Saturday, November 26, 2011

Family life in the biblical perspective

- Fr Dr Joseph V.C

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correct-ion, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17).

That is why the word of God is accepted by man as the lamp of his feet and a light to his path (Psalm 119:105).

The really lucky man is the one who takes delight in meditating on the law of the Lord (Psalm 1:2).

The Lord has compared a man who listens to his word and lives accordingly to the one who built his house on solid rock (Mt 7:24).

The person who lives his personal and social life according to the word of God will never have to feel sorry; his life will never be a failure (Psalm 22:5).

All these references from the Bible which talk about family life should be our guidelines.


In the first two chapters of the Book of Genesis, there are two descriptions regarding creation (Gen 1:1-2,4; 2:5-25). They are complementary to each other. In these descriptions we can see the basic viewpoints about the relations between a man and a woman.

In the first description, man is given this distinction that he is created in God's own image and in his likeness (Gen 1:26). The image and likeness of God are similar in man and woman. God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them (Gen 1:27).

Then God commands them, Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth. This is a command that he gives to the entire mankind men and women.

The Gospelist is presenting the nobility and elevated position of women, in a cultural background where women were considered subservient to men and mere objects of carnal pleasures.


In the second description regarding creation, we can see the man and woman are called upon to be complementary to each other. Man is incomplete by himself. Woman has been created as mans helper and partner (Gen 2:18).

The relationship between man and woman is the most basic of human community. The dawn of a family happens there.
It is God who unites Adam and Eve. That is why traditional Christian theology says that woman-man relationship becomes perfect only when the three of them God, man and woman converge.

The invisible power of God is present in each Christian marriage. When people acknowledge this divine presence and proclaim it in their daily life, marital relations, conjugal harmony, gets built on a solid rock. Couples, then, receive the grace to live in harmony in joy and sorrow, in health and sickness, in riches and poverty.


With marriage a new relationship is formed in the life of man and woman. Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife and they become one flesh (Gen 2:24). The formation of a new family brings changes in the other relationships of the married couples.

Parents should realize that their children are entering a new realm of relationship. In one sense it is a going away. This might be painful to the parents. Only when parents are willing to let the children go, and the children ready to go, a new family will come into being.

This going away is not abandoning.

Honouring ones parents is one of the most important of the commandments.

In the Book of Tobit this has been described very clearly.
Listen to the advice given by Tobit to his son Tobias: Honour your mother and do not abandon her all the days of her life. Do whatever pleases her and do not grieve her in anything. (Tobit 4:3).



The man clings to his wife and they become one flesh this is what God had wanted when he created them. Divorce was not there in his scheme of things and this has been taught to us very clearly by the Lord.

In the Old Testament Moses allowed divorce because of the hard-heartedness of the people (Mt 19:8).

But from the beginning it was not so.

The Catholic Church does not allow divorces in the light of the teachings of Jesus (Mt 19:3-12).

St. Paul also stresses the same thing (1 Cor 7:8-16).


Even as parents pamper their children and fulfill all their material needs, they must be taught to keep the commandments of the Lord and make them walk His paths (Deut 4:4-14, 25-31). Parents have the right to discipline and punish their children (Pro 13:24).

They have the obligation to make the children choose the right vocations and make circumstances conducive for the right choice (Gen 24:1-3).

Maternal love has been presented as the most ideal for love, care and compassion (Is 66:3). The Father watches over the people and forgives their iniquities (Ps 146:9).

Abraham and Sarah have been presented as models of exemplary couples. The parents of Tobit and Samuel are also excellent models for imitation (1 Pet 3:1-6).

The best example of husband-wife relations is the Holy Family of Nazareth where mutual cooperation, love and honour were the watchwords.

The model of the family life presented by Joseph and Mary in Nazareth is the ideal kind of man-woman relationship, beyond carnal cravings, envisaged when the new heaven and new earth become a tangible reality.


Honouring ones parents is one of the ten commandments of the Lord. Honour your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you (Exo 20:12).

The phrase Your days may be long in the land should be understood in the background of the promise God gave Abraham (Gen 12:1-3) and the covenant he entered into with the Israelites in the Sinai Mountain (Exo 13:1-20; 15)

Insulting parents and paining them will bring ruin.

The Bible teaches us: The blessing of a father strengthens the houses of the children and a mothers curse uproots their foundations (Sir 3:9).


In the New Testament, St. Paul compares the relations between a husband and wife with that of the Lord and the Church (Eph 5:22-23).

Here we get deep insights about family life.

Just like Christ loves the Church, the husband should love his wife.

The Lord had shed his precious blood to make the Church a reality and to nourish it and keep it going. As the Church is subject to the Lord, the wife has to be subject to her husband.

This is not the language of authority or servitude.

It is the language of love, love that ever gives, never demands. The life of Ruth is an excellent example of love between a mother-in-law and a daughter- in-law (Ruth 1:15-18).

Ruth is a Gentile hailing from Moab, but she has etched her name in the Genealogy of Lord Jesus (Mt 1:5) merely because of her loyalty to Naomi.

Even as the Bible gives us examples of exemplary models of family life for us to emulate, we are also shown how families are wrecked and ruined as they forget God and blatantly disobey his commandments (Sir 14:1-3; 16:1-18).


The Gospelist has not presented the teachings of the Bible regarding family life as some serially numbered precepts of dos and donts. What we see mostly is symbolic language, with deep meanings.

Symbols have an awesome capacity to present truths in the most penetrating way. Jesus himself taught most of his things by way of parables.

In the New Testament, the Lord elevated husband-wife relation and family life to the status of a sacrament. Sacraments are the means to grow in divine life. That is why the Lord has compared the bliss of heaven to the marriage feast (Rev 19:5-10).

In the Old Testament the people of Israel were symbolically treated as the darling of Jehovah (Hosea 2:1-23: Song 4:1-15). In the New Testament Christ and the Church are looked upon as the bridegroom and the bride.

The Gospelist, inspired by the Holy Spirit, speaks in such loftily figurative ways, using metaphors and symbolism, to teach human beings how God perceives the relationship in family life.

It is the Biblical way of teaching us about the unity, integrity and inviolability of family life.

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