A Family Is...?
By Dave Butts
What is a family? Definitions are troublesome. Especially if we get our definitions from the wrong places. When I was a child, a family was Mom, Dad and the children, with the parents firmly in charge. Often today, the children are in charge. Perverse groupings are being counted as family by many.
What a family consists of is a controversial issue in our society. Benefits from companies and government depend upon your definition of what constitutes a family. Iím not going to wade into that in this article. Even the Bible has a wide variety of expressions of a family, from the extended, multi-wife families of the Old Testament to the more traditional one-man, one-woman and their children seen in the New Testament.
Paul presents a defining aspect of the family that many miss. I believe it is a transformational truth. From Godís perspective, a family is intended to reflect the light and presence of Christ.
Ephesians 5:22-33 is a passage that talks a lot about family relationships. But the Apostle Paul wants to make sure we get it right and so he says in 5:32, "This is a profound mystery--but I am talking about Christ and the Church." Paul says, "Do you understand what Iím saying? Do you get it? What Iím talking about is Jesus. All these family ways of treating each other are ultimately about Jesus and His people."
All families were originally intended to reflect the glory of Jesus to those around them. Families of single parents, extended families, childless couples--we all were called to this. Obviously, those who donít know Jesus as Savior and Lord of their lives have not yet discovered this purpose. Unfortunately, many Christian families havenít either.
The Ephesians 5 passage is just the practical family outworking of a whole book that focuses us on reflecting the glory of Christ. Letís take a quick tour of what God is saying to us about Christ.
1:11-12 Ė "In Him we were also chosen...in order that we...might be for
the praise of his glory."
1:23 Ė We are "...his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way."
2:6 Ė "And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms."
3:10 Ė "His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms." Christ is the wisdom of God.
4:13 Ė "...attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ."
5:2- "...live a life of love, just as Christ loved us."
5:25 Ė "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church."
5:29 Ė "...he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church."
5:32 Ė "This is a profound mystery--but I am talking about Christ and the church."
A family is intended to reflect the light and presence of Christ!
How do we do this? Relationships are the place to begin demonstrating that Christ has come to dwell within us. When we talk about relationships we sometimes forget that the family is the starting place for us. In Ephesians 4:32 we read, "Be kind and compassionate to one another." Sometimes itís easier to apply that to those outside our families than to those that we live with. Husbands and wives, do you treat one another with the love that is in Christ? Parents, do your children see Christ in you in the way you treat them?
Those outside your family also need to see the light of Christ in your family. Do you pray for your neighbors? There is a wonderful move of God taking place called "Lighthouses of Prayer." A Lighthouse of Prayer is a group of people who commit to gathering regularly to pray for their neighbors. Thousands of Lighthouses have been established and are making a difference in neighborhoods everywhere. What a great way to demonstrate the light and presence of Christ to those outside your family.
I believe a second way we demonstrate Christ in our families is through our lifestyle. We need to live in such a way that we reflect the life of Christ. Ephesians 5:17 tells us to, "understand what the Lordís will is." As we understand His will and live that out, Christ is recognized as being at work in us and he receives honor and glory. As you read through that very practical section of Ephesians chapter four, you see three areas that are highlighted in our lifestyles: speech, purity, and self-control. How our families would be transformed if we guarded our speech, our sexual purity and exercised greater self-control.
The third area of Christlikeness is in the inner life. Ephesians 5:18 gives us the command, "Be filled with the Spirit." I remember hearing Argentine teacher Juan Carlos Ortiz many years ago say, "To be filled with the Spirit is to be continually conscious of Christ in you." Iíve held on to that definition for a long time.
To be Spirit-filled is to be like Jesus, who continually walked in the Spirit. It is a surrendered life. Our desire is to please the Lord in all things. In a family that is Spirit-filled, lordship is no longer an issue. We are settled on that matter. Jesus is the Lord of our family and all matters ultimately go to Him.
Could you describe your family, or maybe just your own life, as reflecting the light and presence of Jesus? I believe there are several steps we can take to begin to make that a reality in our families.
Pray for your family. Offer them to Christ for him to receive glory and praise
from what happens in your family.
2. Pray as a family. Make today a new beginning.
3. Make Christ Lord over your life. Whether you are a single person or a part of a larger family, the critical first step is to accept Godís love gift through Jesus.