10/5/2020 [Thematic Message 100] www.lifechurchmissions.com
The Worth of Kinship <Mal 2:15-17; 3:1>
Prelude: Kinship is a very amazing relationship. When we have kinship with another person, we know that the relationship cannot be exchanged with anything. That relationship is also above right and wrong. Even if our family member has done wrong, we will naturally stand on his side. Even if our family member hurts us, we will only feel sad or disappointed but can never cut off ties with him, and we cannot repay tooth for a tooth. If we have grudges against our closest kin, can we use the law to resolve that conflict? We not only cannot do that, but if we are too harsh with them, we will hurt ourselves more. In fact, these are all what our human nature tells us. Kinship itself is inseparable, and cannot be bought with material possessions, nor can it be explained by reason. Therefore, whether you are a blissful person is not about how accomplished you are or how many friends you have, but it is about whether you and your closest family members love one another. Even if you are a role model and teacher of everyone, if you and your closest family members are cold toward each other, then you certainly cannot be the example for everyone, and will not become the envy of all people. Because everyone knows the worth of kinship. However, as all kinds of consequences of sin spread to the whole world, nation rises against nation, kingdom against kingdom, and families also fall into a state without love. In particular, it is not hard for us to see that in this fast-paced and prosperous society, people place their attention on temporal materials and success. Even though humans can beautify themselves by talking about morals and ethics, their hearts actually understand the value of kinship less. From a certain angle, this world is in fact becoming more selfish and more foolish. Some people only value the relationships outside of the family but take kinship for granted. They do not reflect that when they are successful, who will be truly happy for them? When they fail, who will still stay by their side? When they put in their best to raise a child who excels in all areas, they take pride in that, but they never question that after this child grows up, will he still understand that more important than his learning and character is kinship? He may be very popular among his friends and colleagues, but can he be the blessing to his family members? This seems to be a huge blind spot to the modern people. Therefore, the modern people know a lot, yet they fear even more. This is because the love in their hearts has diminished, and how much a person’s love is will be revealed in his relationship with his closest family members. As the 21st century is about to end, a psychologist said that one of the greatest crises that mankind face may not be famine, nuclear weapons or viruses, but their problem is, their idea of love has been twisted. Gradually, the ordinary men and women no longer view marriage as a long-term fidelity and commitment, but see it as a transactional relationship. People no longer learn how to love the spouse they marry, but they treat their spouse based on whether they have achievements, talents or certain qualities. Children start to disrespect the authority of parents, parents also naturally have to speak meekly to their children, even having to coax the children into obeying them. Indeed, family relationship in this era has taken a distorted form, the role of kinship has also been greatly weakened. In particular, when we see that people start to exalt positive psychology, endlessly advocating human rights and morals, pursuing a kind of meaning in self-actualization, even starting to use all these to replace the principles of the Bible, then we will start to see men, women, parents, children all gradually lose their positions. However, we must know that God’s original intent in creating kinship has never changed regardless of times. The kinship which God created for mankind still remains, the principles God set for kinship are still the paths to family bliss. Man is born into kinship and needs to be satisfied by kinship. In his areas of lack, he also needs the strength from family relationship, then he can keep moving on. However, in this era when love diminishes and is lacking, many people seem to be helpless about weakened family relationship. Actually, there is no other solution to this but we must return to God’s truth to seek answers. Because everything comes from God’s word. If a person departs from the truth, he will naturally be separated from kinship and cannot resist the macro environment which weakens family relationship. Sometimes, we encounter many conflicts when living with family members, especially when our spouse does not understand us, children do not obey us, at that moment we may feel that family relationship is a form of burden. In fact, it is at that very moment that we should not choose to give up, but should all the more use God’s truth to mend or sustain that family relationship. After that, the relationship can become our great satisfaction and strength once again.
1. When God created Man, He put in place kinship <Mal 2:15-17>
1）Blood relations are ties that cannot be severed.
Why did God not create angels at the same time as He created Man, and at the same time create millions of angels? Why create one Adam, and then create Eve from one of his ribs, and after that through the union of two people in love, give birth to millions of offspring? This is because God wants to put within human reproduction, a love in kinship that cannot be severed. Those who are parents know that blood relation is more important than our lives. Our love for our child has nothing to do with his condition. If your child is very disobedient, and eventually grows up to be a criminal, in your eyes, he is still your beloved child. Others see him as a criminal, but you see him as your dear child. When you look at him, your focus will be "he is my child", but your regret may be his "offence". Society will reject him, but your heart will not reject him. This is because he has blood relation with you. Even if you give birth to a child who is handicapped, would you consider him only as a handicapped person? Absolutely not. When you look at him, your key focus is surely he is still your child, but you feel regretful because of his handicap. Therefore, that regret will make you determined to help him overcome his handicap, so that he can still lead a normal life. Toward this end, even if the teacher cannot do it, the social worker may also give up, but parents who are related to the child will not give up on him because parents see their own child as their very own life.
2）Hidden in blood relation is generations of blessings
So, where does this blood relation come from? It comes from the love and union of a man and a woman. Even though the Bible in the Old Testament tells of Abraham, Jacob, David, and Solomon who had multiple wives and concubines, they did not enjoy the blissfulness of family love, but instead had increased sorrow. The result of their polygamy was the occurrence of jealousy, hatred, killing of each other (for example, Jacob's children, David's sons). Therefore, God's revelation in the last book of the Old Testament has told us that monogamy is the most beautiful relationship God created. God does not want us to be unfaithful to the wife of our youth. Instead, God wants us to respect our marriage covenant, be devoted to one spouse, and to truly love him/her. If we marry a woman, we should spend our whole life learning how to love her. If you marry a man, use your life to understand how to submit to him. We cannot be unfaithful to each other, by saying that each other is old, without the beauty of the past, not as considerate as before, or without the awe and achievements of the past, etc. If we keep to and follow the Lord's instructions regarding this, we will see that God promises us to have godly descendants. Our descendants will know how to love God and others. They will not be the ones who suffer because of betrayal in kinship, but they will be satisfied and strengthened by the kinship.
3）But we have all failed!
We all encounter problems in our marriage and in raising our children. Therefore, we see the modern family unit gradually disintegrating. Not only does the divorce rate continue to rise, parents have no authority over their children, and children lack compliance towards their parents. But our real failure is not only the current situation, but also that we have not yet understood. So in <Mal 2:17>, we saw how God's people wearied the Lord with their words, and felt that all who did evil would still be blessed. Some people divorce and remarry, but they still feel very good. Some are involved in other people's marriages, yet they still feel they can stay together for long and there is no guilt in their hearts. Others see them do these yet do not consider these problematic but permissible. In fact, man’s problem is that he does not know where he has sinned and does not realise his sin.
2. After the fall of man, only Christ can redeem that true kinship <Mal 3:1>
1）Because of the human sin of disobedience, human kinship is constantly under threat
Even though kinship brings satisfaction and strength to people, because of sin, kinship also brings misery and helplessness. Where do such misery and helplessness come from? Some people say it is because our spouse detest us, some say it is because our children are not obedient, others say their marriage already came to a point beyond salvage because too much disappointments have been accumulated. Because we humans departed from God, so our eyes only can see physical factors. In fact, where do marital problems start from? They do not originate from what we see superficially like “how he treats me, how I treat him, both our work are too busy, or the intrusion of a third party, etc”. The real cause originates from man rejecting God’s word. In terms of marriage, both the man and woman first do not obey God’s marital principles in their marital living. Because humans first rejected God, so they also reject the marital principles and roles which God set for them. Today, the portrayal of all marital problems originates from what God said to the woman in <Gen 3:16>, “Your desire (control) will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” No doubt, man and woman both need each other, but at the same time, both also enter into a battle of rights. Rather than obeying God’s will, that is, the wife in the role of a woman should submit to and help the husband, while the husband in the role of a man should guide and protect his own wife, both parties carry their own marital perspectives to live their married life. When a couple fails in this most basic principle, all kinds of problems will emerge in the marriage. The family relationship which extends from here will start to be cold, and be replaced with worldly material possessions, own ambitions, earthly achievements. Especially in the modern society, we say that because of mobile phones, computers, nice dramas and busy work, we have lesser communication with our family members. Actually, the real reason is we want to live and control our own lives, and we are unwilling to submit to the family roles which God has given us. In fact, humans’ “heart of wanting to be in control” is the greatest enemy to family relationship.
2）Only Christ can restore that true kinship
In <Gen 2:18>, God said the first negative thing after creating everything (before that, it was recorded that God saw that what was created was good). He said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” God wanted to create a spouse for the man. In other words, God wanted to create kinship for humans, so that they can live together and through it, they can manifest all of God’s virtues. <Ecc 4:12> also says, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Actually, the Bible does not reject the importance of kinship, but view kinship as humans’ need and help. In fact, we always hear some people say, “Because my family member goes to church and believes in God, so our family relationship is no longer as harmonious.” Actually, he has not reflected that if his relationship with his family members can start to drift because certain family member goes to church, then that family relationship can also drift apart because of material possessions, work or certain hobbies. In fact, the real problem is, his relationship with his family members cannot withstand tests, not because any family member believes in Christianity. The truth is, the Christian faith does not weaken family relationship, but rather, it restores the kinship that God created. If your wife does not believe in the Lord, she may not truly respect you. If your child does not believe in the Lord, he may not be filial to you for long. Because Christ used His precious blood to redeem the relationship which is more intimate than human blood ties.
3. How to build and sustain the kinship in Christ?
1）Through kinship, learn God’s love in all things
Kinship itself is to reveal God’s unconditional love. Of course, we weak humans will always be hurt or disappointed because of our family relationship. However, whenever we look to the love of Christ’s cross, we will restore a prayerful heart for our family members. What does the Bible say about love? Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things <1 Co 13:7>. The “all things” mentioned four times here is enough for us to learn a lifetime. We must not say, “We already learned enough” or “I can bear and endure many things except for such a situation.” Perhaps, we will see that in the growing up process of our children, they may be influenced negatively by friends, or they may develop some new thinking which is not pleasing to us. At that time, how do we teach them, then learn to endure and hope for them to turn back? Or, perhaps our spouse has certain bad habits which he/she cannot change, after praying for him/her and expressing our displeasure, we must learn how to bear and endure. Of course, God is righteous. In certain situations that have gone too far, we do not merely learn to love and bear and refrain from expressing our displeasure. However, we must know that love never ends. In this long period, he learns, I also learn. He tries to change, I also should adapt. We must not become someone who does not learn but demands the other party to quickly change. If that is the case, our love cannot grow, and we cannot enjoy the satisfaction and strength brought about by kinship.
2）The family culture must strengthen biblical ethics and values
Kinship is not merely strengthened by love. Kinship can be strengthened because of the same beliefs. Thus, the family is a place where the right morals and values are passed down. Some parents dote on their children and are very tolerant of them, but they do not think much about after the children grow up, the standards of their conduct and character will be mainly influenced by their beliefs of right and wrong. Therefore, the parents do not strictly instil the biblical moral values in their children. Consequently, their children receive moral values from their schools, teachers, famous people, the world’s ethical teachings or modern positive psychology. They do not have the biblical moral values, nor do they have the moral values that surpass the laws of the world. Examples: If the country’s law prohibits evangelism, do we really not spread the gospel? If the law says that as long as one party in the marriage commits adultery then can divorce, does it mean that people have the right to divorce? In fact, the Bible’s ethics are higher than human morals. God’s commands are above human laws. This is what should be strengthened in the family. Furthermore, if a family wants to enjoy the strength that comes from kinship, it must value the same thing, which is God’s Kingdom. Some families seem to have members who are all Christians, but everyone is concerned about things on earth. Some are concerned about work, some about studies, others care about the daily cleanliness of the house, but in doing all these, there is no common goal. Even though such a family is Christian family, everyone just cares about their own things. Actually, if a family does not have a common ultimate goal, which is to glorify God, benefit men and build Kingdom, then earthly worries and troubles will slowly weaken the kinship in the whole family. Here, if our spouse has yet to believe in the Lord and is instilling the wrong morals and values in our children, we also need not worry. Some believing wives are very worried because their husbands instil worldly beliefs in their children. However, as long as we obey God’s principles in our conduct and also hold onto the standards of faith, God will surely prove the truth over a long period of time. Perhaps in the process of the children growing up, they will slowly witness that although the ethics and values of their unbelieving father may bring them temporary benefits, in the long run it is still the foresight and wisdom of their believing mother that can withstand tests.
3）Between family members, there must be appropriate space and time together
Perhaps in the modern society, one thing which weakens kinship the most is individualism. Especially in first world countries, we see that people have no material lack. People do not need to worry about the basic necessities of life. As a result, we will see that people are more concerned about their own space and time. We cannot tolerate anything that jeopardizes our convenience or time. However, living with family members happens to challenge our temperament in this area. When family members live together, there is a need to accommodate everyone’s time and space. This circuit breaker also makes us spend long time with family members. Over here, we may realise that it is easy to meet but difficult to live together. Yet, we rather go through conflicts than let ourselves get used to living in our own world. Especially, in the process of the children growing up, sometimes we have to let them grow up in an environment where they need to learn to share with each other. In this way, they will not develop a very cold and self-centred nature. Moreover, in our daily busyness, we must fork out time to communicate with family members. Sometimes, it is necessary for parents to be involved in the children’s learning, or spend time with the children. We certainly cannot hand our children to mobile phones or computer games just because we are busy. That will certainly kill kinship.