What is your mental picture when the word family is mentioned? Do you think of the family in which you grew up or do you focus on the family you’ve established? Is your image of family more like “Father knows best” or “The Cosby’s” or is it more like “The Family Guy” or “The Simpsons”? As families change and a majority of children grow up in families where the father is absent the mental image is changing. It is certainly a different image today than it was when I was growing up in Rural Alabama in the fifties and early sixties.
But if one went back to Old Testament times and looked at families described there it would be obvious things have made significant changes and at least many of those changes are for the better. Think of the heroes of the Old Testament and it is obvious most of them had multiple wives and children from each of the wives who didn’t often get along very well. That isn’t the case with all the people, but it is with many. Think about Abraham, Jacob, David and Solomon. Also consider God telling Hosea the prophet to go and marry a woman of prostitution or of telling Jeremiah you can never marry or have children. It is also true that many of the heroes were men who didn’t behave well morally even when they had multiple wives. God asked David after his sin with Bethsheba, why he went after his neighbors wife when He had given him the wives of Saul and would have given him others if he had asked.
While the New Testament picture of marriage is far different than what is described in the Old, it is also true that it was a time when family was in deep trouble in both Roman and Greek culture. Jesus stressed, “What God has joined together, let no one separate.” Paul painted the beautiful picture of marriage and family in Ephesians 5:22-6:4. He told wives to allow thier husbands to lead in the family and husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it to sanctify and cleanse it by the washing of water by the Word, so he could present it to himself as a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. He told children to obey their parents in the Lord for this is right and fathers to bring their children up in the training and discipline of the Lord.
Jesus clearly taught that families were to carry their respect for those who were older all through their lives. When he talked about the practice of the Jews of dedicating their money to the temple so they wouldn’t be obligated to take care of aged parents he declared their worship was useless when they taught for doctrines the commandments of men. (Matthew 15:1-9) Paul would say if a man doesn’t provide for his own, especially his own family he has denied the faith and become worse than an unbeliever. (I Timothy 5:8)
Real families come in all shapes and sizes. There are good families in which the father or mother are missing and some in which children never came.
In our world there is a huge push underway to redefine the family to include couples who live together without getting married and often have children together, to include two adults of the same sex who are true to each other and maybe even raising a child together. I suspect that our tolerance for so many different definitions of family has been elevated by seeing and hearing of all the Hollywood couples having numerous children together without getting married. The shows on TV and the movies often picture such “live in” families as very normal and acceptable relationships.
What should a Christian’s attitude be when states pass laws recognizing civil unions so that unmarried couples, living together can have the same legal status as married couples and so that such couples, whether homosexual or heterosexual, my collect on one another’s insurance?
I would certainly prefer that the law of the land uphold the Biblical standards of every man having his own wife and every woman having her own husband (I Corinthians 7:1-4). But I do need to remember that when Jesus and Paul laid out the clear teaching about marriage for a man and woman so they could be one flesh and avoid sexual immorality it was during a time when the laws of Rome would not have been supportive of such exclusive relationships at all. Even among the Jews the big discussion was whether one could divorce a wife for just any reason or did it have to be for some immoral act.
I suspect that the laws of the land will tend toward acceptance of what the Bible describes as immoral relationships. I would hope that different leaders might be moved by conscience or by the push of moral people to turn things back in the other direction. But the fact of the matter is, what the states do or what congress passes, the president signs or what the supreme court declares on the subject, should have absolutely no affect on how Christians live and act. We are subject to a higher law than the law of the land.
Our place isn’t to try to force others to legislate what we believe but to live what the Bible teaches in such a way that it influences even the ones who disagree in the right direction. All the laws and political arguments in the world won’t improve the attitude of the world toward marriage, if what the children see in their home as they grow up is either a disdain for marriage or a miserable marriage in which people stay married and pretend to the world that everything is all right even when love moved out years ago. Our best witness for marriage and a family with mom and dad and the children who love each other and help each other, is the examle of having such a marriage and family that our children experience, leading them to want the same thing in their own life.
Certainly we need to be good citizens, vote and stand for what we believe. But don’t expect government or politics to teach people about moral conduct or a godly family.