The ‘Christian Family’ and Bagging an Octopus
by Pastor Gene
We might call this the Age of the Redefinition of Terms. Word’s like marriage, family, sin, freedom have all experienced a significant retooling in the past several decades. But, for believers, there is only one primary standard by which we measure and define: God’s Word. So, our question should be tweaked to ask, ‘What does the Bible say constitutes a Christian family?’
There is little question that biblical values, and the biblical worldview, have become the targets of derision and scorn in 21st century America and in much of the first world.
Opponents take great offense at any attempt to define marriage as one man and one woman forever. ‘Marriage is,’ we’re told, ‘whatever society says it is.’ But that’s simply not true. Marriage is not a ‘man-thing,’ it’s a God-thing’! It was created by Him in the beginning. It’s one of the first of the divine institutions (Genesis 2:18, 21-24) along with the distinction between the sexes (Genesis 1:27) and the establishment of the family (Genesis 1:28a).
In Search of the Traditional Family
In Family Matters: Investing in the Things That Last (Plano, Tex.: IFL Publishing House, 2010), Derrick G. Jeter writes:
The traditional family is under assault these days. Watch a primetime television program about the family and you’ll soon discover that fathers are presented as idiotic, mothers as overbearing, and children as wise beyond their years. That’s assuming you can find a program portraying a ‘traditional’ family with a husband and a wife.
To say ‘traditional’ families are under attack, however, is to acknowledge that our definition of the family is more culturally informed than biblically informed. Our Western, modern model of the family, where a husband and wife live together and rear two or three children, is not the model we see in the Bible, where husbands were often married to multiple wives, had relationships with concubines, and produced a prodigious number of children. Defining family, therefore, especially a ‘biblical’ or ‘Christian’ family, is no easy task. Frankly, it’s probably easier to bag an octopus than to define a ‘biblical family.’
Full disclosure here: I’ve only ever bagged an octopus once, and I didn’t find it particularly difficult. So, I’m not really tracking with the brother’s analogy, but, that’s just me. I’ve always been pretty good with seafood.
Beginning at the Beginning
ANYway, defining a ‘biblical family’ is tougher than it may seem. It’s always important to go back to the beginning with such questions. ‘What was God’s original intent in creating marriage and the family?’ That’s a good way to frame the question. That’s because Jesus Himself answered questions this way. When asked about divorce, He said, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female …” (Matthew 19:4).
Yes, back to the beginning. That’s THE place to start. Jeter continues …
What we can definitively say is this: God is the originator of the family and continues to hold the patent. The ideal, established at the beginning of humanity, is for one man and one woman to join in a spiritually and physically committed union for a lifetime, conceiving and rearing children (Genesis 1:27–28; 2:18, 21–25).
Clearly, this model wasn’t followed consistently throughout the Scriptures and is not followed today, where single parents, married couples without children, grandparents rearing their grandchildren, and empty-nesters—just to mention a few—make up a considerable percentage of ‘Christian’ families.
We would be hard-pressed not to label these relationships ‘families,’ even though they don’t meet the ideal set forth in Genesis. Furthermore, the Lord continues to bless these types of families.
Committed to Following Jesus
So, what is a ‘Christian’ family if it’s not defined by the number of parents or whether or not the children are biological offspring or adopted – or if there are any children at all, for that matter?
Considering the wide breadth of configurations that make up the modern family, I think we can affirm with Jeter: “A Christian family is a group of people who are related to each other through marriage, birth, or adoption and are committed, first and foremost, to the person and work of Jesus Christ, faithfully witnessing to the love, power, and forgiveness of God to a watching world in its unique time and place.”
A ‘Christian’ family is a group of people who are related “through marriage, birth or adoption” who are trying to follow Jesus, who are honoring His Word, who call sin sin.
Being a part of a ‘Christian’ family can get mess – NO question about that! But the glue that binds our hearts together is the love of God that’s been shed abroad in our hearts.
It’s this that helps us to love, forgive, challenge, encourage, mentor and pray for those with whom we share our lives.
To consider …
- Did you grow up in a Christian home? If so, how was your upbringing different than those of other families you knew?
- Consider the genius of God’s design for marriage, family and human sexuality.
How has our culture drifted from God’s intention for these things?
What effect has it had on us as individuals? As families? As a nation?
How has it contributed to the current drug epidemic?
To birth outside of marriage?
How has it fueled the abortion debate?
What have we lost in our quest to separate ourselves from God’s plan for these things?
- What does your conception of a ‘Christian’ family look like?
What do you think should characterize a Christian home?
Are you practicing those things?
What changes could you make to bring your practice more in line with God’s desire?
- Have you ever bagged an octopus?
Did you find it difficult to do so?
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