Family stands at the core of our social existence. In an ideal world, a family includes a man, a woman, and children. The ideal is lifted up even though we face the reality that some families break apart or never exist as a committed whole.
The Bible talks about some very dysfunctional families. Cain killed his brother, Abel. Abraham lied about Sarah being his sister instead of his wife. Jacob and his mother connived to cheat Esau out of his inheritance. Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery. David committed adultery and ordered the murder of the offended husband. Solomon had way too many wives. Martha complained to Jesus about her sister Mary hanging out with the guys and not sticking to the kitchen.
Family dysfunction is very real, but we keep on pushing forward seeking to do the best we can to make families work well. The Bible says some basic things about how families are supposed to work.
The first chapter of the Bible says the purpose of "marriage" is to produce a fruitful family.
God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it. . . ." (Genesis 1:28a, NRSV)
Fruitfulness produces relationships. Scripture says God created woman because "it is not good that the man should be alone" (Genesis 2:18, NRSV). In other words, people do not need to be completely alone; they need others in their lives. Adam received a wife and then children; they all had each other.
The Psalmist spoke of this blessing of family in this way:
"Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one's youth.
Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them;" (Psalm 127:3-5a, NKJV).
Parents receive this blessing of children today in different ways. Some give birth naturally, while others adopt or provide for children as foster parents.
Family brings blessing, but it also involves responsibility – for parents and children. Parents are to teach, to discipline without provoking, and to be an example for their children.
And children are to honor, to obey, to receive instruction from parents, and to care for parents with needs.
And then there is a broader responsibility to family and relatives.
And whoever does not provide for relatives, and especially for family members, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:8, NRSV)
The instruction from Scripture is so practical and so straightforward. The words guide Christians even as they are difficult to consistently follow.
We struggle on with our wills bent toward pursuing God's good purposes for our lives and for our families.