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>God ordained cultural structures

2008 October 28 Leave a comment

>I currently don’t mind democracy, though I am not adverse to monarchy and possibly other governmental structures. Christians are called into a different kingdom and can live under any political or economic structure, although some are more pleasant than others. Nevertheless, it is good to understand the proper role of the state; and if one finds himself in a democracy then it is good to vote well (if one thinks he should vote).

How should we frame our ideas about the state? The state is a social structure where leaders oversee community. There are, however, several God ordained social structures in this world and we need to start with the central ones.

Prior to the Fall we have Adam relating to God which is the first and highest order relationship. I think that the individual relationship and the group relationship with God—Adam and Eve pre-Fall; God-worshippers, faithful Israel, righteous Gentiles, and the church post-Fall—are all part of what will become the Bride of Christ. This is the pre-eminent social/ spiritual relationship in the universe. All of this world is building toward that relationship.

Prior to the Fall we also have marriage and family:

So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man….

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2)

I have included family, however children, while very important and a blessing, are not as fundamental as marriage. They are temporary; given to us to train them to love God so they can depart to form a new unit—the son leaves his parents and joins with his wife.

These 2 relationships: God and man, and man and wife, are central to social order. Note that they both pre-date the Fall. Note also that the latter is a copy of the former:

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5)

And that marriage is temporary:

For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. (Matthew 22)

The other social structures are the community and the state, the state being the power that oversees the community as mentioned above. We are first introduced to the embryo of the state some 1600 years after creation. Earlier judgments are made directly by God; note the examples of Cain and the Deluge. Men take things into their own hands such as Lamech and the mighty men of old, but there is no evidence this is sanctioned by God. I am not certain if we can infer anything from the existence of antediluvian cities. After the Flood God gives specific commands to Noah and his sons:

But you* shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. And for your* lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.

“Whoever sheds the blood of man,/
by man shall his blood be shed,

for God made man in his own image….” (Genesis 9)

God is the giver and owner of life, we are made in his image. Thus God gives commands concerning life: Men are to refrain from eating blood because of the life symbolism; and men are not to kill men.

The context suggests that it is murder that is forbidden here, as the murderer is to be subsequently put to death for his actions, capital punishment being commanded not condemned even though it removes life. These commands of God establish legality. Even if full government is not required, there needs be some community structure to deal with murderers; be that egalitarian, or community elders, or kingship, or some other structure.

So the state is enacted by God some centuries after the Fall and it is necessary because we are fallen creatures. If marriage is a temporary institution, how much more so then is the state! There is much the Bible teaches us about ideal government, what God intends leaders to do, what they should concern themselves with, how they should rule; but this is on the background of the above concepts. Our ideas about temporal government need to be tempered by thoughts on eternal relationship and our current fallen nature.

>Death of a daughter

2008 August 11 Leave a comment

>I only became aware of this recently. Steven Curtis Chapman, Christian singer, lost his daughter in a car accident in May. Extremely sad. Steven and his wife Mary Beth talked about their loss on Good Morning America.

Categories: death, family, video

>Family responsibility

2008 July 28 1 comment

>My wife and I were discussing responsibility to family because she was having difficulty reconciling 2 passages of Scripture.

While travelling to Jerusalem, Jesus speaks to some of the crowd travelling with him.

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9)

Leaving aside a full explanation of these sayings, Jesus is saying that belonging to the kingdom of God supersedes belonging to family. This is also seen in other passages such as:

“Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Luke 18)

So if we are to leave family for the sake of the kingdom, how does that fit in with Paul’s statements about family responsibility?

Honor widows who are truly widows. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God…. But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5)

Looking at Jesus’ words it seems that leaving family members could theoretically be asked of us (not that it necessarily is). Note, however, that the comment about leaving houses etc. is in the context of the rich young ruler who does not want to give up wealth for the sake of the kingdom. So this is more a comment by Jesus on the importance of choosing the kingdom over anything else, even very important things such as houses and family. Jesus follows this with a promise that God will give us more than we give up. And this may be part of what Jesus is saying in the Luke 9 passage. Parents and family are having a hold on someone who Jesus wants to join the kingdom.

Compare with Paul’s comments which do not relate to a competing call for believers. Rather they are to discharge the call of the kingdom by caring for those to whom they have responsibility for.

My conclusion in our discussion was that we are to care for those whom God has given us responsibility for, but we do not necessarily need to respond to those who would put their own claim on our lives.

We are responsible to look after our children. God may also give us other children to be responsible for. God may call us to give our children to others to look after so that we may do a task for him—we are still caring for them appropriately as we are delegating our responsibility for that child to another at God’s request (one should be absolutely certain they are hearing correctly from God in such a situation!*).

But an adult does not need to acquiesce to a demand from family to live or act according to their agenda. A request to remain part of the family business, or not to leave until one’s parents have died may not be legitimate. If at some future time one’s parents become infirm, the child may now have the responsibility for them placed on him by God and he needs to discharge that responsibility appropriately.

*This comment needs its own post to explain more fully, I don’t mean to suggest that this is a common request from God.