The Family and Relationships
By H.G. Bishop Moussa
The Christian family has two types of belonging: one to the church or the secret body of Christ, and another to society or the country. Each of them has its own rights and duties. The family is really the fundamental cell from which the church and country are built up.
There is no contradiction at all between these two types of belonging. Christianity calls us to be good neighbors. It commands us to acquire good and honest behavior that can testify for Christ Who dwells within us: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see Your good works and glorify Your Father in heaven" (Mt 5:16). Moreover, Christianity commands us to submit to the governing authorities, being confident that God is above all: "The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it whenever He wishes" (Prov 21:1); "There is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God" (Rom 13:1).
The Christian family is asked to be Christian in reality and not just in name. It is to be firmly connected by the Holy Spirit and bonds of love, to be concerned with bringing up its children in the fear of God and love for all. Then the family will remain a model for the holiness and continuation of Christian marriage and be ready to play its part in both church and country.
1. The Relationship With God
It is the first and essential relationship. The Christian family sometimes hangs an significant sign in the dining room. It says: "Christ is the head of this house, the unseen guest at every meal, and the silent listener to every conversation." If the family follow this watchword, it may be converted into a real church and a holy sanctuary where it can offer the oblations of glorification and thanksgiving.
In the past the Christian family took care to set aside a place for prayer. This place contained a compartment for the Holy Virgin carrying Christ, and in front of it there was an oil lamp symbolizing the light of the God's Word, or candles to symbolize the deepest source of self-sacrificial love that the family had. In front of such an east facing compartment a daily prayer has to be offered - we suggest it should be once a day in the evening. The family may pray a short prayer - we suggest the prayer of thanksgiving, Psalm 50 (Have mercy on me, O God), and the Compline absolution. One of the children may read a chapter of the Bible, then the prayer should be ended by the concluding prayer (Have mercy upon us O Lord, have mercy upon us) and the Lord's Prayer.
Such a family altar will mean that the Lord will keep an eye on us and His love and personal presence will be with us. His Word will be heard in the ears of both young and old. It will be a reason for renewed calm repentance, its prayers will be an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to renew, sanctify, direct and win hearts to goodness and constructiveness.
No doubt this altar will be a chance for good family ties on both the spiritual and emotional levels. The family will never be divided against itself, neither the parents nor the children. All will behave later with a spiritual and enriching love. They will not be trapped in psychological self-centeredness.
2. The Relationships Within The Family
Educationalists talk about the generation gap and the inability of the parents' generation gap to understand the psychology and circumstances of their sons' and daughters' generation. On the other hand, young people have difficulty in communicating with their parents and imagine that agreement between their generation and their parents' is impossible. This is a natural thing to happen among people of the world but not among the sons and daughters of God, who have got rid of their stubbornness and selfishness and overcome their materialism. It will be easier for them to meet intimately and agree gracefully. In an atmosphere of warmth and affection, they should be able to give firm guidance, free from enfeebling favoritism or undue severity.
Keeping the balance of expressing feelings and offering advice is essential not only for the peacefulness and cohesion of family ties but also wholesome spiritual, psychological and practical life for its members.
A lot of young families have been torn apart because of the strong emotional ties between the parents and their sons and daughters. Because of the impossibility of the young person being emotionally weaned from the parents he or she cannot be united to a partner. Such a strange emotion between the parents and the new couple is not love at all but only a counterfeit image of love. It springs from an unwholesome selfishness and self-centeredness, which causes psychological troubles for both the young man and the woman and makes an illness all too likely in the long run.
In fact, spiritual and rational love is needed. It is essential because we don't want young men and women to grow up with an emotional deprivation that leads them to be trapped by the first false emotion. Spiritual love is essential, but emotional love is not sufficient. Emotional weaning is needed and a balanced upbringing is essential too. We suffer from the disparity between the father and mother in the way they bring up their children. One uses cruelty and the other spoils a child so that the son or daughter grows up with a damaged, psyche which rapidly develops into a corrupted manner and spirit.
3. The Relationships Outside The Family
These must have principles and boundaries. For example, the spirit of love between a couple and their families must always be evident. The parents' intervention must be limited to what will benefit the couple and build them up. Each partner must not allow the other partner to be closely tied only to his or her family: they must be linked with each other's families. The two families must not let destructive curiosity or feelings of resentment interfere in the life of the new family. Intervention is needed only for the benefit of the new couple, but they must have time to know each other intimately and become united. Each of them must give up some of habits and mood. Within this period of time, some minor differences or even disputes take place but, because of the spirit of understanding, Christian love and the earnest direction of parents they will calm down. But if the parents take the opposite course, i.e. favoritism and destructive attitudes, the new family may be torn apart.
Outside the two families there are the relationships with colleagues, friends, and neighbors. Such relationships must have manners and spiritual rules, because we suffer from these types of relationships. They bring bad thoughts into the family, involve them in resentful relationships and push them into abandoning constructive, vital principles. this is the last of the negative consequences which come from a home with no protective walls around it. Visits must be limited, relationships must be set up after suitable vetting and sons' and daughter's friendships must be under compassionate control.
Hence, every family must keep an eye on its sons and daughters to be able to say to the Lord on the Last Day: "Hence I am and the children whom God has given me" (Heb 2:13). The mother "Will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love and holiness, with self-control" (1Tim 2:15).
The watchword of us all must be: "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Josh 24:15).
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