Practicing Bible Principles in the Home
1. Differences in personality can work in what two ways, leading to what question?
WE ARE all different personalities. In some ways that is good. It makes life more interesting and varied. It can help to solve problems. Some situations are better handled where there is teamwork on the part of those with different abilities. That is true in the home. Due to imperfection, however, the opposite results are sometimes obtained. Differences in personalities create problems, making teamwork difficult. Of course, problems can arise from causes other than a difference or clash in personalities, but the question here is, Should a Christian ever conclude that a problem involving individuals is absolutely insoluble, or that certain personalities are hopelessly incompatible?
2. In the face of difficulties, what encouragement is offered in preference to rules?
2 It is not our purpose to lay down a lot of rules. Rather, we wish to encourage you to see possibilities for a solution to the problems where, perhaps, you thought none existed. Or maybe you see the possibilities, but do not know how to put them into effect. Where people are concerned, never forget that situations can change. So can the persons involved. And so can you. In fact, a true Christian has a better opportunity and reason to alter or adjust his personality than anyone else. He is under obligation to do so. How is that?
3. How does Paul give encouragement and incentive to a change in personality?
3 The Bible speaks very definitely about changes that must be made in personality. It gives both encouragement and incentive by explaining why and how it can be done. In writing to the Christians at Ephesus, Paul said: “You should put away the old personality which conforms to your former course of conduct and which is being corrupted according to his deceptive desires; but . . . you should be made new in the force actuating your mind, and should put on the new personality which was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.” This makes plain the reason for a new personality. Surely we each have to admit that our old personality was largely influenced by “deceptive desires,” due to being “in darkness mentally, and alienated from the life that belongs to God.” However, on accepting the truth, “just as truth is in Jesus,” we began to learn how to “get a firm hold on the real life.” We developed a heartfelt new desire, expressed by our dedication to God to do his will in steadfast devotion.—Eph. 4:17-24; 1 Tim. 6:19.
4. To what source should we look for help, and how does this operate?
4 While agreeing with this, you may wonder how it is possible to carry it out in handling the problems that press in on you so closely in homelife. You may feel that the “force actuating your mind” (literally, ‘the spirit of your mind’) is not strong enough. True, you may not be strong enough in yourself. But by your dedication you have placed yourself in Jehovah’s hand, and he is strong enough. He is both able and willing to guide and strengthen you to do your part. “For God is the one that, for the sake of his good pleasure, is acting within you in order for you both to will and to act.” (Phil. 2:13) You do not need to rely on the force or spirit of your own mind. Rather, you learn how to cooperate with God’s spirit. No problem is too great for him, not even that of a dead Christ. Says Paul: “If, now, the spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will also make your mortal bodies alive through his spirit that resides in you.”—Rom. 8:11; see also Ephesians 1:19, 20.
5. Though life’s problems persist, what relief and comfort can we gain?
5 This does not mean that you can solve all your problems by simply dismissing them. It means that you can have the comfort of knowing that your attitude and course of action is the right and Scriptural one. From Jehovah’s viewpoint, your record and conscience are clear. It is his purpose that the “righteous requirement of the Law [in its basic principles] might be fulfilled in us who walk, not in accord with the flesh, but in accord with the spirit.” Granted, you are still imperfect, but provision has been kindly made whereby your sins on that account can be forgiven.—Rom. 8:4.
6. In this regard, what can we learn from the record at Hebrews, chapter 11?
6 While it is true that the scriptures previously mentioned apply primarily to those in the Christian congregation having a heavenly hope, yet in principle they also apply to the “great crowd” of Christian witnesses mentioned at Revelation 7:9 who enjoy an earthly hope. Support for this is seen in the undeniable evidence of Jehovah’s favor and blessing on all those pre-Christian witnesses described in Hebrews, chapter 11. By his spirit they were enabled to surmount their many problems, including domestic ones, and we wish to encourage you to do the same. In fact, that is why the record of that great “cloud of witnesses” was given us. (Heb. 12:1) With this in mind, let us pay further attention to Paul’s inspired counsel given to the Christians at Ephesus.
7. Following his appeal at Ephesians 4:22-24, what line of counsel does Paul give?
7 Based directly on the appeal to put on the new personality, Paul goes on to give fine practical counsel. Though given mainly from the viewpoint of conduct within the congregation, it also applies to homelife, and some of it directly to family relationships. Rather than laying down rules, he discusses principles, showing how and why they should be observed. He writes: “Wherefore, now that you have put away falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, because we are members belonging to one another.”—Eph. 4:25.
8. (a) How does “belonging to one another” apply to both fleshly and spiritual relationships? (b) How is this well illustrated?
8 By your dedication you have become a member of God’s family, and can in truth address him as “our Father.” (Matt. 6:9) This is a spiritual relationship, and takes priority in your life. However, it does not cancel out fleshly relationships and their obligations. God started the creation of the human family in perfection, telling them to multiply, with the prospect of countless family units comprising parents and children. (Gen. 1:28) When Paul said “we are members belonging to one another,” he was expressing a fundamental principle, applying to both of the foregoing relationships. Supporting this, he elsewhere makes extensive use of the human body and its members as an apt illustration of interdependence.—See 1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Ephesians 4:4, 15, 16.
9. (a) How does the foregoing principle apply beneficially to the Christian congregation? (b) Where today is there a lack in this respect, leading to what problem?
9 Appreciation of this principle will be a great help to you. Do you get the point? Even in the Christian congregation the members belong, not only to God and their Head, Christ Jesus, but also to one another. They do not belong to themselves. That promotes the real conscious unity that you find among Jehovah’s witnesses earth wide. However, due to the adverse pressures of these “critical times hard to deal with,” such unity is often sadly lacking in family life. As foretold, the prevailing spirit in these “last days” is that of selfishness, ingratitude and disloyalty. (2 Tim. 3:1-5) In many families, each member goes his or her own way, including even the children at quite an early age. You may feel inclined to do the same, reckoning that you are under obligation to do so, if perhaps you are the only one in the home interested in true worship. Your tastes and activities are quite different, and you “quit sharing with them in the unfruitful works that belong to the darkness.” (Eph. 5:11) All the same, while living in the home you are part of a family, and to that extent have certain obligations toward the other members.
10. In what ways can we make efforts to promote family peace and unity?
10 What attitude and course should you take? Though your efforts may not be appreciated, look for opportunities, even in small things, to promote family peace and unity. If the others are opposed, do not echo their indifference and hostility. Do not make an issue over things unless a real Bible principle is involved. Even then, you cannot insist that others observe right principles, unless as a parent toward your children. When in daily contact with others, remember that actions speak louder than words, unless you are directly challenged or some inquiry is made. Try to be an example of good Christian living. Try to show what the truth means to you, in giving you true happiness and contentment and a bright outlook on the future, while at the same time showing sympathy for those hard hit by present circumstances.
DISPLAYING BEAUTIES OF “NEW PERSONALITY”
11. How does Paul’s counsel apply as to (a) falsehood, (b) anger, and (c) stealing?
11 Much of the counsel here given applies to homelife, whatever the makeup of the family may be. It is so easy to indulge in a little falsehood, saying to yourself that it does not always pay to tell the truth. Do you like it if you find other family members pursuing that policy? Does it not undermine confidence and create suspicion? It certainly does not foster the feeling of “belonging to one another.” Says Paul: “Put away falsehood [and] speak truth each one of you.” Again, it is easy to cherish a smoldering resentment due to continual irritation. Not being willing to admit this, you might live a falsehood by denying it. Even when the anger on your part is right and proper, be careful; “let the sun not set with you in a provoked state.” The cause of anger may still be there, but endeavor to get Jehovah’s viewpoint on the problem, and ask for his help. “Throw your burden upon Jehovah himself, and he himself will sustain you.” (Eph. 4:25, 26; Ps. 55:22) So doing, you will not “allow place for the Devil.” Next, the point is made: “Let the stealer steal no more, but rather let him do hard work . . . that he may have something to distribute to someone in need.” What a temptation it can be to do a little stealing—just a mouthful of your favorite dish before it comes on the table. It will not be missed, and no one sees, unless you omit to wipe away the evidence from around your mouth! This is not limited to small children, though it is then that right principles should be inculcated, kindly yet ceaselessly. Each member of the family also has the right to a certain measure of privacy, depending on age and circumstance. Do not intrude on that privacy. It too is a form of stealing, to say the least.—Eph. 4:27, 28.
12. (a) How does the counsel as to speech apply particularly to homelife? (b) How can we replace what is bad by what is good, in line with the counsel at Romans 12:14?
12 Continuing, there is good counsel given as to speech, including the motive prompting it. “Let a rotten saying not proceed out of your mouth, but whatever saying is good for building up . . . Let all malicious bitterness and anger and wrath and screaming and abusive speech be taken away from you along with all badness,” including “foolish talking” and “obscene jesting.” (Eph. 4:29-31; 5:4) Home is often the place where you feel you can just be your natural self, even more so than in the congregation, where righteous principles are more to the fore. How necessary, then, to be aware of the need for self-control, especially if the general atmosphere is easygoing, drawing no lines on funny stories and jokes, or choice of words when one is irritated. A “rotten saying” does not have to be obviously foul or obscene. It may be a clever play on words, something with a double meaning, like an apple that looks smart and polished outside, but is actually rotten to the core. Yes, it depends on what you are at heart. (Matt. 12:34) Such things belong to the old personality. They must be replaced by what belongs to the new, by what is “good for building up,” and the “giving of thanks.” The malicious and bitter attitude, along with abusive speech, must be replaced by our becoming “kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, freely forgiving one another.” These are Bible principles to be practiced in the home.—Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:8-10.
13. (a) What is true of all personalities? (b) What must we never underestimate, and how does humility play an important part?
13 We are not suggesting for a moment that these things are easy to put into practice. They are easier read than done. You are not dealing with inanimate facts and figures, nor with things to be dismissed as imagination. You are dealing with personalities, your own and those of others. With regard to such, including your own, there can be hidden recesses in the mind and heart, favorable or otherwise. There is also Jehovah’s superlative personality to take into account. Never underestimate his loving interest in your maintaining a dedicated relationship with him. Never underestimate the many unfailing provisions he has made through his Word and organization, by his spirit and through prayer, to enable you to put on a Christlike personality. (Eph. 3:20) Advancement in spirituality is often a slow process as compared with your expectations. Higher standards may be envisioned, but, like new heights seen upon rounding the corner, they may be difficult to attain. It is largely a question of your own mental attitude—whether you are lowly in mind and willing to admit your mistakes and failures, and whether you are always ready to make a further effort, a fresh start. Jehovah certainly blesses such an attitude, and your brothers and sisters in God’s family will love you for it, and do all they can to help you.
14. (a) How should we seek to overcome prejudice shown against us? (b) What example did Jesus set for us in this regard?
14 However sincere and humble-minded you may be, this may not be appreciated by other members of your fleshly family who are prejudiced, even hostile. They may say you are trying to put on airs of superiority. This is not difficult to understand. Your standards as a true Christian may well be superior to theirs, but that does not make you superior in yourself, does it? You are what you are by Jehovah’s undeserved kindness. You understand that, but they do not. Without compromising your position or violating any Bible principle, you should go out of your way in following what would be considered a normal pattern of behavior. To that extent, show that you belong. Be prepared to overlook many things. Try to avoid hurt feelings, either in others or in yourself. Jesus often endured much in this respect when in the company of those who were prejudiced and hostile. Never did he shut the door of communication and retire into his shell, as the saying goes. As Peter said of him: “Christ suffered for you, leaving you a model for you to follow his steps closely. . . . When he was being reviled, he did not go reviling in return. When he was suffering, he did not go threatening, but kept on committing himself to the one who judges righteously.”—1 Pet. 2:21-23.
TRUE LOVE AND SUBJECTION
15. When given counsel to family members, what is Paul’s initial theme, but how was this principle perverted at an early time?
15 Paul leads into his detailed counsel first to wives, then to husbands and children, by making this appeal to all: “Be in subjection to one another in fear of Christ.” (Eph. 5:21) In counseling husbands and wives this is Paul’s initial theme. By her precipitate action the first woman, Eve, showed a lack of subjection, not only to God, but also to her husband. True, Adam showed a certain subjection to Eve in following her example, but this was entirely out of order. He was showing a lack of subjection to God. Thus the matter of subjection got twisted and perverted as soon as sin involved the human family.
16. How is subjection a manifestation of true love, and in what way should it be evident?
16 Proper subjection is a manifestation of true love. When, as a true Christian, you took the step of dedication, it was an evidence of your love for Jehovah, and of your complete and willing subjection to him, to do his will. In the Christian congregation, there should also be the spirit of mutual consideration and subjection “to one another in fear of Christ.” In this, the elders should give the lead, not “lording it over those who are God’s inheritance, but becoming examples to the flock.” The same spirit should be shown in the home. This is well illustrated in the human body, where all the members have to be ‘harmoniously joined together and made to cooperate’ to get things done. Why, even the head, at the top, cannot say to the feet: “I have no need of you.”—1 Pet. 5:3; Eph. 4:16; 1 Cor. 12:21.
17. Incompatibility is often due to what, yet what can often be the remedy?
17 Where this fine attitude of cooperation is shown, there are few marital and family problems that cannot be solved, quickly and easily. In other words, the absence of this attitude is often the root cause of the problem. Even when only one mate is a dedicated Christian displaying this proper attitude, it can go a long way toward preventing problems from getting to the point of friction and dissension. Paul made the entreaty to “walk worthily of the calling with which you were called, with complete lowliness of mind and mildness, with long-suffering, putting up with one another in love.”—Eph. 4:1, 2.
18. (a) What can we learn from Paul’s counsel at Philippians 2:2-4? (b) How is it possible that “others are superior to you”?
18 He expressed this even more forcefully to the Philippians, saying: “Make my joy full in that you are of the same mind and have the same love, . . . doing nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism, but with lowliness of mind considering that the others are superior to you, keeping an eye, not in personal interest upon just your own matters, but also in personal interest upon those of the others.” (Phil. 2:2-4) Are you such a lowly-minded person, or are you self-centered and egotistical, insisting that you are always right in your opinion of things and of people? As a husband or an elder, does your wife or do others in the congregation observe that you are humble-minded? Is it apparent to all that you view others as superior to yourself? Doubtless they are in certain qualities and abilities. You might provide all the furnishings for the home, but could you arrange them in as inviting and restful a way as does your wife? Are not even your little ones more uninhibited and spontaneous in expressing joy and affection?
19. To what extent is a wife to be in subjection to her husband, and why?
19 Paul proceeds to show the fine relation between the Bible principles of love, subjection and headship. Because a “husband is head of his wife as the Christ also is head of the congregation,” she is in subjection to him. To what extent? Well, “as the congregation is in subjection to the Christ, so let wives also be to their husbands in everything.” Her husband may not be a dedicated Christian, and may even be opposed on this account, but that does not abrogate or minimize the principle of headship. She should not submit to his headship begrudgingly, and should only make an exception where submission would cause a violation of some other Bible principle.—Eph. 5:22-24.
20. To what extent should a husband love his wife, and why?
20 To put the principle of true agape love into operation is the prime responsibility of the Christian husband. To what extent? “Husbands, continue loving your wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation and delivered up himself for it, that he might sanctify it . . . [and ultimately] present the congregation to himself in its splendor, . . . holy and without blemish,” as a glorious bride. This surely implies a high regard on the part of the husband for his wife, while the “wife should have deep respect for her husband.”—Eph. 5:25-27, 33.
21. How and why do love and subjection apply to children?
21 For children, proper obedience and subjection are stressed. Under the wholesome and loving Scriptural discipline of their “parents in union with the Lord,” they should be obedient “in everything,” with the promise “that it may go well with you and you may endure a long time on the earth.”—Eph. 6:1-4; Col. 3:20.
22. How does Peter confirm the need for all to be humble-minded?
22 Finally, it is encouraging and strengthening to note how Peter, in his own way, confirms the same Bible principles that Paul stressed. Peter likewise emphasizes the need on the part of each and every one to be humble-minded. He writes: “Finally, all of you be like-minded, showing fellow feeling, having brotherly affection, tenderly compassionate, humble in mind.” And again: “All of you gird yourselves with lowliness of mind toward one another, because God opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones.” (1 Pet. 3:8; 5:5) This was well exemplified by the way Jesus washed the feet of his disciples as a pattern to be followed. When did you last wash someone’s feet figuratively, by gladly rendering some lowly service to some member of the family or to someone in the congregation? This too is a loving Bible principle we do well to practice more often.—John 13:4-9.
[Picture on page 313]
“We are members belonging to one another.”