By Alan Bailey
Television commercials portray smiling faces around the family table, enjoying each other's company and the best breakfast cereal. Turn to the family soapies and you can easily get a serve of unfaithfulness, intrigue, neglect, violence, and more, with the consequent jangle of human emotions and physical pain.
If the family is society's basic unit and is as old as the human race, why is it such a mixed blessing? Why have we not mastered the art of living together, of relating well? If only one generation could get it right, it could teach the next, sharing all the vital clues. Is the family just another instance of something that is hard to live with and yet hard to live without?
Probably the main cause of all our relationship problems is our own nature – our hearts. All of us struggle against selfishness, against wanting all sorts of things, against anger and undisciplined use of our tongues. Some people obviously do worse in the struggle, giving in to the nasty bias inside them. Of course, we will all claim that we were provoked, that circumstances or other people caused us to do what we did. Whatever the reason for our lapse into aggressive and hurtful behaviour, the result is the same.
The down side of love
Love is attractive and desirable. We all know that. Loving and being loved is what successful marriage and family life is about. But loving is dangerous. There is a side to it which cannot be avoided. When we love somebody deeply we are bound to get hurt, sooner or later. Quite apart from the injuries we can sustain by the hurtful behaviour already mentioned, life and death will see to it that we will feel pain. The pain of parting, of sickness, of eventual bereavement.
Some people recognise this problem about love and so determine never to lose their hearts to anyone. But this will not help in the long run. We were meant to love and be loved. Life is harder without love than it is with it.
The family that lasts
Having loving relationships in your life that last forever seems like an impossible dream. But it is not. There is a family that fulfils the dream of all families. It is the family of God. He is Father; all His children are brothers and sisters who will enjoy untainted, unending love together for eternity. He has planned it that way. Our families on earth are just a pale picture of what He has in mind. Some are already enjoying their eternity. Others here in this life experience what it is like to be in the family of God.
Who are they? A particular denomination? People of unusual goodness? No. People who have put their trust in Jesus as their Saviour and Lord. They exist in every continent on earth. They have different coloured skins and different languages. There are hundreds of millions of them. And God knows every one of them. As the Bible says "The Lord knows those who are His" (2 Timothy chapter 2, verse 19). The way into the family is through faith in Christ. "To all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave right to become children of God" (John 1:12). •