Thursday, September 3, 2009

Some Thoughts on Family

I grew up in a small town that often acts like an extended family -- with all of the good that this means and all of the bad. It still is a town so small you cannot be anonymous (at 660 or so residents). Your failings and your virtues are always there in public view and people comment on them. A few speak to condemn but most speak out of love and longing for your virtues to increase and your failings to decrease. In this small town people knew my parents and when my parents were not around they acted parental -- for my good though seldom with my approval.

I am often sad that my own children did not grow up in such a stable, caring, familial community. The Lord only knows where I might have ended up without these folks to support, sustain, and extend the parental love of my mother and my father. But it was not to be. And the down side of being a Pastor is that your children generally grow up far away from the extended families of mom and dad that can be such a benefit and help (and such a pain as well). All in all, the benefits generally outweigh any of the pains.

God created us for family. Remember Adam's lament that there was not one out there in all of God's creation who was like him. Recall his delight when Eve is brought to him and he exclaims in unrestrained joy -- at last! Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh! Somebody like me... It goes unspoken that his longings had finally been met. Whether you call this the romantic love of the movies, well, I do not know, but it was family for one who had none and who knew it.

The issues before our culture are not so much issues of sexuality as they are issues of family. There is a part of our culture willing to ditch the idea of family, willing to retract the longing of Adam that there is not one like me. We seem to have embraced an individuality which leaves us free to do whatever we darn please -- sort of damn the torpedos and full steam ahead with whatever makes me happy. Of course, family gets square in the way of this kind of happiness. And by design, I might add.

The fullest dimension of love is not getting what you want but taking care of those around you. This is what it means that God first loved us... that greater love cannot be found than the love that lays down its life for a friend... that the greatest love of all is the servant love that puts others before self...

It seems that with sexuality as with pleasure, our culture is moving to embrace an individual goal and reality which has no room for sacrifice, for the happiness of others, for service that puts you out, and for love that is more on your knees than the tingle in your toes. I lament this trend and find it far more dangerous to us as people and to Christianity than the states which have allowed same sex marriage or the churches that are following along behind.

By refusing this family for which we were created, we are in essence refusing God, refusing the likeness He placed in us, and rejecting His image. Even the fall and sin could not wipe out the longing within us to be together, to put another before self, to love with the love the delights in the other before self... It has certainly distorted this almost beyond recognition but not our culture is erasing whatever of that broken image was left by raising individuality to the highest plane and personal pleasure as the ultimate goal.

Like the old sports movies in which the coach says to the star player, "There is no I in team..." so also love learns that there is no I in love. We learn this most profoundly from the One who came to suffer to release us from suffering, to die that we might live, and to live to raise our lives to eternity.

Part of the reason the Church's proclamation is so out of touch today is that our culture has moved beyond the family to the individual, from the love for others to the love me first, and from the lament of being alone to the delight in not having to be bothered by others except when you desire them around. I pray this rejection of God's design will not last long but I am not so sure... for if there is anything about the proclamation of the Gospel it is that God is restoring what was lost to Him, you and me, as His family. He did not wait for us to recognize the loss or to seek its repair and He knew that we were incapable of fixing it anyway. So He did what family does... He loved us more than Himself, He loved us more than life, and by the great sacrifice of Himself, His lost family was found and restored to Him... Soli Deo Gloria...

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