Who in the entire universe knows you better than your family? Who do you spend at least the first 18 years together with on a daily basis (in functional families)? You eat together, talk together, go places together, worship together, pray together, have fun together, grow together and so on. If you’ve ever watched the television show 7th Heaven, you may be aware of their opening theme song: “Mmmm, 7th Heaven, when I see their happy faces smiling back at me, 7th Heaven, I know there’s no greater feeling than the love of family. Where can you go, when the world don’t treat you right? The answer is home; it’s the one place that you find, 7th Heaven, mmmmm 7th Heaven.” If you haven’t figured out by now, I’m a BIG fan of the show - watch it everyday on Vision TV. But they have a point; where in the world can you go when you are not treated right, if not your family?
I like 7th Heaven because it shows a fairly accurate representation of what a typical functioning family’s dynamics are like. Brothers and sisters fight amongst each other but when it comes to someone else interfering or hurting one of them, they all come together an support and lift each other up. They may fight for a few days, but eventually, they get past the hurtful words, betrayal or bribe and become that loving, caring and united family they desire to be.
In our world today, there are possibly more broken families than in our long history behind us. Divorce is more common now than in any other time and is more accepted. Children are abusing their bodies with cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, sex and self-abuse of other forms. Predators hungry for power and sex are everywhere and our justice systems offers very little justice for the victims of violence.
I hear many people, including my own mind, asking the question of what has gone wrong that our world is so violent and out of control. I know the answer. It’s in the Bible. All life’s answers are in the Bible. As the end times draw nearer and nearer, things are going to become more and more unthinkable and more and more challenging for the Christian alone and the Christian family. Anyone who reads their Bible knows these things. Jesus spoke of one of His purposes in coming to Earth in human form. He said He came not to bring peace, but a sword - which means division. Matthew 10:34-35 (New Living Translation)
34"Don't imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! No, I came to bring a sword. 35I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.
If Jesus said it, there must be a reason for it because God is not a God of arguments, fights and disunities. So, sometimes it baffles me why Jesus would say this, because He is, after all, the Prince of Peace. But the reason He DID say this is because to follow Him is greater than abiding by family loyalties. If God were to ask you to go to Asia as a missionary and your family was not in favour of this, you would have a decision to make. Do you stay and ease your family’s fears, concerns and demands, or do you follow God’s command, deny your family and abide by God’s will for your life? You can now see where the conflict comes into play. For the most part of your life, you have spent it pleasing your family, doing well at school, being kind, polite and going out on family gatherings, making many momentous memories. Now you are called to Asia to minister the Gospel to those who have not yet heard and you have your family pulling you one way and God saying, “I want you to go this way.” If you choose your family over God, you are saying that God is less important than your family’s happiness. And while their happiness is important, God’s will is still more important. This is where the division in the family comes in. And each family member will eventually have to go through something like this, where they must follow God’s leading or stay and nurture their family’s dependencies. 1 Corinthians 1:10 10Now, dear brothers and sisters, I appeal to you by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ to stop arguing among yourselves. Let there be real harmony so there won't be divisions in the church. I plead with you to be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.”
This passage was actually to deal with arguments that were occurring in the church at the time, but it can be applied to the family as well. After all, it is in the family that we learn the majority of our social dynamics. If we are constantly in conflict with each other at home, how much moreso will we be in conflict with those around us? And yet, sometimes it is easier to get along with “strangers” or friends/acquaintances than it is families. Why is that? I believe it is because we do not spend the majority of our learning lives living with our friends, acquaintances, co-workers and so on. We don’t have nearly the time to get into disruptions. But at home, we eat in the same kitchen, share the same bathrooms, relax in the same room and are just always with each other. It gives us an overdose of time to disagree with one member or more of the family.
And isn’t it much safer to disagree with our family than with people like our friends, co-workers, bosses and teachers? After all, our family members will love us unconditionally, or they should, whereas teachers, bosses, friends and so forth are under no obligation to even give us the slightest thought.
So, how does a family go about resolving conflict? I am no professional, but from personal experience I would suggest the following steps: 1. Each person go off on their own and pray about their part in the disruption. Ask God’s guidance for his/her life, and if needs be, forgiveness for their part.
2. Individually, consult the Word of God regarding what your disagreement is about. What does God’s word tell you is right in His eyes.
3. Come together as a family, praying before you begin to talk, asking for the Holy Spirit’s presence, peace and guidance.
4. Each person be allowed to speak without any other person interrupting them. Let each person speak his/her mind without disruption of any kind.
5. Use “I” statements. In other words, don’t say things like, “you always…..and you never let me….” Instead, say something like, “I’ve noticed that I am not allowed to …. anymore and I feel that it is unfair. And also “I feel like I am not allowed to …. and I don’t understand why not. I feel it is unfair and I would like to discuss some options. Don’t point the finger by saying “you won’t let me…” Accusations will always bring resentment and confrontational attitudes.
6. When one person is done speaking, allow the others to respond. But first restate what you thought the person was saying, in case you misunderstood what they were saying. Say something like, “I hear you saying…..” If it is right, you can go forward. If there was a misunderstanding, allow the person to clarify their meaning. When there is total clarification about the points made, let there be open discussion about what was said. Keep voices low, calm and understanding. Always allow each person in the discussion to have their say and allow each person to respond non-confrontationally.
By following this simple setup, you should be able to come to some sort of agreement and be able to get back to being a loving family, supporting each of its members unconditionally. If no resolution is made, family mediation may be required. A pastor, a counselor or a social worker, may be of some use. It may only take one session to clear things up and get answers. If the subject is deeper and more wounding, more sessions may be required.
But never give up. God will never give up on you, therefore, you should never give up on each other, no matter how tough it gets. Sometimes all that is needed is a time out for each person involved - one may take a walk, one may take a long bath, another may listen to some music. Take whatever time you need to calm down or to remain at an even keel, but NEVER give up on your family. Your family is the gift that God has given you. What greater gift can God give than people who will be your friends for yours and their entire life? Who will love you and accept you, prayerfully, unconditionally.
But families will fight. Everybody has their own ideas, their own will and most people want their own way. This will always lead to some sort of conflict. But it is okay for people to have different ideas, wills and so on, so long as it does not break the ties that bind the family together. When a family cannot get it together and get on with being unconditionally loving, accepting and forgiving, then Satan is at work and there is no glory for God.
The Bible tells us how our character should be: Galatians 4:22-23 says: 22But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law.
It also says in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a: 4Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. 6It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 8Love will last forever. So, if truly we are Christians, our lives should display : love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control, forgiveness, truth and justice.
If we cannot be these things to our family members, who are closest to us and know us better than anyone aside from the Lord, then how can we display these characteristics towards others in our lives? It is my belief that the order of loyalty goes as such: God, family, friends and all others.
Sometimes you may have to deny your family and what they think about a certain situation and that may cause disruption in the dynamics of the family. But if each one is willing - and each one MUST be willing for it to work, there can be an agreement and understanding met, if God is allowed to be the centre of each person’s life and the family’s life.
Resolving conflict with family is no different than resolving conflict with anybody else, other than your family will always be your family, whereas your friends, may not always be your friends. Despite the fact families grow and sometimes go separate ways, they remain a family and there are ties that keep them bound together. But friends, co-workers and such will come and go like sand on the seashore.
If there is no resolution after all these processes, you must follow your heart, which is where God will lead you from. And though it may hurt your family if you go according to God’s will, it will not harm them. There is a difference.
Hurt according to the Thesaurus means: injure, wound, and impair.
Harm means: damage and destruction.
So if we hurt somebody, we are to presume that they will eventually heal. Most wounds or injuries are able to be healed with the right aide. But to harm somebody means to destroy them, and to permanently damage them beyond recovery.
Sometimes following God’s will is a hard road to follow. Family is very important to most people. Why are there so many holidays where families can gather to restore, have fun, unite and enjoy each other? Family is the most important union on the face of the Earth. When are families become divided, the world becomes even more divided. What is that saying: United we stand; divided we fall. Family is worth fighting for and not meant for disruptions and divisions. But when God calls, how will you stand? And where will your family stand? With you or departed? God gave us free will, but He would more than appreciate it if we abided by His will. Where is your family at?
Follow up note: I use God’s will as an example of what may cause division in the family, but there are many other circumstances which may cause disruption: friends, work, moving, outside influences, individual opinions, etc. The steps to resolution, in my opinion, remain the same.