Relationships Part 2: With Members of our Families by Birth

By Dr Dixie Chua

In Mar.#27, we published Relationships – God’s Gracious Gift. We continue with the biblical principles of relationships with our families by birth

Just too bad?

When I was a first year student at the University of Manitoba, I took Music Harmony and First Year Literature as the two arts subjects requirements besides my three science subjects. I was the only science student attending the Music Harmony course, the rest of them majored in music. One day, while we were waiting for the professor, I overheard the conversations between two girls sitting beside me. One of them said with an agitated tone, “I can’t stand my sister! Last night she complained to my parents about how messy I was. I told her to shut up and get out of my room. I said, ‘Too bad, you have me as your sister!’”

I could not help stealing a glance of her. I noticed that her hair was all over the place and her coat was hanging sloppily over her shoulders. I said to myself, “Well, she is an artist, what can one expect? No wonder her sister complained about her untidiness!”

It was not her appearance that caught my attention but what she said to her sister that got me thinking. “Too bad, you have me as your sister!” That was a reality that could not be changed. We just have to live with those in the families to which God has chosen for us to be born.

One would have thought that people who grew up in the same family, with the same background and upbringing, should be close to each other and love one another. But that expectation is sometimes far from reality. We are all sinners to begin with, therefore every family is flawed.

Some families are warm, quiet, encouraging and engaging while others may be distant, passive, and even abusive. There are as many different kinds of families as there are different types of people. As sinners under one roof, we sin against each other all the time. The fact is none of us is a perfect child with perfect parents. Sometimes our parents and siblings sin against us and sometimes we do the same to them. This truth is not meant to excuse or minimise the evil and abuse that are happening in some families. Instead, it is a reminder that we all need God to be at work in our family relationships. We need Jesus Christ to rescue us from ourselves and the little kingdoms we have built around us. We need the Holy Spirit to restrain us from our sinful tendencies. God is the only One who can redeem family relationships broken by sin and give us grace to respond to our parents and siblings with wisdom and love.

Dysfunctional families

The Bible is full of stories of flawed family relationships. At the very beginning, Adam and Eve had a dysfunctional family in which the eldest son murdered his brother out of jealousy. Then we read about Isaac’s twins, Esau and Jacob, scheming against each other. King David’s family was full of problems too. The situation became so bad that he had to run away from Absalom, his son, who was going to kill him and take over his throne. These were all members of the covenant family in which God promised the Messiah would come. In spite of human sinfulness, God can still sovereignly work out His redemptive plan through these imperfect men; all because He is a gracious and merciful God who keeps His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Let us examine some special relationships in our families and see how God intends us to relate to one another as His children.

Parent-child relationship

Parents

We came into this world through our parents. Our first relationships hinged on them. We all know the fifth commandment, Honour your father and your mother(Exo 20:12). God did not say, ‘Love your father and your mother’ but honour them. What is the difference?

To love someone with affection is a natural impulse, especially to love those who provide us with care, concern and love. They satisfied our needs when we were babies and continued to support us when we were teenagers until we can stand on our own feet. Loving them comes naturally because it is born of our intense desire to be close to someone we need.

But honouring a person is a moral choice.

We keep a distance between ourselves and the persons we respect and honour. We acknowledge the God-given position and authority our parents have over us when we are growing up under their wings. Paul said to the children in the household,Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord (Col 3:20).

Obedience to parents shows that we respect their position and honour their authority in the family and we love to do things to please them. In so doing, we are actually pleasing the Lord in reflecting our reverence to Him. We are to obey them in everything as long as they are not against the law of God. Of course that obedience must be carried out in love, without which obedience is frigid, strained, and even force resentment.

How do we express our honour towards them? By listening to their advice and appreciating them

Proverbs is full of teachings on how children should honour their parents. My son, keep your father’s command, and do not forsake the law of your mother: bind them continually upon your heart: tie them around your neck(Pro 6:20-21). To keep our parents’ commands is not just an outward show but also a genuine obedience from the heart. God’s children should always hold their parents in high regard and respect. The Bible says, Listen to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she is old (Pro 23:22).

Moses took great pains to describe how Joseph showed honour to his elderly father, Jacob, who was about to die at the age of 147. At that period of history, Joseph was Pharaoh’s right-hand man, equivalent to a modern day prime minister, yet when he saw his father, Joseph … bowed down with his face to the ground(Gen 48:12) to show respect to him.

King Solomon, the newly crowned monarch of a powerful kingdom in his days, exhibited great courtesy towards his mother, Bathsheba, by standing up and bowing down in her presence. Bathsheba therefore went to King Solomon, to speak to him for Adonijah. And the king rose up to meet her and bowed down to her, and sat down on his throne and had a throne set for the king’s mother; so she sat at his right hand(1 Kings 2:19). To be invited to sit at the king’s right hand was a great honour and Solomon gave that honour to his mother.

How often and how easy it is for us to show disrespect to our parents by despising them knowingly or unknowingly. When I was young, my mother taught me English and I admired her a lot because most of my friends did not have parents who studied English Literature in the University. But when I was in secondary school, I realised that my mother did not know any Physics or Chemistry and I said to myself, ‘After all, mother is not as great as I thought. Now I know more than she does.’ By having such thoughts, I actually despised her. No matter how rich or powerful we might have become in life, we should never look down on our parents even if they are old and less educated than us.

The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, and he who begets a wise child will delight in him. Let your father and your mother be glad, and let her who bore you rejoice(Pro 23:24-25). For Christian parents, nothing gives them greater joy than to see their children walking in the Lord and delighting in His Word.

Children should always bring joy and gladness to their parents’ lives by conducting themselves uprightly with integrity in all their activities.

Children

When Pharaoh’s daughter handed Moses to Jochebed, Moses’ mother, she said, Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages(Exo 2:9). What a beautiful story. Moses was supposed to be dead by the law of Pharaoh at that time, but he was saved by the most unlikely person, Pharaoh’s own daughter. Not only that, he got to be cared for by his own mother. Pharaoh’s daughter could not have found a better person to care for baby Moses. When God gives a couple a new born baby, He says to them, “Take this child away and nurse him for Me, and I will give you your wages unto eternity.” God’s reward for parents far exceeds what Pharaoh’s daughter could ever give to Jochebed.

While raising children, parents have to go through all the emotions human beings are capable of experiencing: love, joy, happiness, comfort, laughter as well as sorrow, grief, anger, anxiety, worry, bitterness, despair, and even guilt. Parenthood is the most precious gift God bestows upon a couple besides their salvation, for He has given this child to them for them to nurture, mould, guide, love and cherish. With this great privilege, God also expects them to fulfil their great responsibility with diligence and accountability to Him.

The children we give birth to, come to us with a sinful nature that requires patient guidance and discipline. We are commanded to love them by training them in a godly way even if it involves using the cane. He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly(Pro 13:24). Nowadays parents pay more attention to their children’s academic pursuits than their spiritual growth. We must remember that academic success is for this life only but spiritual pursuit lasts unto eternity. Therefore, we should pay more attention to their daily walk with the Lord. The Bible says, Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it(Pro 22:6).

These are some of the golden rules for parents.

Relationship with siblings

Having siblings in the family is truly a great blessing from the Lord.

Dixie (next to brother) and her siblings

Because of our differences in character and personality, we do fight and quarrel among ourselves occasionally, but we should always make up with one another as soon as possible. In some families, brothers and sisters treat each other as enemies to the dismay of their parents. This happens not just in non-Christian families but also among Christians. We see siblings in Christian homes harbouring hatred, jealousy, distrust and accusations of all sorts against one another. 

This is a great dishonour to the Name of our Lord. I remember the night before my eldest sister left home to study nursing in Britain at the age of nineteen. My second sister and I, with our little brother, sat on her bed and shared our joy and sorrow in parting with one of us for the first time. We had great joy and pride in our hearts because one of us had the opportunity of going overseas to study. At the same time, our hearts were pained by the thought of having to separate from one we love so much. Our mother walked into the room and said, “Treasure this moment of being together because you will never know when the four of you will be together again in the future.

That was in 1955 when the price one had to pay for travelling from one country to another was exorbitant. Students did not get the chance to return home until they had completed their courses. The four of us were together again in one place at mother’s last birthday celebration and another time at her funeral in 1982. Nothing can take the place of the love and care we have from our brothers or sisters in our family by birth. They can give us support, care and joy like no others in life. Therefore, we must cultivate good relationships with our siblings. They are precious gifts from God to us.

Instruments to mould us

The family that God has placed you in is specially chosen for you and each member of that particular family plays a special role in your spiritual growth as you relate to them. Interacting with them, you learn patience, self-sacrifice, forgiveness and to bear each other’s burdens. They are God’s instrument for your sanctification, therefore you should embrace them with love and appreciation.

If you come from a non-Christian family, then your home is your mission field. As long as there is one member in the household who is not a Christian, it is your responsibility to tell that person about your Saviour through your words and actions. I often hear Christians say that their live-in domestic helpers already have their own religions. Hence they do not need to share with them the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is true that they have their own religions but they do not have salvation in Jesus Christ yet. They too are included in your mission field.

What a wonderful blessing the Lord has given us, both with members of our families by birth, as well as potential members of our families in Christ. May we honour our relationships with them, and glorify God in the process. 

Used by permission from Fishers magazine, produced for The Fisherman of Christ Fellowship, Singapore (www.fishersmagazine.net)1)The FISHERS Magazine [Issue 219] http://www.fishersmagazine.net/219/219_6_Relationships%20God%20Gracious%20Gift.htm

Dixie Chua  has many gifts: in music, literature and preaching God’s Word. She did cancer research  and worked as a clinical biochemist. She quit her job and served in the church full time before retirement.  She  is an editor of Fishers magazine and has written a book Footprints in the Snow (free) an autobiography recounting God’s wonderful grace in her life.  Her husband Dr. Eugene Chua is an elder in Fishers of Christ Fellowship

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1. The FISHERS Magazine [Issue 219] http://www.fishersmagazine.net/219/219_6_Relationships%20God%20Gracious%20Gift.htm

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