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Family love is rooted in creation. By God’s mercy, fallen human beings still tend to retain a natural love for their families. Though evil, parents give good gifts to their children (Matt. 7:9–11). Familial kindness often stirs answering love even in the wicked (5:46–47). Only when God allows sin to run its full course does man’s self-love destroy natural affection and disintegrate the family (2 Tim. 3:1–4). That is the unfolding tragedy of Western culture.

True Christian love for our family is greater than natural affection, for such love is not born of the flesh or the will of man, but springs from Christ and Him crucified. God sent His Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins to bear the righteous judgment that our sins deserved—“herein is love” (1 John 4:10, KJV here and below). At our best, we are sinners deserving God’s wrath, but He loves us to the highest degree. Natural affection is an extension of self-love, but the cross instills self-sacrificial love into our souls. Every failure to love our father, mother, sister, brother, and other relations can be traced to a failure to embrace Christ crucified with a living faith.

True Christian love for our family is greater than natural affection, for such love is not born of the flesh or the will of man, but springs from Christ and Him crucified.

The family grows from the marriage bond between husband and wife. No other relationship so engages our high calling to reflect the love of Christ: wives in their reverent submission and husbands in their self-sacrificial service (Eph. 5:22–25). Together, husband and wife should become best friends through their shared life in Christ (vv. 28–30). Or, if a Christian’s marriage partner is not a believer, then God’s child must live before his or her unconverted spouse in hopes of winning the sinner by witness of the beauty of holiness, chastity, and godly fear (1 Peter 3:1–4). When bearing the cross in marriage pierces our souls, we must remember that God designed marriage for more than our satisfaction. Marriage exists for the glory of God. A loving spouse is an image of God (Gen. 1:27).

Joined as lovers and co-laborers, husband and wife love their children, with the man bearing primary responsibility: “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up,” that is, give them what they need to survive and thrive in body and mind (Eph. 6:4). This transcends the things of this world and embraces “the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (v. 4).

Christian parents act in union with Christ our Mediator, for as members of Him, they share in His anointing. Consequently, they should love their children as prophets under the great Prophet, speaking God’s Word to them with passion and love (Deut. 6:6–7). They must love their children as priests under the High Priest with tender mercy, daily intercession, and joint worship in home and church (Heb. 2:17–18; 4:14–16; 10:19–25; 13:15). They must also love their children as kings under the supreme King, guarding them against corrupting and predatory influences (John 10:12–14) and ruling them with discipline to train them in the way of peace (Isa. 9:6–7). Yet, they must remember that they themselves cannot save their children, for there is only one Mediator (1 Tim. 2:5–6), and the gospel sometimes divides a family like a sword (Matt. 10:34–36).

Fathers and mothers, is Jesus your Prophet, Priest, and King? Are you acting in Jesus’ name as prophets, priests, and kings in your home with perseverance, for His sake?

A child’s love for his father and mother shows itself in submission to their authority and receptiveness to their instruction, as God commands (Eph. 6:1–3). A child can honor his parents rightly only by faith, in union and communion with Jesus Christ (“in the Lord,” v. 1). Sons and daughters, are you like branches that abide in the vine (John 15:5), drawing love for your parents from Jesus Christ by faith?

Over time, children grow up and relationships multiply. Love requires parents to train older children with increasing freedom to live as responsible members of society. They must feel the weight of providing for themselves: “If any would not work, neither should he eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). Love guides us to receive our sons-in-law and daughters-in-law as our own children, yet also to release these new couples to form their own households: they must “leave” in order to “cleave” (Gen. 2:24). We have no authority to continue ruling them, but we should always love them, show an interest in God’s good dealings with them, and offer to be faithful counselors (Ex. 18:7–9, 13–24). Adult children never leave behind the duty to honor and love their parents, for to abandon your aging parents contradicts both law and gospel (Matt. 15:3–6; 1 Tim. 5:8, 16). For their part, grandparents and great-grandparents should set examples of persevering faith, pray much for their descendants, and share the wisdom of God with them, so that God’s blessing may extend to a thousand generations (Deut. 7:9).

Loving Ourselves

Loving the Church

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From the March 2018 Issue
Mar 2018 Issue