The balance of truth and grace in a family setting is the theme of The Christian Family, a highly-recommended book by Larry Christenson. I especially like the process that brought Larry and his wife, Nordis, to the principles explained in the book.
The Christensons were part of a small group of families who in 1963, as parents of young children, came to the realization that standard approaches to family life (at that time centered around a mixture of Dr. Spock, pop psychology, intuition, Sunday School, expediency, Ann Landers, and the-way-I-was-raised) led to a result that was “ten parts frustration to one part satisfaction.” Let Larry himself pick up the story of what happened next from the preface of his book.
“So we took a very simple, and, as it turned out, a very radical step. We decided to see what the Bible said about family life, and try to put it into practice. The result astounded us. At once we found a new way of relating to one another as husband and wife, a new way of relating to our children. It was like putting a new clutch in an old car: the gears began to mesh the way they were designed to, and the vehicle began to move forward with much less clashing and grinding!”
“Two key concepts emerged from this experiment in family living. These later provided the basic structure for the book: the first key was divine order, and the second was practicing the presence of Jesus. The first showed us the biblical structure for family life, the way that husband, wife, and children are meant to regard each other and relate to each other. The second pointed us to the power that would enable us to live this kind of life in our families.”
I like the author’s focus on the divine order (God’s truth) and the divine power (God’s grace and all that comes with our new identity) to put it into practice. Another example of the balance of truth and grace, the balance of love and control that is so important to life as a new identity family.
We now want to explore what the new identity looks like in a family setting. Remember, our new inclination at its deepest level is to practice our moral resemblance to Christ; to imitate the author of our everything new. “And the Word [Jesus Christ] became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14). We want to imitate the “grace and truth” of Jesus Christ in our family life.
What does imitating Christ in truth look like in a family? It starts with a family life built on the truth of God’s Word. The most succinct explanation of God’s plan for your family is found in Ephesians chapters 5 and 6 and Colossians chapter 3. “Husbands love, wives respect, children obey, parents train.” This divine instruction flies in the face of the myriad of voices proclaiming expertise in modern family life who, in my opinion, not only have no clue as to the spiritual realities of family life but seem to have lost their common sense as well.
What does imitating Christ in grace look like in a family? It starts with love, acceptance, affirmation, and forgiveness. The practice of grace in your family is not only of utmost importance, it is of incredible value. Grace in your family is centered around building relationships and the only way to build is with love. Love that trumps knowledge and a million other things that we hold as important.
Before I became a parent, I thought the New Testament had very little to say about family life. But over the years, God has revealed just how much our families are mini-churches and how all the biblical instruction concerning body life in the church can be applied to the family. Grace-infused family life is all about relationship building. One of the strongest desires in the life of a community of believers, and rightly so, is the desire “to know and be known.” We were created for community. It works the same in a family. To quote Charles Swindoll, “Developing a relationship with your child is as important as establishing rules of control.”
Healthy family life is a balance of truth and grace. A balance of love and control.