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Does the Church Replace Family?

Jeff:
So guys, Jeff and Jeremy here, another episode of Five Minute Fatherhood. Peter, in our Five Minute Fatherhood Facebook group, go request into there, it’s usually in the links of descriptions if you want to get in. It’s free, it’s fun, we have a blast in there doing fun questions. Now Peter asked a really good question. He said, “have you received pushback from others regarding the thoughts discussed in the family revision book that Jeremy’s written or just the family teams concept in general?” He said, “we mentioned the book and the idea to a trusted friend and they indicated they couldn’t finish the book because there were too many things they considered not valid. We haven’t met up with them yet to discuss their viewpoints, but I’m curious if any of you have brought up the idea of multi-generational living and have been challenged on the topic, what criticism have you heard and how have you responded?” Then there was a whole comment thread where we kind of synthesized, asked more questions, and et cetera.

And essentially what the biggest pushback was from their friend and the one we get the most, it tends to be from the Christian community of saying oh that’s kind of idolizing the family too much, kind of Christian community has replaced that, right? Stop putting so much emphasis on your family, it says in the New Testament that the church is the new family. Now at the idolatry part, we totally agree. The family should not be an idol. We talk about that. It is not the thing at all. The goal is not to have a cute, perfect, little family. The goal is to be on mission and you can just do that better when you have teammates. That’s the goal. But we still get that common critique. So Jeremy, how would you answer that? And then I think even the example he used was a really good one of how we play a little bit of a double standard in western culture with that one.

Jeremy:
Yeah we do. Yeah. It’s a really fair question. And for sure, it’s really important and we never want to suggest that what we’re talking about with family is as important as the Gospel or that it competes directly with our values for the church. We don’t see these things as competing and so there’s something that’s really broken about the family that the Bible speaks to that we’re really trying to work on. We’re not speaking to so many other values that exist about the Gospel, about the church. Of course there’s lots of ministries and lots of teaching around that. But what I find frustrating oftentimes is when people pit the church against the family. And one of the things that came up in the discussion that both Jeff and I were like, Whoa, that’s a good point. [Timothy Oulette, I just want to call out a shout out to him. He just threw out an argument. He says, “does the church replace your marriage?” In other words, you almost never hear the church say why are you focusing so much on your husband or your wife. You should not spend a lot of time on that relationship, the church is really the new bride.

Jeff:
Totally. Which is why you should care about your marriage.

Jeremy:
That’s right. Exactly. We see that value that’s happened in the picture of Jesus and the church and then we turn that typically and say, that just makes marriage all the more beautiful, all the more meaningful, all the more important, but we don’t do that with family oftentimes. We don’t say well because the church is a big family, because the church is the household of God, because there is a fulfillment of the picture of family, now we don’t focus on family. We don’t build family. We don’t care about family. That’s a double standard, right?

Jeff:
Yeah. And I think one thing that I thought of after we had that comment thread that I don’t think I put in the comment thread, but maybe I think they mentioned is I think if you really drill down to why there’s that double standard standard, I think what it is is essentially most people’s baggage with family. It’s too messy, it’s too hard, or it’s burned them too bad. Marriage has done that to people, can do that to you, does that to plenty of people. It’s hard, it’s difficult just like family, but yet family, you’re brought into that context when marriage is not till later so it’s kind of like you can still have this idealistic, romantic future vision if you have not been married yet of oh I want that, I desire that and I’ve never had that or seen that. Family on the other hand, you’ve already kind of seen it you feel like. Like oh I don’t want to repeat that. I don’t want to replicate that.

And so I think that is the issue so that then the baggage becomes a little bit heavier because you feel like you’ve already experienced it because you grow up in a context of family, you don’t grow up in a marriage. You grow up in the context of a marriage like your parents or maybe, but I didn’t, but you kind of have ideas about it, et cetera. But you’re not the first person in that. And so I think that’s it. I think that really is the difference. But again, no, we know that marriage is most important because it tells a story about the mystery that was revealed, which is Christ in his church, in the same way that Ephesians says that a new family is being created Jew and Gentile alike, and a true family team is the best representation of that powerhouse for the kingdom just like the marriage is. And so I think that’s really, it’s a strong parallel that we don’t give kind of credence to.

Jeremy:
Yeah. Yeah. Certainly I’ve run across a lot of people who there always does tend to be this kind of like ugh, family didn’t work out for me, then I encountered the church and it was so life-giving. And so it was something that happened in their heart where they basically said they wanted the church to replace family. And if you hear, a lot of times, their heartbreaking stories they tell, it’s understandable. And I do believe the church is supposed to have that place of healing in people’s lives, but does that mean that they shouldn’t then turn around and in their generation build a strong family team. That’s when I would say, okay, it’s good that you’ve gotten that healing.

But one of the reasons why I think family is so important with regards to our own spiritual life is because God has decided to reveal his very nature through family identities. He says, I’m a father. How can somebody understand what a good father looks like if no one is out there becoming good fathers? Jesus says, I am the son, an adult son, in a large, powerful multi-generational family in almost every single illusion. Jesus’s favorite title for himself was son. And why did he do that? He decided to reveal himself primarily through a family identity. Again, if the culture destroys fatherhood, if the culture destroys sonship, if the culture destroys motherhood, if the culture destroys the images of the family and the identities of the family or redefines them and changes them so they don’t look at all the way that classical families looked, then the casualty isn’t just simply that we don’t get to understand those things. I mean, the casualty is enormous for our spiritual life. It’s not just in our family, it’s also in our spiritual life.

So for sure there are bright lines that we need to be very careful of when it comes to idolizing family, but it’s really important not to pit the church and the family against each other or marriage and the church against each other. We’ve got to see these as complimentary ideas. One is a foundation laying sort of part of the process and the other is more of a fulfillment of the story and our heart should really be super excited about both of those. And I think then we’re not going to have this real tension that really does not need to exist.

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