In the last article on family I wanted to show that God created family and therefore it his to define. Now, I need to address the “why” question: Why did God create the family? I will answer this in two ways through two articles. The first provides this answer: God created family to carry out his will.
Before we get there, I want to acknowledge that family is a difficult issue for many people. Almost all of us have certain scars related to family matters. Some had very difficult family situations as children. Some who want to be married and start a family haven’t been able to find a spouse. Some couples who long for children cannot have them. I know those are very difficult issues that can make it very difficult to discuss family. For our purposes, we need to see that God’s general intention for humanity is marrying and having children, even while we acknowledge that God’s specific plan for individuals may be to not marry or to not have children. And in these situations we just need to trust that God knows what is best—that his specific plans are good, even if they may not always seem good.
Genesis 1:28 shows us God’s general intention for humanity as it pertains to family: “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.’” As God created humanity, he assigned a huge two-part mission: one, be fruitful and multiply; and two, subdue the earth and exercise dominion over it. Both of these commands rely upon family.
The first part of our mission is to procreate—to be fruitful and multiply. Human beings are the crown of God’s creation so it’s not surprising that God wanted there to be more human beings. And while he could have continued to form people in the way he formed Eve from Adam—pulling out ribs and building people around them—he chose to do it differently. He chose to use the sexual relationship as the means of procreation and to embed the sexual relationship within the context of marriage and family. New flesh would be formed out of the one-flesh union.
Of course humanity soon plunged into sin and this disrupted God’s perfect will in many ways. But nothing has interrupted his perfect intention. And it’s this: Every child is meant to enter this world into a family made up of a man and woman bound by marriage. This kind of family provides the setting, the stability, and the sense of belonging in which a child can best thrive. Family is meant to provide the primary network of love and care that will welcome people into this world, nurture them to adulthood, and love them for a lifetime.
This becomes even more important after sin came into the world, since family now also provides the primary context in which people weaken and die. Family is a network of love and support that extends from birth to death. God loves people so gave people the foundational relationship that would serve them best. And it’s family.
So, the first part of our mission is to procreate and it requires family. The second part is to subdue the earth and to exercise dominion over it. Humanity was to bring order to the whole earth—to push out the walls of the Garden of Eden until it covered the entire globe. And just as one lone human being can’t be fruitful and multiply, one lone human being can’t exercise dominion over the whole earth.
How does family play into this? Carrying out this task as populations exploded to thousands and millions and billions would require social structures. It would take organization on a local, regional, and global scale. People would have to divide up responsibilities. People would have to be led and to follow leaders. And all of this structure would build upon the family structure.
The family was always meant to be the core social unit in the world and everyone is meant to be part of one. All other structures build upon family. It is the chief building block of any society or civilization. The Ten Commandments never say, “Honor your king and your queen” or “Honor your prime minister and your premier.” They don’t need to because they say, “Honor your father and mother.” The first structure of authority and organization is not government, but family. The others simply build upon it.
Again, the fall into sin disrupted God’s good plan in many ways, but family still retains its rightful place as our core social structure. Government and church and any other institution should only ever support the family—never replace or redefine it.
What have we seen so far? First, God created family. Second, God created family to carry out his will—to fill the earth with people and to bring it under his dominion. In the next article I want to add a second reason God created family.