(by Greg Bondar, December 2020)
What is a Family?
2020 has tested the heart and soul of Australia. We have been isolated and perhaps more than ever we have come to value the meaning of ‘family’, being confined to a house, apartment or even a few rooms.
Under COVID-19 many of us have had to rely on either ourselves or relatives in one way or another and this has meant that many are now asking the perennial question: What is a family?
We have been isolated and perhaps more than ever
we have come to value the meaning of ‘family’,
being confined to a house, apartment or even a few rooms.
Social scientists, researchers, demographers and even politicians struggle for a definition of ‘family’ which is universally acceptable in this age of wokeness, immorality, cancel culture, and Christian persecution.
We know from experience and observation that there are various types of families with the three main types of family being: Nuclear family, Single-parent family, and Extended family. To that you can also add Childless family, Stepfamily, Grandparent family, and now much to the dismay of traditional family proponents, we have Same-Sex family, and Rainbow families – through sperm, egg or embryo conception, surrogacy, and so on.
For the everyday ‘common person’ families meant marriages. The Family Law Act 1975 and the Marriage Act 1961 spelled out as to what defines a marriage as:
“…marriage, is the union of a man and woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into life”
[Marriage Act 1962, Section 46(1) and Family Law Act 1975, Section 43(a)]
The lives of traditional Judeo-Christians changed on 9 December 2017 when the right to marry in Australia was now no longer determined by sex or gender. Marriage is now defined in the Marriage Act 1961 as the
‘union of two people to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life’.
The significance of this change in the definition of marriage has altered the true understanding of what constitutes a ‘family’ which will have wide-ranging negative impacts on society and the child.
Overall, research evidence indicates that children raised in same-sex parented families do not do as well emotionally, socially, and educationally as children in traditional heterosexual marriages. In particular, children raised in same-sex parented families may be adversely affected by social stigma, self-awareness, and the lack of model roles of father and mother. There is currently a plethora of studies that try to convince us that children in homosexual marriages, and especially same-sex parenting, are better performers – really? Here is what one Australian politician has to say:
“Optimally, you’ve got the input from both [a mother and a father] and the children brought up in those circumstances are, as a cohort, better off than those who are not.
…whether it’s in terms of health outcomes, mental health, physical health, whether it’s in terms of employment prospects, in terms of how this is generated from one generation to another, the social science evidence is overwhelmingly in one direction in this regard…”
[Liberal MP Kevin Andrews, excerpts from an interview on Sky News, August 13, 2017]
There are so many possible permutations regarding family structures, suffice it to say that, notwithstanding the various types of families, for many a ‘family’ is simply a mother and/or father residing together through marriage, with perhaps children related by birth or adoption, with or without grandparent(s) living under the same roof. This is admittedly a household-centred definition.
One of my favourite quotes is from Marcus Tullius Cicero, who was a Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar, and academic sceptic who said: “the first bond of society is marriage” – not gay or same-sex marriage but traditional marriage between a man and a woman.
At FamilyVoice Australia we prosecute the case for family, faith, and freedom in the public square. We defend the traditional natural family and to foster conditions in society for the family to flourish. We believe that traditional natural marriage is essential for the family because it is the basic social unit of society.
Enid Lyons, first woman elected to the House of Representatives in Australia’s federal parliament, quoted King George V who said that “the foundation of a nation’s greatness is in the homes of its people” – the family.
What does the Bible say about Family?
It is difficult, if not impossible, to talk about the family without reference to the Bible. The concept of ‘family’ is extremely important in the Bible, both in a physical sense and in a theological sense. The concept of family was introduced in the very beginning, as we see in Genesis 1:28, “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’” God’s plan for creation was for men and women to marry and have children. A man and a woman would form a “one-flesh” union through marriage (Genesis 2:24), and they with their children become a family, the essential building block of human society.
The Bible has a more communal sense of people and family
than is generally held in Western cultures today …
We also see early on that family members were to look after and care for one another. When God asks Cain [in Genesis 4], “Where is Abel your brother?” Cain’s response is the flippant “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The implication is that, yes, Cain was expected to be Abel’s keeper and vice versa. Not only was Cain’s murder of his brother an offense against humanity in general, but it was especially egregious because it was the first recorded case of fratricide (murder of one’s sibling).
The Bible has a more communal sense of people and family than is generally held in Western cultures today, where citizens are more individualised than people in the Middle East and more so than the people of the ancient near East.
When God saved Noah from the flood, it was not an individual case salvation, but a salvation for him, his wife, his sons, and his sons’ wives. In other words, his family was saved (Genesis 6:18). When God called Abraham out of Haran, He called him and his family (Genesis 12:4-5). The sign of the Abrahamic covenant (circumcision) was to be applied to all males within one’s household, whether they were born into the family or are part of the household servant staff (Genesis 17:12-13). In other words, God’s covenant with Abraham was familial, not individual.
The importance of family can be seen in the provisions of the Mosaic covenant. For example, two of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) deal with maintaining the cohesiveness of the family. The fifth commandment regarding honouring parents is meant to preserve the authority of parents in family matters, and the seventh commandment prohibiting adultery protects the sanctity of marriage. From these two commandments flow all the various other stipulations in the Mosaic Law which seek to protect marriage and the family. The health of the family was so important to God that it was codified in the national covenant of Israel.
This is not solely an Old Testament phenomenon. The New Testament makes many of the same commands and prohibitions. Jesus speaks on the sanctity of marriage and against frivolous divorce in Matthew 19. The Apostle Paul talks about what Christian homes should look like when he gives the twin commands of “children, obey your parents” and ”parents, don’t provoke your children” in Ephesians 6:1-4 and Colossians 3:20-21.
Furthermore, we see similar New Testament concepts regarding the importance of family in the process of salvation in the book of Acts when on two separate occasions during Paul’s second missionary journey, entire households were baptized at the conversion of one individual (Acts 16:11-15, 16:31-33). This is not to condone infant baptism or baptismal regeneration (i.e., that baptism confers salvation), but it is interesting to note that just as the Old Testament sign of the covenant (circumcision) was applied to whole families, so also the New Testament sign of the covenant (baptism) was applied to entire households.
We can make an argument that when God saves an individual, His desire (from a moral/revealed-will perspective) is for the family to be saved. Clearly, God’s desire isn’t just to save isolated individuals, but entire households. In 1 Corinthians 7, the unbelieving spouse is sanctified through the believing spouse, meaning, among other things, that the unbelieving spouse can be saved through the witness of the believing spouse.
From a covenant perspective, membership in the covenant community is more communal than individualistic. In the case of Lydia and the Philippian jailer (Acts 16), their families/households were baptized and made part of the church community. Since we know that baptism doesn’t confer salvation, which is only by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), we can assume that not all were saved, but all were included into the community of believers. Lydia’s and the jailer’s salvation didn’t break up their families. We know that salvation can be a strain on a family, but God’s intent isn’t to break up families over the issue of salvation. Lydia and the jailer weren’t commanded to come out and be separate from their unbelieving families; rather, the sign of the covenant (baptism) was applied to all members in the household. The families were sanctified (set apart) and called into the community of believers.
If we now turn our attention to the theological concept of family, we find even more interesting support for the family unit. During His three-year ministry, Jesus shattered some prevailing notions of what it meant to be part of a family:
“While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.’
He replied to him, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ Pointing to his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother’” (Matthew 12:46-50).
Now we must clear up some misconceptions with this passage. Jesus is not saying that biological family isn’t important; He is not dismissing His mother and brothers. What He is doing is making the clear theological point that in the Kingdom of Heaven, the most important family connection is spiritual, not physical. This is a truth made explicitly clear in John’s Gospel, when the evangelist says,
“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12-13).
The parallels are quite clear. When we are born physically, we’re born into a physical family, but when we are “born again,” we are born into a spiritual family. To use Pauline language, we are adopted into God’s family (Romans 8:15). When we are adopted into God’s spiritual family, the Church, God becomes our Father and Jesus our Brother. This spiritual family is not bound by ethnicity, gender, or social standing. As Paul says,
“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29).
So, what does the Bible say about family? The physical family is the most important building block to human society, and as such, it should be nurtured and protected. But more important than that is the new creation that God is making in Christ, which is comprised of a spiritual family, the Church, made up of all people who call upon the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour. This is a family drawn “from every nation, tribe, people and language” (Revelation 7:9), and the defining characteristic of this spiritual family is love for one another:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).
In my view, the survival of the family is essential for the welfare of the young and the cohesion of society. Roman civilisation collapsed not because of economics or military might but because it ventured into pursuing false ends and pursuits.
In my view, the survival of the family is essential
for the welfare of the young and the cohesion of society.
In defence of the traditional family, we are to be ‘intolerant’ of whatever God does not ‘tolerate’, regardless of the popular (false) opinion. We must not bow down at the altar of false public opinion fostered by the cancel culture, wokeness, political correctness, and the LGBTIQA+ movements.
Your Brother in Christ,
FamilyVoice Australia (NSW)
I thank You gladly for my wife/husband
[and I thank You for our child/children].
Through all the good and crazy times,
Through all the daily joy and frustration,
I gladly give You thanks for my family.
You brought us unique individuals together
to learn how to love,
You allow challenges to teach us
to stand together with You against them,
I gladly give You thanks for my family.
When I want to kiss and hold my partner,
When I want to yell and scream in anger,
I gladly give You thanks for my family.
How precious is the life You give us Father God,
How generous You are to give us each day together,
How patient You are with our failings and limitations.
Teach us Lord Jesus how to be like You to each other,
To treasure the uniqueness of each member,
And be patient and truly love our family.
Dear Holy Spirit, let our house be Your house,
And our family be Your family,
Witness of Your love and wisdom in an unbelieving world.
Help us and lead us Lord with our children each day.
Help us to setup family and home-life that is honourable to You.
Help us lead our children to You each day.