Looking for your input: how do we talk about family in the church?

Typically, I don’t share bits of my writing work-in-progress because…well, it’s in progress, which means it’s not quite ready for prime time.  

But I’m breaking my own rule because I’m looking for some feedback on this snippet of a longer piece discussing the focus in the modern Evangelical church on marriage and family. I’ll first share the bit of writing, then I’ll tell you the kind of feedback I’m hoping to hear from a few of you.   

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Imagine with me that you’re a time-traveler who is zapped from the present to a time shortly  after Joseph and his family were reunited in Egypt after more than a decade of separation (Genesis 46). You join the family as they sit over a lingering meal re-telling their family history. They speak of Abram’s family in Ur, and recount with a sense of worshipful wonder Abraham’s call from God and describe the details of his journeys with Sarai and his nephew Lot. They remember their miracle forebear Isaac and their half-uncle, Esau. The patriarch of the gathering, Jacob, regales you all with stories of his youth. You’re struck with the honesty with which the family talks about the stresses and rivalries that tore them apart. Their conversation is marked with a palpable sense of forgiveness and humility. Each one seemed to clearly recognize how God had been at work in their imperfect family. despite their sin and failure.

They ask you to tell them about what life is like in the future. After telling them a Savior for the whole world would be born from their line, you describe the new community, the church, that would be grafted into Israel’s story.

“What does that new community look like?” Joseph asks you. The rest of the group falls silent, waiting to hear what you will say.

You try to summarize the Exodus, the Chosen People’s journey back to the land of Israel, the Babylonian captivity, the journey of some of the Chosen People back to the land of Israel, the birth, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus, and two thousand years of church history as briefly as possible, then explain that the church in your day and time has many different expressions throughout the earth.

“Well, what is it like where you live?” Benjamin asked.

You respond by first describing your own church, and then telling this family that has filled the pages of your Bible that family is the one of the most important emphases in your church culture, too.

“How so?” asked Judah.

You tell them about the coarseness of the culture surrounding you and some of the ways that this culture seems to devalue family. Then you describe all of the books, seminars, camps, and sermons designed to show people how to create a God-honoring marriage and family. You explain that modern couples expect to feel a sense of romantic love (after explaining what that is, as the notion was not common in the Ancient Near East), have happy, well-adjusted children, and shine as perfect exemplars of Jesus the Messiah in a dark and difficult world.  

There was a long pause. Then Judah said, “Sounds like maybe family might be a little like an idol for some of your people.”

Joseph looked at the assembled group said, “I don’t think our family would measure up to your standards.” The rest nodded and laughed. He continued, “I love you all, but I could never make a god of a family like ours. After all, there’s only one true God, blessed be his name.”

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So my questions for you are: How does your church or circle of Christian friends view the family? Is there a strong focus on building good marriages and families in those communities? Does the focus seem to match what the Bible portrays of family? Do you think this “time travel” illustration makes sense or stretches the point? 

Fire away in the comments section, friends!  


Cover photo by Mike Scheid on Unsplash

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2 thoughts on “Looking for your input: how do we talk about family in the church?”

  1. Hi Michelle, would love to answer your question. Is there a way to contact you through email, or is this the only venue? As your fellow Christian, and hailing from the ‘other’ tribe in the Holy Land (cousin of your Jewish ancestry), I have several observations regarding the sense of family in the Western, Evangelical church setting. Appreciate your writing so very much.

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