The more books I read to my kids, the more movies I watch with them, and the more Disney Junior shows they consume, I see one clear gospel message: “Believe in yourself.” But a close runner-up to this message would be a gospel about family, for instance in the powerful and popular new show, This Is Us. Many movies today, for every age and demographic, bring the moral of the story back to the family.
The workaholic dad finally finds his meaning in his family. The working mom that barely gets it all done realizes her life is really about her family. The rebellious teen ends up finding healing in his family. It’s a typical theme, moral, or virtue that is lifted up as one of many gods of our age. The family is often portrayed as the salvation of mankind. Family is where we find ultimate meaning.
It’s good, clean fun to believe in family, so nobody questions it. As Christians, we can agree with the value of family in movies and television, because we know the God who designed and blessed the family structure.
Family Is for God
Family is a gift to enjoy, but it makes a terrible god. And it can become a god whether one is married with kids, married and childless, or single. The church itself is rightly family-oriented, and the desire to have a family is a wonderful, God-given desire, but family does not belong on the throne of our hearts. The throne of our heart is reserved for Christ alone. The family is not the good news we need; it is not our gospel message, however many put all their hope in parents, grandparents, siblings, and children.
If we aren’t careful, family can impede the gospel, instead of drawing us further into the gospel. The family was designed by God to reflect him and the love within the Trinity, the love we are brought into through the good news. Family must point us to God and his gospel. We must love our family through Christ, and for Christ.
The family is God’s means for us to drive upward into a far more important relationship and a far greater love. As Paul says in Romans 11:36, “For from him and through him and to him are all things,” so the family obviously falls inside these lines.
Family is from him, family is through him, and family is to him.
As a woman, I believe my husband and sons are my God-given priority each day, and my life feels saturated with family. I live and breathe family. So, when I read what Paul says about the unmarried and married woman in 1 Corinthians 7:32–35, I give a hearty amen. Yes, I do have to think about worldly things, and my attention feels divided between God and my family (1 Corinthians 7:34). In these verses, Paul is comparing the married and unmarried. He says the benefit in singleness is undivided devotion to the Lord, but a married man or woman is divided. Paul also says the single person is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord, but the married person is anxious about worldly things, like how to please their spouse.
Our family is a gift, and it will divide us. Paul’s purpose for the married and unmarried alike is clear: undivided devotion to the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:35). He isn’t letting married people off easy. In fact, a few verses up he says, “Let those who have wives live as though they had none” (1 Corinthians 7:29).
Taking this passage as a whole, it would appear Paul is sympathetic to those with families and would want us to engage well in our daily affairs, but he wants us to remember that “the present form of this world is passing away” (1 Corinthians 7:31). The marriage and family structure, as we know it now, will not exist in eternity (Matthew 22:30). Paul wants us to live in our families for eternity. He wants us to invest our stock in the future, to store up treasures in heaven.
The Table Is Set
Jesus tells a parable in Luke 14:12–24 about a man who threw a great banquet and handed out many invitations. His servant told the invitees that the feast was ready, but they all made excuses for why they could not attend. One man said, “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come” (Luke 14:20). This man is exactly the kind of person Paul warns married people about in 1 Corinthians 7. This is the man who chose the business of everyday life and love over eternity. He failed to see that the kingdom of God was here now, and was open wide for him. Family was his god, and kept him from God.
As a married woman with children, I personally wrestle with these verses, and even how to apply them practically. Taking care of my family is as close to the earth as I can get, and yet I must consistently keep my heart in heaven. The alternative to worshiping family as god is to worship God through our family. Family is not meant to impede the gospel, but to further it — to secure our hearts for God, not distract us from him.
The table has been set. Are you coming?