Updated: Mar 5, 2021
In the past few years you have probably read and heard many things about the dysfunctional family. A juvenile does something contrary to the law. It is said that he came from a dysfunctional family. A young adult commits a heinous crime and it is argued in court that he is the product of a dysfunctional family. Many situations of all types, school problems with misbehavior, welfare cases where support is given, runaways, drug and alcohol addiction, all are attributed to the dysfunctional family. I have no argument with all of that reasoning even though good families sometimes have disappointing failures.
I do recognize that with all of the talk about the dysfunctional family, we do not see a lot of printed material about the functional family. If I do not want my family to be a dysfunctional family, how can I produce a functional family? I believe that the word of God can guide us to a thorough understanding of what is needed in a functional family. I would like to share my understanding of what it takes to develop a functional family.
In a functional family there is a need for authority. Recognizing that all authority is not good, it is still important that we understand the need and the importance of authority in the home.
I remember an old story about a discussion between two people about why they couldn't get along. One of them used the example about a team of horses and how they pulled together, when the other one said, "Yes, but they only have one tongue between them." To push that a little further than it truly allows, I would like to say that in a home it is important to be unified around a central authority. It gives a sense of comfort to have someone leading the way, setting the boundaries, giving instruction, supporting good decisions, discussing parameters and the consequences of good and bad behavior. If there is someone in the home that can provide that kind of leadership the whole world will profit from it.
We need to consider several things from the Bible that should give us some help in understanding how a functional family should relate. The first scripture I would use is in I Corinthians 11:11-12. I like the way it is given in The Living Bible. "But remember that in God’s plan men and women need each other. For although the first woman came out of man, all men have been from women ever since, and both men and women come from God their Creator."
For anyone who has trouble with that concept, you must realize that every philosophy of life has a basic foundation. Whatever philosophy you accept, you must know that in the foundation of that philosophy is a leap of faith. No man has all knowledge in himself. For those who have problems accepting God and His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, there is a poem written by an unknown poet that says;
"A lot of people say they don't believe in God.
They don't believe in anything unless they can see it.
Look, friend, you can't see the electricity
In that high tension wire up yonder,
But I dare you to touch it.
No, you can't see the electricity,
But you can see the light."
God's word provides light for all of those who have a heart to listen to it. Men and women need one another. That is the basis of the family. The human family has developed the most complex association of relationships in the whole universe. Many other varieties of living creatures have family relationships but none more complex than the human family. If the human family is going to function properly they are going to need to follow the basic guidelines of the Creator. The first concept is that men and women need one another. If the family involved only a sexual relationship and that was the end of the need, family life would never develop.
Men and women need one another in every area of life. They become stabilizing forces for one another in the mystifying experiences of life. Their relationship can provide warmth and comfort and strength that both of them need. Two, united together, are much stronger that one individual by himself.
Compatibility in marriage is a key factor, not just in sexual activities, but stretching through all areas of life. Ideally that compatibility includes spiritual, emotional, social, intellectual, financial, and visionary ideas. Very few of us, if any, can boast of all of those factors working perfectly in our marriage, but we should have enough similarities to give that marriage hope. This to me is one of the greatest reasons why young people should wait for marriage to have sex.
Sexual acts outside marriage may produce instant satisfaction, but it can also be complicated with guilt feelings, possible cause of disease, and problem pregnancies. How many marriages have occurred simply because of mistaken pregnancies? When marriage occurs for that simple reason, you might expect some complex problems. Many times these marriages do work out because of the good relationship and because both parties give themselves to the success of that marriage and make whatever sacrifices need to be made to make it a working family.
In the large part, however, marriages and families have better chances with some basic understandings regarding the factors mentioned earlier. The more agreement that a man and woman can accomplish before their marriage should help them considerably after their marriage. The key factor in a good marriage is a good relationship between the man and the woman.
Communication between a husband and wife is perhaps the most important factor in their marriage. An old concept often declared is that when a married couple has a fight, (not physical) the best part is in making up. What is important about this is that some real communication has taken place. Even though a word has not been spoken, forgiveness has been given and the couple is again able to work together to solve the problems of life.
Authority in the home then is tempered by the relationship of the husband and wife, but even in a good relationship the authority of the father should be recognizable in a functional family. I am sure some people would argue with that concept, but Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:3 in The Living Bible, "But there is one matter I want to remind you about: that a wife is responsible to her husband, her husband is responsible to Christ, and Christ is responsible to God."
In the broader concept of authority, the husband is not the Lord over his household, but he is recognized by God as the authority in the home and is held responsibly before God in the way he manifests that authority with his family. When I say that God stands behind the authority of the father, I am speaking of that authority that lives in respect unto the heavenly Father.
I remember a circumstance years ago when a young father came home from work around midnight He was greeted at the door by a worried wife, because their little child had a very high fever. This man bore witness that he went in to see the child and felt great compassion for the child. He put his hand on the child's fevered brow and started praying for the child. To his amazement the fever broke and the child quickly recovered.
In another instance that I relate fully in another book that I have written, It All Began in Slate Valley, published by Harrison House, I write about a father who was in prison. His child was desperately ill and he couldn't go and see the child. He asked that I pray with him for the child. We prayed, God answered his prayer and the child's health was restored.
I believe that God recognizes the authority of the husband and honors that authority when the man comes before him, respects him, and asks in simple faith for answers to his family's needs. The home becomes dysfunctional when a father refuses to respect the authority of God and take the authority God expects him to take. When a husband takes authority, it does not mean that he becomes a tyrant, but rather the responsible person when the family has communicated, recognizing the problem, bringing all of their resources together to face the problem, but then someone has to say what will be done. This becomes a part of the role of a good father in the functional home.
In Ephesians 5:25-28 (Living Bible) the husband is instructed, "And you husbands, show the same kind of love to your wives as Christ showed to the church when he died for her, to make her holy and clean, washed by baptism and God’s word; so that he could give her to himself as a glorious church without a single spot or wrinkle, or any other blemish, being holy and without a single fault. That is how husbands should treat their wives, loving them as parts of themselves. For since a man and his wife are now one, a man is really doing himself a favor and loving himself when he loves his wife." This admonition for a husband to love his wife even as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it shows the sacrificial nature of the husband and father.
In The Living Bible, Ephesians 5:21-24, we read: "Honor Christ by submitting to each other. You wives must submit to your husband's leadership in the same way you submit to the Lord. For a husband is in charge of his wife in the same way Christ is in charge of his body the church. (He gave his very life to take care of it and be its Savior!) So you wives must willingly obey your husbands in everything, just as the church obeys Christ." This instruction to a wife, when followed, can be greatly helpful in a home.
A few years ago a woman came to me in great distress. She and her husband were not getting along. She was a Christian and trying to be a good one. Her husband did not come to church and was not living a life of dedication to God. As the wife was telling me all about the problems in their marriage, she included the fact that often her husband would come in from work in the evening and he would want to have sex. She said that although she physically entered into a sexual relationship with him, it was more or less torture to her. She was not involved emotionally. She felt that she was only being used of her husband to provide him with sexual satisfaction. Their marriage had deteriorated almost to the breaking point.
I started talking with her about the scripture, "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord." KJV pH. 5:22. I explained to her the fact that sometimes it is very difficult for a wife to submit herself to her own husband. She lives with him every day. She probably sees a lot of good in him, but she also sees his faults that begin to drive her to distraction. How can she submit to a husband in whom she sees so many faults?
I helped her to see that she really needed help here - that the scripture says, "be subject to your husband, AS UNTO THE LORD". I asked her, "Do you know of anything that is wrong with the Lord Jesus Christ?" She said, "No," so I talked to her about the prerequisite for submission to a husband is submission to the Lord. I said, "When he asks you to do anything; in your heart, you ask if it is all right with the Lord of your life, Jesus Christ. If it is all right with the Lord then you should be able to submit to your husband."
This seemed to make sense to her as she was a devoted Christian. In a few weeks the husband started coming to church. He soon was a born again Christian. About 6 months after the conversation with the wife, the husband came to me and thanked me for my counsel with his wife. It had made a great difference in their marriage, their home, their family.
We need to recognize that our first loyalty is to the Lord, but when we operate under his supreme authority in our lives, he can bring all other things into proper alignment with him. The fruit of a woman in subjection unto the Lord and to her husband in the home produces the qualities found in Proverbs 3 I: 10-31. These are some of the qualities mentioned:
a) The heart of her husband dot safely trust in her.
b) She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
c) Strength and honor are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
d) She opens her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
e) She looketh well to the ways of her household, and earth not the bread of idleness.
As you read through the other verses you find scripture to support the working woman but the climax comes in verse 30, when the writer declares, "Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain; but a woman that firth the Lord, she shall be praised."
God has exalted a woman to a very high and wonderful place in the world. The home was the first institution set up by God on earth and the woman is the hub of the home, everything revolves around her. She properly relates to her husband and the father of her children. She nourishes with her own body a newborn baby and cares for each child until they spring forth unto maturity. The place of a wife and mother in the home is equally important with the father if the home is to be a functional home.
Now we turn our attention to the children in a functional home. Ephesians 6: 1-3 in The Living Bible emphatically states, "Children, obey your parents; this is the right thing to do because God has placed them in authority over you. Honor your father and mother. This is the first of God's ten commandments that ends with a promise. And this is the promise: that if you honor your father and mother, yours will be a long life, full of blessing." All of us like to be blessed and this simply states what a child can do to obtain God's blessing for a long life filled with many different but wonderful experiences. The difficulty in obtaining the blessing is to bring yourself in subjection unto the parents. Again, children see the faults of the parents and they need help in being able to respond to the authority they represent.
God gives parents an admonition that would help when parents can heed the advice found in pH. 6:4 The Living Bible, "And now a word to you parents. Don't keep on scolding and nagging your children, making them angry and resentful. Rather, bring them up with the loving discipline the Lord himself approves with suggestions and Godly advice." When you are disciplining children maybe you need to ask – "Am I doing this for my child's sake or is it just to appease my anger for his failure?" Kids are going to fail just like adults fail - what they need is to know that they are loved even while they are being disciplined.
A father told one time about paddling his son and after the paddling he asked the son, "Do you know why I did this?" The son replied, "Yes, I know, because you are bigger than I am." Something was lost in the communication. Even so, children will not always understand the discipline, but discipline should be used to change their direction from something that is wrong to something that is right. Forms of discipline can vary greatly, but whatever it is, unless real love can shine through, it is difficult for the child to get the right answer. So in the functional home the key is love. If your home does not possess the love you need, it is not too late. It starts with Jesus and ends with Jesus. When families can begin to look for and find a meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ a dysfunctional home can be changed into a functional home. Life can be better than it has ever been before - but also just like turning a light on and then turning it off - this can be done in a home. A constant everyday relationship with Jesus Christ is supremely important to the real success of any home.
To climax this chapter an unknown poet declares the tragedy that often takes place, but can be corrected when the human heart turns again to God.
"Does Jesus live at your house?" I heard a child once ask.
Her little brow was furrowed as she struggled with a task.
"He used to live at our house with Mamma and Daddy too.
But now, He's gone away-somewhere, and I don’t know what to do.
For Daddy is not the same today, and Mamma laughs no more.
They never bother much with me – They say I'm just a bore.
But it didn't used to be this way, with Jesus in our home;
For every night my daddy came, when all my curls were combed,
And helped me say my bedtime prayers.
And Mamma helped me too!
And then they smiled and tucked me in,
But now -- They never do.
Could you tell me where Jesus is? For everything seems black;
We want Him in our home again, we want Him to come back.
And when He comes, we'll keep Him, for we truly need Him so.
If Jesus lives at your house, Oh, don't ever let Him go."
The child then turned and left me. While I pursued my way,
And thoughts of many home fires that could be bright today.
Does Jesus live at your house?
How much those words portend.
Yes, on that question's answer, Our hopes. our all depend.
God wants to help you with your family. The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. May your home receive the blessing of God.