All the demands in life, including busy schedules, can sometimes pull us away from our family. So it is right and good to sometimes reevaluate our priorities and to focus on the family. Even more importantly, though, we should focus on Christ, for it is when we lose focus on him that our focus on other things, family included, becomes blurry. A careful focus on Christ brings perspective to everything else and helps us keep everything else in its proper place (or focus). So before we focus on the family, let us focus on Christ.
As we focus on Christ, it is imperative and advantageous to have focus in the family. Perhaps before we focus on the family, we need to have focus in the family. In other words, our families will be most healthy when there is focus in the family on the right things. The way to heal and strengthen your family is to gain proper focus in the family, to concentrate on what will promote, improve, and restore health, happiness, and wholeness.
There are countless books, blogs, classes, conferences, retreats, and radio programs focused on marriage. The same is true of parenting. Married couples and parents are inundated with advice on how to improve their marriage or parenting, and the urgency and volume of all the well-intentioned voices can sometimes be overwhelming . . . and quite frankly, distracting. Do this. Avoid that. Try this. Go here. Buy these. A deluge of advice on marriage and parenting can sometimes cause us to lose our focus in the family. We perhaps forsake the Biblical basics to launch new and creative initiatives to focus on the family only to lose our focus in the family. Perhaps instead of trying to fill up our cup by standing out in a rainstorm, we should simply fill it up at the kitchen sink faucet.
There are three simple things that can restore focus in the family. They are Biblical and all-important to remember, but they are easily forgotten and exchanged with more flashy ideas. But these three simple things are fundamental, and if we carefully and continually consider them and how they daily relate to our marriage and parenting, focus in the family can be restored and more love, peace, and harmony can be enjoyed. What are the three simple things?
Heidelberg Catechism (HC) 1 explains our only true comfort in life and death. This first statement explains the basics of the gospel and our union with Christ. We will have no focus in the family if we do not thoroughly understand the truths of HC 1. But it is in HC 2 that we find the three simple things which can restore focus in the family.
HC 2 asks, “What do you need to know in order to live and die in the joy of this comfort?” that is the comfort explained in HC 1. As Christians, we want our families filled to the brim with the comfort of HC 1. So then, we must know certain things. The three simple things are given in the answer of HC 2. Here they are: “First, how great my sins and misery are; second, how I am delivered from all my sins and misery; third, how I am to be thankful to God for such deliverance.” So we put our cup under the kitchen sink faucet and fill it with guilt, grace, and gratitude.
How will our families thrive if we are not, as a family, becoming increasingly aware of our sin against God and each other? Families get themselves in big trouble when each member ignores their own sinfulness and focuses on everybody else’s sinfulness. This self-righteous focus undermines the warmth, empathy, sympathy, compassion, partnership, and forgiveness necessary for a healthy family. By patiently and warmly helping one another see sin for what it is, we are taking full advantage of the opportunities to go to our heavenly Father together for His grace and Spirit. Healthy families regularly talk about God’s law, think deeply about their sinful motivations, thoughts, and actions, confess sin to one another (often daily), and forgive each other by the Spirit. Each member of the family gently helps the others recognize their sin and need for Jesus.
How will our families thrive if we are not, as a family, going to the gospel to receive grace and power from Christ? It is the life, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and ongoing intercession of our Lord Jesus Christ which bring us great hope and progress as we fight against sin, the world, and the devil together as a family. Our primary means of increasing our knowledge of the gospel is the Word and sacraments ministry of our local church, but secondarily family worship and ongoing family discussions. Families are strongest when they regularly go to the Word together in their home. When husbands and wives argue, do they first recognize and admit their sin against God and each other, and second, go quickly to the gospel together to find forgiveness and power to heal and proceed in love? When parents discipline their children, do they first gently explain how their children break God’s good law, and second, take them quickly to Christ where they find forgiveness and strength to obey? We must be law and gospel families. Families who focus on law and gospel in the home are much healthier and happier.
How will our families thrive if we are not, as a family, growing in gratitude to God for His grace and seeking more and more to obey God by the Spirit? Is our focus in the family serving one another, serving others together, helping each other put sin to death and pursue righteousness? Are the Ten Commandments our family mission and are we reviewing the mission regularly? Are we seeking the Lord together in regular family prayer pleading for His grace and Spirit? Accountability to live according to God’s laws in expression of our love, adoration, worship, and thankfulness is vital to a happy family. A family encourages one another to live out their faith in Spirit-wrought good works and they rejoice together in these good works.
More than focusing on the family is focusing on Christ together as a family and finding focus in the family through guilt, grace, and gratitude. If we understand HC 1 and 2, and remained focused on these basics, focused on mastering the fundamentals, we are well on our way to a healthier and happier family.