Remember the old Virginia Slims ads, saying “We’ve come a long way, baby!“? Well, they ain’t seen nothin’ yet! In the Old Testament, your father was Daddy. Hopefully, you obeyed him, but you could hug his knees, you could pull his hair, and you could pinch his cheeks. But God? You were not even allowed to say His name; it was the Tetragrammaton—YHWH, I AM, with four consonants and no vowels. Hopefully, you obeyed him because if you didn’t, there was eternal judgment. But call him by a family name? I don’t think so.
The fascinating thing is that He has not changed, but He has opened a new understanding of his desire for us to enjoy. Jeremy Taylor said it very well:
“He hath changed the ineffable Name into a Name utterable by man, and desirable by all the world; the Majesty is arrayed in robes of mercy, the Tetragrammaton or Adorable Mystery of the patriarchs is made fit for pronunciation and expression when it becometh the Name of the Lord‟s Christ.”
Don’t ever take for granted how great it is to have Yahweh as your Father — your very own Abba! No matter how limited your physical father was, you are not cheated; you don’t have to be stunted. You have the best of all possible fathers. You have The Father!
Jesus never undermined the under-pinning of the physical family; he defended the holiness of marriage, and he emphasized the absolute urgency of material care, especially the care of older parents (Mark 7:10-13). I Timothy 5:4 repeats the same instructions about being financially responsible for parents. Timothy goes on to make the matter clear: “If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially those of his own household, he had denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (I Timothy 5:8). Jesus said that if you didn’t pay your parents bills you were “Hypocrites . . . (God says) ‘In vain you worship me'” (Mark 7:6-7). Ouch!
The New Testament certainly infers important things about the physical family. It says that all of our social relationships are a starting point for learning how to behave with each other. A household consisted of those under the same roof, including servants. I would think today it would also mean college dorm roommates, singles sharing an apartment, etc., etc. These households are the laboratories where our relationships can be purified in obedience to God.
However, in the three places in the New Testament where the physical family is talked about at some length, the social institutions are lumped together; Husband-wife relationships, parent-child and master-slave (I Corinthians 7; Ephesians .5:22-6:9; Colossians 3:18-25). None of these relationships are seen as God’s highest order for humans on earth. These verses simply say that we are probably already in one or more of these relationships; so behave within them in Christ-like ways.
Certainly all of us are painfully aware of the shaky state of the physical family in the world today. There is very little support outside of the church to maintain a strong family tie (and not enough in The Church). God has loved the physical family ever since he invented it in the Garden of Eden. He has defended it. He has given it status. He has made it one of the great underpinnings of society, in the same way that government serves as an underpinning. In the last days before Christ’s return, society will be greatly undermined because, among other things, men will despise authorities (II Peter2:10) and be disobedient to parents (II Timothy 3:2).
Christians have to be careful not to bad mouth social institutions. God has given these as anchors and stabilizers for rebellious societies. We must submit to our governments, pray for our leaders, and teach our children to respect the laws and authorities (Romans 13:1-7).
We must also zealously protect and defend the physical family! It is also God’s glue to hold society together. Marriage is sacred. Parents must be obeyed. More than other families, Christian families must be shored up and encouraged in every possible way.
The relationship of husband and wife is a picture of that of God with Israel, or of Christ with the church. No wonder God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16).
Still, no Christian single adult has to think they are not part of this heavenly representation on earth. They are not Christ‟s wife, but his very Body! Did you catch the difference? There is no higher privilege.
Now, when we consider the weakened condition of the physical family today, we thank the Lord for all the books, seminars, radio broadcasts, and any other teaching aids and family counselors to help it. However, does it seem that with all our aids, the family is still shakier than it should be? Could it be that the Body of Christ has not learned to function very well as a spiritual family first of all, and that is why Christians are so unsupported that they can not perform very well at home?
There is far more in the New Testament on how to function within the spiritual family than within the physical. God had to write it that way for a reason. The brothers and sisters are to love each other with all purity and yet all familial tenderness. The older men are to be surrogate fathers where needed, and the older women, extra mothers to the younger women (Titus 2:3-5). Most certainly, if Christians did these things well, the church would be full of living models to teach how to be physical spouses, parents, daughters and sons at home.
All of us are so untaught in how to treat each other; Distracted by our lonely pursuits; Numb to each others‟ private pain; Desperate to know and to be known, to have someone, or just a few, who really care.
In an article from Focus on the Family Magazine (February 1990), entitled A Father to the Fatherless, writer Terri S. Speicher shared where the support came to their family after her husband died, and she was left to raise four boys on her own.
First of all from her family:
“The men in the family are ‘available.’ Uncle Dick takes on all youthful challengers to the title as ‘Scrabble King‘ during . . . reunions. One Uncle Bob rules the basketball court; the other Uncle Bob takes my boys individually on family ski vacations. (Their grandfather) gives loving guidance and encouragement during his visits and frequent telephone conversations.”
She stated that their other Grandfather prays for the boys daily. The wisdom and experience of those grandfathers and uncles play a very important role when she needs to get a man’s perspective on a boy’s problem.
There is also the support from the church: Youth pastors, Sunday school teachers, and Christian camp counselors. In fact, right after their father’s death, two volunteer youth workers took the day off from their regular jobs to be with the boys. They listened to their pain and helped them get ready for the memorial service. Friends had taken the boys to football games or dropped by their house to play Ping-Pong or backyard basketball. Support from neighbors and friends, schoolteachers and coaches, the list went on.
The point, of course, is that all of us need to seek out the help when it is there. Sometimes it is there, but we are so protective of our privacy that we ignore the offers of help. Then again, what if the support from the family isn’t there? Or what if the Schoolteachers are not as supportive as those in Mrs. Speicher‟s experience?
Well, I admit that many times it isn’t available as conveniently as it was for Terri Speicher. Maybe the family lives far away or may simply not have the emotional ability to offer the help. Maybe she was simply in a unique situation. But it has to be taught and encouraged. The Church has to learn to move closer to help.
What do strangers look for in a new church? They want one that is friendly. So, the Pastor tries to get his people to smile and shake hands with visitors, but it isn’t easy with some. They hardly do it with each other; why should they with someone they don’t know? So most Christianity turns out seeming so anesthetized, so cold, so drugged.
I guess these series of teachings are a cry, a scream, a shout, FUSE! FUSE! Put away whatever is dividing you! Sign a pact with your blood! Place yourself deeply together, regardless of the awkwardness or pain! Until we can do that, there is no hope of reaching the world because our own people are not being loved.
With these Morning Messages, I take you on guided tours to, as Bunyan described, the Celestial City. At times we linger at corners familiar and unseen. And explore the depths of our faith along the way.
The trail is long, but there’s no hurry. Though we do need to stock up on supplies for the way, and that’s where I need your help. If you enjoy these messages, please consider becoming a contributing member of this tour group. It will be very much appreciated.