Family. What would we do without it? These basic human relationships between husband and wife, parent and child shape our personalities and script our comedies. Our families love us and they aggravate us—and we them. But this first and most basic unit of society—a husband and wife and the children born to or adopted by them was God’s idea.
The Bible is God’s guide to a healthy family, even as it describes the tragedies of families broken by sin. The Bible also uses the family relationship to illustrate the relationship between God and believers. Since God places enough value on the family to compare it with the relationship He has with His children, it deserves a closer look. Standard family terms such as father, son, children, and marriage are addressed both practically and symbolically in the Bible.
The following 12 terms create a greater understanding of the two-fold plan for the family that God has created, the family of God and our human family.
Love conjures up many images and emotions. The word may evoke the pain of a broken heart. It may remind us of the warmth of a lover’s embrace or the care and companion-ship of a parent, sibling, or friend. In the Bible, the word “love” covers this spectrum of uses and more. God deeply desires a love relationship with each of us; that is why He created us! But sin broke the relationship between God and humans. Love is so much more than an emotion (1 Corinthians 13:4-8), and God personally demonstrated His love for us by pursuing us in spite of our rejection of Him and our sin.
God designed us to be part of a community, a family. Each Christian possesses gifts that complement the gifts of other believers. We are far more effective in worship, ministry, and godly living when we combine our gifts for the single purpose of glorifying God (Romans 15:5). When Christians work against one another, defeat is certain. The amazing truth is that we are joined not only with other Christians, but also with God!
The Bible tells us that when we put our faith in Jesus Christ, we are united with God because His Spirit comes to live in us. The apostle Paul used marriage to illustrate this concept: Christians are united with God, just as husbands and wives are united in marriage. Paul calls this unity a “mystery.” We are so deeply and profoundly united to God and to one another that even the inspired writer of Scripture can’t fully understand or explain it.
Marriage is God’s beautiful plan for a union between a man and woman who love each other with a spiritual, emotional, and physical commitment that continues to grow throughout the couple’s lifetime. Neither God nor humans have changed since the creation of humans and marriage, so the principles of a godly marriage, as spelled out in Scripture, are completely relevant for today (Matthew 19:5-6).
God designed and ordained marriage as a love relationship so deep and intimate that it is patterned after the relationship of Christ with His church. Since marriage is a living example of the union God desires to have with all people, this design is the foundation for the love-life God intends men and women to experience in their own marriages. The all-consuming, sacrificial love that Jesus has for those who believe in Him is the model for husbands and wives to follow.
One of the great tragedies of our generation is the number of children who don’t know their fathers—or the children who have only been hurt by a father. But even those with present and loving fathers know that even the best dad has character flaws. Christians, however, have a Father apart from their human one: God Himself. Our heavenly Father wants us to call him by that very endearment—“Abba, Father.” He’s our tender and compassionate “Daddy,” our provider and protector (Romans 8:15).
God the Father perfectly cares for us, giving us all we need—though we may not understand how He is working. As children of God, we can expect to be disciplined if we err. And we shouldn’t be discouraged when this happens because that discipline shows that God loves us and that we truly belong to Him (Hebrews 12:5-8). Just as good parents teach their children not to do things that will hurt them, so our Father in heaven teaches us what is best for us (Hebrews 12:9-11).
Today, a common misconception is that all people are born children of God. While each human being is a wonderfully unique creation of God, it is only when we choose to place our faith in Jesus for salvation that we become children of God. Then we are born into His family through the Holy Spirit (John 1:12-13; 3:5).
The Bible also says that God adopts us, mere creations, as His children, giving us full access to His love and riches (Ephesians 1:3-5)! Adoption is costly, and God so desired us that He paid our adoption fee with the very life of His only Son, Jesus. Will He forget, ignore, or abandon us after all that effort? Never! (Romans 8:31-32).
“If you really want to understand someone,” President George W. Bush has said, “you look at his family and where he was raised.” Using this reasoning, what can we learn about Jesus Christ, the Son of God? The Bible says that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). This means that the Son is fully God; all of God the Father’s qualities are manifested in Him: love, justice, righteousness, and holiness. God the Son was also fully human—“the Son of Man” (1 Timothy 2:5).
While He was on the earth, He shared our experiences: temptation, hunger, fatigue, pain, and death. Since we belong to God, we now have the privilege of being “sons of God” (Romans 8:14-15). In many cultures, sons are favored and given the best inheritance. As God’s “sons,” we receive a priceless spiritual inheritance and all the blessings that come with it. Women, too, are “sons” of God because, in Christ, each believer holds this privileged standing no matter what their gender.
Big brothers, baby brothers, blood brothers all imply a relationship characterized by warmth and similarity of character. In the Bible, brother can refer to both natural brothers and “brothers in Christ,” all fellow believers, both male and female. Jesus Christ said that anyone who does the will of God is His brother (and sister and mother) (Matthew 12:50).
Though Jesus is our God, we enter a fraternal, co-heir relationship with Him when we become children of God (Romans 8:17). Although that does not make us equal with Him, Christ is not ashamed to call us His brothers (Hebrews 2:11).
Parents can see when their children are headed the wrong way, and it is their responsibility to steer them in the right direction. The Bible teaches that parents should discipline their children to train them correctly. That training must take into account how God has made that child (Proverbs 22:6) and must not embitter or exasperate him or her (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21).
Nobody likes to experience the pain, hardship, or disappointment that comes as a consequence of something done wrong. But the Bible is very clear that, although discipline is not something we desire, God’s discipline always comes out of His love for us. Discipline’s purpose is correction (Proverbs 5:23). When we mess up, we have to be shown the right way to go. Rest assured that if God is taking the time to set you straight, He loves you (Revelation 3:19).
Why does God hate divorce? For the same reason we do. Divorce breaks a covenant made before God (Malachi 2:14). Divorce means that anger, betrayal, emptiness, and loneliness have replaced trust, love, joy, and peace. When God instituted marriage, He never intended to join two people together and then watch them tear their relationship apart a few years (or decades) later (Matthew 19:4-6). God feels His children’s pain; their sin that leads to divorce saddens Him.
Jesus explained that the only reason God allowed divorce in the Old Testament was because of the hardness of people’s hearts—not exactly a flattering reason. He went on to say that anyone who divorces a spouse, except for marital unfaithfulness, and gets remarried commits adultery (Matthew 19:8-9). That’s how seriously God takes the making—and breaking—of the marriage vows (Malachi 2:15-16).
Children need to obey their parents to survive. Obedience is crucial for God’s children, too. Obedience means doing what God says no matter how unpopular, strange, or difficult the command is. Although doing what God says can be difficult at times, God has every right as our Creator to demand our obedience. When we obey Him willingly from a heart that trusts Him, our obedience is a gift of love to Him. The Lord says that this kind of gift means more to Him than any other sacrifice we could make (1 Samuel 15:22).
All relationships are built on trust or destroyed by a lack of it—especially within a family. The Bible talks about a husband having full confidence in his wife (Proverbs 31:11) and the importance of a wife being able to trust the faithfulness of her husband (Malachi 2:15). Parents build trust in their children when they nurture them instead of exasperating them (Ephesians 6:4) God alone is completely trustworthy (Psalm 119:160). Anything else in which we trust will fail, whether it’s people, position, money, or ourselves.
We can fully trust God to give us salvation, to provide for our needs, and to be with us. He will follow through on every promise, he has made. Likewise, in our own lives, we need to prove that we are trustworthy. When people can trust us to keep our word, to look out for their best interests, to do what is right, then we will be displaying Christ’s character and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.