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10 Biblical Keys for Dealing With Conflict in the Family
from The Christian Outlook May/June
by The Pentecostal Assembles of The World - The Christian Outlook
10 BIBLICAL KEYS FOR DEALING WITH CONFLICT IN THE FAMILY
By Suffragan Bishop Germaine D. Hurst
Proverbs 11:29 “He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart.”
he family is one of the greatest institutions that God has ever created. It was designed to be a systematic social construct that provides love, peace, procreation and healthy interaction. A healthy family dynamic reflects the nature of God and provides mutual acceptance and T compassion for the lonely. The Bible states, “God sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6a NIV). Our families should be honored, protected and cherished. There have been conflicts and challenges in the human family since the days of Adam and Eve. The Old and New Testament Scriptures have shared numerous stories and biblical accounts of triumph and tragedy within the family. Today, I would like to share 10 biblical keys for dealing with family conflict.
KEY #3 - CHOOSE YOUR BATTLES WISELY
Exodus 14:14 “The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.” Don’t allow the need to be right cause you to engage in unnecessary confrontations with family members. Be selective in your approach to conflict resolution. Ask yourself, “What are the spoils and rewards for winning this argument?” Count up the costs. It may not be worth the fight if there is no substantial returns on your investment. Reserve your fight for what really matters. Not everything is important. Why win the battle but lose your family in the process!
KEY #1 - ALL FAMILIES EXPERIENCE A LEVEL OF DYSFUNCTION
Romans 3:23 - “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” There are no perfect families! Every family unit has conflicts, challenges and issues. Accepting this truth will alleviate the pressure of perpetuating facades that sabotage and avoid engaging in healthy conflict resolution. We will not change what we are not willing to acknowledge is a problem in the home. Acknowledging the dysfunction does not mean that it is acceptable or warranted. However, acknowledgement is the first step toward resolution.
KEY #2 - ALWAYS LOVE AND PRIORITIZE YOUR FAMILY
1 Peter 4:8 “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
Developing a healthy family requires love and time. How important is your family to you? When was the last time you said, “I love you?” Being critical and judgmental without any compassion can be detrimental to your family dynamic. Love demonstrates care and prioritization shows importance. Your family members need to feel loved, accepted and important. Love is the foundation that establishes a strong home. Prioritizing and spending quality time with family will provide opportunities for affection, bonding, reciprocity and positive reinforcement. Communicating love to your family is your power base. It will speak for you even when words are not spoken.
KEY #4 - MANAGE YOUR EMOTIONS
Proverbs 25:28 “He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.” It is imperative that you keep your emotions and behaviors in check. The Bible says, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27). The ability to demonstrate temperance and self control is a sign of spiritual maturity. Behaving irrational and undisciplined will add fuel to the fire. Proverbs11:29a says, “He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind.” Strife and contention will cause unwanted storms and trouble in your home. Learn how to develop coping skills and anger management techniques when trying to resolve family issues.
KEY #5 - COMMUNICATE LIFE AND NOT DEATH
Proverbs 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” Communication is the hub of the family. The lack of effective communication can be detrimental. Our words have the power to kill or make alive. Choose to speak life into your family. Avoid speaking profanity and negative words to each other. The Bible says in Ephesians 4:29 NIV “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but
only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Use your words to edify and build up instead of tearing down. Learn how to discuss your problems and formulate solutions through effective communication. Proverbs 15:1-4 NIV says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly. The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good. The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.”
KEY #6 - MASTER THE ART OF LISTENING
James 1:19 “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:” We’ve heard the saying that, “God gave us two ears and one mouth because He wanted us to do twice the hearing with less the talking.” Listening is a great tool to help resolve issues and conflicts in the family. Some problems in the family may not require fixing but all do require listening. Many solutions are discovered by listening to the concerns of others. Allow your family members the opportunity to be heard during discussions and disagreements. This sends a message to them that they are important and what they are saying does matter. God is our Father. He is omnipotent and omniscient. He humbles Himself to listen to our prayers and concerns everyday. We should do the same for our families.
KEY #7 - PRACTICE PRAYER AND FORGIVENESS
Mark 11:25 “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” A life of continuous prayer and forgiveness is a major key for dealing with conflict in the family. Prayer and forgiveness is therapeutic because it helps us to heal. It is a challenge for any family to live free of offense. There will be misunderstandings and disagreements. Proverbs 18:19 says, “A brother wronged is more unyielding than a fortified city; disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel.” It is difficult to resolve issues and reconcile with someone who is unforgiving and uncooperative. We have been given the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18). This is easier said than done. It is imperative that we maintain a consistent prayer life. Pray for all of your family members. Jesus taught us that we should love our enemies and pray for those who mistreat us (Matthew 5:44). Forgiveness is a gift to yourself. Refusing to forgive someone is like stabbing yourself and hoping that your enemy will feel it. Free yourself from the bondage of unforgiveness today! Exodus 20:12 “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” Respect and honor are entirely two different things. Honor is external and is a gift that is freely given as an act of reverence and value. Respect is based on an internal attitude of high regard toward someone of earned or merited behaviors. People that are honorable should be respected and people that are respected should be honorable. The Bible tells us that children should honor and obey their parents and the children should not be provoked into anger but nurtured and directed in the ways of the Lord (Ephesians 6:1-4). Husbands and wives should have love, respect and reverence to each other (Ephesians 5:21-33). A family that lacks honor and respect for each other will be a breeding ground of brokenness and high level dysfunction.
KEY #9 - PROTECT YOUR PRIVACY
Deuteronomy 29:29 “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
Everyone should not have access to your private family matters. Always protect your privacy. Confidentiality is the protection of data and information that only certain people should have access to. Privacy is the protection of the people who are involved. Choose the appropriate persons to divulge your private matters to. Social media is not always appropriate when sharing private family matters. Remember to protect yourself and the people that you love. Focus on being both integral and ethical. Build on family integrity and not just reputation. Your family’s reputation and the public’s perception does matter. However, integrity in private matters and your family’s personal perception at home should be the priority. It is important to note that private matters that involve situations of abuse or mistreatment should be handled with care and reported to the proper authorities and counselors.
KEY #10 - SEEK PROFESSIONAL COUNSELING AND THERAPY IF NEEDED
Proverbs 11:14 “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.” Conflict resolution can be a difficult task to handle. There are times when professional counseling and therapy are needed. Don’t be ashamed or afraid to ask for help. It is beneficial to have someone who is skilled, trained and qualified to mediate family conflict. The goal is to resolve any issues that are hindering the family. Everyone in your family may not have the soft skills and emotional intelligence to successfully reconcile. Utilize competent counselors to assist your family in the process. Be willing to receive wisdom and be courageous to put in the work for positive change.
Suffragan Bishop Germaine D. Hurst is the Senior Pastor of Greater Emmanuel Temple Church, Inc. “The Church of Champions” in Buffalo, New York. He is the Vice Chairman of the Canada District Council, the 55th Episcopal District of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World and author of “Overcoming the 7 Battlefields of Marriage.” @pastorhurst www.germainehurst.com
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The Christian Outlook May/June
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How to Navigate and Resolve Family Conflict in a Healthy Way: A Biblical Perspective
T o navigate family conflict well, it’s important to understand the perspectives of everyone involved. In our families, we often find ourselves playing a role. A common dynamic in family conflict is a triangle of roles known as victim-persecutor-rescuer (Karpman, 2007). A triangle is a relational dynamic where one person serves the purpose of breaking or diluting the tension between two others. Family members unconsciously take on these roles based on factors such as the history of the family, personality, or even birth order.
The challenge is that many members of families do not recognize these roles they have fallen into because it feels like the way they have always done things. These roles become patterns of behavior such that family members often find themselves having the same kind of fight repeatedly, even if the content is different. Key signals that these engrained roles might be at play happen when people use phrases such as “this always happens” or, “every time you get upset, you act this way.”
The victim is often the person who vocalizes being wronged or mistreated in some way. The persecutor is the person they blame for their pain. The rescuer is the person who comes in to “save the day,” alleviating the tension between the victim and the persecutor. While these roles are engrained and familiar, they are not fixed. A key component to navigating family conflict is to help individual members of the family recognize the roles they often find themselves in and to explore their capacity for behaving in other ways.
In addition, acting in these roles often leaves all members of the family feeling misunderstood and hurt. For example, the rescuer is trying to make things better, but they may end up preventing the victim and persecutor from working through a very real conflict that needs to be addressed. The persecutor may be raising a valid concern that needs to be addressed but doing it in a way that is intolerable for the family. The victim has become so defined by their hurt and pain that neither they nor other family members are able to see the power they have to change.
Healthy navigation of conflict demands that we seek to understand the perspectives of everyone involved. It is easy to fall into the “right and wrong” labels, but often the issues at hand are not that easy to categorize. When we seek to truly understand the perspective of the others in the conflict, we open more possibilities for how the conflict will be resolved.
A Biblical Example: Triangulation Between Rebekah (Mother), Isaac (Father), and Jacob and Esau (Sons)
When Isaac was old, his eyes were so dim that he could not tell his sons apart by sight as he prepared to bless the elder son, Esau. Rebekah hatched a plot so that Jacob would receive the blessing. Isaac and Rebekah had been told by God before the birth of their twin sons that “the older shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23).
Isaac was 60 years old when Rebekah bore Esau and Jacob. Esau was a skillful hunter, and Jacob was a quiet farmer. Isaac favored Esau, and Rebekah favored Jacob. Isaac made the decision to bless his eldest son, Esau. Rebekah responded to Isaac’s plan with a contrary decision and countermove. That is, she tricked Isaac into blessing Jacob.
Jacob (a grown man) offered feeble resistance and capitulated to Rebekah’s deception. The plan was for Jacob, who was smooth-skinned, to disguise himself with the fur or skins of young goats. Isaac then would mistake Jacob for his older brother, Esau, who had a hairy body. Rebekah’s plan worked. The clothing fooled Isaac, who was losing his sight, and confounded his sense of smell.
This tragic episode resulted in distress and emotional upheaval in the home. After the “blessing,” Jacob left the country and was cut off from his family for years. He never saw his mother again.
This family situation is complex and illustrates the dangers of family triangulations. In this family drama, Isaac was placed in the role of the persecutor, giving the blessing against prophecy. Esau and Jacob were in the roles of victims. Rebekah, in her deception, is in the role of savior, allowing blessing and the grace of God to conform to the prophecy. Where is God in all of this human confusion? In this triangulation, the family must journey through broken relationships and broken trust to find deeper appreciation of God and to bring God’s good works to completion.
Perhaps if Rebekah and Isaac had talked about the plan to bless one child over the other, they might have prevented the devastation of Jacob leaving the home and Esau hating his twin brother. Maybe if Esau and Jacob had been able to talk, they might have realized that their relationship as brothers was much more of a blessing than the paternal proclamation. Maybe if they had a family meeting to discuss the merit and impact of favoritism, the differences in temperament, and the fact that both parents loved both young men, the family would have grown together and continued to fulfill the divine promise together.
How to Resolve Family Conflict
The underlying point is that all families have strengths, and all families have challenges. Family triangulations do not exist because of curses and evil; we believe the presence of curses and evil would only further complicate the triangulation. We are suggesting that triangulations, or transactional crisis, can be lessened in a two-fold manner: first, by exploring the meaning of assuming the triangulated role, and second, by helping the family realize that they are vulnerable, strong, and capable of altering the roles of triangulation. We offer five suggestions for a family to resolve painful triangles:
1. Follow the example of God and love all your children equally.
We love to say that God does not have parents or grandchildren. God only has children and loves them equally. God loves God’s children before, during, and after our falls. God forgives us before, during, and after our deeds. God allows the rain to fall and the sun to shine on every human being. Sin might separate us from God, but sin does not separate God from us. God sent God’s Son to the kosmos (universe and world [John 3:16]) not just to an individual family member. To realize the extensiveness of the love of God ( agape love) and use it as the guiding principle for family relationships would minimize, if not eliminate, triangles. Loving all children equally does not mean loving all children the same. A love that mirrors God’s love means that we show love based on our understanding of the uniqueness of each of God’s creations.
2. Trust God to meet your needs .
Philippians 4:19 states, “And my God shall supply all of our needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (NKJV). This statement that precedes the doxology of verse 20 , shows the apostle Paul acknowledging that God is supplying and will continue to supply for our needs. It also affirms God will meet our material needs as well as our spiritual needs. Families can prevent entering and being influenced by triangles if they trust God to supply their needs. Whether we are in the role of victim, persecutor, or savior, God will supply our needs. This shift in perspective is a reframing of life’s situations that will strengthen the family to live in open and honest communication, which is critical to living healthy, non-triangulated lives. When we trust that God supplies our needs, we remove the burden of filling a void in our lives from our family.
3. Advocate for others as you advocate for yourself.
Here we are recommending that family members seek to understand the individual “I” in relationship to the Most High God, as well as with the family as a whole. Understanding our individual oneness with God transforms all into a healthy collective. This divine union overrides any need for hatred or rejection of self and others. The divine union eradicates the need for unhealthy triangulation, empowers the family to operate with a clear vision and mission, and creates space for intentional reflection and expression of the family’s full and authentic selves. This becomes a gift in faithful service to God and all God’s people. Families attempting to advocate for one another (and develop healthy triangles) might agree to use the pinch theory, which states that (1) the more important the relationships, the more time they must spend sharing and clarifying expectations, and (2) the family contracts with one another to address disrupted expectations no matter how small (Web, 2011).
4. Care-front members of your family about schemes, triangles, and unhealthy boundaries.
According to Dr. David Augsburger, a minister and professor of counseling, care-fronting is conceptualized as confrontation that checks the confronter’s motives, combines love and caring with the confrontation, confronts in a caring manner, and corrects the person being confronted with love, respect, and honor. This type of care-fronting can reform the triangulation into healthy alliances and harmonious assertiveness. Care-fronting provides the triangulated family members a unique lens into the conflict and develops the family’s abilities to see conflict as natural, normal, neutral, and acceptable.
5. Develop familial affection in the home.
Agape love welds a family together and is unconditional. Agape love does not refer to a particular individual but points to a greater unconditional love of God toward all. To help with family drama, we suggest that in addition to agape love, the family needs to focus on storge love. Storge love is familial love. In the ancient Greek, storge refers to the love that family members have for one another. It includes the love of parents for their children, children for their parents, and children for their siblings. This is positive triangulation. This triangle is to use the love and connectedness in the family to heal and prosper the family. Families are very different and respond to positive, challenging, and stressful situations differently. However, a focus on the love that is adoring, affectionate, boisterous, motherly, fatherly, brotherly, sisterly, close-knit, cohesive, competitive, devoted, doting, fierce, fond, loving, nurturing, passionate, reserved, sentimental, tender, and warm will arm and defend the family against the urges of unhealthy triangles (“ 55 powerful words to describe a family ”). Development of this love is based upon spending quality time, keeping the lines of communication open and healthy, and respecting the differences of all in the family.
The Rebekah, Isaac, Esau, and Jacob story must motivate us to ask if we are properly responding to the stress and anxiety in our families. That is, when situations don’t happen in the manner we expect or want them to occur, do we manipulate, become authoritarian, and force the situation to be resolved in the manner we prescribe at the expense of others in our family? It is so much more effective to stop and ask God for inspiration and direction. Good family communication and dependence on God can help alleviate our conflict and our pain . God is faithful to perform even when everything seems to be going wrong .
Life is often full of disappointments and triangulations. But a family can remain faithful through these challenges, maintain a strong family unity, and glorify God in the process. No family is without conflict, but unhealthy families ignore their conflict and end in dysfunction. Healthy families trust God, openly communicate with one another regarding their challenges, and persevere and push through the conflict toward the family they love.
Augsburger, David. (2009). Caring Enough to Confront: How to Understand and Express Your Deepest Feelings Toward Others . Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker.
Karpman, Stephen. (2007). “The New Drama Triangles.” USATAA/ITAA conference lecture, August 11, 2007, https://karpmandramatriangle.com/pdf/thenewdramatriangles.pdf .
Webb, Larry E. (2011). Crisis Counseling in the Congregation . Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press.
Rev. Dr. Micah McCreary
Rev. Micah L. McCreary, Ph.D., is president of New Brunswick Theological Seminary in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and a minister of Word and sacrament in the Reformed Church in America (RCA). He also serves the RCA as a General Synod professor of theology. Prior to coming to New Brunswick, Dr. McCreary served in the pastorate, psychological practice, and professorate at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. He studied engineering at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and theology at the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia. He received his M.S. and Ph.D. in counseling psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia.
Dr. Jessica Young Brown
Dr. Jessica Young Brown is a licensed clinical psychologist in Richmond, Virginia. Dr. Brown’s research and clinical work focuses on making mental health accessible and equitable for people in marginalized communities, and on equipping mental health professionals to better serve these communities. Dr. Brown’s areas of interest and expertise include the impact of racism and race-related stress on mental health, generational and cultural trauma, and the intersection of faith and mental health. In addition to various peer reviewed and popular media articles, Dr. Brown is the author of Making Space at the Well: Mental Health and the Church.
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Facing Family Problems God’s Way
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There was conflict between man and woman when they ate the fruit that the man was told not to eat, but the woman decided to eat and he followed. Even then, God had a plan to address the problem and help them reconcile their relationship with one another and Him, although life for them would never be the same again.
God reminded the man and woman of what he told them, asked them why they did what the did, explained what the consequences of their actions would be, continued to take care of them by making clothes to cover their skin because they knew they were naked, and then removed them from the area to keep them from being tempted by the tree of life.
What would it look like if we faced the problems in our family the same way as God did with the original family? We can all use help in the area of our problems. David said in Psalm 25: 17-18, NLT “My problems go from bad to worse. Oh, save me from them all! Feel my pain and see my trouble. Forgive all my sins.” Maybe after reading this article, with God’s guidance, we will all be able to address the problems in our families with love, understanding, and correction too.
Family Problems From Day One: Husband and Wives
Adam and Eve started their relationship with a few communication problems. Effective communication might have prevented some of the heartache that they felt early on in their relationship. Adam and Eve knew the rules but didn’t communicate with one another when it mattered the most. Because there was a break in communication between two people, all humans to come suffered.
Poor communication is a major problem today for couples in relationship with one another. Lack of communication within the marriage causes problems that can feel permanent and unmanageable. Part of effective communication is honesty.
Sometimes in marriage, the lines of communication break down when people begin to withhold the truth from one another. God values honesty, there are many moments in the bible where people are reminded about the importance of honesty and the outcome when people are not honest.
Lord, you are searching for honesty. You struck your people, but they paid no attention. You crushed them, but they refused to be corrected. They are determined, with faces set like stone; they have refused to repent. – Jeremiah 5:3
Honesty guides good people; dishonesty destroys treacherous people. – Proverbs 11:3
Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty! – Psalm 32:2
Couples from the beginning of time have tried to manage their own desires and get ahead of the plan that God has for them. This type of behavior has led to many relational problems for couples. The couples personal problems spread into the lives of the people around them and affect the lives of their children.
Either way, God’s way is always worth the wait, but as humans, we like to sometimes try new things and wait to see what will happen next, even if know we should wait for clear direction from God. Take a look at this moment in history where a couple made a decision that caused pretty big problems as a result.
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had not been able to bear children for him. But she had an Egyptian servant named Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, “The Lord has prevented me from having children. Go and sleep with my servant. Perhaps I can have children through her.” And Abram agreed with Sarai’s proposal. – Genesis 16:1-2
What happens next for this couple is a little more than what they thought would happen. The problem extended to children and they suffered from the actions of the adults. They experienced moments of jealousy, sadness, loneliness, regret, anger, blame and a list of other emotions. These types of scenarios happen in relationships often but are extremely preventable.
When couples think clearly about their next steps and incorporate prayer into decision making they can feel good about their choices. When couples decide to do things without guidance, they are left in a situation that can be very confusing and they end up asking for help in the long run anyway to correct the problem they have created.
God helps us understand how we can connect with our partners so that we are within the will that He has for our lives. When couples are praying together and intentional in their relationship, making positive choices and waiting until God tells them it is time to move becomes a lot easier.
For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them. – Matthew 18:20
Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. – Psalm 27:14
Another problem that was typical in the bible and unfortunately still exists is infidelity. Relationships have the hardest time lasting once one person breaks the trust of the other and has an inappropriate encounter with someone else.
All couples have their own way of dealing with infidelity in the relationship, but for the purpose of addressing this problem in a God-centered way, it is helpful to know how God reacts and what He says.
You cry out, “Why doesn’t the Lord accept my worship?” I’ll tell you why! Because the Lord witnessed the vows you and your wife made when you were young. But you have been unfaithful to her, though she remained your faithful partner, the wife of your marriage vows. Didn’t the Lord make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are his. And what does he want? Godly children from your union. So guard your heart; remain loyal to the wife of your youth. – Malachi 2:14-15
Give the following instructions to the people of Israel. “Suppose a man’s wife goes astray, and she is unfaithful to her husband and has sex with another man, but neither her husband nor anyone else knows about it. She has defiled herself, even though there was no witness and she was not caught in the act.” – Numbers 5:12-13
God was very specific when He put man and woman together. The purpose was for two people to have a close relationship and help one another, not hurt one another. The plan was for them to create and be beautiful. Yes, problems will exist when two individuals come together, but they do not have to takeover what was intended to be great. With God’s way, there can be peace in the relationship that lasts forever.
Family Problems From Day One: Children
Adam and Eve, the first couple, were also the first parents. They had some struggles with their children, as a matter of fact, one of their sons killed the other. That is pretty extreme, but it points to a problem that is sometimes greater than the parents but centered around the way that children think and behave.
Adam and Eve, I am sure had tried to guide their children in the right direction. The bible is silent on what was happening between birth and the incident that caused a brother to take his brother’s life, but to know parenthood means understanding that a lot of problems that happen with children can be based on the things that they have experienced in the home, but their choices still belong to them.
So, we have Cain and Abel. One brother becomes upset and feels rejected and he kills his brother because of it. Cain was angry; an emotion that all children probably feel in relation to their siblings every once in a while. God tried to solve the problem that was arising from Cain’s anger towards his brother. He even asked him why he was so angry.
Although God provided the space for Cain to work through his feelings and make a positive choice, Cain still decided to do something that would have a consequence attached to it and probably brought great pain to his parents as well.
One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him. Afterward, the Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?” “I don’t know,” Cain responded. “Am I my brother’s guardian?” But the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! Now you are cursed and banished from the ground, which has swallowed your brother’s blood. No longer will the ground yield good crops for you, no matter how hard you work! From now on you will be a homeless wanderer on the earth. – Genesis 4:8-12
Sometimes correcting the problem God’s way means loving our children through the hurt, disappointment, and confusion. Parents have to stop and engage with their children to help them process their thoughts and emotions. Parents should make an effort to teach their children how to problem solve on their own while guiding them through the steps.
When children make a decision that creates a big problem, parents have to respond in a way that is understandable by the child. It takes wisdom on the parents end to graciously speak to their children in a way that will be firm, yet loving.
God provides quite a few examples of how to give a consequence to an individual (or sometimes whole nations) in a way that is meaningful and heard. The main goal for correction and consequences is to bring awareness to the person or people and prevention for the next time they are faced with a similar situation.
As parents, you have the ability to help your child do better in the future by asking them questions about their actions at the moment, which should push them in the direction of thinking deeper about how and why the problem exists.
God showed compassion to Cain that day. When helping children through their problems, adults should be compassionate and understanding, as well as firm and clear. God gives clear direction to Cain about what will happen next so that there was no confusion. Parents should do the same.
Family Problems From Day One: Community (The Larger Family)
Sometimes the problem comes from more than just one or two people’s behavior. The Israelites made up one big community of people who had problems for years and years. They first were in slavery and needed to be freed. Then they were free but were making poor choices that caused them to wander for a while in confusion.
God had to step in and make adjustments with this group of people frequently because of the problems that surrounded them. God was always insightful and recognized the problem and the reason the problem existed. He would then create boundaries to keep the people safe and share with them what the dangers were.
Sadly, the people of Israel would only stick with the boundaries set for them for a while before they would encounter another problem. God never gave up on the people He chose to care for forever, but He did get frustrated and the bible even says He got angry. There were groups of people within the community who had to suffer great loss and didn’t make it to where they were promised to go, but it was not without a clear explanation of why.
Today, communities are still dealing with trying to manage the effects of individuals within the community and outside of the community who may be making choices that cause problems to remain. To deal with these problems the way that God did, people with authority and those in leadership within the communities have to remind the people of the rules clearly.
Community leaders should be fair, truthful, and open to understanding the problem before making judgements. God gave the best advice on how to be a leader in the community. The bible says in Romans 12:8 NLT; “If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.”
If you are in a relationship, raising children, or are concerned about your community and you are trying to understand how to deal with some of the symptoms you are experiencing while pushing through the problems that exist in your life or the world around you, there are counselors here at Seattle Christian Counseling who can help you process and find peace on your journey.
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- Physical conflict
Common Triggers for Family Issues
- Differences of opinion, personalities, beliefs, values or goals
- Change in family circumstances e.g. new baby, divorce/separation, blending families
- Financial problems
- Issues relating to sexuality
- Alcohol or drug use
- Gambling problems
- The onset of mental health problems
- Natural disasters
- Lack of trust/respect in a relationship
The Impact of Family Issues on Family Members
Often family members are the most important people to you so relationship problems can be considerably distressing and can lead to:
- Negative emotions – anger, sadness, anxiety
- Feeling isolated, alone or withdrawn
- Lack of concentration
- Difficulty eating or sleeping
- Problems with friends, colleagues or your children
- Using alcohol or drugs to cope or escape
What to Do About Family Issues
Communication is the key to making your relationships work. Talking calmly and openly about your problems with your loved ones is the first step to finding a solution.
Accepting your differences
Even people who are very close sometimes have different ideas, opinions, and beliefs. Acknowledging that you may not always agree with your loved ones can help to avoid unnecessary conflict.
Have fun together
Even when things are tough, it is important to find time to do things you enjoy with your partner or family.
Develop a plan
If your family and relationship problems are mainly due to your circumstances, it can help to work with your family or partner to develop a plan for action that you all agree on. For example, if you are having financial difficulties, it may help to create a family budget. Having a plan can reduce stress and give you and your family common goals to work towards.
People in supportive, loving relationships help each other practically as well as emotionally. Supportive partners share the good times and help each other through the tough ones. They are also more likely to feel healthier, happier and satisfied with their lives and less likely to have mental or physical health problems.
What Does the Bible Say About Problems in the Family?
Family problems are not a new thing. In this world, those we should love the most – our families – often become the ones we fight with the most.
The Bible doesn’t gloss over sin, and it records a number of family problems, starting with Adam’s blame-shifting, with his wife as the target (Genesis 3:12). Sibling rivalry crops up in the stories of Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, and Joseph and his brothers.
Jealousy among wives, one of the negative consequences of polygamy, is found in the stories of Hannah, and Leah and Rachel. Eli and Samuel dealt with wayward children. Jonathan was almost murdered by his father, Saul. David was brokenhearted by his son Absalom’s rebellion. Hosea experienced marital difficulties. In each of these cases, relationships were damaged by sin.
The Bible gives clear instructions about how family members are to treat each other. God’s plan is that husbands love their wives in the same way that Christ loves His church (Ephesians 5:25, 33). Wives are to respect their husbands and submit to their leadership (1 Peter 3:1). Children are to obey their parents (Ephesians 6:1–4; Exodus 20:12).
We can only imagine how many family problems would be solved if husbands, wives, and children simply followed those basic rules. First Timothy 5:8 says that families are to take care of their own. Jesus had harsh words for those who evaded their financial responsibilities to their aging parents by claiming they gave all their money to the temple (Matthew 15:5–6).
God’s way is to crucify our flesh (Galatians 5:24; Romans 6:11) and submit to the needs and wishes of others whenever we can. Jesus is our model for that kind of submission to God’s will. First Peter 2:23 says, “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”
How Does the Bible Define a Good Christian Family?
The Bible defines a good Christian family is one that lines up with biblical principles and one in which each member understands and fulfills his or her God-given role. The family is not an institution designed by man. It was created by God for the benefit of man, and man has been given stewardship over it.
The basic biblical family unit is comprised of one man, one woman (his spouse) and their offspring or adopted children. The extended family can include relatives by blood or marriage such as grandparents, nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts, and uncles. One of the primary principles of the family unit is that it involves a commitment ordained by God for the lifetime of the members.
The husband and wife are responsible for holding it together, the current attitude of our culture notwithstanding. Although divorces are readily sought after and granted much too easily in our society, the Bible cautions us against it (Malachi 2:16).
Of course, the first requirement for the members of a Christian family is that they all be Christians, having a true relationship with Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Ephesians 5:22–26 provides the guidelines for husbands and wives in a Christian family. The husband is required to love his wife as Christ loved the church, and a wife should respect her husband and willingly submit to his leadership in the family.
The husband’s leadership role should start with his own spiritual relationship with God and then flow to instructing his wife and children in scriptural values, leading the family into biblical truth. Fathers are instructed to bring up their children in “the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
Ideally, a Christian family will have all members committed to Christ and His service. When a husband, wife, and children all fulfill their God-appointed roles, then peace and harmony reign in the home. But, if we try to have a Christian family without Christ as Head or without adhering to the biblical principles the Lord has lovingly provided for us, the home will suffer.
Christian Family Counseling
If you and your loved ones are currently struggling with family issues or problems that seems unsolvable or that have escalated well beyond what you are able to resolve, please feel free to reach out to me. Together we can discover what God’s plan is for your family.
Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. – Colossians 3:13
Photos: “Couple Smiling”, Courtesy of Terrillo Walls, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Family Walking”, Courtesy of Vidal Balielo Jr., Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Family of Four”, Courtesy of Emma Bauso, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “A Cord of Six Strands”, Courtesy of Pixabay, Pexels.com, CC0 License
DISCLAIMER: THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE
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How to handle conflict biblically.
If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. Matthew 18:15-17
Do you ever wish there was no such thing as conflict? You may be the type who runs and hides in a closet if there’s a conflict; or maybe you flourish in these types of situations. Wherever you fall on this spectrum, conflict is inevitable.
We’ve all been in situations where our feelings have been hurt, we have been wronged, or been mistreated. No fun! And the hard truth of the matter is that we also have been on the other side of that equation. We have been the one hurting others and have wronged our neighbors.
When Jesus was here on earth He talked a lot about the Kingdom of God. In fact, that was His whole mission here on earth. He said that the Kingdom of God is at hand. His Kingdom is one of peace with the purpose to bring reconciliation between humanity back to a Holy and perfect God.
If the Kingdom of God is at hand, this means it is a PRESENT REALITY. We are a part of this now. Incredible!
Jesus also taught about what it means to be a peacemaker. We live in a world where the vast majority of us are conflict avoiders. The Bible challenges us to be peacemakers and agents of reconciliation. Jesus even gave us a promise that we will be called sons and daughters of God when we live this out.
Many people view conflict only in a negative way, but conflict makes us stronger, and we learn what’s actually worth fighting for. God’s Word helps us handle conflict in a godly way so He can use it for good:
- Own it. If you’ve messed up, own it. Own it fully because the offense is against a Holy God—don’t explain it away. Ask for forgiveness. We should own all that we can for the good of relationships and the glory of Christ. Confession, and walking in the light, gives God the opportunity to display grace in our lives. ( 1 John 1:7-10 )
- Speak Truth. If you’ve been hurt, go to the person humbly and talk to them . Listen to them. And pray for them. ( Eph. 4:29-32 )
- Give grace. Be quick to forgive. Remember the grace upon grace, upon grace, that you’ve been freely given in Christ Jesus. Ask God to give you the grace to receive His grace, and for the grace to give it freely to others. ( Col. 3:13 )
Is there someone who has hurt your feelings recently? Have you hurt someone else’s feelings? A friend? A sibling? Your mom or dad? Practice giving grace today. Ask Jesus to help you be a peacemaker. You’ll be happy you did!
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Solving Life’s Problems
One little boy looked at her with big, serious eyes. “If heaven is like my home,” he responded, “then I don’t want to go there!”
The family was God’s idea from the beginning of Creation. Order in society and order in the church are based on order in the family. God has given specific rules for the responsibilities of the husband, the wife, and the children. When these rules are obeyed, the family unit is strong, and each member is fulfilled and happy. When any of them are ignored, the family is in trouble, and may even fall apart.
In many parts of the world today, the family is indeed in trouble. In some countries, more than 50% of marriages end in divorce. In others, the position of the wife is little more than that of a servant. Children who grow up in an unhappy family are likely to establish the same kind of family unit when they marry. What are some of the difficulties that disrupt family unity, and what does the Bible say about them? If heaven were like your home, would you want to go there?
Problems Of The Husband And Wife
It would be impossible in this short space to discuss and find solutions for every problem faced within the family. In our discussion of social relationships we covered many problem areas which could also be applied to the family situation. We will endeavor in this lesson to discuss those problems which are unique to the family, and find biblical principles which would give guidance in each instance. First we will look at some of the more serious problems that can occur between a husband and wife.
Problems occur in some marriages because one of the marriage partners is a Christian and the other is not. Many times people enter into marriage with an unbeliever thinking that after they are married, they will be able to lead their spouse to the Lord. Or perhaps a husband or wife will become a Christian after marriage, and the other partner does not. The problems that arise from such a situation are enormous: the Christian partner has a desire for the things of God, church attendance, and developing Christian maturity, while the unsaved partner is attracted by worldly pleasures and involvements. There may be discord as to the rearing of children, and the children may be less likely to accept Christ as their own personal Savior because of the non-Christian example of the unbelieving parent. Sometimes the unbeliever even draws the Christian partner away from faith in God and into sin.
The best solution for this, or any problem, of course, is to avoid it. Marriage is forbidden with unbelievers according to 2 Corinthians 6:14-18:
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial [Satan]? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God.
Of course, the answer to all of these questions is that right and wrong, light and darkness, Christ and Satan cannot agree or be partners. A believer and an unbeliever have nothing in common other than the basic human requirements. The young person who wants marriage so much that he or she is willing to ignore this important biblical teaching is opening the door to a life of heartache and problems. God’s way is the best way, and He will provide for all of our needs if we will obey Him. We will talk about this further in our next lesson, which deals with the problems of the unmarried person.
For a Christian who is already married to an unbeliever, possibly married before becoming a Christian, the apostle Paul has given some special instructions in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16. If you will read this Scripture, you will find that he encourages the Christian to go on with the marriage as long as the ungodly partner is willing for it to continue. The Christian must not be the one to leave. Again, God is able to supply what is needed of grace and love, and who knows, the unbeliever may eventually be saved. “But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace” (1 Corinthians 7:15).
In many homes it is the mother who must assume the responsibility of spiritual leader. This is not the ideal situation, for God has established the husband as the head of the home, including spiritual leadership. Children often look to their father’s example, and a father cannot expect his family to rise above his own spiritual level. Spiritual problems in the home can only be solved by obedience to scriptural principles.
Differing Sexual Needs
Sometimes in a marriage one partner’s need for sexual relations is greater than the other partner’s needs. Denial of sexual relations is contrary to Scripture except by mutual agreement (see 1 Corinthians 7:5) and then only for a short period of time. A husband and wife who want to please each other will be submissive one to the other according to biblical teaching (see 1 Corinthians 7:3-4). At the same time, each will be sensitive to real needs of the other person for other expressions of love and affection that do not have sexual relations as their goal.
Sexuality in marriage will be discussed more fully in Lesson 7. The married couple who will follow biblical teaching in this respect will find that sexual fulfillment in marriage helps to bring about unity in other problem areas.
Probably the problem that most threatens a marriage is unfaithfulness (sexual infidelity or adultery). This, too, is discussed in Lesson 7. Adultery is strictly forbidden in both the Old and New Testaments, as we saw in Lesson 2. In this lesson, we want to look at it from the point of view of the innocent or offended partner. How should you react if your partner has committed adultery? Should you immediately seek a divorce? Should you continue in the marriage relationship if the offense is repeated over and over again? There are three aspects of this problem that we want to consider:
1. If your marriage partner continually commits acts of adultery, are you under obligation to continue in the marriage anyway? According to the words of Jesus in Matthew 19:9, divorce is permitted only in cases of adultery: “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.” Thus, a husband or wife is under no obligation to remain in a marriage with an unfaithful partner.
2. If a marriage is ended because of unfaithfulness, can the offended partner remarry? Bible scholars do not agree on the interpretation of Scripture in this regard. According to some, the words of Jesus in Matthew 19:9 permit remarriage in such instances. Their interpretation is that once a person has committed adultery, he has dissolved the union that made him “one flesh” with his marriage partner. Thus, the partner is no longer bound by that union. If this is the case, then the offended partner would be free to marry another person who was not in some way restricted from marriage.
Another interpretation is that divorce is permitted in case of adultery, but not remarriage. We will discuss this further under the subject of divorce.
3. Many things might contribute to an act of adultery. A marriage partner might refuse to engage in sexual relations with the other partner, thus causing him or her to look elsewhere to meet this need. Or there may be a moment of great temptation when a spiritually unprepared partner would yield to temptation. Certainly God does not excuse either action, and they are both sinful. But suppose the unfaithful partner repented, was truly sorry for his or her sin, and asked forgiveness. Should the offended partner forgive, and renew the oneness of their relationship?
This is possibly one of the most difficult offenses to forgive that a person would ever face in this life. The hurt of a broken trust goes deep into the heart, making it very difficult to trust again. But the principle of forgiveness is one of the most powerful teachings in all of Scripture. Christ not only taught forgiveness (Matthew 6:14) but He forgave (Luke 7:47-50). God hates sin, but He loves the sinner so much that He allowed His own beloved Son to be wounded, insulted, and hanged on a wooden cross so that our sin could be forgiven. Christ forgave the woman taken in adultery (John 8:3-11).
What greater love could be shown to a marriage partner than to grant him or her the same measure of forgiveness that Christ demonstrated to us? If a marriage can be saved and a Christian home preserved, and if the husband and wife can renew their vows to each other and to the Lord, God will bless the one who is able to forgive. In such a case, neither partner should discuss the matter again, with each other or with anyone else. It should be forgiven and forgotten, except as a reminder of the power of the devil to draw us into sin.
In this Scripture, God explains that one reason he expects a husband and wife to be faithful to each other is so that their children will also come to be God’s people. Children of a Christian marriage enjoy many wonderful blessings such as stability, high morals, love, parental involvement, prayer and biblical training. Great problems arise for children who are the victims of divorce. I know a pastor who for two years taught 40 delinquent boys who had been placed in a special home by the legal authorities because they had been involved in various crimes. The pastor told me that the one experience all of these boys had in common was that their parents were divorced. Of course, not all children of divorced parents turn to crime, but most of them suffer in one way or another.
The general rules for divorce are these:
1. Divorce is prohibited (forbidden) for a Christian (1 Corinthians 7:10-11).
2. Marriage is prohibited with divorced persons (Luke 16:18; Matthew 5:32; 19:9; and 1 Corinthians 7:11).
3. Divorced persons are not to remarry (1 Corinthians 7:10-11).
Earlier in this lesson, we discussed the one possible reason why divorce and remarriage would be permitted for a Christian.
But even in such a case there is a price to pay in suffering, damage to children, and Christian example.
In those cases where divorce has already occurred and there is no possibility of renewing the marriage vows because one of the partners has remarried, the Christian community can be a source of comfort and help to the one who has been divorced. God does not turn His back on anyone who cries out to Him for help, and He will give the strength to remake a life and deal with the problems that divorce brings. In Lesson 6 we will look at this from the perspective of the divorced single person.
I know a couple who had both been divorced many years before they met and married each other. Some time after their marriage they became Christians. The husband was overcome with guilt because he thought since he had divorced and remarried, he was living in adultery in his second marriage. The apostle Paul has given instructions concerning this type of situation, also.
Other Martial Problems
We will briefly mention here several other problems which can create unhappiness and discord in a home.
1. Lack of mutual respect and trust. I know a husband who seems to delight in humiliating his wife in the presence of others. I know a wife who seems to seek every opportunity to belittle her husband in the presence of others by disagreeing with or correcting whatever he says. Perhaps they are using this method to repay some behavior of their spouse such as lack of showing love, or lack of submission, but this certainly is not the Christian approach to solving problems in relationships. The Bible pattern is that the husband should love and honor his wife in the same measure that Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25-28) and that the wife should honor and love her husband (Ephesians 5:33).
Neither partner should give the other any reasons to feel jealousy. The Christian couple who has this problem should discuss it together openly and agree to avoid any situations which could cause jealous feelings to occur. The person who is constantly jealous without just cause should ask the Lord to help him overcome such feelings and develop trust in his spouse.
2. Lack of communication. “My husband never talks to me.” This is a common complaint of wives who perhaps spend their entire day caring for small children and who look forward to communication with their husbands in the evening. There must be good communication in order to have a good marriage. A husband and wife should be able to share with their partner, more than with anyone else, their joys and sorrows, hopes and dreams, as well as their small every-day problems.
3. Over commitment. One well-known Christian psychologist has called this the No. 1 problem in many Christian homes, including those of pastors and people in other full-time ministries. It is easy to become involved in so many activities outside the home that there is no time left for a home life. Home becomes a place to eat, bathe, and sleep. The family is neglected while the father is busy earning money, or ministering to the spiritual needs of others. He gives his best to his work, and leaves little or nothing of himself for his wife and children. God expects us to use the wisdom He has given us to establish the right priorities in our lives. If the husband is going to be the spiritual leader of the home, he must spend time with his family in fellowship and training.
4. Financial problems. A husband and wife must work together to establish a family budget which will meet their needs and keep them from the burden of debts that are difficult to pay. The best foundation is to tithe faithfully the first ten percent of the family income to the Lord, according to scriptural teaching (Malachi 3:8; Matthew 23:23). I firmly believe that many families suffer unnecessary financial problems, sickness, and unexpected expenses because they are not cheerful givers of God’s portion of their income. God’s Word emphasizes over and over again the principle of giving. We cannot out give God. He has promised to meet our needs as we are faithful to Him (Luke 6:38).
The apostle Paul said that he had learned to be content whether he had plenty, or whether he had little (Philippians 4:11). Happiness is certainly not dependent upon riches. God does not want us to worry about accumulating wealth, but He wants us to trust Him to provide for our daily needs.
5. Differences over the training of children. Many problems arise because parents cannot agree on the training and discipline of their children. This can be avoided by obedience to the principles of child rearing given in the Bible. We will discuss some of these principles later in this lesson. Parents should always show unity in decisions concerning children, and they should discuss any differences privately, so that their children will not take advantage of their divided opinions and create more discord between the parents.
6. Problems concerning relatives. When a man marries, he is to leave his father and mother and devote himself to his wife (Matthew 19:5). His responsibility then is to his wife and children, and nothing should be permitted to disrupt the oneness of his marriage relationship. But the Bible does teach that if any member of the family has a serious need, we are not to turn away from the one in need. First Timothy 5:4-8 expands the believer’s responsibility to include grandparents, relatives, and any widows in the family. Verse 8 adds: “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
Problems Of Children
Disobedience to parents is one of the signs of the last days. The only commandment that includes a promise is this one: “Honor your father and your mother . . . so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). Children must learn obedience through careful training and discipline provided by their parents. “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Training doesn’t just happen—it takes determination and a willingness to keep control of the situation. “A child left to itself disgraces his mother” (Proverbs 29:15). Parents must not permit disobedience in the early years of a child’s life if they want to have control in the later years of his adolescence.
Today, many parents’ hearts are saddened by the rebelliousness of their teenage children. Added to this are increasing temptations for young people to try drugs or alcoholic beverages, or experiment with sex. The church has felt the impact of these pressures as Christian families suffer because an unmarried daughter has become pregnant, or a son has become addicted to drugs, or a son or daughter rejects the family and leaves home seeking satisfaction in ungodly ways.
If your family is suffering because of such a problem, let me encourage you to strengthen your faith and don’t give up, because God cares about you and He loves your wayward child. Take courage from the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32.
The father in this story did not try to prevent the son from leaving home—yet his heart must have been greatly saddened to see him go. I believe he must have prayed for his son night and day, and never stopped expecting God to work for his good in the situation. How many times a day do you suppose he went to the road and looked for his son? The Bible says that finally the son decided to return home, after he had spent all his money and lost everything he had. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (v. 20).
Christian parents can claim the promise in Proverbs 22:6. There may be times when all you can do is commit a problem child to the Lord, and trust Him to work for good. But always be ready to help your child work out the problem when he turns to you for help. Just as your heavenly Father welcomes back a repentant sinner, no matter what he has done, Christian parents must show love and compassion to their rebellious children when they call out for help.
Lack of Training and Discipline
Many times both parents work outside the home, and they have little energy for the important responsibility of training and discipline of their children. Often they expect the church and school to fulfill these functions which God has given to them. Training a child is hard work. You can’t train a child simply by telling him how he should live. You must work with him to correct every mistake, to show him what is right and wrong, to teach him what God’s Word says. It is an activity that must continue until the child is old enough to leave home and assume the responsibilities of an adult.
Lack of Love and Understanding
Every person has a need for love and affection. Children who grow up in a home where there is little demonstration of love find it difficult to express love to others. Parents should take time often to show their children that they are loved.
Parents lack understanding when they demand too much of their children, or when they are permissive and indulgent, always allowing the child to have his own way. These are two extremes which can cause problems. A child who is constantly criticized or ridiculed will develop feelings of inferiority and insecurity which will go with him into adulthood. A positive approach in training children will help to avoid these problems.
Everyone responds well to approval. Correction for wrongdoing should be balanced with praise for doing what is right. The rules of love which we studied in Lesson 2 (from 1 Corinthians 13) should be applied to the parents’ attitudes and treatment of their children, as well as to other relationships. Everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of age.
Biblical Solutions For Family Problems
Responsibilities of the Husband
The Holy Spirit led Paul to explain the pattern of authority for the Christian family: “Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3, 8-12). “Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1).
Just as a head must be sensitive to the whole body before it can communicate direction, the husband must be sensitive to the needs of his wife and children, and the direction from God, in order to be a spiritual leader in the home. A man who lives in complete submission to Christ will know how to direct the affairs of his family in ways pleasing to the Lord. This includes direction in spiritual matters: “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). (See also Acts 16:31.) His Christian wife and children, in submission to the same Lord, will gladly support his authority.
2. To provide. The husband is responsible to provide for the material needs of the family and for their protection (1 Timothy 5:8).
3. To love. The husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25, 28). How did Christ love the church?
a. He gave Himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25; Romans 5:8). This is a husband’s sacrificial love that is willing to suffer for his wife’s benefit.
b. To make her holy (Ephesians 5:26). A husband’s love should be uplifting and encouraging to his wife in her spiritual walk with Christ.
c. To cleanse her by the washing with water through the Word (Ephesians 5:26). A husband’s love should include sharing the Word of God with his wife that they both might be purified and nurtured through it.
d. To present her to Himself . . . holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:27). Love that has as its goal the wife’s spiritual benefit, will be reflected back to the husband by a spiritual, blameless wife.
e. Christ FIRST loved us (1 John 4:19). The husband should be the one to initiate expressions of love.
f. As His own body (Ephesians 5:29). The church is known as the body of Christ (Romans 12:5). This expression of love includes all the things a man does for his own body, love that causes him to care for and provide for his wife in every way. This love is proved by his faithfulness to her (Proverbs 5:15, 18, 19; Malachi 2:15- 16); by being considerate (1 Peter 3:7; Colossians 3:19); and by showing appreciation (Proverbs 31:28-31).
Responsibilities of the Wife
The New Testament does not teach that women are inferior to men. “There is neither . . . male nor female, for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). That passage mentions slaves, freemen, Jews, and Greeks as well as male and female. It teaches that Christ accepts all people on an equal level, in spite of their differences. The headship of the husband is a matter of responsibility and orderly structure. Every community must have leadership and God has chosen the husband to be the leader in the family.
In order to have a leader, there must be followers. The wife is to follow the leadership of her husband by her submission: “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:24). The wife’s submission is demonstrated as to the Lord (5:22); respectfully (5:33); as is fitting (Colossians 3:18). Think of it! The same commitment and yieldedness that would be your response to the Lord should also be your response to your husband. A Christian wife will place her husband in high regard—she will honor him, prefer him and his company to that of others, and admire him. And if her husband is not a believer, she will possibly win him by her behavior without talk (1 Peter 3:1). This means that a consistent lifestyle according to Christian principles will win an unbelieving husband without the necessity of words.
In Titus 2:3-5 we find some other responsibilities of the wife given. These are things the older women should teach the younger women. But first the older women must be sure their own lives are an example. They must be reverent in the way they live, not slanderers or addicted to wine. Then they can teach the younger wives.
Responsibilities of Parents
1. The parents are responsible to train their children (Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4). Training involves a total approach of example, teaching, and discipline when needed. Children learn by the things they see in their environment, they learn by being taught, and they sometimes learn by being disciplined in a fair manner (Proverbs 29:15, 17).
2. Discipline of children must be fair. “Fathers, do not exasperate your children” (Ephesians 6:4). “Fathers, do not embitter your children or they will become discouraged” (Colossians 3:21). Children should not be disciplined for something they did not know was wrong, and they should not he disciplined in anger. There must be consistency. They must know there will be certain consequences for certain actions. This means that a parent must take the time and energy necessary to discipline a child when he deserves it, explain why he is being disciplined, and then perhaps pray with him about it (Hebrews 12:6-9; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Discipline of children means life to them. A child cannot bring himself under God’s authority if he has never learned to bring himself under his parents’ authority (see Proverbs 19:18; 23:13-14; 29:17).
3. Training and discipline must be done in love. Parents should pattern their attitudes after those of the heavenly Father: “Though he bring grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men” (Lamentations 3:32-33).
We see from this Scripture that the child’s response to his parents’ discipline has a direct bearing on the child’s later life, in his submission to God and His discipline.
Responsibilities of Children
The first requirement for children is to honor and obey their parents (Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:1-3). God’s blessing is upon children who obey their parents (Jeremiah 35:6-7, 18-19). Children who obey their parents are more likely to train their own children properly.
Honoring your parents does not stop with the end of childhood. A young man should remember the instruction and teaching of his father and mother when he goes out into the world on his own. A young person who profits from the teaching of his parents brings them great joy (Proverbs 23:22-25).
In the Old Testament severe judgment was brought upon disobedient or disrespectful children (see Exodus 21:15; Leviticus 20:9; Deuteronomy 21:18-21; Proverbs 28:24; 30:17).
When these divine instructions concerning the responsibilities of the family members are ignored, it is no wonder that problems arise. God’s pattern works, and the family which lives by these principles will know love, happiness, and fulfillment. Is this the kind of family you have? If not, what can you do to make your family what God wants it to be? You can start with yourself— when you are fulfilling your God-given responsibilities to your family, it will be easier to get other family members to take the same steps. Making a change may not be easily or quickly done, but the results will make it all worthwhile!
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