Family idols. Many cultures around the world have a family idol in their home. They set up a little shrine and burn candles, incense, money, and other items as they offer up prayers to the little figurine. Christian Americans may consider this superstitious, evil, or even demonic in nature… however, many Christians in western culture struggle with their own family idol: family itself.
When we elevate one biblical teaching to a level that implies superiority over another, we are in jeopardy of making a characteristic of God’s Kingdom a god itself. We’ve over-idealized this one aspect of life to a point that we could spend all of our energy, time, and resources trying to meet a standard of expectations that is not really represented in scripture. Countless seminars, retreats, classes, movies, and books have been developed in order to teach us how to have a “successful” or “fulfilling” family life. While I don’t think any of those resources are innately wrong, I do think the emphasis we place on this specific part of the life of a Christ-follower is unhealthy.
Should we foster healthy marriages and families? Absolutely.
Should a healthy marriage or family ever be our main purpose or goal in life? No.
The New Testament “family” is not a typical husband/wife with their own children, living independently and working to create a life for themselves with a nice house and successful career. As followers of Christ, our family is the Church. Yes, our marriages and children are part of that, but there’s not really justification for the example we see in modern western-society of the individual family unit for which we strive. The examples we see in Acts are that of New Testament believers operating as one big family… a community. People in our culture today tend to think that’s a little weird… (Share resources? Live in each other’s lives daily? That would be absurd, we’re supposed to prove ourselves as independent!), so we largely ignore that characteristic of the early church… after all, it’s inconvenient in our mindset.
One of Jesus’ sermons is recorded in Matthew 5-7. He teaches about what the Kingdom of Heaven is like… the voluntary kingdom he came to earth to establish that will one day be perfected upon his return as conquering king. My question is not really “Why do we care so much about this distorted view of family?” My question is…
“Why don’t we care as much for the other topics about which Jesus taught?”
We’ve become so deceived about the importance of having a stereotypical American family, that we treat unmarried adults as if they have a disease… or at the least, we make them feel odd for not being in a relationship… I’ve contributed to this… one of my best friends is a late-twenties, single female… and I tease her pretty regularly about me finding a husband for her (sorry, Sarah). When… really… Scripture elevates followers of Christ who are single.
Our goal should be to live as Jesus taught. I absolutely hate the “What if” game, but let’s imagine for a moment…
What would the world look like today if we worried so intensely about caring for the poor? About being peacemakers in a world that is constantly at war? What if we were concerned with making sure we weren’t serving money, but giving it to those in need and thereby laying our treasure in heaven? What if we acknowledged that fasting is more than simply a time of purification, but also a time when the money saved from food (or the uneaten food itself) could be given to those who are hungry?
What if we made it just as uncomfortable for a financially successful person who fails to give to the poor as we make it for a person who has been unsuccessful in marriage?
What would our churches look like? What would our world look like?
Here’s the problem with those concepts: As an industry, they don’t make as much money. Staying closed up in our homes and putting all of our focus on the family is easy, it falls in line with our secular values and goals. It’s convenient… it’s comfortable.
But just imagine…
What would our world look like if we truly followed Jesus and His way of living in every area of our lives, instead of making a god out of the more palatable aspects of Jesus’ teachings?