The family is the basic unit of society and must be preserved. In a strictly secular and political sense, the protection of the family is essential. Family is the source of the next generation, and American society especially is based on a perpetual striving toward the betterment of tomorrow. Family is the unit in which children are raised, where basic concepts are taught, and where values are instilled. It then becomes the unit from which adults are released into society to contribute to the economy, maintain their civil duties, and raise their own children. This cycle demonstrates just how important healthy families are to the maintenance of society on the local and national levels.
But it sounds so cold and scientific to speak strictly in the secular and political sense. For when we only observe that the family is integral to society, we undermine why we must fight to protect it. We must start by understanding this: the importance of the family is not ultimately determined by society. The “family unit” was not established to serve some vague utilitarian purpose. How dehumanizing! No, the family – a father, a mother, and their children – is a God-crafted masterpiece through which the Lord continues to work His wonders.
Throughout the Old Testament, God establishes his covenant promises through families. He shows Abraham the night sky and tells him to count the stars. “So shall your offspring be” (Genesis 15:5). And God promises that through this endless abundance of descendants, all the people of the earth will be blessed (Genesis 12:2-3).
Within the kingdom of Israel, God declares David’s reign an endless one, promising to raise up offspring to succeed him. Through this line, God will eventually bring the promised Redeemer, a blessing to all nations (2 Samuel 7:8-16, Isaiah 11:1-3). In the New Testament, the Angel of the Lord visits the virgin Mary, and declares that through her, God will Himself be with us (Luke 1:26-38). It was within the design of a family – Joseph as the father figure, Mary as the mother – that our Lord and Savior was raised before his ministry, death, and resurrection.
How then can the divine importance of the family be denied?
However, families can exist without existing according to God’s design. In his article, “Family, Covenant, and Kingdom of God: Biblical Reflections,” Chris Wright suggests that “…composed of sinful persons, the family can magnify the horrors of human oppression and wickedness, and become an idolatrous substitute for the true worship of God” (11). He goes on to suggest that, even though the family is a central aspect of God’s created order, “The entrance of sin moves quickly from…between husband and wife…to that between siblings, to the whole of human society” (12).
The first human family did not become a possibility until God established the partnership between man and woman, husband and wife. Only then did He bless them and lovingly command them to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28). This is His perfect design. But as soon as Eve entertained the crafty question of the serpent, “Did God really say?” (Genesis 3:1-6), as soon as she sinned with her husband who was with her, this design was undermined. Although Adam and Eve went on to have children and fulfilled the command to be fruitful and multiply, their sin carried damaging implications for their children.
Wright explores how this sin manifests itself in the life of Adam and Eve’s son, Cain, who murders his brother in Genesis 4. He is condemned by the Lord for his immorality and blatant rebellion. Still, Cain goes on to have his own family. The population grows and humanity continues to multiply through him. However, his family does not serve God, and they also reject that which God has called very good. Wright suggests that “The ongoing family of Cain manifests a dual capacity for great cultural achievement (in agriculture, music and crafts – Gen 4:19-22), with simultaneous moral decline (bigamy and boastful violence – Gen 4:23-24)” (12). When Adam and Eve disregarded God’s perfect design, when they sacrificed the very good for the serpent’s lie, they welcomed a cycle of moral decline into their home. Every child and every generation now questions God’s design. Society continues, but it continues farther and farther away from the Father.
The God-designed family has been traded for versions of human-construction. The world says the family can be anything we want as long as it benefits future generations. “Did God really say?” After all, won’t life go on if husbands and wives aren’t faithful to each other? Can’t a family with two fathers progress American society? Humanity may progress, but will ultimately progress away from its Redeemer. Disregarding God’s design when it comes to family is dangerous. Not only is it entertaining disobedience, but it ignores the greater damaging implications that come from living outside of His order.
The Israelites were God’s chosen people, and the Mosaic Law differentiated God-serving families from those of surrounding cultures. Wright analyzes the Ten Commandments and how they are established to protect families from deadly sin-cycles. First, families are to be overseen by parental authority (Wright 14). With this authority comes the responsibility to raise and protect children in love and impartiality. Second, sexual purity requires adhering to the sexual boundaries established by God (Wright 14) so that the family does not spiral into perverted understandings of love. Finally, God established laws that might “…prevent families falling into serious economic decline, or to rescue them…if they had done so” (Wright 14). Families are held in the assurance that God will provide.
When obedience to the Lord becomes the focus of families, God has promised that everything else will follow. In His commandments, He has accounted for the internal and external function of the family, and He desires us to be fruitful and multiply according to His will. The house that truly serves the Lord is automatically the house that makes positive social contributions, it is the house that inherently is prepared for the next generation, it is the house whose every need is overseen by the One who feeds the sparrows. This is the house that is truly healthy and very good. It seeks first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness, and, therefore, all these things to it will be given (Matthew 6:33).
Wright, Chris. “Family, Covenant and Kingdom of God : Biblical Reflections.” Transformation, vol. 19, no. 1, Jan. 2002, pp. 11–19. EBSCOhost, https://doi.org/10.1177/026537880201900103.
The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Gordon Review, editorial staff, or its members.