The Young Man And His Family
Young man, what of your family? Is it happy, successful and fulfilling, or is it filled with discord, strife and failure? And if the latter situation is true, where do you personally fit in? Are you a part of the problem or a part of the solution? Your relationships with the other members of your own family are a vital part of your Christian testimony. Both Scripture and experience would teach us that no one can have an outstanding testimony as a servant of Christ without a good and happy relationship in the home. Those men, be they young or older, who present a facade of success to the church and to the world, while hiding a discordant home behind closed doors, may succeed in fooling many people, but God is not deceived. Leo Tolstoy wrote that “All happy families resemble each other, while each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” This has been widely believed, although there is room for many significant differences in happy families as well.
Whether you are still in your parents’ home, as a part of that family, or are in the process of establishing your own home and family, there are certain basic principles which can be applied to produce a harmonious family. Let us look for some of those common threads woven through happy families.
What Is A Happy Family?
Love must be one basic building block of the happy family. If love is present, and is sufficiently strong, then bickering, friction, and tension will be minimized. I John 4:7 begins, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God,” and these words were never more applicable than in the family situation. Why is it that (especially as teenagers) we sometimes find it hardest to love our own family members? Perhaps the closeness in the family, the sheer daily exposure to each other, reveals more clearly the faults of each member, and tends to magnify those irritations which we feel. In the family, we are seen as we really are. A false front is difficult to erect and maintain. This is why the aged Apostle John urged us “to love one another,” and he explained that this wonderful love “is of God.” Your brother (or sister) doesn’t love you? God says, love him anyhow. Treat him kindly. As you show love, consistently, toward the other members of your family, they should respond to that love. If they do not, you have still chosen the higher road and will reap the greater blessing. God sees all and knows all. Your responsibility is to love the other members of your family, whether you feel like it or not. God expects His followers to be characterized more and more by His divine attributes, and of these, love is at the head of the list.
A second vital quality in any home is patience. Patience will enable you to endure the difficult times, and will, combined with love, smooth out many a rough day. Cultivate patience for a happy home.
Then a happy family requires unity — unity of purpose, of goals, of ambitions and desires. “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” was Amos’ question (Amos 3:3), and the answer must be no. If one partner in a marriage wants to save a lot of money, while the other partner wants to spend, spend, spend on flashy clothes and cars, there will be constant friction over this issue. There are many other examples which would also illustrate the need for the various members in a family to share their major goals and purposes in life. In the areas of money, church attendance, discipline of children, career planning, choice of neighbourhood, relationships with in-laws, and in many others, there should be a broad general basis of agreement in the home. I would suggest as kindly as possible, that a young man and lady contemplating marriage would do well to discuss as many areas as possible to ensure that they share the same goals, before they become irrevocably committed to a marriage in which deep and hidden differences will later emerge to threaten its stability. An old saying, “Marry in haste, repent in leisure,” has been amended by a wag to say, “Marry in haste, repent in Reno.” Either way, the marriage is a failure.
A fourth requirement for a happy family is good communication. How many family relationships have foundered because of poor communication? Millions, no doubt. Unless we can share our ambitions, our feelings, concerns, hopes, and needs with each other, the family home becomes merely a filling station, a stopover for food, sleep, and fresh laundry. The healthy sharing atmosphere that a strong family needs requires a constant sharing among the members. If a teenage family member will share his feelings with one or both parents, he will find them, in most cases, surprisingly helpful. Remember too, that good communication is more than talking. It is also listening. Are you a good listener? Do you really hear and interpret accurately what the other person is saying? Or do you just wait impatiently until it is your turn to talk again? The inability to listen — really listen attentively — is much more common today than the inability to express oneself clearly, and that too has declined in recent years. How successfully do you communicate within your family? Can you improve your sharing and listening? Will you try?
The Young Man In His Parents’ Home
In addition to all that has been said, the young man must also show obedience to his parents. Paul says, in Ephesians 6:1, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” God promises long life to those who obey their parents. Your parents will, if they love you as most parents do, want the best in life for you. If they feel so strongly as to “command” you to take a certain course of action, you disobey and go the opposite way at great risk. If you disobey your parents, you also disobey the Word of God. You break communication with the two people on earth most vitally concerned with your welfare. The prodigal son took himself out of the care and protection of his parents’ home, and went his own way, down to the world, out into a whirlwind of sex, booze, sin, and degradation, until he had lost all that he had, and found himself in the horrible degradation of the pigpen, starving. The world has not improved. Today it beckons you with the enticements of alcohol, drugs, immorality, and a thousand other activities designed to sear your conscience, destroy your moral fibre, and ruin your Christian testimony. Even the appeal of rock music and the craze of speed can lead you into danger and tragedy. Obedience to parents is not really an option for the dedicated Christian youth. If your parents are unsaved, and oppose your desire to serve the Lord in some way, you could ask an elder of the church to talk with them for you, but you should not willfully and flagrantly disobey their wishes without strong advice.
A young man should begin as early as possible to earn his own money. Part-time jobs, even delivery of papers, can help even the pre-teen youth to earn some money. Any work which does not interfere with studies or homework will enable you to become partially self-supporting and will build self-esteem and the ability to relate to others in the working world. How early did the Apostle Paul learn his tent-making skills? We do not know, but perhaps it was an “elective” course as he sat at the feet of Gamaliel!
I meet many young Christians, both in the assembly and in the Bible school setting. Sometimes it seems that those who have Christian families, and all the wonderful blessings of being reared in a Christian home, take it all for granted. It is all too easy for you, if your parents are devout Christians, to lack an appreciation for all that God has given you. Why is this? Why is it that those who have been recently saved, often from homes where Christ is either ignored or openly opposed, seem to have the greater appreciation for their new-found faith? I fear that this is sadly true in many cases.
The Young Man In His Own Home
Marriage brings you into your own home, with your own wife, and presents you with a whole new set of options and responsibilities. Equipping the home, establishing a budget, earning a living, and eventually the immense responsibility of being a Christian father to your children, will require all the dedication, wisdom, and spiritual maturity that God can give you. Are you equal to these tasks? On your own, no. None of us can do it successfully without the Lord’s guidance and the leading of the indwelling Spirit of God. Again, love, co-operation, patience, good communication and shared goals are essential if the young husband and wife are to establish a successful home and marriage. Can you live within your means? If not, can you increase your income, or decrease your expenses, or both? Do you give God his portion of your income first? This is the first vital step to fiscal health. He always blesses those who put Him first.
Ephesians 5:21 speaks of the husband and wife “submitting one to another in the fear of God,” and the remainder of this passage explains much about the Christian marriage relationship. The headship of the husband is to mirror the headship of Christ in the Church. The love of the husband for the wife is to depict Christ’s intense love for the Church. You have the marvellous opportunity to show, by your life and diligence and devotion, what God intended Christian marriage to be. All too often selfishness, indifference, immaturity and sin are permitted to gradually erode the fabric of marriage until all the love and joy have trickled away. Then it becomes an empty shell, a mere parody of all that God intended it to be. Unless the husband and wife are prepared to get down on their knees and acknowledge their sin, and seek God’s face for every decision, there can be little hope of restoring the joy to such a marriage.
Whether you are in your own home, or your parents’ home, you have a real opportunity to display a Christ-like character and the fruit of the Spirit in your daily relationships with others. It may often be difficult, but God has never promised us that living for Christ would be easy. It will certainly be rewarding. I recommend it. Try in God’s strength to become the man He wants you to be. Emotional and spiritual maturity can be yours (Eph. 4:13-15).