I was blessed to grow up in a healthy family. Although both my parents worked, they always spent time with us. We had dinner together every night. We took a vacation every year. They attended my baseball games, band concerts, and track meets (while attending my siblings’ events too!). They took us to church every Sunday. And they paid for us to attend camps and conferences with our youth group.
My parents have now been married over 30 years. Just as they were involved in our lives, now they are involved in the lives of their grandchildren.
Sadly, this is a rare blessing. Most families do not enjoy such stability. It is often said that half of marriages end in divorce. 20 million children (1 out of 3) are growing up without a father. And households with both parents seem to be too busy to spend quality time together.
This decaying of the family has many unfortunate results. Divorce brings grief and hardship upon children. And children without fathers or more likely to make poor choices or suffer a lower quality of life.
But the most tragic consequence is we have lost our understanding of God. For it is through family relationships that we discover God’s heart.
A Married Monk
The family was under attack in Martin Luther’s day as well. The church had a negative attitude toward sex, even within marriage. It endorsed celibacy as the highest form of life and required clergy to abstain from sex. Upon entering the monastery, Luther took a vow of celibacy.
He later fought against this. He encouraged monks and nuns to marry. Not all were granted celibacy by God, and so needed an outlet for sexual desire. Luther himself married Katharina von Bora (a former nun) in 1525. This was as strong a statement as when he posted the 95 Theses!
He enjoyed being married. He and Katie loved each other deeply. She bore him six children, and he delighted in raising them. He emphasized the home as the place of Christian instruction. And he published his Small Catechism in 1529 to help parents teach their children the faith.
Luther championed family life at a time when the church denigrated it. He regarded marriage and parenting as sacred, noble callings. He established the Christian household as we know it today.
Reforming the Family
Luther’s vision for the family reminds us of several important truths:
First, family life cultivates faith in our children. The Bible tells us to teach them God’s commands (Deuteronomy 6:6-7) and train them in His ways (Ephesians 6:4). As we read the Bible to them, pray with them, and take them to church, the Holy Spirit forms saving faith within them that lasts a lifetime (Proverbs 22:6).
Second, family life fosters their church identity. The Bible calls God our “Father” and fellow Christians our “brothers and sisters.” As our children submit to our discipline, they learn to submit to God’s discipline (Hebrews 12:4-11). As we teach them to value their earthly siblings, they learn to value their siblings in Christ (Philippians 2:3-4).
Third, family life displays God’s love. The Bible calls us God’s children (1 John 3:1). As we love our children, we show His love to our neighbors and the world. The Bible also says God adopted us into His family (Ephesians 1:5). We witness to our children’s friends by loving them as if they were our own.
Fourth, marriage is a living portrayal of the gospel. Paul says the relationship between husband and wife mirrors that between Jesus and the church (Ephesians 5:22-33). The quality of our marriage credits or discredits the gospel to our children, relatives, and neighbors. You cannot be a godly person without being a good spouse.
We discover and display God’s heart through family relationships. If we neglect our spouse or children, we hinder our spiritual growth and diminish our witness. We must imitate His love for His family by extending it to our own. We must rediscover His heart by rededicating ourselves to our families.
What role has your family played in your faith development? Share your thoughts with a comment below!
(Feel free to share this post! Or subscribe by e-mail to receive new posts!)