Monthly Dialogue Evening – Christian Families

Every month we have a meeting with local Muslims from our area. We choose a topic and then an imam will present on the Muslim view while we present the Christian view. Each presentation is followed up with a Q&A.

This month we looked at the topic families. Here is what I presented to our Muslim friends.

The creation of the family

  • The Bible establishes the family union (one father, one mother and their children) as the essential building block for human society in its opening chapters.
  • ‘God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”’ (Genesis 1:27-28)
  • ‘A man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.’ (Genesis 2:24)
  • God created men and women equal in value, both made in his image.
  • The man and woman become ‘one flesh’ and they, with their children, become a family unit.
  • The ‘one flesh’ relationship between spouses make it a greater relationship than parent-child.
  • The human family is to rule over creation.

Established pattern of family care

  • When God asks Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” Cain’s response is the flippant “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9) The implication is that, yes, Cain was expected to be Abel’s keeper and vice versa.
  • This principle continues in the New Testament: ‘If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.’ (1 Timothy 5:8)

Family enshrined in OT law

The 10 Commandments (a summary of the Old Covenant Law given to Israel) includes two commands that support the family:

  • ‘Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.’ (Exodus 20:12)
  • ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ (Exodus 20:14)

There are various other commands regarding family in the OT Law but they all flow from these two commands and are designed to protect marriage and the family unit.

NT upholds OT view of marriage

Jesus maintained the importance of marriage as between one man and one woman and the significance of the family unit:

Some Pharisees came to [Jesus] to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

NT upholds OT view of family

  • ‘Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honour your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”’ (Ephesians 6:1)
  • ‘Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.’ (Colossians 3:20)
  • ‘Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.’ (Ephesians 6:4)

Marriage, morality & God’s character

The view of the family set at creation, carried throughout the Old Covenant and into the New Covenant show continuity. This tells us these things are part of God’s eternal, moral law which flows out of his moral character.

  • God demands this view of the family for all people across all time.
  • This view of the family is morally good as it is based in God’s moral character.
  • God is triune and has always been in community – he is one God in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
  • The human family pictures something about God himself. Two people who bear God’s image becoming a unified one whilst remaining two distinct persons.

Christian marriage

  • Both husband and wife are to submit to the needs of each other
    • ‘Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ’ (Eph 5:21)
  • The wife is to submit to her husband using Jesus’ submission to the will of God as her model
    • ‘Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Saviour. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.’ (Eph 5:22-24)
  • Husbands are to love their wives as Jesus loved the church; Giving up everything for them, sacrificing themselves for their wives and putting their wives needs ahead of their own.
    • ‘Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.’
  • God gave us marriage to picture the relationship of Jesus and the Church
    • 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.’ (Eph 5:31-32)
  • Just as Jesus gave himself up for us, husbands are to give themselves up for their wives.
  • Just as the church submit to Jesus, wives are to submit to the loving rule of their husbands.

The spiritual 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).
  • ‘To all who received him [Jesus], 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).
  • ‘God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.’ (Galatians 4:4-7)
  • ‘See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God’ (1 John 3:1) ‘You have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him’ (Romans 8:14-19)
  • The spiritual family is not based on ethnicity, gender, social standing or birth
    • ‘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)
  • There is no such thing as a ‘Christian child’
    • ‘Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God’ (John 3:3)
    • ‘For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh’ (Philippians 3:3)
    • Abraham is ‘the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well,and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.’ (Romans 4:11-12)
  • All who belong to the spiritual family by faith are heirs of God
    • ‘You have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.’ (Romans 8:15-17)
  • We stand to share in all the riches and glory that belong to Jesus Christ.
    • ‘We have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will’ (Eph 1:11)
    • ‘From the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.’ (Col 3:24)