Nifty fractal

God’s Three Purposes for Family

Why did God create family? Family is so fundamental to our lives that we never think to question it, but wouldn’t it be so much more efficient if it did not take 20 years of nurturing to produce an adult? Eph 3:15 makes an interesting observation: “... the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named …” I realized that the concept of family actually originated in Heaven! So family is more than about procreation, and in exploring this I found three purposes God has for family.

The first purpose of family is to raise godly offspring (Malachi 2:15). Unlike reptiles, which basically come pre-programmed as babies, and go off on their own after hatching, mammals, and humans specifically, are given the gift of culture. Human babies are born knowing little, and get much of their programming from their parents and the adults around them. This enables the creation and transmission of culture, which has resulted in a vast diversity of cultures and languages around the world. Judging from the impressive diversity of plants and animals, God is clearly a lover of diversity. So God’s intention was that family would be the means of creating a vast, but godly diversity, with each culture displaying unique combinations of the character of God.

The second purpose of family is to be a picture of the Trinity. Jesus describes God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In family we experience being loved unconditionally (roughly corresponding to experiencing the Holy Spirit). When we commit ourselves to our spouse for life in marriage, we learn to give sacrificially for another, just as Jesus gave himself for us. Finally, when we become parents, we learn the heart of God the Father as we give unconditionally to our child who initially has no ability to give anything back to us. If we allow God to shape us through family, not only do we learn about who God is, but as we live family in his design, in some sense we actually “participate in the divine nature,” as Peter says. As a family, we become “like God,” ideally acting together as the Trinity acts together. As a family, we display God to the world.

The third purpose of family is partnership. Eph 3:15 seems to indicate that all of Heaven is run like a huge family, rather than as a kingdom with a king and subjects. A family cannot be successfully run as a dictatorship like a corporation. A family succeeds when each member is in mutual submission to each other, like the Trinity. The fact that Heaven is run as a family suggests that God is raising us into partners with him. We see this in his original delegation to humanity, giving us responsibility for stewarding the earth in Gen 1:28 [1]. We are tasked with extending the rule of Heaven over the earth in partnership with God.

Our modern American culture has little value for family, in many cases seeing it as a task. Instead of figuring out how to serve and forgive each other, we divorce each other, ripping apart two that have become one, and hurting the children with collateral damage. We can see the result: fatherless children are over ten times more likely to commit suicide, commit rape, have behavioral problems, and drop out of school than children with fathers [2]. Family is actually a God-given privilege: we have the opportunity to become “like God” and at the same time we have the freedom to create our own flavor of godly culture. As Christians, let’s live out this divine calling with such excellence that the world wants to join us!

[1] 2 final stead to rule and subdue in gen 01.pdf

Inspired by ideas from Michael Brodeur at Pastor’s Coach.