Family The Training Ground

Beware of the spiritual generation gap among our children.

Any role of leadership in society, whether social, economic, political or religious would have its root in the hearth of the family, without which it is impossible to exercise any authority. We are fundamentally what we are at home. We act and react the way we do so at home. Family is the training ground for a child’s future leadership in the larger society. When he is denied such role at home, the consequence would be disastrous with various chaos, pandemonium, unrest and violence in the wider society.

The society reflects its face back to its inception at home. What is denied at home cannot be compensated in the social role nor be ‘made up’ elsewhere. None can give what he does not possess at home. Or else one has ‘to act as another’, wearing a mask of artificiality all through one’s life and begin to divest and distance oneself from the real self. To such type of ‘artificiality’ the word of God asks: “why do you pretend to be another?” (I Kg 14:6). In pretension, the inner growth is stagnant and personality would be warped unable to face realities. “Self-alienation” would be the end product of long-range domestic disorder.

Leadership in the Bible

Bible has offered many personalities who have developed their leadership qualities in the hearth and warmth of their homes and under the tutelage of their parents. Gideon although ‘afraid of his family’ did pull down the altar of Baal at night (Judges 6:25-27). Jephthah the Gileadite was mighty warrior but he was the son of a harlot and he lost the property of his family. The prophets Haggai and Zechariah were of no exception; they were brought up by their faith-filled families (Ezra 5:1-5).

St. Paul advised the parents to ‘bring up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.’ “Discipline your son” says Sirach (30:13) “and take pains with him.” “Do not withhold discipline from a child” (Prov. 23:13). The father who is the head and the leader of the family would find it easy to train future leaders of the society in order to shape its destiny.

Leadership in the Family

St. Paul was straight forward when he spoke about the men leadership in the family; “He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way – for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?” (I Tim 3:4-5). Paul demanded that the church leader be exemplary in controlling his own family. He was to raise children known for their obedience and morally upright behavior. The verb for ‘manage’ carries the idea of governing, conducting, leading and giving direction to the family. The term demands an effective exercise of authority fostered by a character of integrity and sensitive compassion. In the context of the family life, the term implies that the father demands ‘respect and devotion’ from his children by his holy and dignified way of life.

For the father to see ‘that his children obey him’, demands primarily a character and manner of discipline that develop a natural respect. The passage assumes that the leader is married and knows how to blend authority and compassion so skillfully in the training of his children.

The development of proper leadership skills in the home was a pre-requisite for using them in the Church. Paul’s reference to the Church as ‘God’s household’ (I Tim 3:15) underscores the close relationship between the Church and home. Hundreds of ‘domestic churches’ would establish a parish church or a local Christian community. Basically our actions and behaviour patterns of the ‘household church’ would be reflected in the bigger church called the ‘parish’ or the diocese.

Foresight in the Family

St. Paul has reprimanded certain families which neglected their own needy members. ‘And whoever does not provide for relatives, and especially for family members, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (I Tim 5:8). To ‘provide’ involves ‘foreseeing’ and planning for the future needs of dependents. St. Paul suggested that a believer has an inalienable duty to care for all the needy relatives, especially for ‘those under his own roof.’ Anyone who does not provide such care has denied the faith. Such denial is an egregious failure that mutes a claim to Christian piety.

Leadership qualities whether social or religious are not always inborn, but created by human efforts. Family and its healthy environment would be conductive to inculcate the skills needed to develop the potential qualities within. We see in the animal world that they train rigorously their younger ones in order to equip them to catch the prey. So too, in the human society, we need to impart to our children effective leadership qualities. This training has to be done at home.

For, home is the first and primary school of life and it is the inalienable right for the parents to impart perennial and traditional values to the coming generations of humanity. Or else what happened to the Israelites might occur again. “There arose another generation after them, who did not know the Lord or the work which he had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10). We notice the ‘generation gap’ widening due to the absence of effective family catechesis. The spiritual generation gap is worse than the temporal one. Our children’s secular knowledge far exceeds their religious knowledge.

Lord Jesus, we invite you into our homes today. As you entered the house and rooms of the ruler, come into our homes and put out all the tumults of our families. May your divine words echo in our homes too: “Today salvation has come to this house.”

– – – written by Fr. J. Eapan SDB