Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law (ESV).
In every gathering of Christians, there will be people facing various struggles with differing degrees of success. Thankfully, not all of us struggle in the same way! In God’s providence and according to the grace given us, some have no problems in a few areas, but face trials and temptations in a couple others. There is something mysterious in this fact, and I have often thought that it should induce all of us to be compassionate and understanding toward one another. You might ask, “How does he or she survive in the midst of all their problems?” At the same time, that brother or sister might be wondering the same thing about you.
Next in our series, let us consider three problems that believers face in reference to our families. The words of Jesus recorded in Luke should help us understand that he never promised that our families would be places of peace. One aspect of our struggles can always be false expectations. We assume that our family will be a place of rest and peace. Yet remember even Jesus had conflict in his family (Mark 3:21). We might hope that through the application of gospel truth, these problems will become non-existent in any church that preaches and holds to the gospel. But simply being part of a gospel assembly does not mean that all families conduct themselves according to the gospel. These struggles all constitute part of life in this fallen world, and wishful thinking won’t make them disappear. Hopefully, we will learn a few Biblical principles that can provide help and encouragement, and teach us to avoid adding to the problem.
Here is the first of three problems that most believers face in their families at one time or another. They are struggles that come from the error of partiality. This is the situation in which either or both parents show a preference for one child above the rest of their children, or ignore one to prefer the others. As a famous comic said many years ago to his comedian brother, “Mom always liked you best!”
Consider two Biblical examples of this problem.
- It happened in the family of Isaac and Rebekah (Genesis 25:26). Here both mom and dad made the same mistake, and it really doesn’t matter who started the mess. Dad liked the athletic, outdoorsman, but mom preferred the more refined thinker. Once this started, the opportunities for disagreement and strife between the couple and among their children quickly became numerous.
- Their son Jacob didn’t learn from their failure, since he preferred his son Joseph over his eleven other sons (Genesis 37:3). Without digressing into a discussion of the Bible’s view of polygamy, let us understand the relevance of this incident to our time. Widespread divorce and remarriage have created similar situations in which some have children in the same family who do not come from the same mother and father. This provides ample opportunities for partiality to be displayed. Jacob’s situation was complicated by the fact that Joseph was the oldest son of his deceased yet favorite wife, Rachel.
To combat this error, we need a proper view of children. Recognize that all your children are a gift from the Lord. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons born in one’s youth. Happy is the man who has filled his quiver with them. They will never be put to shame when they speak with their enemies at the city gate (Psalm 127:4-5 CSB). The testimony of Scripture and human experience should join to convince us that God gives children. How many want children and can never have them! If God has granted you the ability to reproduce, be sure to treasure each gift and to bring the up properly—in the warning-instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).
Recognize also that God has designed each of your children (Psalm 139:13-16). He made each one with their own particular physical features, personality traits and varying abilities. For some wise purpose, he made them according to his design, and he gave them to you to nurture and to love. Try to help each child achieve the best that God has made them to be. Their gifts, abilities, preferences, and dreams may be different from yours, but show every child the love and care that God wants you to give and give to them.
Grace and peace, David