Radical Love: God’s Design for Strong Families
God’s eternal plan for His church and all of society centers around the stability and nurturing love that strong families provide.
Families are in danger today. With the current pandemic of divorces, increasing secularization of society and the sliding values of contemporary media; families are faced with increasing pressures from within and without. Yet, God’s eternal plan for His church and all of society centers around the stability and nurturing love that strong families provide. God, Himself, is described in the Sacred Scriptures as a loving Father (Isaiah 63:16) and we are called His children (John 1:12), part of His family of faith (Galatians 6:10). In the Scriptures, God’s love as eternal Father is described with the Hebrew word “Hesed” – a Biblical construct that communicates more than love, it shows us a pattern for building resilient and stable families.
The Hebrew word “Hesed” is a rich and descriptive word that describes radical love, mercy and active kindness: “Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love (Hesed)” (Micah 7:18 ESV). “Hesed” is used in the Hebrew Scriptures to denote covenantal commitment, eternal mercy and unfailing love – in short: it is to love as God loves. In a world where love has become a cheap word of expediency, “Hesed” speaks of a live-long commitment of mercy and stable love – the kind of godly love that grounds families in mutual kindness and commitment. It is for this reason that God places us in families where we are able to learn to love, forgive and have mercy like our eternal Father.
God’s “Hesed” is often translated in the Scriptures as “steadfast love”: “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalm 107:1 ESV). Applied to families, “Hesed” provokes us to seek the good of every member of our familial unit, to actively love (not only in words but with deeds) and to commit to one another with this radical love that “endures forever”. It is this steadfast commitment to one another that creates the stable ground for families to flourish.
God’s “Hesed” also speaks of His loyalty to His children: “… but showing steadfast love (Hesed) to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:6 ESV). Families that seek to maintain this commitment of radical love and active kindness are known for their loyalty to one another. They demonstrate active commitment and steadfast loyalty in the following ways:
1. Attitudinal loyalty: They aim to see one other through the eyes of God’s grace and love. They model forgiveness, restoration and grace. They make the family the locus of forgiving healing and stabilizing commitment.
2. Verbal loyalty: They season their words with kindness and gentleness. They speak God’s words of possibility and hope. They place a guard over the mouths and practice the age-old discipline of being quick to hear and slow to speak.
3. Spiritual loyalty: They seek God’s best for one another and therefore make prayer the central discipline of their families. The aim is to understand and support God’s plan for each member of the family. The spiritual growth of each member becomes the main focus of these strong families.
4. Heart loyalty: Loyalty means to love those that God has placed within our families. Healthy families seek to keep their hearts pure from defilement and dangerous attachments from outside. They place each member not only in the care of our Eternal Father, but treasure them and keep them central in their inner affections and dreams for the future.
5. Consistent loyalty: True loyalty is not fleeting in nature, but rather consistent and life-long. What makes a family strong are the life-long vows of love and care that are communicated in the sacred act of marriage and the inherent nature of a healthy relationship between parent and child. Strong families are committed to one another for as long as they live.
To practice “Hesed” within our families is to love as God loves. Psalm 128, one of the Psalms of Ascent, describes four progressive blessings of this active imitation of the “Hesed” of God; “Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways!” (Psalm 128:1 ESV, emphasis mine):
1. Vocational joy and success: “You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you” (Ps 128:2 ESV).
2. Role clarity and healthy growth: “Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table” (Ps 128:3 ESV).
3. Godly blessings and live-long prosperity: “The LORD bless you from Zion! May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life!” (Ps 128:5 ESV).
4. A long life of peace and the promise of a heritage: “May you see your children’s children! Peace be upon Israel!” (Ps 128:6 ESV).
May we all be so taken with the active love, steadfast mercy and eternal kindness of our Heavenly Father that we will practice this within the bounds of our families – so that in turn we can become strong families of radical love.
Prayer for families:
“Dear Lord and Father,
our family needs You to heal us from our sufferings
and reunite our hearts in love.
The harshness of words can cause sorrow and pain.
The responsibilities of daily life can cause anxiety and distress.
The crosses that each member of our family carries are heavy.
We need Your presence to be our strength, our patience,
and courage and understanding.
Lord, when we have wronged one another,
let us come forward with humble hearts
and when we have been wronged let us forgive unconditionally.
we cannot fathom the loyalty You have shown to us
in sending Your Son to die for us
and adopting us as Your own.
By the power of Your Holy Spirit
help us to show the same loyalty to You
and to those whom You have placed in our lives;
for we ask it in Jesus’ name.
Dr. Corné Bekker joined Regent University in 2005. He was appointed as the Dean of the School of Divinity at Regent University in December 2015. He is the 2010 recipient of the Chancellor’s Award at Regent University for outstanding scholarship, teaching, and service. He has also served as an extraordinary professor for the Research Unit for Reformed Theology at the Northwest University in South Africa. When asked, he describes himself as a sinner saved by grace, a follower of Christ, a husband, and a father.