Much good Bible-based counsel is available from many different sources concerning the ideal family and the roles each member should play. All of us would do well to consider such counsel and apply it to the extent it is in harmony with the plain and open teachings of Jesus. For example, no matter what counsel is given regarding submission and obedience, absolute submission and obedience is due only to the Father.
However, in this article, we go directly to the source, the foundation upon which all other counsel can securely rest because the family is more than just individuals who must carry out certain roles. We are more than role players. We are first and foremost sons of God and heirs to the heavenly kingdom. (Romans 8:16-17) As Jesus said:
“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.”
- Matthew 23:8-9
Accordingly, every member of your family, regardless of what role they must play, is your spiritual brother. [Those in the family who have not yet acknowledged nor accepted their sonship with God are still His children, through they may be blind or rebellious children. As such, we also accord them brotherly love and respect.] Therefore, the husband and wife are brothers in Christ. The parents and children are brothers in Christ. And the children among themselves are brothers in Christ. That means that the ‘role model’ for each one of us is Christ Jesus of Nazareth.
In his ministry, Jesus demonstrated the spirit that each of us should bring to whatever role we play in the family. For instance, he loved his disciples as should a father:
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.”
- John 15:9-10
He cared for his disciples as should a husband:
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”
He humbled and subjected himself as should a responsible wife and a wise husband (Ephesians 5:21):
“After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”
- John 13:5
“When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.”
- 1 Corinthians 15:28
He empathized and protected his disciples as should a mother:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”
- Matthew 23:37
And he was obedient as a child:
“So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.”
- John 8:28-29
We can each look to Jesus as the role model for the spirit of our behavior no matter which role we play in the family arrangement. We should each put on the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16) to enable us to do the Father’s will – the best and right thing under the circumstances. When confused, we can ask the popular phrase “What Would Jesus Do?” Then act according to his spirit. In this way, we allow ourselves to be led by the spirit of truth who is, for all intents and purposes, Jesus on earth:
“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”
- John 16:13-15
If we engage our family members as spiritual brothers, we will be far less likely to take advantage of them or abuse them. We will be far less likely to yell at them, to call them names, to physically assault them, to steal from them, to lie to them, to betray them, to discard them.
Unfortunately, some feel they can take special liberties at home. They think home is where they can ‘let their hair down’ so to speak, and ‘be themselves.’ That being the case, we can say that the way a man treats his wife at home is a reflection of his true self – his real character – regardless of how honorable he may appear to be at work or in the congregation. The same can be said for the wife and children. The way we treat one another in the home is a better indication of who we really are than any amount of religious service or cultured appearance.
That is not to say that we cannot relax at home. We should have a certain comfort level and ease in our surroundings. But we should not take for granted our responsibility as Christ’s brothers to show kindness and respect to one another in the home. There are grave consequences for dismissing this counsel:
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
- Matthew 25:44-46
It is a powerful realization that the way we treat our family members is counted as the way we are treating Jesus Christ. What better reason to keep on honoring and respecting each member of our family as one of Christ’s brothers!