Article by Stephen Cullingford
Healthy family . . . what do you think of when you hear that phrase? I think of my parents and siblings, the games we played and dinner times we had, or the times of playing golf with my dad and brother or my grandfather, or the times of working in the garden. For me, family is time spent one-on-one where we can go deep and grow with one another, where we help and just hold each other or where we are simply silent, enjoying each other’s presence. Family was always about giving and receiving – in one case I gave more than I received, and in another, I received more than gave. Some interactions grew me personally and challenged me and some were simply fun.
For you this might look different, not just in what you did in your family but also what you connect with family. For me food and eating together are essential as that has always been the time I connect and actually spend time with people. But for you, food may be just a necessity for your body. You may feel more connected with people in work or activities. Maybe you actually think really negatively about what you know about family because of your own experience and upbringing. So, what is healthy family to God, and how is it reflected in church health?
First, it is not limited to or defined by activities. Culturally you can take a lot from the bible, saying family is eating together, working together, being taught by your parents, working with your siblings to increase what your parents built and spending time in traditions and festive days of celebration or mourning. Today that looks completely different and we cannot fully compare these really to what we have today. Maybe there are certain things you actually experienced similarly, but we have to figure out what and where people connect today in our culture. In Germany, where I am from, it would be in hobbies, sports, food, work and clubs. But even in Germany, because of the different cultures that exist in my city, it looks completely different for everyone. So, before I go on explaining healthy family, I want to challenge you to find out what people in your community do in family and how they connect and spend time in it. Find the commonalities that are shared in groups and use them to build trust and connection with one another.
Healthy family in terms of values is shown very clearly in the scriptures. One example is Abraham and Isaac. One value that is displayed in their relationship is that Isaac trusts his father unto death by letting him tie him onto the altar to be nearly sacrificed for God. We have trust and honor here, a son honors the father and trusts what he is doing, and they are both submitted to God. In the second example, Jesus’ disciples are in discord and discuss who is the greatest among them, after they went to the villages and saw healings and miracles happen through their own hands. Jesus tells them that the greatest one is the one who serves and loves the greatest. Servanthood and love for one another is demonstrated, as well as a ranking system based on humility and honor. In the final example, Paul exhorts the Philippians to not fight over who is the greatest apostle and commands them to be in unity by knowing that all apostles are appointed by God and that they preach the same gospel. They came to bring love and truth to them as fathers and to build on each other’s foundations. It is not about the title, it is about unity and love as one church; fathers are building for the ones to follow to build upon.
These are just a few examples of family and church health and in the bible. The church, simply should be known by the love that we have for one another and by that people will see that Jesus is real. I simply want to challenge you to live after Jesus’ example and build strong relationships in your church. Don’t be bound to what you think family is about, but define clearly in your church what family looks like for you, so you can grow strong and powerful as one church.