The subject of “relationships” in the home is rather broad. It does, however, point out an area of concern both for parents and their children. What these relationships are, and what is demanded of each in these relationships, is not difficult to determine.
One might mention first of all the relationship which exists between parents: your mother and your father. The Bible is clear when it speaks to this relationship. Of wives, we read in Eph.
5:22, 23, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body.” And of husbands that same chapter declares in verse 25, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it.” Scripture, then, admonishes wives to be “obedient” and husbands to “love”. These two admonitions point to the problems which often arise in the marriage relationship. Where the wife refuses the Scriptural admonition to obey in the Lord, and where the husband refuses to rule in love, there one finds marital problems —with consequences for the children as well. Where Scripture is obeyed, there is unity and harmony in the home.
There is also the relationship between children and their parents. Of this too, Scripture clearly speaks. In Eph. 6:1, 2, we are told, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honor thy father and mother which is the first commandment with promise.” Here, obedience is demanded in harmony with the fifth commandment. There are no qualifications given. Parents are to demand that this command be obeyed. Children are required by God Himself to obey. Where one does not heed the command, there is trouble and disruption in the home. Where the command is obeyed, there the blessing of God rests.
Parents, too, have the reminder not to “provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4). Rule, then must not be arbitrary nor unfair —which provokes to wrath, but rather must be proper and in harmony with the demands of Scripture.
Finally, there is the relationship between brothers and sisters in the home. The Bible also here is very clear. All of the passages which demand that we love one another, that require us to seek the other and his advantage, that require that we do not betray nor speak evilly of one another, apply to this area as well. Envy and jealousy have no place in this relationship.
There is seen strain in the relationships within the home. That strain is seen differently in different homes — but some is always seen. That is true because we are each still sinners who struggle with that old man of sin.
Children see often the strain which exists between father and mother. Arguments, disagreements, are not always hidden from children. Possibly the mother works —and tries to take care of a family at the same time. Perhaps father puts in many hours of labor in order to support his family. There is little time for each other—and little time to help their children or establish close bonds with them. There might be disagreement about spending of money. There might be disagreement as to how one would seek entertainment. There is often disagreement with respect to life-styles. Possibly drinking is a problem. On occasion, there is disagreement on church matters. All of this makes life difficult for growing children. Have you observed some of this too? What ought children or young people do when this kind of trouble arises? Is it possible to talk with parents about this? Might it be necessary to talk to the minister or elders about the difficulty?
Then there are strains in relationships between parents and children — especially when the children become teenagers. Young people become increasingly independent. Rules and restrictions are considered oppressive. Parents appear to be unfair and arbitrary in their rules. Other young people seem to have greater liberty than yourselves. What must be the attitude of young people against their parents? Are parents always right? If they are not, what ought one to do —disobey? What does the Heidelberg Catechism say concerning this in its treatment of the fifth commandment? Ought parents to establish the time when one must be in at night? Must parents know where we are going and what we will be doing?
How important is it that young people establish a trust-relationship with their parents? If one is caught doing what he is not supposed to, or going where his parents would not approve—can parents still trust that young person in the future?
What sort of punishment is appropriate for young people who disobey their parents? Is it fair or right to be “grounded” for a time? If you were in the shoes of your parents, how would you deal with a disobedient teen-ager?
Finally, strain exists within families among children. There is, of course, the normal bickering and arguing. But beyond that, there is the envy and jealousy which exists because one child believes himself unfairly or unequally treated. Do parents sometimes treat one child differently than another? Do you ever believe that you yourself were not always dealt with properly —that a brother or sister was favored above yourself?
There must be a proper solution for the Christian to all problems which result in family strain. The heart of the problem, surely, is that there is not spirituality present as it ought to be. It is not just a question of “relationships”, but all this comes down to a matter of the condition of the heart. It is a “heart-problem”. To the degree that strain exists, sin is involved: sin which must be confessed and forsaken.
Though often minimized, the answer to problems for the Christian can be found in the Word of God. The more he knows the Word, all other things being equal, the less are his problems. What might cause strain in the home, is resolved when principles of Scripture are applied. There must, then, be a regular study and searching out of Scripture. That is done in connection with societies (where often not a great deal of effort is put forth), that is done in our private devotions. The Word, as preached each Sunday, serves also as guide for us in our lives. He who heeds the Word, experiences the blessings of God.
Prayer too is essential. To tell God of our difficulties, to confess our own sins to Him, to ask His guidance and blessing —all this is essential unto the resolution of our problems. This also results in a blessed unity and oneness within the home.
When difficulties arise, there must be the effort to work out problems and find the Scriptural answers. Perhaps weekly “conferences” could be held by families to encourage this sort of effort. “Communication” is essential for good home relationships. Talking promotes closeness. Where there is mutual concern about spiritual matters, there the love of God will show itself in our actions.
What effort ought young people to put forth in order to encourage unity within the home? Is this only, and exclusively, the responsibility of parents? How can each work towards a proper relationship with parents and siblings? How much value do young people place on Scripture and prayer? Sometimes there appears to be a lack of interest in spiritual responsibilities. How can this change? Or, is it simply not “cool” to be spiritual? Proper spiritual attitudes alone result in good home relationships.