12.31.2008

The Family of God

This is my first attempt at a post here, so I'm not sure if it properly falls within the parameters of the site, but it is something that has struck me with some interest recently.

I've simply observed that — in addition to the one true God being Father and Son (not to discount the Holy Spirit, who with them both is one) — the Church is also identified in distinctively familial terms. That seems significant and not at all accidental. It coincides with St. Paul's description of the Church as the household of God in the pastoral epistles.

The natural relationships established by God within creation — that is to say, in contrast to the voluntary relations of friendship and the coincidental associations of mutual context or shared activities — the natural relationships are that of husband and wife (the original human relationship, out of which all others emerge), father and mother and child, brother and sister. These relationships belong to the Lord's creative design, and, I would argue, reflect the image and likeness of God in man. By that I mean to suggest that, as marriage is iconic of Christ and His Bride, the Church, so do parental and fraternal relationships signify the life of the Church as the family of God.

Thus, pastors are spiritual fathers to those whom they beget and nurture by the Gospel. Not only that, but they are to regard older men as fathers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters (1 Timothy 5). Likewise, Christians are bound to each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. The Church collectively is the Bride of Christ and the Mother of His Christians.

So, what does this mean for us? At least a few things, I think. First of all, it indicates the significance of marriage and family as confessing the Gospel of Christ and His Church, and precisely in that way manifesting the creative intention of God. Especially in the face of sin, death, the devil and hell, entering into marriage, being faithful in marriage (and remaining married!), and welcoming children, each and all of these things confess the faithfulness of the Lord as our Creator and Redeemer. Even under the cross, marriage and family are not meaningless or pointless, but gracious gifts of God to be received with thanksgiving.

Second, though, as significant and important as marriage and family are, these human relationships point beyond themselves to that which is ultimate and eternal, namely, to those relationships in Christ which belong to His Church. His Father is the one Father by whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth is named. Christ Himself is the the true and heavenly Bridegroom of all His Christians. United to Him, we belong to a great company of many brothers and sisters, to whom we are more closely bound, even here in time and hereafter in eternity, than we are by human flesh and blood to our kindred here on earth. Thus, we are not to make idols of spouse, parents or children, but defer all fear, love and trust to God above them all.

Third, those who are not given the gifts of marriage or children in this life on earth may rejoice with special comfort and peace in the family and household of God. Those who bear the blessed cross of celibacy, for example, may rejoice in the Bridegroom of the whole Christian Church; and those who are widowed, abandoned or divorced (irrespective of fault), may likewise rejoice in His undying love, His unfailing promises and eternal faithfulness, and His gracious reconciliation of those who have been unfaithful. Orphans may rejoice in their heavenly Father, who hears their cries and cares for them. Grieving parents bereft of their children may rejoice in the salvation of Christ for the tiniest infant, even in the womb or yet at the breast. And childless couples may rejoice in the opportunity to love and serve the children of God within His Church on earth, wherein no one is alone or without a family.

4 comments:

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

These are very foundational first principles to the subject here. Thanks for expressing them so well.

You rightly point out that "pastors are spiritual fathers to those whom they beget and nurture by the Gospel." Consider how obviously ridiculous it would be for a pastor to say:

"We have enough members to take care of right now, and so we should practice some form of spiritual 'birth control' until what time (if ever) we decide it would desirable to add to our numbers."

"I'm busy enough taking care of the members we have."

"Yes, I know God said to make disciples, but as you can see, I have already made some. Mission accomplished."

"Besides, we can't afford to build a bigger sanctuary right now, and if we could afford it, I'd rather add on that fellowship hall and exercise room we've got plans for."

"If our congregation gets any bigger, our current members won't get as much attention from the pastor as they need and are accustomed to."

"If we continue growing, our risks increase that we could end up with some members with special needs that we'll have to deal with."

GL said...

Rev. Stuckwisch and Erich,

Amen and Amen.

Christopher Amen said...

Well said. Thanks for the post Pastor Stuckwisch, look forward to more posts on this site.

Christopher Gillespie said...

Well said. Adoption also fits nicely within this paradigm. Those who are unable to conceive might belittle adoption as less natural or special but what does such a view say about our adoption as sons of God?