Paul tells us that the family is a sacred institution ordained by God. Because of this, it must be kept in mutual love and nutured in respect among its members. According to St. Paul, a Christian family is an ideal family. All rights and obligations are to be observed as if God is the head of the family. There are certain roles assigned to each individual family member. Some of these are:
(i) Wives must be submissive to their husbands for God has commanded that the husband is the head of the family as Jesus Christ is the head of the church.
(ii) The submissiveness of wives to their husbands must be reciprocated by their husbands with love. A husband must love his wife as Christ loves us. Wives should not be subjected to harsh treatment for they are not slaves,
(iii) Children should obey their parents for God had commanded it, “honour your father and mother that thy days may be long on earth”.
(iv) Parents are advised (warned) not to do anything that may provoke their children. Parents should love and care for their children. As Christians, they should bring them up to fear God. Parents are to make their homes as places of moral instructions. Some parents’ failure to bring their children up morally nowadays has contributed to high rate of crime and juvenile delinquency.
(v) Slaves must serve their masters as if they are serving God.
Three areas in which families have deviated from these teachings are:
(i) According to Paul’s injunction, wives are to be treated equally with their husbands. But African ways of life do not support this and it is a deviation from the teaching. African husbands keep absolute monopoly of wisdom and rights. They are not just heads, but absolute heads. To a large extent any decision taken by African husbands as the heads cannot be challenged by their wives.
(ii) Paul warns parents to take care of their children and bring them up in the fear of God. But the present day socio-economic situations have led the parents to abandon their responsibilities to the children. It is extremely impossible for some parents to see to the general upbringing of their children nowadays.
(iii) In many marriages today, the love that once brought the couple together is growing cold. Wives no longer respect their husbands, neither do husbands love their wives. Love is the strong foundation upon which the family is built. When a husband and wife move in opposite direction because of love of material things, the foundation of the family becomes weak.