THE CHARACTERISTICS OF A CHRISTIAN FAMILY
(H.G. Bishop Moussa)
A Christian family has special traits that spring from the Christian concept of sacred marriage and the commandments of the Bible for the married couple about how to deal with each other and how to bring their children up.
The Definition of a Christian Family
The family in the Christian concept is a small church, for
St. Paul says: "To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow
laborer, and to the church in your house" (Phil 1:2). The
family is an arena for experiencing the work of God in
uniting the couple and sanctifying their offspring for Jesus
Christ, and in radiating His light to those around.
Domains of Family Love
There are many aspects, such as:
1. The Family Altar
The family prays together and reads chapters of the Bible as
a means of binding its members together spiritually, so that
they may all receive the blessings of the Holy Spirit and
the power to overcome every evil.
2. Taking Communion Together
It is when the whole family is gathered around the body and
blood of Jesus in the Eucharist that the church - as a
community - is best expressed. This gathering is a feature
of our Orthodox church, for not only does it bring the
individual into a relationship with God but it also nurtures
the relationship of the group with God: "In the
congregations I will bless the Lord" (Ps 26:12).
The Spirit of God endows groups with more than it endows
individuals. This is why taking Holy Communion together,
following repentance and confession, is a continuous source
of renewal for the family.
3. Bringing Problems Before God
It is important to get our children used to lifting up their
hearts to God when they face a problem. Besides the fact
that this makes a way for God to intervene in our problems
and make our hearts ready to cooperate gratefully, we find
that this method builds up faith and fellowship so that we
turn to God under all circumstances. "Call upon Me in the
day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify
Me" (Ps 50:15).
4. Mutual Understanding
The pressures of life in our age, whether those put on the
exhausted husband, on the working wife, or on the stressed
children who have their conflicts and worries about the
future, demand that the family stay committed to settling
disputes in a spirit of mutual understanding.
It is a great crime against the unity of the family and
against oneself that a person puts his foot down and acts in
self-centered individualism and stubbornness without
consideration for others. We must learn to be
understanding: to let go of our preconceived ideas and be
open to one another.
5. Friendly Visits
It is a good idea for the family to pay friendly visits to
other Christian families because this strengthens the spirit
of love in the Christian community. It also nurtures and
renews love among the family members.
It is important that the wife cares for the feelings of her
husband's family and the husband for the feelings of his
wife's family. Most of the problems emerge from neglecting
those important feelings. The harmony between the two
families is a strong support for a Christian family and an
important basis for psychologically well-balanced children.
We warn against interfering in the family's affairs because
such interference frequently causes problems, division and
6. A Spirit of Simplicity and Contentment
One of the most disruptive influences on a family is that of
imitation and jealousy of other families who are trying to
'Keep up with the Jones'. However, the Christian soul that
the Lord has filled with His grace sings in heavenly peace:
"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want" (Ps 23:1).
It is important to examine oneself on this point and both
parents are responsible to do that. St. Paul teaches us
that: "Godliness with contentment is great gain... and
having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a
snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown
men in destruction and perdition" (1Tim 6:6-9).
7. A Sound Upbringing
Parents should realize that the sound upbringing of children
in their early childhood and the stages that follow is very
important. When the parent is at one time tender to his or
her children and on many other occasions strict, the child
gets confused. The child does not understand what
principles to follow nor what good behavior means. When the
father is strict with his adolescent son or daughter while
the mother treats the same one tenderly - ignorant of the
nature of that stage and of the father's aim - the young
person will go off the rails and neglect duties. There must
be an agreement between both parents on a policy about how
to deal with their children. The affections should be
balanced during the process of upbringing.
It is important to watch the children's behavior with
compassionate understanding. This must be done effectively
and persuasively, so that they become capable of choosing
good friends and steer clear of pit-falls.
8. The Family and the Community
Sometimes the parents are very lax with their children; they
let them give way to peer-group pressure. After a while, it
turns out that they are mixed up with the wrong kind of
company and are up to their necks in trouble.
A positive and flexible Christian approach is to be open to
people and deal with them in love and cooperation without
getting involved in their aberrations. What is most harmful
is being flexible to the point of laxity: letting our
values, principles, and kids go adrift. The family should
be careful when it comes to getting involved with other
families. What some would consider friendly relations might
end with critical problems.
9. The Family and the Mass Media
It is not wrong to have access to different kinds of media
at home like T.V., radio, newspapers and magazines, but it
is wrong not to help children, and even parents, to choose
the right thing. All should learn to pick the appropriate
method for improving their minds: the right program, a good
book et. It is up to us to stop and ask ourselves if we are
abandoning our children to trivialities or negative
influences that will ruin their spiritual lives.
We hope for the day when the mass media puts across material
that will build up the spiritual lives of our children -
because life is not like a decadent play or a violent movie.
Indeed, the mass media should elevate - not degrade -
people's instincts. There are the fields of science, art,
and sport and, even better, religious knowledge that fights
atheism and spreads the principles of pure, genuine love.
These are the subjects that we can watch or listen to on the
10. Serving Others
Christ taught us that He came not to be served but "to serve
and to give His life a ransom for many" (Mt 20:28). There
is no doubt that the spirit of servanthood is the sign of a
real Christian soul and the blessed testimony of what
Christianity does in people's lives. We should get
accustomed to serving others and teaching our children to do
The selfishness that we teach our children will cost us
dearly unless we correct ourselves. We ask our children to
be selfish and hate even their cousins, to be jealous and
take advantage of others. All this creates a fractious
community full of feeble and resentful people. Christianity
requires from us self-sacrificial love: "Love suffers long
and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade
itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but ejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (1Cor 13:4-7).
Hence it is necessary to have the spirit of servanthood, to give part of our time, effort, money and talents to others, especially within the church which channels such donations to the needy. Be honest in giving your tithes to the Lord and you will know His blessings. "Bring all the tithes... and prove Me now in this.... If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it" (Mal 3:10).
The church trusts that you are going to respond to its
appeal for family repentance - that you are going to pray
and worship God together, take Communion together, glorify
Jesus, and offer lively, fruitful service.
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