The Christian Family Does Things Together
“Now I exhort you, brothers, . . . that you may be fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.”—1 CORINTHIANS 1:10.
1. What is the situation regarding unity in many families?
IS YOURS a united family? Or does everyone seem to go his or her own way? Do you do things together? Or are all of you seldom in one place at the same time? The very word “family” implies a unified household.* Yet, not all families are united. One British lecturer went as far as to say: “Far from being the basis of the good society, the family . . . is the source of all our discontents.” Is that true of your family? If so, does it have to be that way?
2. Which Bible characters give evidence of coming from a good family?
2 The unity or disunity of a family usually depends on its leadership, whether from two parents or a single parent. In Bible times, united families that worshiped together enjoyed Jehovah’s blessing. This was true in ancient Israel, where Jephthah’s daughter, Samson, and Samuel, each in different ways, gave evidence of coming from a godly family. (Judges 11:30-40; 13:2-25; 1 Samuel 1:21-23; 2:18-21) In early Christian times, Timothy, Paul’s faithful companion on some of Paul’s missionary travels, was raised with a knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures by his grandmother Lois and his mother, Eunice. What an outstanding disciple and missionary he became!—Acts 16:1, 2; 2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14, 15; see also Acts 21:8, 9.
Why Do Things Together?
3, 4. (a) What qualities should be evident in a united family? (b) How can a home be more than merely a house?
3 Why is it beneficial for families to do things together? Because it builds up mutual understanding and respect. Rather than distancing ourselves from one another, we stay close and give support. A recent article in the journal Family Relations stated: “A relatively clear picture has emerged describing specific attributes of ‘strong families.’ Such qualities include commitment to and appreciation for each other, togetherness, good communication, problem-solving ability, and a strong spiritual dimension.”
4 When these qualities exist in a family, home is no longer like a gas station, a place to stop by for fuel. It is more than merely a house. It is an inviting place that attracts family members. It is a haven of warmth and affection, compassion, and understanding. (Proverbs 4:3, 4) It is a nest where family unity is found, not a scorpion’s lair of friction and division. But how is this achieved?
Togetherness in Family Study
5. What do we exercise in order to learn true worship?
5 True worship of Jehovah is learned through use of our reasoning faculty, or the “power of reason.” (Romans 12:1) Our conduct should not be governed by momentary emotions like those evoked by means of oratorical sermons and slick TV ministries. Rather, we are motivated by our regular study of and meditation on the Bible and Bible study literature provided by “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45) Our Christian actions are the result of getting the mind of Christ on any situation or temptation that might arise. In that respect, Jehovah is our Great Educator.—Psalm 25:9; Isaiah 54:13; 1 Corinthians 2:16.
6. What worldwide example of family study do we have?
6 The family Bible study plays an essential role in the spirituality of every Christian family. When do you have your family study? If it is left to chance or to a spur-of-the-moment decision, then it is likely infrequent at best. Togetherness in family study requires a regular, set schedule. Then all know on which day and at what hour they are expected to be available to enjoy a spiritual family get-together. The more than 12,000 members of the worldwide Bethel family know that their family study is on Monday evening. How impressive it is for these Bethel volunteers to remember that they are all sharing the same study as the day concludes, in islands of the Pacific and New Zealand, then progressively in Australia, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, next across Asia, Africa, and Europe, and finally the Americas. Although separated by thousands of miles and many languages, this family study inspires in the Bethel family members a feeling of togetherness. On a smaller scale, you can cultivate the same feeling through your family study.—1 Peter 2:17; 5:9.
7. According to Peter, how should we view the word of truth?
7 The apostle Peter counsels us: “As newborn infants, form a longing for the unadulterated milk belonging to the word, that through it you may grow to salvation, provided you have tasted that the Lord is kind.” (1 Peter 2:2, 3) What a beautiful image Peter evokes with those words! He used the Greek verb e·pi·po·theʹsa·te, which, according to the Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, comes from a word meaning “to long for, to desire, to crave.” It implies intense desire. Have you noticed how a baby animal searches eagerly for its mother’s nipple and how contented a human baby is when feeding at its mother’s breast? We should have the same desire for the word of the truth. Greek scholar William Barclay stated: “For the sincere Christian, to study God’s word is not a labour but a delight, for he knows that therein his heart will find the nourishment for which it longs.”
8. What challenge faces the family head in conducting the family study?
8 The family study places a big responsibility on the family head. He has to make sure that the study is interesting to all and that all can participate. Children should not feel that the study is really only for the grown-ups. The quality of the study is more important than the amount of material covered. Make the Bible come alive. Where appropriate, help your children to visualize the areas and features of Palestine where events being discussed took place. All should be encouraged to do their personal research and to share it with the family. In this way children too can ‘grow up with Jehovah.’—1 Samuel 2:20, 21.
Togetherness in Evangelizing
9. How can the preaching work be made a happy family experience?
9 Jesus said: “In all the nations the good news has to be preached first.” (Mark 13:10) Those words give every conscientious Christian an assignment—to evangelize, share the good news of God’s Kingdom rule with others. Doing this together as a family can be an encouraging and joyful experience. Mothers and fathers take pride in their children’s presentation of the good news. One couple with three sons between the ages of 15 and 21 tell that they have always had the habit of accompanying their children in the public preaching work every Wednesday after school and every Saturday morning. The father said: “We teach them something every time. And we make sure that it is an enjoyable, encouraging experience.”
10. How can parents benefit their children in the ministry?
10 Working together as a family in preaching and teaching can be very fruitful. Sometimes people respond more positively to a child’s simple but genuine presentation. Then, Mom or Dad is there to help out if needed. Parents can make sure that their children get progressive training and thus become ministers “with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of the truth aright.” Preaching together in this way allows parents to observe their child’s attitude, effectiveness, and good manners in the ministry. By having a regular routine, they see the child’s progress and give consistent training and encouragement to strengthen his or her faith. At the same time, the children see that their parents are good examples in the ministry. In these critical and violent times, working as a united and caring family may even provide a measure of safety in high-crime neighborhoods.—2 Timothy 2:15; Philippians 3:16.
11. What can easily diminish a child’s zeal for the truth?
11 Children easily detect double standards in adults. If parents do not show a real love for the truth and for the house-to-house ministry, the children can hardly be expected to be zealous. Thus, a healthy parent whose only field service is the weekly Bible study with the children might pay a heavy price when these get older.—Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4.
12. How can some families obtain a special blessing from Jehovah?
12 An advantage of being “fitly united in the same mind” is that perhaps the family can pull together so that at least one member can serve as a full-time pioneer minister in the congregation. Many families around the world do this, and all receive a blessing from the experiences and increased effectiveness of their pioneer member.—2 Corinthians 13:11; Philippians 2:1-4.
Togetherness in Handling Problems
13, 14. (a) What situations can affect the harmony of a family? (b) How can many family problems be prevented?
13 In these difficult times of “stress” and “danger,” all of us experience pressure. (2 Timothy 3:1, Revised Standard Version; Phillips) There are problems at work, at school, on the streets, and even in the home itself. Some suffer from ill health or long-standing emotional problems, which sometimes lead to tensions and misunderstandings in the family. How can such situations be handled? By each one withdrawing into a shell? By isolating oneself even while sharing the same home? No. Rather, we need to communicate our anxieties and ask for help. And what better place for this than in a loving family circle?—1 Corinthians 16:14; 1 Peter 4:8.
14 As any doctor knows, prevention is better than cure. The same holds true with family problems. Open and frank discussion can often prevent problems from becoming serious. Even if serious problems do arise, they can be handled and even solved if the family considers together the Bible principles involved. Often friction can be turned into a smooth relationship by applying Paul’s words at Colossians 3:12-14: “Clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, lowliness of mind, mildness, and long-suffering. Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another. . . . Clothe yourselves with love, for it is a perfect bond of union.”
Togetherness in Recreation
15, 16. (a) What quality should distinguish Christian families? (b) What kind of people do some religions produce, and why?
15 Jehovah is a happy God, and the truth is a happy message—one of hope for mankind. Furthermore, one of the fruits of the spirit is joy. This joy is far different from the momentary exultation of the athlete who triumphs in some competitive sport. It is the deep sustained feeling of satisfaction that overflows in the heart as a result of cultivating an intimate relationship with Jehovah. It is joy based on spiritual values and upbuilding relationships.—Galatians 5:22; 1 Timothy 1:11.
16 Therefore, as Christian Witnesses of Jehovah, we have no reason to be glum or humorless. Some religions produce people like that because their kind of faith emphasizes negative factors. Their teachings result in a somber, joyless kind of worship, which is neither Biblical nor balanced. They do not produce happy families in God’s service. Jesus saw the need for recreation and relaxation. On one occasion, for example, he invited his disciples to go “privately into a lonely place and rest up a bit.”—Mark 6:30-32; Psalm 126:1-3; Jeremiah 30:18, 19.
17, 18. In what appropriate ways might Christian families relax?
17 Families likewise need time to relax. One parent said about his children: “We do a lot of fun things together—go to the beach, play ball in the park, organize a picnic in the mountains. Occasionally, we have a ‘pioneer day’ together in the ministry; then we celebrate with a special meal, and we may even give one another presents.”
18 Other suggestions that parents might consider are family excursions to the zoo, to amusement parks, to museums, and to other fascinating places. Hiking in the woods, bird-watching, and gardening are activities that can be enjoyably shared. Parents can also encourage their children to learn to play a musical instrument or engage in a practical hobby. Certainly, balanced parents will make time to play with their children. If families play together, they are more likely to stay together!
19. What modern trend can harm a family?
19 A modern trend is for youngsters to want to separate from the family and do their own thing when it comes to relaxation. While there is no harm in a young person’s having a hobby or a favorite personal pastime, it would not be wise to let such interests create a permanent separation from the rest of the family. Rather, we want to apply the principle that Paul stated: “[Keep] an eye, not in personal interest upon just your own matters, but also in personal interest upon those of the others.”—Philippians 2:4.
20. How can assemblies and conventions be joyful times?
20 What a joy it is for all of us to see families sitting together at conventions and assemblies! That way the older children can often help with the younger ones. Such an arrangement also prevents the tendency of some adolescents to go off in groups to the rear rows and pay little attention to the convention program. Even traveling to and from assemblies can be joyful when the family is consulted on what route to take, what places to see on the way, and where to stay. Imagine what an exciting time it must have been in Jesus’ day for families to travel together up to Jerusalem!—Luke 2:41, 42.
The Blessings of Togetherness
21. (a) How can we strive for success in marriage? (b) What are four good suggestions for a lasting marriage?
21 Successful marriages and united families have never been easy to achieve, and they do not come about by accident. Some seem to find it easier to ‘throw in the towel,’ dissolve the marriage in divorce, and try to start all over again. Yet, the same problems often present themselves in a second or third marriage. A much better answer is the Christian one: Strive for success by applying the Bible principles of love and respect. United families depend on a spirit of give and take, of unselfishness. One marriage counselor put forward a simple formula to make marriages last. He wrote: “The four critical elements found in almost all good marriages are the willingness to listen, the ability to apologize, the capacity to provide consistent emotional support, and the desire to touch affectionately.” Those factors can indeed help make a marriage last because they are also based on sound Bible principles.—1 Corinthians 13:1-8; Ephesians 5:33; James 1:19.
22. What are some benefits from having a united family?
22 If we follow the Bible’s counsel, we will have a solid basis for a united family, and united families are the foundation of a united and spiritually strong congregation. Thus, we will receive abundant blessings from Jehovah as we unitedly present increased praise to him.
“Family comes from L[atin] familia, orig[inally] the servants and slaves of a great house, then the house itself with master, mistress, children—and the staff.”—Origins—A Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English, by Eric Partridge.
Do You Remember?
□ Why is it beneficial for families to do things together?
□ Why is a regular family Bible study essential?
□ Why is it good for parents to engage in the field ministry along with their children?
□ Why does it help to discuss problems within the family circle?
□ Why should Christian families not be somber and joyless?
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Does your family enjoy at least one meal a day together?
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Family excursions should be relaxing and enjoyable