Thursday, November 18, 2010

What is Your Family Character?

October 16, 1994

What were the most important values or convictions in the home that you grew up in?  Sometimes these values are communicated through favorite family slogans: stupid is as stupid does; waste not want not; a penny saved is a penny earned... Sometimes these values were emphasized through repeated lectures and modeling.

Some theme will surface after 20 years in the same family.  What were prominent principles that came out of your family?

Looking back on my growing up years I recall some lessons that were taught in a graphic fashion.  For one, my dad hated the thought of wasting food.  I remember more than once my dad cleaning out the
refrigerator by pulling out the leftover dishes that had begun to mold- scraping it off and eating the remainder so that it wouldn't be "thrown out."

I also was taught that the least hint of boasting was horrible.  It was more appropriate to talk about failures than successes.  Dad had a very high regard for honesty.  Being truthful ,even when it hurt, was the first sign of real manhood.  My parents also modeled the concept that, ultimately, the only thing that made real sense in life was serving God.

The point of all this is to remind ourselves that the home and family is the first place where values are communicated and taught.  It happens whether you plan for it to happen or not.  It is not unusual for the unplanned moments to have a bigger impact than the infamous family lectures.

The question for each of us is this: What are the dominant values you are communicating?  Or, what are the dominant values you will want your life to communicate?  Some of us are at a transition point.  Maybe you feel your parents have blown it.  Unfortunately, most of us have, but what are your plans to make your family experience better?  How will you teach your children better values?

The challenge for today's family and future families is the same: Let's be intentional in the choice of values we pass on.  I have four values for you to think about.  Perhaps after you have thought about them, they would at least be contenders for your own list of family values.

My number one is desire for everyone in my family to come to know, love, and serve Jesus in a personal, sold-out way.  I do no mean that I want my family to be "religious".  Some religious rituals are very important and are a way of encouraging a relationship with Jesus, but if the relationship has not come first, the religious activities are sterile and lifeless.  Going to church every week to impress God or a person is stupid; going to experience the spirit of Jesus and express your love to God makes all the sense in the world.

Religion is not my first value- knowing Jesus is.  Until the members of my family love Jesus, they will be living without His strength, without His wisdom, without His peace.  They will be living without dozens of privileges that come with knowing Jesus.

Then there's the question: If Jesus is not their supreme value, who or what is?  Whoever or whatever that value is will diminish them, set them up for a horrible crash.  To avoid this, the Bible says, "Bring (your children) up in the training and instruction of the Lord."  Help them discover that following Jesus should be their number one value.

A second principle I want my family to discover is the value of building and rebuilding significant relationships. Life is one long series of relationships, starting with the family, school, work/career,
neighborhood, church.  Relationship skills require significant nurture.

I want my family to know that relationships are not disposable.  Certainly they can and do breakdown.  Part of the answer is good communication and following God's direction.  For example, Matthew 5:23 gives direction for the occasion when you realize you've hurt a brother or sister, and Matthew 18:15 gives direction for those occasions when they've hurt you.

If we use the two greatest commandments as a guide, then teaching your family to value first their relationship with God, and then their relationships with others should be priorities one and two.

Along this line I feel it is important, wherever we can, to choose relationships carefully.  II Corinthians 6:14 says, "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.  For...what fellowship can light have with darkness?" Almost every single person I know hates this verse.  It cuts thousands from the field of marriageable candidates down to only a handful.  Why would God be so spiteful?  (Could it be He understands marriage?)

In a marriage where one spouse is Christian and the other is not, you have a situation that would be like two foremen on the same construction site working with completely different blue prints.  They would never get past arguing over how to build the foundation.

So let's say the Christian gets weary and gives up his or her spiritual convictions in order to be compatible. That is comparable to a couple thinking they're in love, but one has AIDS.  So in a romantic notion of self sacrifice, the healthy one convinces the other to go ahead with the marriage and take no precautions against the disease, knowing he or she too will get AIDS.  The romance of that decision wears off when the symptoms begin to wreak their havoc!

I want my family to know the value of building significant relationships- how to choose correctly and how to reconcile wisely.

A third conviction I want my family to understand and experience is the value of character development. Today success and performance for profit value is seen as all-important.  The unspoken value that is being spoken more often is "whatever it takes, succeed."  I want to know who's saying, "It matters how you play the game." Who is beating the character drum?  Are employers, or coaches, or fans, or even parents?

It turns out that character development is a family function.  Proverbs 13:24 says, "He who spares the rod hates his child, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him."  An accurate paraphrase would go like this, "He who neglects the job of developing character does not love his children."

Do you want your children to be people of honor, to live with self-discipline and self-control, to have respect for proper authorities?  Then these traits must be taught.  Heredity does not equip a child with proper attitudes.  Instructive discipline is not something you do to a child, it is something you do for them.  Children are not born with character (Christians aren't even reborn with mature character).  It must be taught.

Do parents who are concerned about character development for their children write notes to school for excusing absences, cover for late assignments, or get them off traffic violations? Do these parents pay their children's fines for them so they never experience the consequences of wrong actions?  This always comes back to haunt parents.  Loyalty, honesty, and self-discipline are virtues worth developing.  However, if families don't make these values priorities, they won't happen.

The fourth principle I would like you to ponder is the value of peak performance in a worthwhile endeavor. Colossians 3:23 says, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for man."  Can we bring the value of peak performance to our family?

Commitment and dedication are being ridiculed unless they are related to monetary or worldly success.  Why is it, all our best ideas and efforts are reserved for the market place or worldly success.  The world says you've got to be some kind of fanatic if your best efforts are offered to family and Jesus.

Certainly any endeavor that is wroth doing is worth your best effort.  God made you a multi-dimensional being with unique talents and gifts.  The only way to enjoy these talents completely is through a maximum effort.

These four values: Jesus, relationships, character development, and peak performance- are only representative of a possible list for your family.  Once challenge for you is to come up with your own list of values, and then the bigger challenge would be to instill them.  It might be worth having a family meeting to discuss what your dominant values are and what you would like them to be for your family.

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