We live in a culture where the word “family” is, at the very least hard to define, and perhaps even archaic. In America, we are observing the decimation of marriage and the traditional family. In the recent past, the family was understood to be a man and a woman joined together in marriage, with a very high potential of children. So naturally one of the primary roles of a married couple was providing support, care and stability for their offspring.
Unfortunately, this is no longer the common view. Committed relationships have been exchanged for “shack up” consumer contracts. The attitude is: “If you’re not meeting my needs, I’ll take my business elsewhere.” Sexual relations with one who is not your spouse is no longer abhorrent, nor is it merely tolerated – but both expected and celebrated. Children who were once seen as precious are now seen as unfortunate mistakes. In our culture they might have a mommy and a mommy, or a daddy and a daddy, or they may find themselves in single parent families. With all of these ideas swirling around our heads, it is very important that we as Christians are reminded of God’s plan for marriage and the family, lest we be carried away by the culture. This is why we have reminders such as the 1963 Confession of Faith.
Article 15 of the Confession begins with this statement: “We believe that at the beginning of human history God instituted marriage.” This is one of the most important statements for our understanding. God is the designer and creator of marriage, and He created marriage perfectly. Therefore, any deviation from His original design for marriage is a sin. This is not a popular teaching in most corners of the globe. The world is in the business of redefining the vast majority of God’s good gifts and marriage is no exception. However, despite popular opinion, marriage is to be a covenant relationship between one man and one woman for life. “A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Gen 2:24).” And in the New Testament we read, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate (Mark 10:9).” This means that all homosexal relationships are sinful and must be repented of; divorce and remarriage is not permissible for a Christian; and any extramarital affair is a breach of a covenant made before God with your spouse.
Marriage between one man and one woman for life is very important for several reasons. First, a man and woman coming together is God’s plan for procreation. This may come as a shock to some of you, but two biological women cannot produce a child on their own, nor can two biological men. The reason for this is quite simple – God designed it that way.
Secondly, a man and a woman who covenant together as husband and wife are to stay together for life. Again, the reason for this should be quite obvious. There is a need for stability in the home. Wives and husbands both need the assurance that their spouse will not desert them. This becomes even more important if they have children. Children need to know that Mom and Dad are going to stick together. This provides a safe place for them as they mature.
Thirdly, and most importantly according to Ephesians 5, marriage is to be a manifestation of Christ and the church. Paul states that wives are to submit to their husbands as the church submits to Christ, and husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave His life for it. Ultimately, marriage is to be a reflection of Jesus’ relationship with His people. This is a truth that all Christians, whether married or not, would do well to understand.
It would certainly be beneficial to spend time speaking to the wife’s role in marriage, but for the sake of time we will focus on the husband’s role, as he is given the responsibility of leadership in the home. Sadly we rarely hear God’s expectation for a husband and father. The husband’s role is to “love his wife as Christ loved the church and laid down his life for it.” Most Mennonite men would be quick to say, “Of course I will love my wife as myself. I will do my very best to provide for her. I’ll work extra hours at the office or job site. I’ll buy her the finest house that money can buy, and we’ll enjoy the winter in Pinecraft playing ping-pong and shuffleboard.” This is a bit satirical, but I do fear that many times we as husbands have missed the mark in regard to providing for our families.
According to Paul, the primary role of a husband and father is to be a spiritual provider. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:25-26). In the same way that Jesus desired to see his people cleansed and sanctified, so also husbands should desire to see his wife and children nourished spiritually. In many Anabaptist circles, we have traded spiritual nourishment for physical nourishment. Deuteronomy 6:6-9 says, “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shalt talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” This is the role of the leader in the home.
There are many other things that could be said regarding marriage and the family. However, I will limit myself to one more thing. Many of our readers are not married, and that’s okay – this article was written for everyone. So I encourage you to think on one particular truth from this article: marriage is to be a reflection of Christ and the church. If you are a Christian, you are in some sense betrothed to Jesus. On this earth there are imperfect wives and imperfect husbands, but one day we will be united in a perfect relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
|Eddie Kinsinger and his wife, Stephanie, are currently living in Elnora, Indiana. He runs a small online business and is enrolled in a pastoral apprenticeship program under the direction of Truth and Grace Mennonite Church. He enjoys sugar, with a small drop of coffee as a garnish, and is greatly annoyed when forced to write a bio–in the third person. He enjoys reading and good conversations with friends.|