Christian education of children should be carried on chiefly within the home, within the family. Instruction given in Sunday schools and attendance of church services are very important, but dependant, of course, on the family’s cooperation and attitude. Family is recognized as the ‘home church’, and the task of the parents is really a kind of lay priesthood. Within a Christian family our Christian faith must be incarnated; it must be brought to life in the daily, hourly experience of living. Children attend Sunday school for an hour a week; they attend church services for another hour or two, but family life goes on all the time, every day of the year, and is embodied in every detail of living – in personal relationships, in providing, preparing and partaking of food, in health and in sickness. It is the environment within which the life of the child unfolds.
Love in Family Life
The nature of the family is that it is based on love, is an embodiment of love between several human beings. A family is not made by legal definition; it is based on the love of husband and wife for each other and the love between parents and children. The experience of family love is different from other expressions of love. It is essential in the sense that – unlike romantic love or devotion to some cause, that demand proclamation and explanation in words – family love does not have to be consciously verbalized. Furthermore, it is a universal experience, because every human being belongs to some kind of family.
The Christian concept of a family and of family love has a special character. It is similar to the Trinitarian concept of God: a human being cannot exist completely by itself. It becomes fully human within a relationship of love with other human beings. Such a relationship can be violated – human beings may not love each other, parents may not love their children, children may not love their parents – but lack of love is always a violation of the true nature of the family.
Husband and wife relationship
The husband-wife relationship is very different from the romantic period of ‘being in love’. As much as romance is very important in a relationship, in the husband-wife relationship each one of the partners gives up his or her ‘selfness.’ One person becomes only a part of the new unity. In order to be happy, both of them have to be happy; if one is unhappy, both are. O decision can be isolated one. The hurts of the other person mean as much as your own hurts. Whatever you do, the other is involved. In a very real sense in marriage two become one.
The difficulty of the relationship is that loving is not the same as liking. There are always traits and qualities that a couple dislikes within each other. It may be arrogance or laziness, talkativeness or impatience, some habits and tastes inherited from one’s former family, some superficial mannerisms. There are circumstances in which a husband and wife simply get on each other’s nerves. How does on then deal in love with traits one dislikes? This abrasive nature of the married life is what one might call its ‘askesis,’ and experienced monks say that the ascetic effort of married life is greater than that of a monk in a monastic community. In other social groups you can avoid a person who has irritating traits. You can control yourself and put up with another’s exasperating traits for a limited time; but in a family there is no way of isolating yourself. Such as you are, you have to come to terms with the other members of your family as they are. A Christian family comes into being only when the ‘coming of terms’ is a true incarnation of Christian faith, hope and love.
Chapter 13 of the First Epistle to the Corinthians remains forever the most helpful and practical manual of love in human relationships. The effort to apply this kind of love, the constant effort to deal in this spirit with the thousands of aggravating difficulties in our daily relations goes on throughout the long years of every Christian marriage. Love does not exclude anger. Something is wrong with your love if you are never angry. Precisely because a husband or a wife has a lover’s vision of his or her partner as a person who is worth loving, anything that destroys this vision cannot leave that person indifferent. Anger rooted in love is a necessary element in husband-wife relationships; marriage is not a ‘society of mutual admiration.’ There is nothing wrong in a certain fear of one’s spouse’s anger. In a