The 1995 film While You Were Sleeping offers a window into a family’s search for peace with one another. In one scene, the family patriarch, Ox Callahan, talks with one of his sons about taking over the family business. Jack, the older of the two sons, has dreams of his own, and those dreams do not include following his dad’s dreams for him. Ox reflects briefly, saying, “You work hard, try to provide for the family, and then, for one minute everything’s good, everyone’s well, everyone’s happy, and that one minute, you have peace.” Then Jack replies slowly, “Pop, this isn’t that minute . . .”
Ox was a realist. He knew that family is hard. Life, love, expectations, dreams, family relationships—these are hard things in our fallen world. The challenges of life and the fall too often create conflict, division, hurt, and sadness.
But family should be where peace begins. Husband, wife, and children remain the bedrock of culture and civilization. As families go, so goes culture. Yet ever since Cain and Abel, peace in the family has been a challenge.
Praise God, though, that the Lord of heaven and earth loves to work His will through sinful people and broken families.
Consider the families of Isaac and Jacob—there’s some family dysfunction lacking peace. The sibling rivalry, jealousy, and bad blood between Isaac and Ishmael (the fathers of modern-day Jews and Arabs) still affect our world today. The conflict that began then continues millennia later in our day. Later, more conflict between the sons of Jacob resulted in Joseph’s long years of slavery, imprisonment, and destitution, but that same conflict also eventually led to redemptive peace. God was pleased to weave His providential hand through all the mess of these family struggles to accomplish His redemptive plans for the world through these broken souls. And so it can be with you and your family.
So for peace in the family, first remember Paul’s command: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Rom. 12:18). Note that there is no guarantee of peace. But as far as it depends on each one of us, we must strive for peace.
In a family, this begins with the father and mother. If they are at peace with one another, more than likely children will follow their example. My wife, Mary, and I learned that we needed to demonstrate before our children the love and peace we have for each other. Years ago, when I arrived home after a long day of work at Ligonier Ministries, every one of my (then only) four children (eventually we’d have seven!) wanted some of Poppa as soon as I crossed the threshold. But I would ask them to wait while I gave Momma a hug; then we two would sit together and talk about our day. Only after we had “mom and dad time” did the children get my attention. This told them that my relationships with them were a fruit of my peaceful relationship with her.