Without question we are a blessed people! The loving provision of our God in providing us with our own family and our ecclesial family (both local and international) is clear evidence of His purpose and intent with us. Living within a family home provides the learning environment for living within God’s ecclesial family for the benefit of all its members.

Today, family life is best enjoyed by extending it to include Sunday School friends and members of the youth group. Families do not live to themselves; they contribute to the well-being of other families by positive gestures of loving support. Friendships are cultivated in the wider ecclesial circle and values shared and respected by other families. Parents and children, with other families, will be seen actively engaged in the many facets of ecclesial life. Personal effort and sacrifice will be a stimulus to others to seek first the Kingdom of God.

What are we to learn from family life that helps us in God’s family? This question could be answered in many different ways and from a variety of perspectives. However, being ‘brilliant at the basics’ and avoiding the more trivial aspects is a key to successful family living at home and in the ecclesia.

What then are the basic and fundamental principles to live by?

A caring and harmonious environment is far more conducive to spiritual growth and development than one of conflict and constant criticism. No parent derives joy from their children’s fighting and bickering and it does not make the home a place to bring friends home to. Likewise we must contribute to the ecclesial home to ensure that it is a place where people will want to spend time with each other in praise to God. In the home we cannot afford to be critical of others, especially in front of our children, or we risk them becoming cynical and switched off to the ecclesia. Our homes must be havens for the Truth and places where others feel welcome. If this isn’t our home, what can we do about it?

Family life is not “all about me”! God has placed us in families and we do not get to choose who the other members are. His intention was that our interactions develop our characters for a greater work to come. Our training ground in the family home teaches us how to extend ourselves in a variety of ways and circumstances to those invited to be members of God’s family. The opportunities for this are limitless but they do require effort and self-sacrifice. Remember, as indicated by Proverbs 15 verses 16 to 17, that it is friendship and encouragement that people need—not necessarily the fancy food or the fashionable furnishings. The basic principles, noted above, are found in the lives of many Bible characters. We do not need to search very far into the Scriptures to discover numerous examples of how families and individuals put these ideals into practice.

  • Joseph by personal example and forgiveness always sought the family harmony and the well being of others and especially his brethren. He is evidence of the wise counsel of Scripture taught from an early age (Psa 78:4–7). Joseph still cared for his brethren despite their treatment of him.

Personal hurt and grievances should never limit our desire to seek our brethren’s well-being and ultimate salvation. The spirit of forgiveness will go a long way towards household and ecclesial harmony. Helping each other to the Kingdom has to be more important than hurt pride. How well do we fare in these kinds of circumstances?

The willing hearted in Exodus 25:2 and 35:5, 22 and 29 demonstrated a spirit of co-operation in contributing to the service of God at personal expense. Many families joined together with the common goal of building a place of worship for God.
Enthusiasm is contagious! We need to infect as many people as we can to build a spiritual temple that is alive and vibrant in God’s service. It takes time, thought and effort to encourage others by inviting them to join you in the readings or a family outing. The sharing of happy and wholesome time together does much to build relationships that will help us to the Kingdom.

  • Boaz extended himself through kindness and concern for one from outside of Israel who had accepted God’s ways. He went beyond the call of duty in a genuine and thoughtful way looking out for “the fatherless and widows” (Ruth 2:5–16).

What is our attitude to those who come into the Truth from ‘outside’? As a family, are we sympathetic and try to ensure that they are spiritually well fed? When they leave their natural families in the world they need to be “adopted” into a family. Do we leave this to others or are we proactive and prepared to reach out? Welcoming smiles, kind words, a little note or phone call can really make the difference.

  • Jonathan placed more importance on the progress of God’s will than of personal interest and gain. His love for David was based on a mutual love for God, which they recognised in each other (1 Sam 18:1; 23:16–17).

How much joy is experienced when we spend time with those of a kindred spirit who share the same spiritual values as our own! There is no spirit of competition or jealousy, but rather encouragement and inspiration. “As iron sharpens iron so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend” (Prov 27:17 nkjv).

  • David was inclusive of the crippled Mephibosheth, showing kindness to one of God’s “little ones” who was out on the fringe. (2 Sam 9:1–8).

Often people, through no fault of their own, can find themselves left out or overlooked within ecclesial life. There are plenty of Mephibosheths— young and old—in our brotherhood that need to feel included and made welcome into our family and invited to eat at our table. Often when we do this there is little prospect of receiving a return invitation, but in having done this unto “one of the least of Christ’s brethren”, we have done it unto him. Are we respecters of persons, perhaps worrying about what people may think of us? Or are we just too busy with our own friends to notice others’ needs? Sometimes it is a young person who is spiritually lame and it may take another family to provide the support needed to help them walk the straight and narrow way.

  • The family of Rechab mentioned in Jeremiah 35:6–10 demonstrated faithful consistency over time to the principles learnt from their father and passed on as a heritage for their children to live by. “I rejoiced greatly that I have found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father” (2 John:4).

Surely the account of the children of Rechab is a testimony to this situation. Here the passage of time had not diminished the consistent position they held on separation and faithfulness. ‘Modernising their faith’ was never viewed as an option and the respective families all maintained the same values. Sometimes pressures are brought to bear on families due to the changing positions of some on previously held values. We have a wonderful heritage to pass onto our children – let’s not lose it.

  • Jeremiah’s friend, Ebedmelech, the Ethiopian responded in a time of need and with the help of others reached out and pulled the prophet to safety (Jer 38:8–13). Sinking in the mire, Jeremiah was in a lifethreatening situation with seemingly no way out. In similar circumstances what help do we provide to those in need? Spiritually we can be a lifeline to those who have left or are in danger of leaving the Truth. It requires patience, time, effort and prayer. Perhaps the note of encouragement, the offer of friendship, a home study with the family may be just enough for them to hold on and rescue them out of the mire. “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for [times of] adversity” (Prov 17:17).
  • Nehemiah and families in Jerusalem are an example of co-operation and effort. This is an excellent illustration of families working together to build an encircling protective barrier from the world” (Neh 3).

Every family and every member of the family had to play their part in the work. The work of each family unit was vital to the collective group since it would only take one family to compromise on their work and the defence on which they all relied would be jeopardised! They had a common goal but with differing roles and they had to learn to work with each other. Families today are called to a similar task of co-operation as we work together in ecclesial life. Whether it is Sunday School, Youth Group, Sisters’ Class, Gospel Proclamation, preparation of emblems, playing the organ or piano for meetings, committee work, catering or platform duties, it matters not. Our combined efforts, willingly performed, will result in ecclesial harmony and a haven for preaching the Truth. This is a work not limited to our own ecclesia but is valuable when combined with other ecclesias in God’s family.

  • The family at Bethany had an open house where the Truth was loved and Jesus and his disciples were always welcome. Support and encouragement were reciprocal through the sweet fellowship enjoyed within the family home (John 11 and 12).

Simple hospitality is invaluable when combined with warm friendship. It matters not what the state of the home may be, or our ability in catering, as we learn from Jesus’ comment to Martha. The spiritual food is far more important than the natural food, yet how often opportunities are lost because we feel inept for the occasion. Families need to appreciate that it is our friendship that is important to others and not our homes.

  • Aquila and Priscilla showed hospitality to many including Paul and Apollos, supporting the expansion of the Gospel. Their ministering to the saints was at personal risk to themselves (Rom 16:3–5).

Their home was an open home to the ecclesia and provided the environment for spiritual development of all who came to it. The Apostle Paul could never have accomplished the amount of work he did without help from faithful families like this. Being pro-active in supporting others in ecclesial work can involve the whole family and is just as vital now as it was then.

  • Paul and Timothy shared a spiritual ‘father / son’ relationship as co-workers in the faith and Timothy shared in the natural concern for the family of God (Phil 2:19–21).

Here we see old and young working together for the benefit of God’s family. Older brethren can provide the power of example in application to the principles of the Truth. They can be role models for those who are younger and who may not have a father who is a believer. Bridging the age gap is rewarding to both young and old alike!

The spirit behind the Jerusalem fund cut across regional and national boundaries (1 Cor 16:1–3). Gentile believers gathered together to provide for their Jewish brothers and sisters in need. They demonstrated a self-sacrificing and thoughtful attitude in response to others in less fortunate circumstances than their own (Acts 11:29).
God’s family is worldwide and its needs are many and varied. How can all the family members be involved? Having a money tin in the home where all the family members are encouraged to contribute is a simple initiative. Little amounts when combined can provide many useful helps for our brothers and sisters, especially in the mission fields. Our families can support Bible Mission evenings and show an interest in the progress of the Gospel. Our children and young people in the ecclesia can ‘adopt’ a Sunday school in the mission field and correspond Exhortation with children attending it. By doing this they will learn a valuable lesson in building friendships based on the Word of God. There is always a need for tutors in Bible Correspondence activities. There are many brothers and sisters who have been baptised and yet have never met their tutors. This is perhaps a privilege reserved for the Kingdom age!

The list could go on, but these are sufficient for us to see that God provides opportunities for individuals and families to collectively respond.

It is easy enough to identify the principles, but we need to go beyond the story-line and theory— what do we do with this information? How well do we apply these principles today in ecclesial life?

Living in a vacuum is not a sustainable position for families in this age. More than ever, our children must see that the Truth is a way of life, not a set of doctrines to be followed. It is not a case of “can’t do / can’t have / can’t go to…” but rather a joyous privilege to know God’s way and to be able to share this with others. This is a wonderful fellowship that can be shared and extended to others who will be our friends not only now but for eternity.

God’s Word is the central part of all our fellowship and should be both the basis for family life and the nucleus of all our interactions.