God's Purpose for the Family

by Barbara Cross

If you were to approach the average person on your street and ask him what is the purpose of the home, he would most likely look at you with a blank expression. Either he would never have thought about a purpose or, upon further thought, still could not present a clear purpose. Some, who have been under the influence of ungodly philosophical thinking, might state categorically that the family unit is simply the result of the evolutionary process. They believe that as man evolved in his social thinking he saw the value of co-operation between the sexes in bringing up children and sharing in the caring for them and for each other.

If, as many believe, the home is simply the product of evolutionary and social development, then we do not have to be concerned about its breakdown in the world today. Perhaps, under this reasoning, we have moved on in our evolutionary and social development and have outgrown our need for the family structure as it has been known throughout recorded history.

Hopefully the Christian, when asked this question, would have a better answer and would respond with the fact that God designed the family relationship to create Christian homes where God is honoured. As good and as true as that answer is, it does not go far enough in getting to the heart of one of the primary reasons why God created the family and the various relationships within the home.

In looking at the Scriptures as a whole it becomes very obvious that one of God's primary reasons in creating the home and family relationships is to be a picture of our spiritual relationship with Him. The other side of this truth is that our relationship with God is to be a pattern for the relationships within the home.

A brief look at Scripture will illustrate these points.

The Husband-Wife Relationship

Isaiah 54:5 tells us, "For your Maker is your husband - the Lord Almighty is His name." Here we see the Lord called our "husband". From that word we are to look at good husband-wife relationships to learn in some small way what God is to us. He is pictured as a loving, protective and caring husband to us, and we are His bride.

On the other hand, Eph. 5:23-24 points to our relationship with Christ as the model for what an earthly husband should be in the marriage relationship. It strongly exhorts the husband in his marital responsibilities when it says, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her."

In the previous verses, wives are also shown the heavenly example when they are told in Ephesians 5:22, "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church."

The Parent-Child Relationship

Isaiah 63:16 speaks of the spiritual parent-child relationship when it states, "You, O Lord, are our Father." Deuteronomy 14:1 gives us the opposite side of that relationship when Moses reminds the people of Israel by saying, "You are the children of the Lord." This idea is carried out in numerous places in the Scripture, perhaps most easily remembered in the opening words of the Lord's Prayer which begins, "Our Father, which art in Heaven."

Writers of Scripture draw on a godly human parent-child relationship to illustrate the kind of Heavenly Father that we have. The Psalmist, in Ps. 103:13, warms our hearts with the reminder that "As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers we are dust."

To present the other side, the writer of Hebrews uses the workings of the human parent-child relationship to remind us of our need for God's loving correction. He says, "Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good that we may share in his holiness."

The Sibling Relationship

The closeness of the sibling relationship is pictured in Proverbs 17:17 when we are told that "a brother is born for adversity." Matthew Henry explains this as meaning, "Relations must in a special manner be careful and tender of one another in affliction. A brother is born to succour a brother or sister in distress, to whom he is joined so closely by nature that he may be the more strongly inclined and engaged, as it were by instinct, to help them."

Peter draws upon the closeness that should be shown in the human brother relationship in order to compare it to the relationship of fellow believers. In I Peter 2:17 we are exhorted to "love the brotherhood of believers." Jesus Himself in Mark 3:35 says, "Whoever obey's God's will is my brother and sister."

From these few comparisons we can see that the earthly relationships within the family have been created to be an illustration (though a limited one) of our spiritual relationships with God and with fellow believers. We also see that the spiritual relationships that we have with God and fellow believers are the ultimate model for how we must conduct our human relationships within the home.

A very serious responsibility has been placed upon us to make every effort to see that the way we live in our home depicts to the members of our family and to those who observe us something of the character of God and our relationship with God. It also means that we are responsible to seek to understand and then, with God's help, to try to model our family relationships after the example of how God relates to us.

A wise man once said, "A truly Christian home should be a little bit of heaven upon earth. It should be the ground floor of heaven so that departure from this life is just going upstairs."

Barbara Cross is the wife of Rev. David Cross, pastor of Chelmsford Presbyterian Church. They have two children and three grandchildren.
Copyright © Family Matters 1997