The second rung in the Model of Christian Unity is the family. Each individual born on earth is part of a family. Ideally that family consists of a mother, father, siblings and extended members (i.e. aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.). For too many individuals however that ideal falls short resulting in single parent families, families where there is no parent at all, and every other variety one can imagine.
Family reaches beyond genetics or a physical home. It is not uncommon to hear about persons in the military referring to their family in the service or close friends calling one another brother and sister. Whatever the configuration, strengthening the family is of critical importance in the spiritual unification process on the road to Christian Unity.
The Bible as a historical record provides stories of close-knit blood-related families such as Mary, Martha and Lazarus (John 11); close in-laws such as Ruth and Naomi (Ruth 1:16); dysfunctional families like that of King David (2 Sam. 11-13) and Jacob with his 12 sons (Gen. 34-37); and even families where one brother murders another in Cain and Abel (Gen. 4:8). The Bible outlines the establishment of the family (Gen. 2:18), the institute of marriage (Matt. 19:4-6), the importance of children (Psa. 127:3) and the dynamics of family relationships (Ex. 20:12 and Eph. 6:4).
The importance of the family to the greater whole of Christianity is unmistakable. Strong families translate into strong churches and strong communities. Because the forces of evil know this the family is constantly under attack. Inspired spiritual leaders have spoken publicly about the criticality of the family including Pope John Paul II who said “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” Yet, despite decades of warnings society continues to ignore the obvious and pay the consequences including increased crime, child abuse, and abandonment.
At the core of the disintegration of the family is divorce. The absence of both parents in the home and the associated economic stress has not only been linked to an increase in child abuse, but a new phenomenon of technology as a babysitter. A study released by the Kaiser Family Foundation in 2010 revealed 8 to 18 year-olds in the United Sates devote an average of just over 7.5 hours per day to entertainment media including TV, video games, computers, iPods, and cell phones. The impact of such tremendous exposure to media has a devastating effect on children and youth.
To strengthen the family Shuster offers a unique lesson in the Divine Triangle whereby family unity is enhanced through the pursuit of Christ and His gospel. For those times when certain family members are in need a little extra support the Divine Triangle can transform to buoy those who are struggling. The chapter ends with practical counsel and tips from authors and family clinicians on healthy family dynamics—all designed to strengthen the family on the road to Christian unity. Next we look at strengthening the church.
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