See The Family as Central!Fr. Barnabas Powell
It’s no secret that family life is filled with challenges. To be honest, I don’t think we’ve seen the real fallout of all the social experiments we Americans have engaged in since all these movements have been demanding this or that change in society. One of the interesting, if unintended consequences, of these movements, is the growth of interest in young men and women in ancient religion. For instance, why are so many young adults converting to Orthodoxy from the Evangelical Protestant world?
Another recent study showed that the adolescent stage of development in American teenagers is now extending well into their 20s and some even into their 30s. Of course, this means that marriage is being put off till later and later, and interestingly enough, even sexual activity is going down among teenagers! Lot’s of reasons for this, and not all of them good, mind you. but no one can dismiss the role bad family experiences have had in shaping the expectations of our youth! In fact, the epidemic of loneliness and fear in this generation of young adults is a direct result of the loss of how to make healthy families! We need to see that forming normal and healthy families is key to a strong society!
The Christian Faith has wisdom for us about how to “do” family and it even extends that wisdom into how to “do” a healthy society!
Look at our lesson today in Ephesians 5:33; 6:1-9:
Brethren, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Slaves, be obedient to those who are your earthly masters, with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as to Christ; not in the way of eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same again from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. Masters, do the same to them, and forbear threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven and that there is no partiality with him.
St. Paul continues his instructions to the Ephesian Church and all the other parishes around Ephesus (this epistle is known as a “circular epistle,” which is a letter that is to be shared with all the nearby parishes) by teaching them to embrace just what a family is supposed to look like when the Message of Jesus is at the heart of the Family.
Husbands love their wives; wives respect their husbands; children obey their parents; fathers don’t “provoke” their children; household slaves obey their masters; masters treat their servants as Jesus treats them! And all of this happens because everyone in the household embraces the life-changing message of the Faith! And they allow the Faith to inform and form their choices, attitudes, and actions! And every bit of this wisdom is a true “martyrdom” of our ego and pride! The very thing that will make for a strong society, is found in the making of true families and healthy marriages!
But how? Great question. The “how” flows from the “why” of the reason for being Orthodox on Purpose. You see, the basic need of each of us is to become able to be like our Creator so that eternity with Him won’t feel like hell! And God, Who loves you, knows what you need to effect such a transformation in your own life. He puts you in relationships! Yeah, I know, Thanks!
Seriously, it’s in the hard work of being in relationships that invite you and me to see deep within ourselves and know ourselves and every place where we are asleep to our own self-centeredness. I wouldn’t know the extent of my own selfishness if I didn’t have this wife and these children to put me in situations where I had to see just how lazy and selfish I really am! Ouch! And they, if they are awake to the purpose for all this, discover the same things about themselves in the crucible of family.
This is why the Fathers say the family is a “little church.” It is the place where we are invited, as painful and even fearful as it may be, to know ourselves. This knowledge can lead us to despair and even depression as we refuse to give up our false expectations and the delusion that this is “supposed to make me happy.” No, we aren’t in these relationships for ourselves. We are given these gifts to learn how to move beyond ourselves and be made like our God, Who loves me so much that He gives Himself completely to and for me!
So, today, are you awake to the foundational purpose for the relationships you have? If you are, then you have the strength to see just how vital this formation is in being Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Dear Lord, our families are struggling. We become so gripped by the fantasy that all pain and struggle are bad that we have made ourselves weak and easy prey for demonic attacks. Forgive us, Lord, and grant us the courage to face the opposition of the evil one with humility, love, and faith in You. Teach us how to have strong families so our children can form their own families with courage and grace. Amen