I'm up in Canada this week, teaching Genesis and pondering the role of the family in faith formation. When one considers the family issues in God's chosen family tree of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jacob's four wives and twelve sons, Jacob's son who slept with his daughter in law because he thought she was a prostitute, Jacob's sons who sold another son into slavery, one wonders where we get the notion that God only uses people who belong to what Americans call 'the nuclear family.'
As much as I love my wife and children, I realize that families such as my own are an increasing minority in this world, and I'm pondering what the implications of this fact are for church structures and ministries. Single parents, blended families, divorced individuals, single individuals living far from home, widows and widowers, couples without children... these words are descriptive of large percentage of people who call Bethany home. And of course, when we turn our eyes out into our neighborhood, we find more of the same. So I ponder:
Is there a danger of too much focus on the family? Is it possible to so emphasize family life within the structures of the church that we send the message that the real work of the church and life of the church flows through those who are married and have children, and thus neglect this very large part of our world who, at any given time, don't fit this category? I think the danger is real, though I'm not certain we're guilty of this overemphasis at BCC, as we try to build groups that are blended with couples, singles, older and younger. Further, our post college group is a mix of married and single people who are sharing their lives together.
We need to celebrate, bless, and serve our congregation whether they fit into traditional family models or not, recognizing that Jesus had a different paradigm in mind when thinking of family. He seemed to view the 'family of God's children' as a central, vital component to the definition of family life. If we take the same view, then whether our particular situation fits the Simpsons, Gimore Girls, or Friends, we can see that the real issue isn't our need to become a 'normal family', but rather our need to live well, rightly related to God, each other, and our world.
I wonder what you think? Does 'the church' overemphasize the nuclear family or not? How can she do a better job of giving everyone a place at the table, and a sense of the reality that we are all family because share a common love for Christ?