The following are the notes from this week’s CROSSROADS lesson. Words in bold identify key phrases from notes pages handed out each week. If you would like copies of our slides, please feel free to reach and request them. As these are from the notes pages for each week, please excuse any typos or grammatical errors.
This lesson is part of a series called “What Does It Mean To Be A Christian”. To see an overview of this series, click HERE.
How would you describe your relationship with the people in your family? Seriously, how would you describe it? Obviously the ‘church’ answer is that you love them, but what would you say if you weren’t in church? Are your parents stupid and out-of-touch? Are your siblings spoiled and annoying?
I don’t mean to make it all sound bad because, truth be told, many of you have decent relationships with your parents and siblings. The real question is this: does God want us to have “decent” relationships or is there something more? Today we’re going to ask ourselves if our hearts drive us to treat family in a way that reflects who God is.
Before we go any further, it becomes important to note that God deliberately created the family to model GOD’S RELATIONSHIP with earth. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at how God mimics the family unit throughout the Bible.
Let’s take a look at Jesus in the Garden at Gethsemane. If you aren’t completely up to speed on this story, this is shortly before Jesus was to be arrested. Jesus knew what was in store for him and knew that it wasn’t going to be pretty. In that instance, we see Jesus calling out to God in a fatherly way.
He went a little farther, fell to the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father!All things are possible for you. Take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:35-36)
Notice the word “Abba” which is a word indicating close, intimate family ties with a father figure. It would be like a toddler saying “daddy”. Jesus is pleading with his father that if there is any way he doesn’t have to die on the cross to please take that route. However, Jesus also recognizes that a child’s responsibility is submission to their parents, even when it doesn’t seem fun.
Let’s take a look at another excerpt, this time about John the Baptist. During the early stages of Jesus’ ministry, people were already following John around. When Jesus really started gaining a reputation, a bunch of people approached John and basically said, “Hey, everyone is following this Jesus guy instead of you…. Shouldn’t we try to stop them?!” This is what happens.
So they came to John and told him, “Rabbi, the one you testified about, and who was with you across the Jordan, is baptizing—and everyone is going to him.”
John responded, “No one can receive anything unless it has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah, but I’ve been sent ahead of him.’ He who has the bride is the groom. But the groom’s friend, who stands by and listens for him, rejoices greatly[j] at the groom’s voice. So this joy of mine is complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:26-30)
John likens himself to the groom’s friend… with Jesus being the groom. We are his bride and Jesus has come to unite himself with us the same way a GROOM unites himself with his BRIDE. They form an emotional and spiritual bond. John’s message to his followers is that the “groom’s friend” should be happy for the groom. What I want to highlight is the imagery used here. The imagery of marriage pops up from the earliest parts of the Old Testament to the latest parts of the New. It’s important because it paints a picture of what the relationship is modeling. Jesus is the groom. We submit and follow and in return his has unyielding love towards us. If I were to give a marriage lesson, I’d point out how this demonstrates the model of marriage between two people and is supported by some of the later writings in the New Testament.
There is a lot to dig into just with these two pieces of scripture, but overall we can see that the structure of the family mirrored in the words of Christ and Christ’s disciples. If you flip that statement around, you would say that our family structure should mirror the type of characteristics God shows us.
Paul gives a pretty good overview of what it means to reflect Christ through your treatment of family members. If you have a Christian Standard Bible, this excerpt from Colossians may even have a header titled “Christ in Your Home.”
Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and don’t be bitter toward them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they won’t become discouraged. Slaves, obey your human masters in everything. Don’t work only while being watched, as people-pleasers, but work wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for whatever wrong he has done, and there is no favoritism. (Colossians 3:18-25)
Let’s dissect what we see in this section regarding the how we treat our families.
First, we have the wives. It says for wives to SUBMIT to their husbands. This is the one men always like to bring up because it sounds like an awesome gig, but then you have to follow it up with verse 19 which says for husbands to LOVE your wives. The word used here for love is agapate which represents a selfless love. Think about how that works. Wives are submitting to their husbands and their husbands are acting with a completely selfless love. Does that sound like a relationship where the husband just gets what he wants? Of course not. There is a tit-for-tat here in practice. When you look at the metaphor we used earlier where Christ was the groom and we were the bride, just think of how Christ’s actions reflected his selfless love. He lives a humble life among sinners and the rejected. He was mocked and rejected by men. He healed the sick and restored the broken. Yes, he demanded submission, but in return he laid his life down at a cross. That’s a selfless love offered to those who show complete submission. See the mirror to the husband and wife in a marriage? The wife is asked to submit, but the challenge to the husband is to live completely and utterly for that wife.
Tangent: I’m not going to turn this into a pre-Valentine’s Day lesson, but let me say this. As you guys start getting older and trying to figure out who you want to date, I want you to keep this in mind. Women, you want someone who you feel totally safe submitting to knowing that they are living for God and pushing their own wants to the backs of their minds. Guys, you need to act like men, and not the weak type of man you see celebrated in the world today. Be strong enough to live for something bigger than yourself and to realize that it isn’t all about you. If you really want to end up with a woman who will bring you happiness, you find someone who is willing to submit to God first and you second and then you treat them as if they deserve someone 10x better than yourself. That’s the end of my relationship rant for now.
As we move on, we get to children. Children are to OBEY their parents. This sounds pretty self-explanatory, but we’ll get back to it in a second. Just as with the husband-wife relationship, there is a tit-for-tat with parents and children as well. Colossians says for parents to not EXASPERATE their children. We’ve all been at that place where we felt like our parents were pushing us to the edge of what we thought we could deal with, right? This is a call for parents to keep in mind the limits of their children so that they can grow up strong inside and out without rejecting parental guidance. This is very practical stuff.
Here is an interesting one. Servants, OBEY your masters. Whoa, is that the Bible saying slavery is okay? Not quite. We’re going to skip across the cultural study and just state that ‘slaves’ in this day weren’t exactly the same thing they are today, at least not all the time. What I would like to focus on is the word “obey”. Where else did we see that? The word used here for obey is hypakouo which is the exact same word used when talking about children obeying their parents. Let that sink in for a moment. As children today, parental guidance is often treated as a ‘strong suggestion’ and not really a command. That’s not the model we see here in the Bible. Paul describes a household modeling God as one where children obey their parents in an absolute way.
Is that true for how you treat your parents? For some of you I know for a fact it isn’t. Hey, I’ll even say that it wasn’t ALWAYS true for me. What this should cause us to do is to ask ourselves “if this is the way God calls us to act, why do I think it’s alright to rebel against my parents and treat them disrespectfully?” Do you know better than God? Is your model for parent-student relationships better than the one God created? This may sound like a Baptist church soapbox, but these are real questions we have to wrestle with if we are going to walk into our homes calling ourselves Christians, then treat other people no different from someone who doesn’t know Christ.
When you look at all of these bullets, it can be a little intimidating. How do I submit to a husband or live my entire life as if it revolves around my wife? How do I obey my parents even when it is the absolute last thing I want to do? The practical way to look at family relationships is summed up in verse 23: doing everything as if you are doing it for GOD and not MAN. To an extent, take the person out of the equation. If my parent is asking me to do something for the 100th time and I just want to shut them up, change your perspective to how you would respond if that was God asking. Would you blow God off if he asked you to do that really annoying chore or participate in yet another church event? If not, then why do it to parents?
The bottom line is this: your treatment of your family is a direct reflection of how you treat God. God created these family units for a reason: to model the relationships he holds with us. When we disrespect those relationships with each other, we disrespect the institutions set in place by God.