What does Christianity say about family life?

Christians believe that children should be brought up in a loving and supportive family, founded on marriage and that the Church should be a model of family life.

Roles of men and women

Jesus and early Christians lived in a male-dominated society and the Bible reflects this. The belief that men and women should have different roles is still common in some Christian communities today. This is because they believe that God made men and women differently.

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Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.St Paul's letter to the Ephesians 5:21-22

Other Christians believe that men and women were both made in the image of God and should be treated equally – they should share responsibilities and privileges.

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There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.St Paul's letter to the Galatians 3:28

Many Catholics believe husbands and wives should respect each other's roles within a marriage and value both equally. These roles include those of care within the home, and that of earning money to provide for the family.

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Men should truly esteem and love women with total respect for their personal dignity, and society should create and develop conditions favouring work in the home.Pope John Paul II

The book of Genesis gives different accounts of the order of creation of men and women which have been interpreted differently.

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The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’Genesis 2:18

In the Catholic Church only men can become priests and bishops. They have to remain celibate because their position means they are married to the Church and need to be free of family responsibilities to be able to perform their duties fully. Women have different roles in the Catholic Church.

Unordained members, called laymen and laywomen, are equally allowed to help in giving out the Eucharist at Mass, to read and to perform social roles such as visiting the sick.

Nowadays, most Protestant churches allow women to become ministers or priests. In 2014 the Church of England finally voted, after years of debate, to allow women to become bishops and the first women bishops were ordained in 2015.

In many denominations of Christianity, men and women can devote their lives to God by becoming a monk or nun.

Protection and nurture

Christian love is sacrificial. As Jesus demonstrated this by dying on the cross, parents and children are called to make sacrifices for each other. Family is the first place where children can find out about love, companionship and forgiveness. Parents can set children a good example of how to live a Christian life.

Families can play an important role in the community. They can provide support for other families, care for the elderly, and adopt children. Responsibility towards elderly family members is especially important.

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If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.1 Timothy 5:8

Parent and child relationships

Christianity teaches that children should treat their parents with honour and respect. They should consider their parents' wishes and be obedient.

Many Christians believe that children are a gift from God, and that parents have responsibilities towards them that include:

  • caring for them properly
  • teaching them how to live and to accept authority
  • teaching them about God
  • taking them to be baptised and promising to bring them up in a loving home
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Children, obey your parents...Parents, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the instruction of the Lord.Ephesians 6:1-4

Spiritual development

Christian parents play a significant role in the process of spiritual development of children. They have the opportunity to develop a Christian worldview in the child. This can be achieved in different ways. These include:

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These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.Deuteronomy 6:5-6