Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Priority of Family: Part 1 - Marriage


A couple of days ago I wrote about prioritizing the important things.  I stated that the most important thing, and as a result the number one priority, is our relationship with Jesus.  I also said that just because it is the most important it doesn't make other things not important.  Our number two priority is one thing that encompasses three other things.  Our lives are to be lived in such a way that the good news of Jesus Christ is being communicated to the world no matter what we do.  No matter what we do!!  Three important things that need to be done are devoting oneself to family, devoting oneself to work and making sure we get regular rest.  There should be a balance between these three things, and there should always be the priority of sharing the good news within these activities.

Today I want to spend some time on the family aspect of priority number two.  What does it really involve?  Our culture and Christian culture throw different ideas around about family.  What is our responsibility?  How much time is required?  What should be done? etc...  It can get very confusing at times trying to do everything that we are told needs to be done.  I think a very simplistic approach needs to be developed.

When I say "family" I am speaking of the immediate family which consists of husband, wife and possibly children.  The importance of the immediate family, or what some call the nuclear family, has been played down by our culture in recent years.  It makes sense, looking at it from the world's perspective, since the number of "non-traditional" families is ever increasing in our present time.  There are more single parent and blended families now then there ever has been.  Our "non-offensive" society wants to be considerate when it comes to the feelings of individuals in these families.  I understand this, but I also know that it is important to keep the bar high and never lower it just because there appears to be an increase in those who don't obtain it.  Once the bar is lowered the ambition to be a God created nuclear family wains.  That is thought for another blog post.

The idea of family as become so muddled that even Christians struggle with it.  So what is a family for?  Family begins with the life commitment made between a man and woman.  We call this marriage.  There is the understanding that from the beginning of a marriage the two have dedicated themselves to living for one another, at least that's what is supposed to happen.  Unfortunately a lot of people get married for the wrong reasons.  Reasons which I believe really boil down to one thing.  What can this person do for me?  If you are considering getting married I encourage you to look through all the surface reasons to your number on reason.  If your number one reason is a selfish reason then don't get married.  You are doing your future partner a grave injustice.  The only reason to get married is that the two of you have an intense desire to make each other happy for the rest of your lives.

Some people might look at what I just said and disagree with me.  Early societies might have viewed marriage as serving two practical purposes.  It was convenient.  A man took care of the needs of a woman and children through the provision of shelter, the means of clothing and food.  A woman took care of the needs of a man and children through the provision of a healthy living environment, making of clothing and cooking of food.  Convenience.  The other reason was for propagation.  It is a fact that humans need more care then any other living creature on this planet.  It requires the commitment of two people to raise humans.  The human race could not survive without marriage.

I will concede and say that these are still two important reasons for marriage, but I will also say that God has created human beings to be relational.  Within almost every man and woman exists a longing for a special relationship with one person.  Our culture has given us the impression that it is a selfish desire, and so we act upon it in a very selfish way.  Is it any wonder the divorce rate is so high?  We have to remember that we are created in God's image.  God is not a selfish being.  God is love.  One of the best places for us to exhibit this particular characteristic of God is within the marriage relationship.  When two people decide to enter into the lifelong commitment of marriage they are proclaiming a characteristic of God by saying "This is the person I want to love for the rest of my life!!"  This is the person I want to do what is best and right for as long as I have life.

Now we began to see what the priority of family means.  It begins with two people committing themselves to a loving relationship with one another whether they have children or not.  The addition of children causes that love to expand, but there will always be the commitment and love between the husband and wife.

As a husband there are important things that I need to make sure get done.  Scripture says that woman was created to be a "help-mate" of man.  That designation does not put man above woman.  The designation was used to explain why woman was created as man had been created first.  The truth of the matter is, we are help-mates one to the other.  Relationships between husbands and wives are structured differently.  I know of families where the man works to provide and the wife stays home.  I know of families where the wife works to provide and the husband stays home.  I also know of families where both the husband and wife work.  It doesn't matter what the structure of the family looks like as long as both see themselves as being help-mates one to the other. 

The godly concept of love is doing what is right and best for another person.  The husband and wife should always be seeking to do what is best and right for one another.  I do believe there are some basic things that we can do for each other.  We need to provide the emotional love that each needs.  This is accomplished through knowing how the other person needs to be loved (Five Love Languages) and knowing the difference between how genders love (Love & Respect).

We also need to develop the relationship on a friend level.  There are many marriage relationships where couples believe they have the love aspect down, and they may in one way or another for they try to provide everything their spouse needs, but something that is often overlooked is the friend aspect.  Honestly, this is another part of the love aspect but as I said I think it is often missed.  If you are going to devote your life to another person then how can you not become best friends?  Being friends means that you share joys, struggles and dreams.  You carry each other's burdens.   You find common activities to enjoy and participate in.  You spend time with each other.  You encourage one another.  You respect one another.  You challenge one another.  You grow in Christ together.  The list could probably go on and on, but I think the point has been made.

I want to stress something. When a couple has children there can be a tendency to forget about what needs to be done to maintain a good relationship with the spouse and focus on developing the relationship with the child.  You should never, under any circumstances, allow this to happen.  We may get the idea, or at least act like, love has to be diverted like a river, but the truth is, love can grow to encompass more.  All those things that a couple does cannot stop after children are born.  I have wondered why so many children think they are the cause of their parent's divorce.  Could it be for the reason that one or both married people have diverted their love instead of allowing it to grow?  Children need to see the example set by parents.  They need the love that parents have for one another.

As Christians couples we need to help each other grow spiritually.  We need to encourage each other to spend daily time with God.  We need to pray together on a daily basis.  Couples have got to make God the center focus of their lives and allow the Holy Spirit to teach them how to love.  They then can turn around and love one another the way God loves.

A balance must be found between family, work and rest.  There are certain important things that need to be done within the family, and in particular the marriage.  All else pales in comparison to the most important things.  I'm not saying these things because I am the epitome of prioritizing the important things.  I have a long way to go, but I am saying these things because I am beginning to see a bigger picture of what the Christian life looks like.  The biggest struggle for us is that we are very selfish.  We know that these things are important and should take a priority in our lives, but there are just too many other things that are so much fun to be done.  Unfortunately, when we focus on ourselves we rob our families.  Join me in trying to make the important things priorities.  Our spouses deserve our best efforts.




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