Why We Shouldn’t be Afraid for the Family

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Are you afraid for the family?

A 2010 study by the Pew Research center, in conjunction with Time Magazine, found the following disturbing trends in American society:

When asked in the survey if marriage is becoming obsolete, about four-in-ten Americans (39%) say that it is.

While 72% of all adults in the United States were married in 1960, only 52% were married in 2008.

Do statistics like this frighten us? Does the number of children growing up without both parents make us anxious? Do changes in the definition of the family cause us to worry about the future?

They shouldn’t. Here’s why.

When you want to look at the health of the family in our world, where ought you to look?

Society has never been the keeper of the family. Nor has America.

Family belongs to God.

He is its creator, and he is its keeper. And he has provided a context in which to keep the family: namely, among his people.

God’s people have always been ‘home base’ for the family. That’s what we see, for instance, in Colossians 3, where Paul gives the local church instructions on three fundamental relational units, each comprised of a couplet of ministering partners: husbands and wives, parents and children, and employers and employees. These three relational pairs are given – in the first instance – to the people of God. That’s where each pair is to be incubated, nurtured, kept, and protected. That’s where each receives its definition.

And the definition God gives to relationships is very different from the way the world defines relationships. According to the world, relationships are to be pursued for personal self-interest, for what individuals can derive from relationships. According to God, relationships provide an opportunity for self-giving, a place where individuals can pour themselves into each other. The former are marked by selfishness, the latter by sacrificial love.

So, when you want to look at the health of the family – to take its temperature and see how it is doing – don’t look first to the natural instincts of the world, or to the world’s agencies, such as the judiciary or the legislature or the ballot box, as though these were the guardians of the family. God does not expect society to be the preserve of the family.

Instead, look to the local church, the people supernaturally re-created according to the image of God. It is among this empowered family of God that we see a better way to be family. It is among this body of people that we find couples pursuing a self-giving vision of marriage, that we discover families dedicating themselves to imaging the cruciform love of Jesus Christ. When we see among God’s people perpetual displays of mutual self-sacrifice, the future of the family is bright.

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