So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).

The author of Genesis speaks about the dignity and value of each person as he makes the point that we are made in the image and likeness of God. To be made in God’s image describes our unique relationship with God which confers a special dignity on persons which has implications for the way we treat each other. To be made in the image of God means we are persons and not things to be used and then discarded. As such anything that violates our personhood and robs us of our dignity, freedom and self- worth, cannot be condoned or encouraged. Violence in families is an entity that robs us of our dignity and worth.

As we observe Home and Family Week I would like to draw your attention to the problem of violence which affects many of our families. As part of its programme for 2012 and beyond, the Social Responsibility Commission is addressing the issue of family violence and invites all members of our church to work and pray for the eradication of all forms of violence from our families.

It is God’s will and that we live in families and experience a quality family life that aids our physical, mental and social development. Jesus shared the life and intimacy of an earthly home at Nazareth; it should not be surprising that concepts of the family are used to signify the relationship between Christ and his church.

The Lambeth Conference 1930 said: “The beauty of family life is one of God’s most precious gifts, and its preservation is a paramount responsibility of the Church.” Not only is it a gift from God it is one of the most important social institutions and anything that threatens its stability must be condemned and denounced. Violence is one such evil that compromises the stability of our families and endangers their place and role in the society. Violence robs family members of their value, honour, self-respect and self-esteem.

Violence in families must be seen in a broad context and be not limited just to physical violence. There is physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, psychological, economic and others forms of violence that have a negative effect on family life.

There is a false belief which associates violence in families with the poor. This is far from the truth and it is not to be encouraged. Violence in families is found in all social groups; it affects rich and poor, blacks and whites, Christians and non-Christians, people from all socio-economic and cultural back grounds, people in heterosexual and homosexual relationship, it knows no boundaries.

We act violently against family members when we engage in physical, sexual, mental and verbal abuse. Spouses act violently against their partners when they take part in acts of infidelity. We act violently against our families when we fail to make adequate provision for their material needs. We act violently against our families when we abuse and fail to support our children and leave them to the mercy of others. We act violently against our families when we neglect the aged, rob them of their money and possessions and leave them to live a life of misery. We act violently against our families when we are disrespectful to our spouses, parents, children and siblings. We act violently against our families when we refuse to care for our parents in their old age. We act violently against our families when we do anything that causes them to experience pain or hurt. Family violence hurts the whole family.

If we accept that what happens in our homes and family life will be taken by their members into the wider society, persons raised in violent families will take such behaviour into the community. Maybe, the violence and some of the deviant behaviours which we are experiencing in our communities and the wider region have their Genesis in family violence.

Why are we to abhor violence in the family? It undermines the Christian understanding that we are persons made in God’s image and not things to be abused. It devalues the worth of its victims; it robs family members of their dignity and affects our relationships. Violence of any kind in our families causes untold pain and discomfort. It has a negative effect on the physical and mental health of family members. There is no place for violence of any kind in our families.

One of the most common forms of violence in families is the abuse of women by men. Such behaviour is unacceptable and scripture frowns on such practices linked to outdated beliefs that women are inferior to men and owned by men. Scripture does not support this thinking; it challenges men to respect, love and honour their spouses:

In the same way, you husbands must give honour to your wives. Treat her with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God's gift of new life. If you don't treat her as you should, your prayers will not be heard (1 Peter 3:7)

The violence of child abuse is also strongly denounced in the biblical writings:

“And now a word to you fathers. Don't make your children angry by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction approved by the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4 NLT).

Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged (Colossians 3:21, RSV).

Persons who live in violent family settings should not accept it as the norm. No one has the right to abuse you.

Part of our stewardship responsibility is to ensure that our families exist in an environment of peace. For this to happen our families must be built on love. “Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7).

Today we ask God to bless our homes and families with a love that would help us to practice self-restraint and self-control. We must embrace a love that fosters compassion, mercy, tolerance, respect, forgiveness, reconciliation, patience and good-will. When we allow this kind of love to season our relationships, violence in families will go away. St. Paul aptly describes the content of this love:

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends (1 Corinthians 13: 4-8)

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