Functional Families

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"Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters—that you may be increased there, and not diminished." (Jer. 29:6)

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The Jewish exiles in Babylon had every reason to be discouraged and give up. But Jeremiah urged them to counter their difficult circumstances by growing their families. Their future depended on their success in creating a new generation to carry on their values and dreams. 

Families have always played a major role in human history. God's scheme of redemption was accomplished through a chosen family (Abraham's). The land of Canaan was apportioned, not to individuals, but "according to their families" (Josh. 13, 19), and provisions were made for preserving the family land inheritances throughout their generations. When Nehemiah organized work parties for rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, he arranged them "according to their families" (Neh. 4:13)--each family had a vested interest in making their portion of the wall as secure as possible. The New Testament writers repeatedly emphasize family obligations as a vital component in our life of faith (1 Cor. 7; Eph. 5:22-6:4; Col. 3:18-21; Tit. 2:3-5). 

The Biblical evidence is overwhelming: Human societies flourish when populated by strong, stable families. When families collapse, society collapses, too. 

If our families are to be functional rather than dysfunctional, we must focus our efforts on several key ingredients: 

Binary parents: The traditional arrangement a husband/father and wife/mother serves as the ideal model of human companionship and cooperation. A man and woman who sign up for this partnership complement each other's strengths, and support each other when times get tough. 

Children: Raising kids is a messy job, but they are a gift from the Lord (Psa. 127:3), the promise of a new generation. We should invest as much of our time and energy in them as we can spare. 

Structure, order, discipline: The chief cause of dysfunctional families is a failure to adhere to basic moral principles. Parents, especially fathers, must set high standards of behavior for everyone, and enforce those standards. 

Sometimes circumstances beyond our control may intrude upon a family, and we  have to manage under less-than-ideal conditions. But even in those circumstances, we should all strive to honor God's design as best we can, and prepare the next generation to do better than we did.