The Missing Piece to Build Better Families

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How do we build better families? Parenting experts say we build better families by balancing work and home life, looking after ourselves, disciplining our children, setting boundaries, communicating effectively, spending quality time together, making joint decisions, comforting each other, and being flexible.

That’s practical and helpful, but parenting experts don’t mention the one thing God says we must do to build better families. God says we should live by nine words of Scripture: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” Ephesians 5:21.

The world says, “Stand up for your rights!” “Assert yourself!” God says, “Submit to one another …” Share on X

The world says, “Stand up for your rights!” “Assert yourself!” God says, “Submit to one another …” According to Ephesians 5:18-33 and 6:1-4 there are five things we should do to build a family God’s way:

Be Spirit-filled (5:18-21)

To build better families, we must be filled with the Spirit (5:18). Being filled with the Spirit isn’t a one-off event. The Greek rendering of “filled” indicates that it’s something that must happen again and again.

So, how do we do this? Five participles describe how to be filled with the Spirit and the result of being filled with the Spirit. The first three participles center on joyful singing (5:19). The fourth is “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything …” (5:20). And the fifth relates to our relationships, “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (5:21).

Taken together, the five participles indicate that being filled with the Spirit is having our vertical and horizontal relationships aligned correctly. It’s putting Jesus first and prioritizing others (Matthew 22:36-40). Isn’t that what we want for our families? Parents and children hugely in love with God and one another.

Submit to one another (5:21)

Ephesians 5:21 is a crucial verse. It introduces what husbands and wives (5:22-33) and children and parents (6:1-4) should do in the home. Understanding Ephesians 5:21 helps us interpret and apply what follows.

Most commentators agree that to “submit to one another” is to forfeit our rights and humbly serve one another. Even in positions of authority, we shouldn’t be self-assertive but should purposefully assist others. Submitting to one another is empowering others. It’s putting the needs of your family ahead of your own. It’s caring for your husband, wife or children as much as you care about yourself.

Submitting to one another is ... putting the needs of your family ahead of your own. It's caring for your husband, wife or children as much as you care about yourself. Share on X

Submitting to one another can’t happen if we’re selfish or self-centred. It only happens when we overlook ourselves long enough to help others thrive.

Jesus is the ultimate example. He was in authority over the disciples but set aside His rights and washed their feet at a Sabbath meal. That’s mind-blowing! He didn’t look to His own interests but to the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4). He wrapped a towel around His waist, poured water into a basin, washed the disciple’s feet, and dried them with the towel! (John 13:1-17).

Do you want to build a better relationship with your spouse? [Literally and figuratively] Pick up the towel! Do you want to build a better relationship with your parents? Pick up the towel! Do you want to build a better relationship with your children? Pick up the towel! Do you want to build a better family? Pick up the towel!

Jesus said, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all” Mark 10:43-44. So, submitting to one another is humbly serving one another. The rest of the passage tells us how to do this.

Love and respect your spouse (5:22-33)

To build a better family as a man, you must love your wife (5:25). The word “love” means being patient, kind, and caring more for your wife than yourself. It’s not jealous, boastful, proud, rude, irritable or abusive. It is never giving up. It’s sticking with her until the end (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Loving your wife is selflessly putting her first. How do you do this? You can’t do it in your own strength. You must be filled with the Spirit (5:18). When you’re Spirit-filled, you’ll be able to care for her physical and spiritual wellbeing (5:25-33) as well as you would care for yourself (5:28, 33).

To build a better family as a woman, you must respect your husband (5:33). The word “respect” means to honour and treat your husband with deference. How do you do this? You can’t do it in your own strength. You must be filled with the Spirit. When you’re Spirit-filled, you can submit yourself to him, as you would to the Lord (5:22).

Submission is humbly serving others for the glory of God. It’s not something demeaning or degrading. Does submission mean wives are inferior to their husbands? Of course not! Does it mean husbands are inferior to their wives? Maybe … I’m just kidding! Of course not.

We must build better marriages to build better families. A Christ-centred marriage is one of the greatest gifts you can give your children. Share on X

Here’s the bottom line: We must build better marriages to build better families. A Christ-centred marriage is one of the greatest gifts you can give your children. But a Christ-centred marriage doesn’t just happen – you must make and continue making it work. To make a Christ-centred marriage, your love and respect for each other must be inspired and informed by His Word. And to keep a marriage Christ-centred, everything must ultimately be about worshipping Jesus (“… as to the Lord” ESV, NLT, GNT).

Obey and honour your parents (6:1-3)

Children also have a part to play in building better families. The child’s function is to obey and honour their parents (6:1-3). The words “obey” and “honour” aren’t popular in Western culture. One of the writers in the September 2017 edition of Psychology Today said, “Even for children … obedience isn’t healthy.” The statement, while shocking, shouldn’t be surprising. Many parents are more concerned about their child’s emotions than their child’s behaviour.

Don’t go the way of the world. You do the right thing when you ask your children to obey you. And children do the right thing when they obey their parents.

Obey means to hear and do. Hearing and doing isn’t mindless or unconditional compliance. Nor is it always obeying parents in every circumstance. Biblical obedience isn’t passive conformity. It’s listening to and yielding to what Christ wants us to do.

Obedience isn't always obeying parents in every circumstance. Biblical obedience isn't passive conformity. Share on X

Notice the phrase “in the Lord” (6:1). My father told me not to get married. My parent’s relationship ended in divorce. But the Lord brought Karen and me together. Did I obey my father and not marry Karen? No. My father wasn’t in step with Christ or worthy of my trust. His counsel and lifestyle directly conflicted with what God told me to do, so I obeyed God and married Karen.

Children should never do what their parents tell them to do if it’s contrary to Christ’s commands (implied in the phrase “in the Lord”). And children should never obey a parent who tells them to do something sinful, immoral, compromising, illegal or life-threatening (Ezekiel 20:18). But children should abide by all the ordinary things their parents ask them to do.

“Listen my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching” Proverbs 1:8.

Not only must children obey their parents, they must obey them knowing it’s the “right” (6:1) thing to do. Why is it the right thing to do? Because in so doing, they honour their parents (6:2). This is the fifth commandment in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16).

Now look at the promise in verse 3. When we honour our parents, we live well and have a long life. The author Norman Vincent Peale said, “Good intentions are no substitute for obedience.” Children should act on what God tells them to do because God’s promise is conditional on their obedience.

Train and instruct your children (6:4)

You can’t build a better family if you frustrate your children, overburden them, find fault, show favouritism, overprotect them, are inconsistent, don’t discipline them, or are unreasonably hard on them. Don’t misuse your parental authority. Don’t exasperate your children (6:4).

Queen Victoria was once the guest of honour at a banquet attended by many brilliant scholars, scientists and political leaders. Turning to John Bright, the speaker for the occasion, she asked, “Sir, where did all these great people come from?” Bright cheekily replied, “From babies, your Majesty!”

Do you want your children to be a benefit and blessing to others? Start teaching them about the Lord when they’re babies. We know we can’t make children become Christians, but we can make it easy for them to love Jesus.

We know we can't make children become Christians, but we can make it easy for them to love Jesus. Share on X

Take note of the phrase “bring them up.” It literally means to nourish or feed. Are your children eating well? I’m not asking about physical food. Are your children spiritually nourished? Are you feeding them God’s Word every day?

The word translated “training” in the NIV literally means “discipline.” The word discipline is linked to the word disciple. And the word “instruction” literally means “to place before the mind.” In other words, the spiritual formation of your children involves careful discipline/discipling and loving confrontation.

Are you looking out for others or looking out for yourself? To build better families, we must “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” A husband’s Christ-like submission meets his wife’s real needs (5:25-33). Christ-like submission for the wife is meeting her husband’s real needs (5:22-24, 33). Children’s Christ-like submission meets their parents’ real needs (6:1-3). And, Christ-like submission for parents is meeting their children’s real needs (6:4).

Do you want to build a better family? “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (5:21).”

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Building a Christian Home

Forming Faith in the Home

© Scripture Union, 2024

2 Corinthians 4:5

 

Summary: Build a better family by balancing work and home life, disciplining children, and communicating well. Discover some practical tips for families from Ephesians 5 and 6. Most importantly, follow Ephesians 5:21: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Learn how living by the Spirit can change your family. Key Words: Christian Parenting, Family Values, Biblical Wisdom

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