Honored to have today’s post written by Jasmine Baucham (read more about her at the end of the article)…
There is no biblical family model.
In our day and age, a sentence like that comes off as something warm, fuzzy, and accepting –in a culture where diversity is next to godliness, a sentence like that takes the pressure off of blossoming Christian families –instead of encouraging them to delve into God’s Word for biblical principles, the phrase encourages them to go with the flow and to do what feels right… because there is no right answer –no one-size-fits all approach to family life. So heave a sigh of relief, ladies –the Bible doesn’t judge you, so your fellow Christians shouldn’t either.
Well, there ya go.
Except… rather than closing the door on a host of problems, this approach to family life opens a whole ‘nother can of worms. This past week, I’ve read that sentence from two extremely different points of view… from Christians advocating a non-judgmental approach to family decisions… to homosexual activists using the sordid family lives of the patriarchs to justify their monogamous lifestyles (http://www.newsweek.com/2008/12/05/our-mutual-joy.html).
See, that’s a problem for me, and not just because I have an axe to grind –I do not write this article from a position of perfection –not only do I not have a perfect marriage… I’m not even married! But, at twenty, someday, I’d certainly like to be married… and I think that the best time to hash out family issues is before I’ve walked the aisle… not afterwards. And so, armed with a legacy passed down from a dad who is passionate about the biblical family unit (and yes, I think there is one), and a mother who has worked with him to instill the desire for a biblically-structured family in their six children, this is a question that I want to dive into:
If there is a biblical family model, where can we find it?
The first thing we have to keep in mind is that narrative is not normative. So just because Hosea married a prostitute, Abraham had a concubine, or David and Solomon had a gaggle of wives does not mean that modern-day Christians should follow suit. Just because something is recorded in the Bible does not mean that it is commanded of us in the Bible. The only man we should strive to emulate in Scripture is Christ Jesus, and we ought only to emulate others insofar as they are walking in his ways.
what about the passages that are normative?
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” ~Eph. 5:22-6:4, ESV
I don’t know about you, but that looks like a lot of directives to me. In fact, if you add in the fact that Paul is hearkening back to Deuteronomy 6 in his passage about teaching and training children (Deuteronomy 6:4-9), and that, later on, he gives further instruction to wives in passages Titus 2:3-5 and 1 Peter 3:1-6, the argument that there is no biblical pattern for family life sounds… well… not of the spirit, but of the flesh (“I really don’t want to hear what you have to say about biblical family life… so there’s no such thing!”). Given that all Scripture is inspired by God, the words of Paul –a single man writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit –should hold a little more weight than, “Well… you should just do whatever works for you!” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Just as an aside here, I am not arguing that all families should look alike –there is incredible room for diversity and growth within the biblical pattern for family life (I know that phrase makes so many people cringe). But, as with so many other facets of our lives, the fact that we claim the love and serve the Lord with all that is within us should impact the way we do family (and the way we do church… and the way we do education… and the way we do government… but those are whole different cans of worms).
Marriage is carefully defined in Scripture –and families are given a pattern to follow in God’s Word. Now, where the Scripture does not speak, we ought to be silent –this is not about fettering families with extra-biblical rules or sending them on a guilt trip. What it is about, though, is understanding that, as believers we aren’t as free in our family choices as we’ve been led to believe we are –in fact, as slaves to Christ (Romans 6), the decisions we make as families (or, in my case, as young people who will someday be going in to families) are incredibly important. Too important to be cast aside with the very non-judgmental-sounding-but-very-dangerous in reality, “There is no biblical model for family life.”
As Christians modeling the Savior who died for us, and called to obey his commands (John 14:15), we ought not be so quick to silence His Word on the matter.
Jasmine is the oldest of Voddie and Bridget Baucham’s six children. She is a homeschool graduate who enjoys studying and writing about areas as varied as theology, philosophy, political science, art, film and culture. She is also an aspiring author who currently lives at home where she continues to assist her father in his research, is completing a degree in English literature, writing a book based on her blog, Joyfully at Home, and is blessed to assist her mother with the care of her younger siblings.
Photo credit: A Family Bond