Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity… Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
Our family is pretty tight. When I do pre-marital counseling with couples, one exercise examines the “closeness” and “flexibility” of their family structures. Our family would probably score pretty high on the “closeness” vector. We have dinner together at the table every night but Wed. when we are at church and have for our 22 years of marriage. As the kids have aged, they often have to miss a meal, but never when they are available. At that meal, we share our days and thoughts together. Vacations have been family-only, rather than bringing friends along, and while we fight like every family, we have never stayed mad for long.
When a family member is in need, be it financially, emotionally, or physically, we are there for each other. And according to this passage, that’s the way it should be. In fact, this isn’t a new teaching but is a modernization of the Fifth Commandment, “Honor your father and your mother…” While we continually teach that this means being respectful and kind to our parents, it is far more about caring for them in old age, since there were no other alternatives in OT Jewish culture. But this passage goes beyond that.
Paul widens the family pool by first telling us to treat older men as fathers, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters. Within the family of God, everyone is family, and so we have a duty to care for everyone within the family of God. Is there a “family member” in your church who needs your help? How might you show your love for God by honoring them with the help they need?
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