The family is one of the oldest institutions of the human race. In its varied forms it has existed among all human societies, ancient, modern and post-modern. The family was seen as a foundational, fundamental and essential institution for the existence, survival and progress of all societies. Is family still relevant to modern life? What should a true family be like? Is it God’s will that every person should be raised in a family? Why are many families failing themselves and society today? What happens if family life is disregarded in any society? I therefore propose a series to consider the fundamental role and functions of family life for human societies. Some of the above questions will be attended to in the treatment of the series.
The series will proceed as follow: the introductory article will seek to define family and its intended purpose. The second will consider the essential elements of family life. In the third article the essential role and functions of the husband/father will be highlighted. The fourth article will delve into the essential role and functions of the wife/mother in the family. The thrust of the fifth article will be the place and functions of the children for the health of the family. The sixth article will focus on the necessity of the family for every person. And the seventh and concluding article will zero in on the indispensable role of the family in the life of every society.
What then is the family and its purpose? There are many definitions of family depending on different cultures and times. Any group of persons related to each may be called a family; a group of people of common ancestry or all persons living under one head or a household. A group that has common convictions, beliefs and practices can be said to be a family like the Church family or the Old Timers Association (a football team in Liberia) family. In many western societies the family is nuclear. The nuclear family is small, consisting of the husband, wife and children. The extended family, widely found in Africa and a few other parts of the globe, consists of husband, wife, children, aunts, uncles, parents of both partners and other relatives.
Whatever form it takes the family in all societies is meant to be a haven away from the often harsh and hostile world around. God established the family in creation for the greater good of each and every member of the family (Genesis 2:18). The family is supposed to teach one the basis of all human existence, love and what it provides: protection, care, provision of basic needs, correction, training of how to live in peace with self and others, and one’s responsibility to the family and the wider society.
The family is the ideal condition and environment for the raising up of children. Husband and wife are to rule with fairness to all and lead by positive examples of setting and demonstrating the principles of honesty, hard work, service for the good of self, family and others, and instilling cardinal virtues such as acknowledging God as the Creator and thus Source of one’s being and all that one has: “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it; the world and those who live therein” (Psalm 24:1), trust and trustworthiness, and commitment and faithfulness to what is required.
The family is the basic unit of society. Someone has likened it to a house and its building blocks. The house is as strong as the blocks it is made up of. If the blocks are solid and durable the house will be strong and lasting. We have a situation in Liberia now a days wherein most of our houses are made up of blocks that are of by far inferior quality (less cement and much more sand). As a result they often crack and crumble before storms and other forces of both nature and human causes. They are a lot easier to break down than the older structures built in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s. The difference is the kinds of blocks used in constructing.
Likewise Abraham Lincoln once asserted that a nation is as strong as its families are. If we want a strong and healthy society and nation we have to concentrate on building good families which are raised up on godly principles of the fear (reverence) of God and love of self and the neighbor. It is simply about obeying in practice the golden rule of “do to others as you would have them to do to you” (Matthew 7:12). It is about respecting and protecting the rights of others and being God-conscious and influenced at all times.
What we have set forth above, of course, is the ideal. The reality is that many families are far from these ideal. They are in serious trouble and dysfunctional in acute ways. Subsequent articles will identify the root causes of some of the chronic family problems and seek to advance some ways to remedy them.