This is where the tacit influence of the Church can often come through building godly families and extending the love of Christ to our communities and nation. The importance of this cannot be underrated because these blocks set the forth the ultimate health conditions of our society and nation. Much of the problems of societies today can be traced directly to this basic building block.
So why did God create the institution of marriage and family? One thing we know for certain is that God loves people and His command was to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28). We are then to take charge and be responsible over the earth. This requires us to exercise creative stewardship of God’s creation, caring for and building up what God has created. This also means we need responsible people from one generation to another who understand this mandate.
So each family within a clan, a tribe and a race, under the rule of God, should be reproducing godly offspring, fulfilling this mandate for generations to come. Who then are the primary educators of the family? Interestingly as we go back in history, the families, vis-à-vis the parents, or more precisely the fathers, have always played that role, and not any governmental or non-governmental institution. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 sets forth a template how that can be done in a family.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Dt 6:4–9)
Before the industrial revolution of the 18th century, fathers passed on their trade skills to their adolescent sons, guiding them through apprenticeship into manhood. Whatever that needs to be taught and modelled happened primarily in the home. The industrial revolution created a need for classrooms and schools due to the demands for manpower in the industry for both parents. Kids left at home were also eventually picked up by Christians concerned about their spiritual well-being thus creating the first Sunday School. Over time, the primary role of educating was relegated to governments and churches.
In a nutshell, the role of families is to produce godly offspring. It is a self-replicating system with God and His Word as the absolute standard. The family provides a consistent and safe environment for nurture, discipline, training and instruction of the Lord to take place (Ephesians 6:4). The family trains us to be loving and caring unconditionally. “Blood is thicker than water” is an apt saying in a sense that family should be the last bastion for refuge in a world gone wrong. Even in the worst of situations, home will always be home. Discipleship takes place first at home before anything else. No wonder Apostle Paul said in 1 Timothy 3:5 “If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?” The proof of the pudding is in the home, of a man’s leadership capacity for the church. This is an interesting insight to suggest that the family is the starting point.
Ravi Zachariah, a noted apologist said “Marriage and family is a base for ministry to one another, not self-indulgence, but a greater platform for good. If marriage doesn’t make you a better person, don’t get married.” It is within the family that we learn not to be self-centered. All our life before marriage was about me, myself and I. I have often said in jest that if you think you are a kind, wonderful and patient person, try getting married and it will prove you wrong. If you still think you are after marriage, try being a parent. It’s a humbling experience. That I conclude is why God gives us children, to teach us to be more Christlike.
We learn love and forgiveness in the midst of our individual flaws among family members. As spouses and parents, we train ourselves at home to be responsible for others and not just be self-serving or narcissistic. As children, we learn to obey and honour our parents, rightly projecting the idea of honour to those in authority when we grow up.
Fathers play a crucial role in the life of their sons as they are the representation of God in their relationship with Him. They build their confidence, prepare them spiritually and socially for the real world and give them insights into the world of men. Sons learn about what it means to be a responsible man, husband and father. Adolescent daughters also need their fathers’ affirmation that they are beautiful and loved. Their choice of future partners and satisfaction in marriage often hinges on their relationship with their fathers.
These are modelled day in and out. When one is trained and instructed well in the home, it is not difficult to guess the kind of people walking into the community who are positive influencers. As Christians, they bring the love of Christ into the broken world. The starting point is the home which provides a daily training ground for about two decades.