Churches need Families and Families Need Churches

Christians should champion and defend the family because it serves as foundation for all civic institutions. At this juncture, Christians find great commonality with the advocates of natural law who assert that the family is the foundational building block of society. A quick scan of the Scriptures reveals that the family existed before any other human institution. Adam and Eve walked about the Garden of Eden, petting animals thousands of years before Paul started sailing around the Mediterranean planting churches. Similarly, the philosopher John Locke believed couples mated and formed families long before tribes, cities, and nations began to dot the English countryside. Both worldviews proclaim that the family is the most basic, simple, or natural societal unit. To quote the great Puritan Pastor, Richard Baxter, “The Life of religion, and the welfare and glory of both the Church and the State, depend much on family government and duty.” The family sets the trajectory for both all of society. When family units break down, the church descends into chaos and society falls into anarchy.

Following this thinking many in the church have assumed that the church was birthed out of the family. But while this line of thinking aligns with the naturalistic understanding of the universe, it proves incongruent with narratives of creation, fall, and redemption found in the Scriptures. Christians need to reexamine the purpose of the family in light of the church.

The Fall Reshaped the Family

When God created Adam and Eve, he did not stick them on a desert island. He placed them in the garden of Eden in community with God, indicating that God sustained the family through tabernacling with them. The creation mandate to be fruitful and multiple was a mandate to bring all the earth under the glorious and full rule of God. Adam and Eve were not expanding human society apart from God. They were expanding the tabernacle to encompass the whole earth. In short, they were to turn the globe into a grand church, a grand garden.

Sadly, the first couple never fulfilled their mission. They listened to the snake and plunged the world into death. The effects of Adam and Eve’s sin radical altered every aspect of the natural order from economics to gardening. As expected, the family unit fell under the corruption. In Genesis 3:16, God tells Eve, ““I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.” Redemption could not be found through genetics, marriage, and procreation. A new family was needed.

The Spiritual Family

Jesus came as the new Adam to be the first born of many brothers and sisters. He created a spiritual family that called men and women to be “born again” by the spirit through faith (Jn. 3:7). In Mark 3:35, Jesus defines the spiritual family according to belief proclaiming that, “whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” This exchange proves more than permissible This new family picks up the creation mandate of the first Adam. The new Adam has commissioned his new family, the church, “to go and make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:16).” In the church, the new spiritual family once again resides in community with God for the purpose of glorifying him through kingdom expansion. The keys to God’s kingdom have been given to the church. 

The Family Church Relationship

The nuclear family still remains the important foundational block of human society. From the family arise culture, society, and government. Civil society cannot exist without mom, dad, Jimmy, and Sally.

The institution also works in tandem with the church to support spiritual flourishing. A faithful marriage provides both the husband and the wife countless opportunities to experience God’s sanctifying power as they learn to love one another. Children remain a blessing from the Lord providing couples with social connections and economic security.

The fruits of marriage also facilitate evangelism. To perpetuate the gospel, Christians need to reach children. Procreation, adoption, and foster care all beautifully facilitate the great commission through family framework. The goals of the Christian family align with the mission of the church, and the mission of the church should align with the goals of the family.

Lastly, the family serves as a good gauge of the a culture’s health. When families descended into relational chaos, both society and the church should take note for the gospel is not going forward and chaos stands ready to invade our culture (Micah 7:6).

The Limits of the Nuclear Family

But for all of its benefits, the biological family cannot rightfully claim to be the foundation of the church. Though the family and the church support each other, Jesus is the bedrock of the church. A wife can come to faith apart from her husband and a husband apart from his wife. The arrival of children also does not instinctively produce faith in either the parents or the children as seen in the legacies of Cain and Nimrod. Salvation comes through the preached Word administered by the local church in coordination with the sacraments. As Baxter noted, the church through the ministry of the pastor upholds “the world, to save it from the curse of God and to perfect the creation, to attain the ends of Christ death 112).” The church supports and redeems souls.

Thus, Paul can encourage singles “to remain single, as I am (1 Cor. 7:7).” Both the married couple and the single adult can glorify God through worship and love of neighbor. Moreover, in the new heavens and the new earth, family structures will pass away. But our identity in Christ will remain. The church sustains the family which in turn helps to sustain both the church and the culture.

Conclusion

The new covenant established by Christ’s death and resurrection has fundamentally altered the definition of God’s people. The family of God is no longer defined by biology. It is defined by the Spirit. The church is the bride of Christ. We should not neglect the local church for our families. Rather, we should locate our families in the church, hoping to guide them all into Jesus’s family. The garden came first and then Adam and Eve.

To fix society, we must advocate for health churches, which in-turn will produce healthy families that produce healthy churches and healthy societies. In other words, those who are Christians must recognize and teach that the Christians understanding of family differs from the natural law view of family.

Are Your Kids Old Enough To Date?

kids-to-young-to-dateThe other day, my two-year-old mentioned in passing that two of his friends “liked” each other. Now he probably did not know what he was saying, but his discussion reveals our kids are never too far away from thinking about dating and boyfriends and girlfriends. And when they do land on these topics and want our opinion,  we should be ready with an answer.

Thankfully the Bible gives us direction on this subject. In Mark 10:6-8, we read:

But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh.

From this passage, we can extra three important principles for determining when are children are ready to date.

1. Our children will be ready to date when they are attracted to members of the opposite sex. As parents devoted to the Scriptures, we can only encourage our children to date members of the opposite sex. This is God’s design for the universe. We do not get to decide. God does. He has already declared that boys should date girls and that girls should date boys. Any variation upon this plan is wrong and sinful. As Godly parents, we should only encourage our children to date if they are willing to follow God’s design for gender and marriage.

2. Our children are ready to date if they are ready to leave and cleave. If your son is too young to get a job and to provide for his future wife, he is too young to date. If your daughter is too young to leave your house and set up a new home with her boyfriend, she is too young to date. If you are taking your daughter to the movie theatre and picking up your son from the ice cream shop, your kids are too young to date. They cannot in any meaningfully hope to leave and cling to that cute guy in school or to the pretty girl down the street. They lack the social and economic skills needed to create their own family. However, the high school senior that has a job and pays for all of his bills may be ready for marriage.

3. Our children are not controlled by animal impulses. We should be encouraged to see that our young men are attracted to young ladies and that our young ladies are attracted to young men. We must realize that such urges and desires to be with members of the opposite sex are good and right. But, we must also realize that these desires can come early and be perverted by all kinds of sin. Because we live in a fallen world, our kids will experience hormonal surges and desires for intimacy that they cannot implement without breaking God’s commands. Many children and youth will desire to express their physical urges before they have the ability to leave and cleave. When this happens, we must remind our kids that God’s commands do not conflict. Sexuality and intimacy between a man and woman are always supposed to occur in marriage. And until they are ready for marriage, our children must wait to express these things. As Josh McDowel tells teenagers,

Yes your hormones are strong. Yes, it can be difficult to wait, but the bottom line is sex is a choice. You are not an animal. You are a human being with God-given ability to love, to think , to create, and to make moral choices.

Consequently, the best way to handle the urges for marriage is to trust Christ. We should not encourage our kids to date before they are ready for a one flesh union. Rather, we should point them to Christ and tell them to wait, trusting that God will meet their needs and empower them to overcome temptation until they are ready for their spouse.

As I Corinthians 10:13 says,

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

God is always faithful.

Now, my two-year-old and his friends will not be dating anytime soon. Nor does he really want to. His greatest loves are basketball and Mickey Mouse. But at some point, he will want to talk about more than Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Your kids too will be interested in dating if they are not already. When the subject comes up, what will you tell them?

Can A Baby Solve Your Marriage Problems?

marriage-baby-1.jpgWe all long for community. We all long to be known and to know. When our relationship with our spouse begins to fracture, we look for solutions. We look for ways to fix the every widening gulf between our loved one and ourselves. And quite often, many settle on the idea of a child. “What is more intimate and more glorious than having a child” is the thought process. But it is correct?

At one level, the answer does seem plausible. Children are a blessing from the Lord. Psalm 127 makes this point abundantly clear. Having children in our homes is a very good and a very God thing. But are children the solution to our marital problems? Does their blessed nature help us overcome our lack of trust or poor communication issues? Will creating another life and building a relationship with that small person empower us to reshape our relationship with our spouse?

The answer to this question is, “No.” Children cannot restore or fix our marriage because they were not designed to be marital talismans or good luck charms. If anything, they are the opposites. According to the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, children actually exacerbate martial tensions and stresses. The common idea that having a child will improve your already troubled marriage is at best a myth; and at worst, it is destructive and harmful.

Marriages struggle not because of children nor because of a lack of children. They struggle because men and women are putting their own needs and their own desires above their spouse’s needs and desires. They are selfishly deciding not to share about their day or about their recent success at work because they do not trust their spouse. They do not want to get hurt, so they withdraw from the intimacy of the marriage. Or perhaps, you have already been hurt by your spouse’s anger, cutting words, or neglect and you do not want to do the hard work of helping your spouse change. Regardless of the issue, the temptation to run to children is often nothing more than a distraction and escape. It is an attempt to fix deep spiritual and heart issues with physical things, i.e other people.

Having a child to fix your marriage would be like going on a cruise ship to cure your cancer. It may provide a brief rest from cancer, but the cancer remains. The disease will get stronger and will hurt you more and more. A child may briefly distract you from your conflict with your spouse, but eventually the arguments will come back. But now, you struggles occur within the frame work of sleep deprivation, poor eating habits, and the despair that comes from listening to a baby cry for hours upon hours.

Ultimately the marriage that is weak, broken, and defined by a lack of trust does not need more children. It needs more of Christ. Both spouses need to reengage Jesus. Instead of channeling their marriage through their sinful desires, they need to channel their marriage though Christ. They need to remember that Christ loved them long before they loved Christ (1 John 4:10). And they need to remember that they need to love their spouse regardless of what their spouse does. Love is not conditional. It is a free gift that we must daily work to extend.

All marriage problems have one source: our sinful hearts. As James 1:14-15 says,

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Our marriage problems are sins problems. And sin problems can only be fixed by refocusing on the heavenly dwelling of Christ. There is no other way. Kids will not make our marriages great again. Are you ready to deal with this reality?  Are you ready to do the hard work and get serious about your marriage issues?