10 May A Refocus On Blessed Family Culture
The COVID-19 has kept many people at home. It is good news to some, but a challenge to others. As the time spent at home increases, tensions at home may also mount. When everyone has to now squeeze at home, things may get messier in the house, it is also easier to step on each other’s toes, or household chores may multiply and there could be shifting of responsibilities to each other, etc. All these are potential areas of conflicts. In normal days, due to work and school, we may only see our family members for a few waking hours. To be able to bear with the weaknesses and demands of family members in those limited hours is not as difficult as seeing and tolerating the weaknesses of family members all day long. Therefore, at this moment, we all the more need to seek the Lord’s help in loving our family and building a blessed gospel culture at home.
Human conflicts often arise out of selfishness.
A selfish person only cares about his own interests, convenience and comfort, and is unwilling to serve others humbly, but only demands that others accommodate him. When one family member is selfish, he may hurt another member indirectly, causing the other family member to feel slighted, uncared for, or taken for granted. And when that family member is hurt, he may also react out of his hurts. In a family, if everyone is selfish and refuses to give in, then this family will certainly be unhappy. Thus, the Bible urges us not to look to our own interests but each of us to the interests of the others <Phil 2:4>. <Mt 7:12> also says, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” In fact, conflicts in the family reflect not just problems in interpersonal relationships, but they all the more point to the problems between man and God.
A family’s happiness is related to how close they are with God.
Because our relationship with God is the most important, before we even think about being more intimate with our family, we must all the more build our relationship with God. If every member of the household fears God, loves Him, and obeys Him cheerfully, then this family will certainly be blissful. As they face God to face their family, they can love one another not because their family members have no weakness nor do they love by their own tolerance, but they love because they wish to please and glorify God, and they love by the power of God. Even if conflicts arise with family members, they can use God’s perspective and love to respond. Therefore, if we truly long for family bliss, then we must personally draw near to God and urge the entire family to do the same. Especially when we cannot go to church now, family worship time becomes more precious than ever. Therefore, we need to seize this God-given opportunity to build up the gospel culture in our families as each home becomes a mini-church.
Take this pandemic as a chance for us to build up blessed family living.
The Bible offers us some useful guide on this.
If possible, live at peace with everyone <Ro 12:18>
No doubt, as we rub shoulders more with our family members, some form of tension is inevitable. But what is important is how we deal with the tension. We must first recognize that interpersonal conflicts are in fact good opportunities for divine grace to shine and for us to be trained in real love. It is precisely within interpersonal conflicts that we get to learn to be more like Christ, as well as seek God’s help in the process to deny ourselves more, give in more, love more and serve more.
While it is human nature to defend ourselves and blame others more, the Bible specifically reminds us to examine ourselves before judging others: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? <Mt 7:3-4> This is a crucial step to prevent any family conflict. The moment finger-pointing starts, what could be preventable conflicts may just flare up. Thus, before we criticise others or demand them to change, let us first examine if we ourselves have been selfish or need to humble ourselves. As sinners live together, it takes at least one blessed person to first be willing to deny himself and sacrifice, then the family can start to enjoy peace. Gradually, others in the household may also be touched to give in as well. But if everyone insists on their ways, then harmony would not be possible.
Importantly, we must remember that within a family, love supersedes reason. And love would entail a great deal of forgiveness. Even if sometimes we felt that we were treated unreasonably, the Bible teaches us to generously forgive others with the grace we ourselves received from God. <Col 3:13> Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Especially among family members, we should all the more let love supersede right or wrong. Therefore, let us not magnify trivial family squabbles. The party at fault needs to learn to apologise readily and the party who is aggrieved should also forgive graciously. In the midst of this, both parties will learn humility, as both apologising and forgiving takes humility. No matter what, do not be angry for long (cf. <Ep 4:26>). Importantly, regardless of how angry you are, still make it a point to let your family members know you still care about the relationship.
Be sure to pay attention to your speech.
The Bible has always been reminding us to guard our tongue. In particular, <Ep 4:29> says, Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. When we are with our family members, we tend to speak freely without much thought or processing. Because we are so familiar with our family, we tend to lack watchfulness when we talk. Thus, we either easily get into quarrels because of the wrong words said, or we end up gossiping or having meaningless talk with our family members. However, we must pray more intentionally about what blessed words to say to our family members, so that they can be edified and strengthened, and be encouraged to do God’s will and also restore a heart of thanksgiving toward God. Particularly, if there has been a lack of communication among family members during normal days, now is the perfect time to get into quality and intimate conversations.
There should be practical help among family members.
<1 Jn 3:18> Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. Everyone likes practical things. Only when we have practical actions then the love on our lips will count. When our family members see that we practically help them out in household chores, or that we practically spend time to be with them, or we complement them in their areas of need, then they will naturally feel our love.
Brothers and sisters, I believe God allows us to stay home in this season for a reason. If we can seize this stay-home period to deepen the gospel culture in our families, then when the circuit breaker is lifted, this blessed culture has a higher chance to stay on in our families. May the Lord help us in sustaining a blessed family culture!