In the accounts of Jesus life as recorded in the Bible books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, we notice that Jesus had very little to say about temporal behavior – matters having to do with government, trade, or social behavior. He did not lay down laws or rules of conduct other than in these two instances:
“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’”
– Matthew 22:37-40
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
– Matthew 7:12
Jesus did not come to legislate, but to enlighten. He came not to reform the kingdoms of this world, but rather to establish the kingdom of heaven. Though he was asked on occasion about certain conduct, he did not yield to the temptation to establish rules of behavior that might be good for one generation, but would be far from suitable for another.
We need only to look at how human relations have changed and improved over the past centuries, especially in the area of human rights. We are undergoing a serious testing because of the problems suddenly thrust upon social order by the elevation and augmentation of woman’s liberties – rights that have been so long denied her. Consequently, we can see that rules of conduct of a less enlightened age can be, and are, stifling in our modern times. And we can assume that rules established today might be inappropriate and ineffective in a future age. Thus, we must always recognize the two viewpoints of all man’s conduct – the human and the divine; the ways of the flesh and the way of the spirit; the estimate of time and the viewpoint of eternity.
Jesus was on earth solely to comfort the minds, liberate the spirits, and save the souls of men.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
– Luke 4:18-19
We can imitate the Christ by being likewise sparing as to rules of conduct, and instead of looking to the ‘letter of the law,’ we should look to the ‘way of the spirit.’ And though we may not completely comprehend the ‘way of the spirit’ in all matters, we can be truly benefitted in our relationships, including our family relations, by endeavoring to be spiritual men and women, and thus ‘good spiritual trees’ that naturally produce the ‘fruitage of the spirit:’
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
– Galatians 5:22-23
With the above in mind, we will discuss family relationships looking beyond the letter of the law and into the underlying spirit.