traditional foundation for a better world with people attempting to improve themselves and believing in the heavenly power. However, modern society has changed the rules and values in order to explain, at least somehow, the increasing number of divorces, breaking ups, and simple misunderstanding leading to the preceding two. This problem is studied in order to improve the situation and promote the basic foundations of a successful and ever-lasting sacred union. The crisis of the modern society is expected to be a temporary trend; however, with the development and modernization of the human world, this assumption is rather utopian.
People and their choices and values make a great contribution to the crisis elimination. For this reason, the Christian counselors have to refer to the spirit of a person and his or her inner world in order to ensure deep understanding of a great value of a family and the pain the estrangement and separation causes. However, only the ability to control personal emotions and hear the partner is the correct way to saving a family.