Everybody knows what death looks like. Death is default in this world, and so of course everybody recognizes death—although not everybody calls it that. It is life that people do not as readily recognize, because they are not familiar with it.
Life, in the perspective of the modern world, usually involves parties, wealth, decadence, entertainment, and personal peace and affluence. Modern life is self-consumed: particularly manifest in the senseless killing of babies since 1960 through birth control chemicals and abortion. Families disintegrate in a loveless, self-consumed world. Mothers do not love their children much, and want them out of the house as soon as possible. Fathers find ways to avoid their homes through work and hobbies. Marriages are tenuous or non-existent.
The good news, however, is that the Lord Jesus Christ came to bring life to a dying world, and to bring it more abundantly (John 10:10)! Jesus defines this life as denying ourselves, taking up our crosses daily, and following Him. This is the mindset of the Christian family. Jesus forgives us, and we forgive each other. Jesus suffers for us, and we suffer for each other. Jesus disciples us in relationship, and we disciple others.
The Christian family becomes the context in which the fruits of love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, and goodness may blossom. Thus, we can distinguish true faith and true fruits. What happens to families and marriages through the years? The family becomes a great testing ground for true faith and life.
God’s mercy puts us face-to-face with the reality of our brokenness in our marriage and family life. It is here that we must finally abandon our pseudo-faiths, our self-righteousness, our blame-shifting and denial, and our devaluation of Christ and His sacrifice. In the life of our family we see the relevance of the cross of Christ and the blood that was shed to cleanse us from these sins and renew us to the life of Christ. Here is the point at which all religious facades disappear, and with heart-felt sincerity we fall on our faces and cry out, “God, have mercy on me a sinner!”
The world does its best to avoid suffering, to avoid the painfulness of confession and forgiveness, and to avoid relationships. The world offers institutions by which we may exempt ourselves from relationship and opportunities for self-sacrificing love. But Christ’s people voluntarily walk into the fires of sacrifice in order to love. Christ’s disciples follow the path of love, discipleship, and forgiveness.
When we arise in the morning, we fully expect a cross to bear and we gladly receive it. For some moms, that cross is made up of four children in diapers. For some husbands, it will be the extra five hours of work in the evening, so as to give mom a well-needed break. For some dads, it will mean a sacrifice of wealth and world acclaim in order to invest a few more hours each day into the lives of their sons. For some parents, Jesus will call them to adopt the special needs child who requires fourteen surgeries and overnight care for the next ten years. Of course, the world does not understand the life of Christ because the world is dead. The life of Jesus brings joy in suffering, peace in the storm, and love for enemies in the torture chamber. We are not interested in the “Cross-Avoidance Programs” provided by modern institutions and technology.
The Christian home, therefore, is an enigma to the world.
First and foremost, a healthy family life is manifest by an atmosphere of gratitude, praise, and singing (Eph. 5:18-20, Col. 3:15-16). This is the warp and the woof of. It is more than conducting occasional family worship or a mechanical Bible reading once a day. Ingratitude marks the life of the ungodly, but rejoicing, prayer, and thanksgiving define the lifestyle of the Christian family (1 Thess. 5:16-18).
As Christians, we live with a continual sensitivity of having just received the greatest gift of our lives. The warm glow of Christmas morning has not yet worn off for us! God’s hand in our lives is so much more influential and evident to us than the work of the devil. Yes, we deal with remnants from the fall. But the dawn of redemption has arrived and we are watching the sun thaw hearts and cleanse lives of sin , and we rejoice in it every day.
Thus, we find an intersection of true faith and family life in the cross. Family life can only truly blossom under the cross of Christ. True family life is only possible when it begins at the cross, where alone we can take up our cross daily and follow Jesus. It is a happy community when it is found in fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ.