Last weekend, as an introduction to City Harvest Church’s inaugural CityFamilies (CFAM) Conference this week, senior pastor Kong Hee taught the church four elements that a healthy family should possess.
Kong Hee, senior pastor of City Harvest Church began his sermon on the weekend of 30 and 31 July by reminding the church of the relationship between the Persons of the Holy Trinity. “He is a God Who exists in relationships—Father, Son and Holy Spirit do everything as a divine family.”
As a lead-up to CHC’s first ever CFAM conference happening from 4 to 7 Aug, the senior pastor taught on four key elements that make for a healthy, happy Christian family. He reminded the congregation that God wants them to navigate their familial relationships in a godly manner.
Quoting Genesis 1:26, Pastor Kong told the people that God Himself models for them what a family should look like through these four things:
“At the core (of the relationship) is the covenant,” Pastor Kong said. “Covenant love is the starting point of every family.”
He cited from the Bible three instances where God made covenants with men: with Noah in Genesis 6:18, with Abraham in Genesis 17:2 and Jesus made a new covenant with all believers in Luke 22:20.
Pastor Kong emphasised that a covenant is the basis of every familial relationship. “A covenant is not a contract,” he explained. “A contract works on self-benefit.”
On the other hand, a covenant works on unconditional love, for example, God pursued the Israelites in spite of them turning away from Him. Love means unconditional commitment, even when there is no perceived benefit to oneself, and even when the other person does not keep his side of the bargain.
“We see this in Hosea,” Pastor Kong noted. “Even when Israel turned away from God, He still pursued them with a love that never gave up. A love that patiently waits for Israel to respond, to come back.”
Likewise, marriage is a covenant. Unfortunately, many people treat marriages like contracts that can be broken when their needs are not met. Pastor Kong encouraged the congregation to stay committed in their relationships even when their needs are not met and to trust God that He would take care of everything that is lacking.
“From the foundation of covenant flows grace,” Pastor Kong said. Grace is unmerited favour, he explained, encouraging the church to show others the same mercy and forgiveness that God has shown them, even when those people may not deserve it.
“Without grace, there is no possibility for happiness or joy in any relationship,” he added. “God wants every family, every home to be filled with an atmosphere of grace, not law.”
The pastor went on to explain that if the rules are too strict and rigid in a family and there is no room for mistakes, there will be no freedom, no happiness and no joy. Having grace means that there is mercy and forgiveness in the family.
He reminded the congregation that as Christians, they should be forgiving and merciful because God has done the same for them. Only in an atmosphere of grace can the Holy Spirit work to bring healing and restoration to the family.
Empowerment is enabling another person, equipping them, strengthening them, building them up and helping them grow. The Bible teaches that Christians should honour the people they want to influence. Pastor Kong noted that his job as a husband and father is to empower his wife and his son. This means to encourage Sun, his wife, and to model for her what it means to be more like Jesus. Similarly, Sun’s job as his wife is to empower him to help him become better, and stronger, to inspire him to reach greater heights.
The pastor listed two things that should be avoided in order to empower one another. One, one cannot exercise control, force or coercion. This is especially important for parents because forcing their children to obey out of fear often backfires.
He gave the example of the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. “The father is good because he never controls his two sons,” Pastor Kong pointed out. The father allowed his younger son to make mistakes and experience the consequences of his bad decisions, then he waited for him to come back to his senses.
Jesus told that story to show His disciples how loving Father God is, and how Christian parenting ought to be. “The father remains loving, gracious and empowering,” he emphasised. “Love is never controlling, but empowering.”
He encouraged the parents in the congregation to learn to release their children and allow them to learn self-control. Just as God allows His children to learn from their mistakes, parents should do the same for their children.
In order to empower one another, the second thing to avoid is co-dependency, said Pastor Kong. This means that one party should not rely on the other excessively. He highlighted that having needs and being needy are two different things: “You can’t empower anyone if you are needy and clingy.”
While the church tries to meet the needs of its members, it can only be to a certain reasonable degree. “Most of our needs should be met by Jesus,” the pastor explained. A needy person first needs to learn how to allow Jesus to fill his emptiness and satisfy his soul before he can empower someone else.
Pastor Kong encouraged singles in the church to first find love and value in God before getting into a relationship. This is because the more emotionally and mentally whole they are, the fewer problems they bring into their future marriage.
Reading Ecclesiastes 4:9-11, he taught that a healthy marriage is when two people come together in an equal relationship, one that is neither controlling nor overly dependent. With God in the centre, husband and wife form a three-fold cord that is not easily broken.
Empowerment leads to intimacy. This applies especially to marriage. “Intimacy means you can relate to one another without any pretence because there is no shame,” Pastor Kong elaborated.
“When a family is built on covenant love, and family members experience grace and empowerment flowing out of that love, they will express themselves freely and intimacy will develop,” he taught. These four elements are a continual process that leads to a mature relationship. It is also God’s will for every Christian family, said the pastor.
IS MARRIAGE STILL RELEVANT?
Pastor Kong made a bold statement against cohabitation before marriage. He explained that cohabitation only became a cultural phenomenon in the mid-1960s. Couples who live together before marriage claim that they do so in order to find out if they are compatible with their partner before they commit to him or her.
Studies done by secular experts have shown that couples that live together before marriage are less likely to commit to the relationship and experience less happiness. They face a higher likelihood of divorce than couples who do not cohabit before marriage.
From a Christian perspective, living together or having sexual intimacy outside of marriage is wrong. The pastor explained that the missing piece in the relationship of couples who co-habit is the lack of a covenant blessing God gives to marriages that will give the union the strength to endure and last a lifetime.
“Deep intimacy can only be built in a covenant,” he stated. Without this covenant, the individual will always hold back in order to protect himself.
The pastor ended his sermon with three pieces of advice to singles who are seeking the right partner. Firstly, look to the Word of God and the Holy Spirit for guidance on who the right partner is. Secondly, individuals should seek advice from their parents or family members. Thirdly, seek wisdom from Christian leaders who can provide godly counsel.
As he concluded his message, Pastor Kong prayed for church members who need God to restore relationships that have grown cold, and for God’s renewed blessing, happiness and joy upon their families.