Support to Strengthen Christian Families
The family unit is God’s given foundational building block for all societies. Marriage as God instituted, between a man and a woman, serves as the starting point for the family, resulting in children as a blessing from sexual union between the husband and wife. What God has provided in the family as the closest human relationships has been marred by sin since the Fall, resulting in family tensions and broken families. Broken sexuality has also been a threat to the sanctity of marriage and family, with many deviations from the sexuality God intended as sacred pleasure in the context of marriage.
Whereas the Church used to have major influence on societal mores, in the current climate, the tide has reversed. The Church is now influenced by the world, part of which has given in to pressures in redefining marriage and family that God has intended. Recently, the Methodist Church in the UK has allowed same-sex marriages, a landmark vote that clearly goes against biblical mores. We can foresee the huge repercussions from such momentous changes to church institutions, starting in the Western churches and building momentum.
There is a good resource for Reformed theological statements on human sexuality penned down in recent times by the Presbyterian Church of America, from both theological and pastoral perspectives. Please refer to the 12 Statements on pages 8-13 here.
Although heated issues such as same sex marriage tend to draw a lot of attention, the Church cannot ignore other issues and threats to the family that are just as important, if not more immediate, such as: extra-marital affairs, addictions, parenting challenges, domestic abuse, family conflicts, mental wellness, and low birth rates in Singapore.
Covid-19 pandemic has magnified issues within Singaporean homes, where work-from-home, home-based-learning, and restricted movements have increased tensions between family members. On the bright side, it has allowed more family time together at home, where some parents would otherwise spend very limited time on evenings and weekends with their children. The pandemic situation perhaps has also made some family members more appreciative the contributions of other family members towards household chores or parenting responsibilities.
Below are some initiatives that we can consider as individuals, families, and local churches in supporting healthier Christian families:
Perspective of individuals/families:
- Invest in self-care: go for solo undistracted walks or retreats to step out of daily grind to centre on the Lord, gain perspective, refresh, allow the Spirit to point out areas of our lives needing work
- Embark on connecting spiritually as a couple, setting habits (couples' devotionals or prayer)
- Couples to consider going on marriage retreats every few years
- Seek counselling for marriage, parenting, or addiction struggles
- Parents of children & youth to seek parenting support groups
- Invest in dedicated regular family bonding time, at home or outdoors
Perspective of the local church:
- Inject biblical view of family and sexuality from holistic biblical perspectives in sermons when opportunities arise
- Family discipleship: churches to emphasize importance, equip parents & spiritual parents to do the work in tandem with children’s ministry support
- Leaders to encourage singles and young parents in their dating and parenting journeys
- Facilitate a culture of extending grace to those that are struggling with marriage or sexual brokenness, pointing them to the hope in the Gospel and goal of restoration, and professional help as needed
- Encourage participation in marriage enrichment programs, provide marriage counselling
- Establish an internal and external network of pastoral and psychological support for those seeking help, and facilitate a culture of mental health awareness that is part of holistic wellness
As we aim to strengthen Christian families, may we be reminded that God made us as His children to be wholesome integrated beings – physically, spiritually, emotionally, socially/relationally, and intellectually/mentally – to experience ‘shalom’ in part now, but ultimately wholeness in the New Creation. May we find our security in our identity as His children, while at the same time viewing and treating family members and others as fellow human beings made in His image.