Last week my family and I headed south to San Luis Obispo to spend a few days at the coast. Some friends were on vacation and asked if we could feed their pets and watch their house while they took off to Lego-Land. It was no-brainer; so away we went. We got to walk the streets of downtown San Luis, got to play on the beach, and even drive around for a little sight-seeing. The temperature was cool and refreshing with an overcast sky in the morning that turned beautiful blue by the afternoon. I understand why people pay so much to live there.
Family is such a precious gift from God. The kids grow up so quickly, and in our fast paced society where every minute is claimed and scheduled, it's awfully easy to let concentrated family-time slip through the cracks. I can't believe my oldest is merely three years away from college. I intend to savor every minute possible before the Lord takes them onto their own paths of independence, relationships, and occupations. So a quick, three day jaunt down south for a few uninterrupted days with my wife and children was a welcomed treat, even if our only objective was simply being together.
I believe the church needs to keep a very intense focus on the spiritual health of the family. We also need to be very deliberate in teaching married couples what a biblical family should look like in everything from managing money to raising Godly children. It requires robust and preemptive instruction, as well as an aggressive defense, as secular society attacks the role and place of the family at every level of human interaction. Any random commercial, sitcom, or movie sells the same caustic message: the traditional family is antiquated, naive, and pathetically humorous. And so the church can't take anything for granted any longer, as the next generation walks to the altar of matrimony with more knowledgable of environmentalism, civil rights, and MTV than they do the most basic definitions of marriage or the roles God has assigned them.
God is the author of family and He created this wonderful institution to honor and glorify Himself. The church needs to understand the vital connection between family life and exaltation life, as we teach that our earthly relationships are merely one of the ways in which we magnify and worship the Lord. But sadly, that understanding has waned, as culture works overtime to undermine and destroy every concept God has put forth in His word concerning marriage, child rearing, and family structure. And as we've seen in virtually every area of human behavior, the church is all too easily influenced by modern culture.
Newsweek magazine recently featured an article entitled, "I Don't - the Case Against Marriage." The two female authors might as well have written their piece for an episode of "Sex in the City," the TV series that unashamedly glorifies the immoral life of four bed-hopping women who try and give perpetual fornication and adultery a glamorous sizzle. Boiled down to its base elements, the article basically said: marriage is a needless, senseless, man-centered institution that distills no extraordinary benefits helpful to culture or society." Indeed their thesis is catching on, as 41% of children nationwide are born out of wedlock. Marriage and family are under assault.
It's easy to let the subject slip off the radar screen even in the very best of churches, because we too often take for granted that strong families will naturally arise from good Bible teaching and strong leadership. And although strict and thorough Bible teaching and Biblical leadership are unquestionably necessary for a healthy church and successful Christian living, society's secular definitions still have a tendency of finding their way into the primary thinking of the church. I believe that there is a place within the church therefore, to address the specific needs and practices of the family and to combat the cultural seepage of worldly definitions and practices.
Is dad necessary? Can mom work while dad stays home as a full-time home-maker? Should fathers conduct inclusive family devotions? Should kids always obey their parents? Can teens develop their own tastes in music and movies apart from mom and dad? Can kids demand certain rights and privileges from their parents? Should parents administer corporal punishment even as it is becoming socially unacceptable? Should teens contribute to the material needs of the home? These are all questions that produce a variety of answers even among the most dedicated believers. And though the answers may not come straight off the page of scripture, I think the church should be the primary instrument for deriving the answers from scripture, and then delivering them clearly and graciously to the body. If we don't, the world will, and too often, already has.
God chose the family as the vehicle to deliver healthy, well-balanced, spiritually mature individuals to society. We can't take our eye off that role, and so the church has to speak plainly, regularly, and biblically into the life of the family. It needs to be one of our major priorities.