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THE MODEL FAMILY
by Philip Owen

            Conservative Christians have long recognized that the Bible has established the model of a family as one man and one woman joined in monogamous holy matrimony along with the children they produce together. The model is firmly and forever established at creation. God did not create Adam and Elmer and put them together, nor Eve and Sue. He did not create Adam and Elmer and Eve; nor did He begin with Eve and Sue and Adam. He had the ability to do so, but He didn’t.  God’s normative pattern for family structure is clear. The decalogue officially recognizes one father and one mother per family when it commands children to “Honor your fathers and your mothers” (Deut. 5:16a). That inviolable structure is underscored late in the New Testament when Paul reveals that a primary qualification for one of God’s ministers is that he be “the husband of one wife. . . . keeping his children under control” (I Tim. 3:2a, 4b). Given this God-ordained norm, have you considered how frequently God’s standard is abrogated in the Bible?

 Examples of deliberate, conscious violations. These are sinful choices. Abraham takes Hagar, Sarah’s Egyptian maid, as his concubine, and sires Ishmael. Jacob weds two wives along with two concubines. Moses takes two wives. Elkanah has two wives, one being Hannah, the mother of Samuel. David has at least eight wives plus concubines. His son, Solomon, somehow weds seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. Just to name the most prominent examples.

Examples of exceptions ordained by God. Then there are those who vary from the norm through no fault of their own. The infant Moses is wrenched from his mother’s arms, so to speak, to be raised by Pharaoh’s daughter. Hannah takes her just-weaned son, Samuel, to be raised by Eli. Saul orders a teen-aged David to leave his family and live in the king’s palace. The devastation of war rips Daniel from his parents and home and deposits him among aliens who had destroyed his country. And Esther is raised by her cousin, Mordecai.

            What’s the point? (1) Sin has wreaked havoc on every aspect of human life, including its God-ordered foundational structure. (2) God’s norm is achievable but too infrequently met. (3) When God’s standards are deliberately violated the result is tragic. You will search in vain among the examples listed above for a family that was not devasted by the violation of God’s will regarding the family unit. (4) One need not come from the perfect or normative family in order to be a healthy, wholesome, victorious saint. (5) One cannot use his family situation as an excuse for committing sin. (6) One cannot use his family situation as a reason for personal failure.

            Believers must recognize several realities. (1) It is possible to establish and maintain a family structure that accords with God’s will and therefore glorifies Him and blesses each member of the family. But as with all that is righteous, it will require active faith, diligent obedience, and constant watchfulness. (2) There would be no dysfunctional families were there no sin, but not every disruption is the result of personal sin as the examples of Moses, Samuel, Daniel, etc., prove. (3) God ordains some of these exceptions in order to accomplish His greater purposes. (4) When disruptions occur through no fault of our own, there is no place for anger, resentment, or bitterness: God makes no mistakes. (5) Even where a godly family structure exists, sin and the flesh coexist. No human family is perfect, or even nearly perfect. (6) You have not been cheated because your family has been less than ideal or your family life other than perfect. God makes no mistakes.

            God gives His children an unfailing promise. “For my father and mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me up” (Psa. 27:10). Not only does the Lord care for orphans and neglected or abused ones, but He saves us, makes us sons of God, and loves us with an infinite and eternal love. And Christ loves us and makes us His Bride and fellow heirs of all that is His. Whether our earthly families are good or bad on balance, those of us who know Christ are members of a perfect family that will be realized fully, completely, and eternally. God will meet His own standard.

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