Family is under attack. As Christians we are accustomed to hearing about divorce and pornography and gay marriage and so many other moral issues. Have you ever considered how many of these moral issues relate directly to family? If you look, you will see that the very notion of family—family as the Bible describes it—is under sustained and heavy attack. This means that your family is under attack.
We know that a distinctly Christian notion of family is crucial to raising children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. But there is more at stake than raising the next generation of Christians. Family is crucial in at least two other ways: It teaches us fundamental truths of the Christian faith and it serves as an important kind of ministry. Allow me to explain.
God Teaches Us Through Family
God uses family to teach us. There are several areas of Christian life and doctrine that God chooses to explain to us through metaphor, and one common metaphor is family. There are parts of Christian life and doctrine we can only rightly understand if we first understand family as God creates and intends it.
God Uses Family to Teach About His Nature. The relationship between parents and children is a distant glimpse of the relationships within the godhead, and, in particular, the relationship of the first person of the Trinity to the second—God the Father to God the Son. We can only describe and understand the relationship of God the Father to God the Son if we understand the relationship of earthly fathers to earthly sons. If Satan can distort or destroy family, he can distort and destroy our ability to understand God’s triune nature.
God Uses Family to Teach Us about His Gospel. God tells us that when he justifies us through faith in Jesus Christ, he adopts us as his sons and daughters. Therefore we know that the relationship of parents to their children is not incidental or unimportant—no mere fragment of God’s plan for his people. Rather, the relationship of children being brought into their parents’ family is designed to teach us about our relationship to God and to teach us about the intimacy of our relationship to him. If Satan can distort or destroy family, he can distort and destroy our understanding of the gospel.
God Uses Family To Teach Us about His Church. Peter calls the church “the family of God” (1 Pet. 4:17) and Paul refers to it as “God’s household” (1 Tim. 3:15). As Christians, we belong to the same family because we have been united to one another through our adoption as sons and daughters of the same Father. It is because we are sons and daughters of the same Father that Christians refer to one another as “brothers” and “sisters.” If Satan can distort or destroy family, he can distort and destroy our understanding of the church.
Do you see it? To understand God’s nature, God’s gospel, and God’s church, we first need to understand family. When a father abandons his family, the metaphors grow distorted. When a family has two fathers and no mothers, the metaphors grow distorted. Even when a Christian couple determines for selfish reasons not to have children, the metaphors grow distorted. But a strong family, built upon the Scriptures, serves as a powerful image of all of these truths.
How Family Ministers
Your family is under attack because of all it represents. Your family is also under attack because of what it does. God designed your family to serve as a kind of ministry to the church and to the world.
Family Ministers to the Local Church. Because the church is fundamentally a spiritual family, we learn how to function as a church by looking to the model of healthy families. This means that building strong, biblical families is critical to the life and health of the church. When Paul explains to Timothy how to relate to other people in the church he tells him to relate to older men as fathers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters. He tells him to look at family and to behave as a family behaves. When Paul tells Timothy about church leaders he tells him he will be able to recognize elders in the church by looking for men who are good earthly father figures (see 1 Tim. 3:4-5). If a man is able to oversee and manage his own household, he may well be prepared to oversee and manage the church, since both tasks depend on many of the same skills and abilities. Therefore family ministers to the church by teaching how its members are to relate to one another (like brothers and sisters!); by teaching the church how to recognize leaders (the good fathers!); and even by teaching a bit of what God is like (the best parents, but infinitely more so!).
Family Ministers to the World. Family also ministers to the world. It was God’s desire that everyone would be prepared—to at least some degree—to hear the gospel. He designed the family to be a universal model of some of the deepest and most precious truths about who he is and what he is accomplishing in this world: He is father; he wants to adopt us as his children; Christians are brothers and sisters. Healthy, Bible-based, gospel-centered families are a crucial part of pre-evangelism, a way of introducing everyone on earth to the basic categories through which they can understand the Christian faith. If we lose or distort the notion of father, if we lose or distort the notion of parents, if we play fast and loose with brother and sister, we lose the very concepts that allow us to explain who God is and what he is doing.
Family teaches us about God’s nature, his gospel and his church, and family ministers to both the church and the world. No wonder, then, that Satan is always attacking the family and no wonder he will stop at nothing to attack your family. If he can destroy family, he can destroy these powerful metaphors and these powerful ministries. If he can distort or destroy the family, he can make the gospel opaque to those who are not yet saved.
When Satan’s purposes are clear, the Christian’s challenge is clear: We need to view building strong, vibrant, Bible-based, gospel-centered, distinctly Christian families as a critical part of protecting our faith and living it out.
(Much of this material was drawn from a course from Capitol Hill Baptist Church)