So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ?Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.? (Genesis 1:27-28).
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)
Fighting Over Family
“For the first time in its history, Western civilization is confronted with the need to define the meaning of the terms ‘marriage’ and ‘family.’ What until now has been considered a ‘normal’ family, made up of a father, mother, and a number of children, has in recent years increasingly begun to be viewed as one among several options, which can no longer claim to be the only or even superior form of ordering human relationships. The Judeo-Christian view of marriage and the family with its roots in the Hebrew Scriptures has to a significant extent been replaced with a set of values that prizes human rights, self-fulfillment, and pragmatic utility on an individual and societal level.” So begins Andreas Köstenberger’s book God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation.
In the public forum, there is usually a sad example of people talking “past each other” on these issues. The core spiritual issues are usually ignored or avoided altogether. Yet, even among Christians, these issues are not often dealt with in a manner of Christian grace and compassion. Passions run high and divisive language abounds concerning marriage and family. One on level, this is understandable. Scripture demonstrates quite clearly that family, and all of its aspects, is of incredible importance. So, while there may be a plethora of social issues that need to be addressed and an equally great number of “gray area” issues the Christian community needs to discuss, there are a few foundational issues that are clear. It is with these clear and plain issues from the Scriptures that demonstrate whether foolish or wisdom is being exhibited in family life.
There are some Scriptural issues that are pretty straightforward. It would be wise to start with these and use them as the basis for everything else that is discussed going forward. First, God made the basic family unit – the husband and wife – prior to the Fall (Genesis 1:27-28; Genesis 2:24-25). Second, God called for this basic family unit to be the institution by which the rest of the human race expanded (Genesis 1:27-28). Third, God made men and women different from one another. Fourth, although God made men and women different from each other, he did not make one better than the other (1 Corinthians 11:11-12; Galatians 3:28). Fifth, God has developed a hierarchy of leadership in the home, in which the husband leads the home with the love of Christ and gentle strength, the wife respects and submits to her husband with voluntary joy, the parents instruct the children to love Jesus, not in malice, but with compassion, and the children obey their parents, as unto the Lord – all of this being done with a spirit of mutual submission one to another in a spirit of self-sacrifice and a desire for the “other’s” greater good (Ephesians 5:17-6:4).
Now, most of what was just stated is clearly (and abundantly) presented in Scripture. For the larger, unbelieving society, most of it is viewed as obsolete, perhaps even offensive. Sadly, the same sentiment is often expressed about these things in the believing community as well. It is at this point that believers shun wisdom and become fools as it relates to the family. When we reject God’s perspective on the home and exchange it for the world’s, things begin to crumble and spiral out of control.
So, what are the areas in which believers should be careful to look for pitfalls into foolishness regarding the family? There are many, but the basic two include (1) husbands and wives and (2) parents and children.
Husbands and Wives
I am convinced that one reason the unbelieving community has little regard for what the Christian community has to say about family (marriage in particular), is because the church has demonstrated by its actions a low and dysfunctional view of family and marriage to the world. We give lip service to the “sanctity of marriage” and yet the picture occasionally portrayed by the “Christian marriage” today reeks of hypocrisy.
Many Christian husbands don’t demonstrate Jesus’ love toward their wives. They don’t sacrifice themselves for their spiritual well-being and their growth in grace. Husbands don’t follow the example of Jesus and make themselves low to make much of their wives. For what is it that Jesus has done for His bride, the church? He veiled Himself in flesh, suffered a death undeserved, was ridiculed, tormented, spited, spit upon, beaten, mocked, and unjustly condemned. He utter back no response except a prayer of forgiveness, took on His people’s sins, and died in His people’s place. This, husbands, is what we are called to do in the Christian home.
Wives are called upon to submit to their husbands. This usually is met with forceful resistance in our time. Yet, our time is not really all that different than any other time. Eve condemned God (by condemning an aspect of His creation) when confronted about eating the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:13). Submission, sadly and wrongly, carries with it the idea of someone being less valuable than someone else. Such a notion could not be further from the truth. In the Trinity, there is no greater value of the Father over the Son – and yet, the Son voluntarily submitted Himself to the will of the Father in the Incarnation. Submission does not by default mean “less than.”
In the Fall, we see what happens first hand when wisdom in the marriage relationship is exchanged for foolishness. Adam did not lead his wife to godliness in the truth; he stood by silently. Eve took the lead in their home, and functioned in the role her husband should have held. And the end of the scene was cataclysmically disastrous. While a healthy conversation should be had among Christians about what should be done in the homes in which one or both of the spouses rebelliously refuses to perform their biblically ordained roles, one thing is clear – when we do things our way rather than God’s way – we are acting like fools.
Parents and Children
The relationship between parents and children is equally as touchy, if not more so in some cases, than the relationship between husbands and wives. How should children be educated? How should they be disciplined? When should they start to take on “adult” responsibility? Who should have the primary place of spiritual development – the ministers at church or the family or the children themselves? All of these questions not only produce different answers in the church, but they usually produce very heated conversation as well.
Parents are primarily called upon in Scripture to teach their children godliness (Deuteronomy 6:4-25; Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4). Notice – the call is not for your children to be socially moral. The call is for your children to be godly. Externally, the two can often look the same. Yet, the difference is profound. The call to discipline, instruct, guide and direct children is for them to be impacted by the grace of God to be conformed to the image of Jesus. Biblical parenting is a means of grace – a gift God has given to the believer to promote the gospel, both in the home and in the world.
Children are called upon to obey their parents in the Lord. Obedience is an oft forgotten thing in our culture. Many of our cultural avenues such as movies and music cultivate a “your parents are idiots” mentality among children. Fathers are often presented as disconnected oafs; moms as friendship hungry, trying to hard to connect buddies. Seldom do we see a picture of dads and moms worthy of being respected. Yet, the picture of the “Spirit-filled” child is one that respects and obeys the authority of the parent.
Authority: The Real Issue
As with most issues of wisdom versus foolishness, the issue in the family is one of authority. Am I going to submit myself to what God’s Word says concerning the home, or am I going to replace it with my own ideas? Will I accept certain boundaries in family life as existing for my good, or will I press past those boundaries because I believe they are keeping me from a more liberated existence? As noted in Part 1 of this series, that is the real problem for the fool. He does not acknowledge that boundaries are for his good. Is it good for a husband to sacrificially love his wife, making less of himself and more of her for her spiritual growth and godliness? Or, is it better for him to make sure his rights and his privileges are always defended? Is it good for a wife to lovingly and sacrificially submit to her husband, even when it is hard (1 Peter 3:1-2)? Or, is it better for her to make sure her rights and privileges are always defended? Is it right for parents to be parents to their children, rather than friends, and both model and call for godliness in their home? Or, is it better to be disconnected and distant, letting the children work out their own way in the world? Is it better for children to submit and respect their parents, or do whatever is right in their own eyes?
The issue is one of authority. Will we do what God has called us to do? Will we model Jesus? Will we fulfill our calling to one another in the home? Or, will this present age be the thing that dominates how we think and act in the home? Will we live in the comfort of the shepherd’s fold, or will we push out of the pasture and into the darkness of the wilderness? If we flee from the security of God’s gracious boundaries, especially in the home, then we have fled away from the peace of wisdom and into the turmoil of foolishness.