Family Matters

“Peace on earth.” This was the proclamation of the angels when they announced the birth of Christ to the shepherds (Luke 2.14). “Peace on earth.” The promise of salvation in the Christ was not escape from the earth, but rather its rescue from the bondage of sin and its rearrangement under the lordship of Jesus. The eternal Son became a man, not so that we could leave this earth, but so that the earth would become everything that God intended it to become.

Creation matters to God. The way he created the world and his purposes for the world have not been abandoned with the incarnation. In the incarnation of the eternal Son, God has affirmed his love for the creation and his purposes for it. Creation is not being abandoned but rescued and glorified.

One important piece of God’s creation is the human family. God created the family with a mission. That mission was to take dominion of the earth in order to make it a fruitful and beautiful house in which God and man would dwell together. But sin twisted the family and its purposes, decimating family relationships and, thus, the mission of the family. Children born to parents were now “thorns and thistles” instead of “olive shoots” (cp. Psalm 128); they would be a scourge to the earth instead of developing it into a beautiful garden-city.

However, God did not leave the family in such a state. Where sin abounded grace did much more abound. Where sin distorted the family and its purpose, God rescued it and glorified it. He made promises to human families that would result in the family relating to one another, God, and the rest of creation the way he intended.

God has not forsaken his promises. He remembers every baptism. He knows every name. Yes, he visits the iniquity of fathers upon children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate him, but he shows mercy to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments (Exod 20.4-6). God gives grace to families because creation matters to God.

The New Covenant in Christ didn’t change this. Where sin abounded in the old creation, grace did much more abound in the new creation. Families aren’t forgotten by God. Indeed, the promises given to them are fulfilled in Christ. Families are being made what God intended them to be all along.

Many of us may not come from faithful Christian homes. Our parents may have been nominal at best or out-right obstinate toward God at worst. Some of us, if we look back a few generations, will find that we had some faithful forefathers. After a few generations of visiting the iniquities of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations, God is revisiting our family in grace in our generation. For others, our family may be the first generation of Christians we can find in our family line.

Wherever God’s grace has visited us in our family history, we have a responsibility to be good stewards of the grace of God. God has given you privileges to be in or have Christian families. Don’t squander the privilege.

Sometimes we can become fat and happy with the blessings God gives us and forget that we need to maintain faithfulness. It becomes easy to begin presuming upon God’s grace as if it will always be there for my blessing no matter how I respond to God. It is tempting when we are enjoying prosperity of some kind–many times the fruit of those who have gone before us–to neglect the disciplines of grace that keep our hearts and minds in the right place. Our fathers and mothers had their faith developed through times of trial, sometimes coming from deep lifestyles of sin or struggling with all sorts of external pressures. They became strong in the faith through these things. They gave us a better life because of all that they went through. We can become ungrateful and begin to take the disciplines of the faith in a more casual way. As Cotton Mather once said, “Religion begat prosperity and the daughter ate the mother.” The blessings God gives us can become idols that begin steal our love. We must be careful to maintain the disciplines of grace, shaping our hearts and minds to love our God.

Your family matters to God. He has given you grace. Don’t presume upon his grace. Continue to discipline yourself and your family in whole-hearted love for God.

God cares about our families. May we share his concern.