Extending Love

There was a time when extended family met the needs of a person in crisis. Those were the farm communities that built America to become what it is today. When a couple or a mom had a need it was her brothers and sisters, her aunts and uncles and her parents who helped her through difficult times. The people who loved her sacrificially, loved her through the hard times. When a father was no longer present at home, the extended family pitched in to help out. It was the natural thing to do. They lived right there in the same neighborhood. In the home where the farmer was missing, extended family brought in the harvest that year. For thousands of years extended family supplied the needs and society’s answer for many of the difficulties faced in the father absent home. Just when did all this change? How did we move from family helping family, to government helping families in need? At the turn of the century, the role of provider moved from the church and an individual’s family to the government.

The writings of Charles Dickens remind us that government has always been involved in assisting families in need, but the poor houses were always a last resort. A person’s family or the church usually stepped in to help so as to avoid sending a loved one to the poor houses. The industrial revolution and two world wars caused people to move away from the family farm and away from extended family. The Great Depression caused the need to be so great that churches alone could not bear the load. Government assistance programs had to be created to help families in need.

Families moved away from extended family, and the government stepped in. But, it is not working. Money alone is not the answer. There is a need for resources coupled with guidance and love. It is time for the church to once again become involved in helping people in need. It is time for the church to come back into the picture and act as the new “Extending Family” – the family of God extending its hand to help hurting families.

This family of God is not necessarily the institution of the church, but rather the individuals who make up the church. It is time for Christians to reach out and become extending families to the people in need around them. It is time for families to develop the concept of looking around, of becoming needs assessors. It is time for us to teach our children to give to others rather than get from everyone.

The single parent household is once again in need, and there is an answer. The answer must come from other families -families that will come alongside the single parent household. No longer repairing the barn but repairing the car; no longer to help plant the fields but to help pay the bills; not so much to share in the harvest but to share our abundance.

It is time for families to be the ones to reach out to other families, and to do it in the name of Christ. That is the only solution that will help bring children and families back together. We must teach the next generation to look for the families who are hurting and “lying along the side of the road of life” (Luke 10:30). Extending a hand rather than walking past the need. The father-absent home needs our help, and we have the answer. But it all starts with a willingness be get involved.

There is a story of a small village in France that was rebuilding after the bombings of World War II. Their most prized possession was a beautiful statue of Christ in the village square. Explosions had blown the hands off their statue. The people met to talk about which artist to hire in order to repair the hands of their statue. Discussions ended when one man suggested that they leave the statue just the way it was to remind them that they are supposed to be the hands of Christ!

Dr. Robert Barnes is the president of Sheridan House Family Ministries. He and his wife, Rosemary, are authors and speakers on marriage and family issues. To learn more about Pastor Bob Barnes, go to www.sheridanhouse.org.

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