The Mind of Christ at the Heart of the Family
by Michael McFatridge
N

ot long ago I sat comfortably in a quiet corporate office furnished and arranged just for me. My career in marketing had risen to a peak as a director for one of the largest Christian television networks in the world. The stress was high, but so was the salary. Even though most of my time was spent at the office, I had a happy wife at home with our adorable 6-month- old son.

Things were going well except for one issue: God was calling me to leave.

I wrestled with the selfishness of the decision. Leaving would mean a much-needed rest from the whirlwind of crisis management I had undertaken on the job. It would also mean my wife moving into the field of nursing sooner than expected so I could pursue a master’s degree and full-time ministry. I would be home while she sacrificed.

There would also be freedom in self-employment as I would spend most of the summer enjoying time with my son. The plan was simple: run a home business while going to school, seek God’s call on my life, and make family important again.

To my surprise, my wife selflessly agreed to make the move. But what followed was a swift blow from the clenched fist of reality.

Reality Check

“Peace” wasn’t so peaceful after all. The calm, napping baby I had seen my wife holding every evening made a sudden about-face. No one told me how quickly my son would evolve from needing a periodic diaper change and bottle to scaling tall bookshelves in my office. I found it difficult to complete a sentence without finding something valuable in his hands. And then he learned to flee the scene of the crime using the newfound skill of walking. I rued the day I had left my job.

In a matter of weeks, my wife’s new career had proved to be just as unpredictable. She had accepted a job providing health care in strangers’ homes. It supported the family, but was far from ideal. She came home every night with stories about somewhat unsafe and downright disgusting situations.

Then came a momentary collapse of the income that would have supported my dream of education. Business was not coming in, and freedom turned to worry.

Our plans of peace had somehow turned into an environment of chaos, where so many families live today.

Not Alone

An estimated one-third of American marriages ends in divorce (The Barna Group, 2008). We can only cringe at thinking how a poor economy might push those numbers even higher. Financial instability, an ever-increasing unemployment rate, and a general lack of hope will hit pressure points of any marriage. And the effects of this stress do not stop there. Sad statistics show us how children are struggling with the plight of their parents.

If you live in this stressful place with the rest of us, a strategy for navigating these unsteady waters can be found in Philippians 2:5, where Paul urges the Philippian church to have the “mind of Christ”—that is to say, model the philosophy of life that Christ lived. Whether you are transitioning to a new career, trying to be a patient father, or facing an uncertain economy, approach life with this way of thinking.

From the surrounding scriptures, we are given a description of what a Christlike attitude looks like in practical terms for the family.

Live in unity.

The Holy Spirit calls us to be “like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (v. 2 NKJV). It is infinitely important that my family (and yours) communicate about the direction we are headed, hear concerns and fears with an open heart, and then seek a unified direction from the Holy Spirit. In a family of any size, a successful journey is only possible when all members are moving in the same direction.

I am a creative problem solver, so I tend to think my way through life. But this kind of unity begins with prayer. Rather than solving issues on our own, we must make sure we are “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2 ESV), and not to ourselves as saviors. When we choose to follow God’s direction rather than our own creative answers, everyone involved can be confident that God is sovereign in His solutions. We must be unified in following Him.

Live selflessly.

Christ is the ultimate example of humility in His approach to relationships. Of anyone who ever lived, He could have claimed the right to make demands of the people around Him. But no—“He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8 NKJV).

When we put the mind of Christ at the heart of the family unit, we consider
humility the priority. Our spouse and children suddenly become more important than our own goals for the future, and our very existence will be laid down for the necessities of their lives. This is our calling—to elevate the interests of others above our own (v. 3).

Redefine “success.”

At times, it is very tempting to return to corporate life for the sake of selfish peace—there would be no toddlers demanding to be chased in and out of my office. In theory, I could accomplish more. But while culture around us is driven by corporate success and checking off items from a to-do list, Christ’s mind in us redefines success in the family.

Christ accomplished His mission, but not without enduring the punishment and brutal death of the cross. His calling was to glorify God through sacrifice. Our families can see fulfillment by following this example, as there is only one ultimate success as defined by Christ’s selfless actions—the glory of God.

As our families wait patiently for God’s direction, we are held stable by an intense desire to see God glorified in us. Through single-mindedness and humility, we will prevail despite the chaos of rowdy children, selfish goals, and inevitable change.

As I write, there are deadlines to be met. My wife and I are patiently discussing the possibilities of even more transition in the coming months. My sleeping son has left my office in a disastrous pile of scattered toys, textbooks, and damaged personal items. But Christ’s presence within is leading me to use this quiet moment to prepare myself for whatever is ahead.