If our scriptwriters are illustrating our families, what are our families illustrating?
Certainly not the perfect, united, loving and joyful family of God.
In short, the metaphor is broken.
- Instead of permanence, our divorces illustrate a fleeting covenant.
- Our abortions depict shame in propagating the family image.
- Infertility makes clear our inability to be fruitful
- The over-saturated foster care system demonstrates a cold, closed-ness toward the orphan and children in need
Truly, it’s something to be grieved.
It’s just not new. And, historically, the family of God has been the family to such broken actors. Renowned for taking care of not just the Christians’, but everyone’s widows and orphans, marginalized and despised.
Daughters were shipped off to have and give up their babies on distant shores. Sons were disowned for having a second thought about other men. Husbands and wives would sleep in separate beds while harshly rebuking the stranger who had gotten a divorce.
Recall the TV shows illustrating families then: Leave it to Beaver, Father Knows Best, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. Families built more like fortresses. No serious defilement ever entered these homes.
Why this should never ever be
The family of God is not a metaphor. The reality behind which all of our earthly family dramas end is the triune God and our union therein through adoption. Being the reality, there is a robust security in being able to associate — even unequivocally fold in — those stuck in a joy-sapping broken metaphor of a family.
Such inclusiveness is the eternal function of the family of God, “God sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6, NIV).
Widows: A 1st-century case study
Paul provides very specific teaching when it comes to caring for widows. “If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows” (1 Tim. 5:16).
In other words, the church is to be the family for the neediest and loneliest.
A poor prognosis
Dr. Tim Keller, in his book Prodigal God, charged a scathing rebuke against our churches who are not families to the lonely,
Jesus’ teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect. The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted do not bother coming to our churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church. That can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did.
The family of God is a warm blanket to the soul
The gospel, rightly embodied and preached, will draw the divorcee, the frustrated infertile, the abortionist, and the homosexual. Just as it drew the widow, the orphan, the tax collector, the loose woman, and uneducated fisherman when Jesus lived and preached.
Just as it drew me — a lonely, self-righteous, needy, timid man.
You know how to do it. Just open your home and love whoever comes in. Dismiss your feelings of superiority as pure rubbish. Talk about how great Jesus is for loving someone like you. Know how to listen to people’s stories and share the gospel therein. Practice the family rhythms.
The family of God is a warm blanket to my soul. May we open our home and family to the actors in a broken metaphor, and together act out the gospel — the story of God adopting enemies as beloved sons and daughters.