The Bearden family, long time West Angeles members.
There couldn’t be a better time than now for a renewed focus on strengthening and celebrating the Christian family. Did you know that 78 percent of Americans still identify as Christian, and the numbers are even higher for African Americans? After decades of unparalleled trials, triumphs, and tests, we now know that regaining our stride as a community and as a nation requires a reaffirmation of our faith and of our beliefs. For African American Christians in particular, this couldn’t be truer.
OUR HISTORY, OUR PRESENT, OUR FUTURE
Historically, Biblical values, marriage, family, and generational ties were the foundations of cultures in Africa and Europe. Even after being denied the right to marry during generations of slavery, Americans of African descent married after emancipation, exceeding the marriage rates of white Americans. Decades later, those strong family bonds helped African Americans and Americans of all colors make historic strides during the Post World War – Civil Rights Era.
Fast forward to the new millennium, however, and we’re now a generation that’s questioned or walked away from our beliefs and traditions in favor of society’s trends and movements. We have been thrown off track, landing many of us in worse shape than our parents: or even our grandparents.
But there’s no triumph without a trial, and if you’re ready to breathe renewed life into your family and into your future, it’s time to get back on track by:
1. Making Christ the center of your family life – (Ephesians 6:13). The common denominator among strong civilizations is a common spiritual belief. America may have certainly made changes to many of its practices over the centuries, but it still remains a nation with an overwhelming Christian majority. Yet, while those of other faiths stand firm in their beliefs, we Christians have seen – and allowed – more challenges to derail our beliefs than any other religion. Ephesians 6:13 tells us to “put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground.” And as past generations have proven, the only way for us to thrive during unstable times is to stand by the principles of our faith.
2. Putting the marriage first – (Ephesians 5:22-32). Whenever we travel by plane, one of the first things the flight attendants tell us is that if there is trouble or turbulence, put on your own oxygen mask or life vest before helping others. The same goes for a marriage. The husband and wife – not career, money, possessions or even the children – are the core of the family. Show love and affection toward each other and attend to each others’ needs. Continue to grow as individuals and as a couple, and always keep your relationship new, exciting and alive. Joined by God, a husband and wife create a supernatural bond that knows no bounds. And the good news is, marriage is on the rise !
3. Guarding your heart, mind, and ears – (Philippians 4:8). Staying focused on the Word, using discernment when deciphering society’s trends, limiting media intake, and surrounding yourselves and your family with like-minded people are important ways to maintain strength and focus as a Christian family. For example, studies show that you’re 75 percent more likely to become divorced if you spend most of your time observing and taking advice from friends and family who are divorced .
4. Preparing your children to serve – (Mark 12:30-31). Cultivate their walk in their God-given purpose – not their wants or desires as promoted by society. Teach them the importance of giving back, and of becoming global citizens (read more on raising strong children here).
5. Doing things together as a family – (Proverbs 22:6). Whether through meals, vacations, charitable and leisure activities, a family enterprise, or worship: spending quality time together as a family is key. And as the saying goes, “The family that prays together, stays together .”
6. Having faith in faith – (1 Peter 2:9). For centuries we’ve overcome trials by summoning faith in Christ. But in modern times, many have turned their backs on faith, thinking that we’ve somehow “evolved” beyond a need for Jesus’ strength. True strength is found in “walking the walk,” having the courage to live by your beliefs, and by being the first example of how your children should live. Being a Christian isn’t ‘weird’, but special. Living the principles of our faith makes us examples of God’s goodness.
7. Creating a ‘Vision Statement’ for your family – (Habakkuk 2:2). Call a family meeting to create a mission statement for your family’s future, and write down your process and your results. Having a mission statement keeps everyone focused on ultimate goals and on “the big picture,” not on the quick fix or the big gamble. Another great idea is to adopt a family scripture, as the Bradley family discusses here.
8. Creating your “Village” – (Ecclesiastes 4:12). As the old Yoruban proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Multi-generational families are making a comeback. We honor the wisdom of the elders to keep us firmly rooted in our faith, our traditions, and our past triumphs, as well as to project a vision for our future. Your village may include trusted friends and your church family, as well as blood relatives. Put the well-being of the family first while setting limits. Discipline is a biblical principle (Proverbs 13:24); allow the wisdom of God to protect your family.
The truth is, marriage and family are central themes in the Christian faith, and they’re also symbolic of the church. To each other, we are brethren, fathers, brothers, sisters, and as a unit, we are the “household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).
By far, more people claim Christianity as their faith than any other religion in the world, yet no other faith on earth has experienced the level of challenges – or triumphs – that belief in the power of Jesus has. Work hard to maintain your focus on faith, and believe that the strength of your marriage and your family is one of God’s secret weapons of prosperity.
SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES: 1 Peter 2:9, Deuteronomy 18:9, Jeremiah 10:2, Joshua 24:15, Ephesians 4:5-7, 5:22-32, 6:13; Ecclesiastes 4:12, Galatians 6:10, James 1:12, Proverbs 22:6, 13:24; Habakkuk 2:2, 1 Peter 2:9, Mark 12:30-31.
Karen Lascaris is the author of “In Our Own Image: Treasured African American Traditions, Journeys, and Icons”, the first visual document of black family, social and cultural history in America from World War II to the present. She is a regular contributor to Westa.org.