Author: Pastor Paul A. Bartz
The breakdown of family values all around us ultimately can’t be blamed on television, rap music, or the mythological greenhouse effect.
Society has gotten so lawless that lawlessness has become a “freedom” and even a virtue. The very foundation of society has broken down. And what’s the basis of society?
Many people will respond that the family is the foundation of society. However, when you ask them why the family is the basis of society, even many Christians can’t tell you. That’s because so many churches have neglected Genesis for so long that the basics have been largely forgotten. Society can’t be expected to reflect what Christians no longer understand.
So let’s go back to Genesis. The opening chapter of Genesis tells us about the institution of marriage, the family, society, music, the arts, and manufacturing in addition to the beginning of the universe.
When God created Adam and Eve and gave them children, He didn’t form their relationship into a cooperative farm. He didn’t make their relationship a bureaucracy. There were no elections, so it wasn’t a democracy. Nor were they shareholders with a common interest. God formed them into a family.
Since He made us, God knows us inside and out. He knows our needs, both material and spiritual. He knows our “wiring diagrams” and our “software” and “hardware.” Using what He knows about us He designed the family as the most fundamental human relationship. That’s why the family, unlike any other conceivable human relationship, is the foundation of all our relationships – including the wider relationships between families that we call society. No other relationship can replace God’s design for the family.
That’s why the family is the foundation of society.
The foundation of the family
However, even the family must have a foundation. Let’s go back to Genesis. Before the family there was simply a man and a woman in a life-long union -marriage. And before that there was simply the man.
At this point we get into an area that’s sensitive in Western culture today. The reason it’s sensitive is intimately connected to the breakdown of society . . .which is rooted in the breakdown of the family . . . which is rooted in the breakdown of the foundation of the family.
To avoid any cultural problems in understanding our next point, I’m going straight to Scripture. Genesis 2 focuses on the details of the creation of human beings and the beginning of their relationships. (If you want to get your Bible at this point, I’ll wait.)
Genesis 2:7 tells us that the man was created first:
“And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”
However, Adam was all alone. He was to tend the garden. One of the first steps in that task was to name the animals. Genesis 2:20- 24 tells us what happened next:
“So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
The idea of a helper, “comparable” to Adam is important. It helps explain why God used the method He did to create the woman. She was formed from the man, a separate being, but “comparable” to him.
How are they created to relate to one another? 1 Corinthians 11:3 says: “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.”
However, knowing the heart of sinful human beings, God created an arrangement in which man could not claim to be a superior species. In 1 Corinthians 11:12 we read:
“For as the woman was from the man, even so the man also is through the woman; but all things are from God.”
One might call this a brilliant “practical joke” on God’s part. We all know the timeless cry, “Mom always liked you best.” To avoid
something similar, after God made the woman from the man. Then He fixed things so that it now takes a woman to make a man.
God has given man no reason to assert superiority of being over the woman. He cannot claim to be spiritually superior to the woman.
The foundation of the family
From these passages and other biblical examples we can conclude that the foundation of the family is ultimately the man.
If the family has broken down, we must ultimately look at its foundation -the man. What did God have in mind when He created the human male? The world offers many images of what it means to be a “real man.”
There’s the breadwinner. I’ve even heard many “family value” promoters say that the man’s main job in the family is to be the breadwinner. This isn’t even close to the biblical model for the man.
Then there’s the tough-guy -the real man! He is the strong one, seldom showing emotion -except perhaps for anger. As a result of this view, true manliness has been reduced to a set of characteristics that are the precise opposite of the biblical picture of manhood. Some have responded to this distortion by conjuring up the “sensitive man of the 90’s.” The problem is, Phil Donahue is no closer to the biblical model for a man.
Then there’s the workaholic’s unending push for success. He eventually discovers -too late -that the children he had no time for are now adults who have no time for him. The argument that a nice house and a comfortable life are forms of love is lost on the children. Love is made up of a word, a look, and a touch. These can never replace concrete, steel, and electronics.
It’s becoming increasingly universal that the woman holds the family together. Many women are bitter. While many may be right in objecting to the creature that tried to pass itself off as a man in their lives, their response is too often expressed in the bitter currency of the world.
What is a man?
If we want to learn some practical lessons about what God intended a man to be, we need to begin with God’s original creation of the first man. The first task that Adam was given was an intellectual task- identifying and naming the animals. Man’s first calling is intellectual. And that intellectual duty begins with learning and teaching God’s Word. In effect, Scripture makes the man the pastor of the household.
Jesus Christ taught us to call God our Father. However, we shouldn’t make the mistake of comparing the heavenly Father to our imperfect human fathers. Human fathers need to learn from Him. What kind of father is He? He’s tough. However, toughness is not hurling thunderbolts. True toughness is best shown when love persists despite rejection and disobedience. God never wearied of patiently seeking Saul of Tarsus, His sworn enemy.
While He is loving, God is not a wimp. He has established absolutes that we can depend on. He always keeps His Word. We can be thankful for that because when we look at ourselves we know that we have not been the men or the women that He intended us to be. Likewise, the man is to follow those same principles in ruling his household. The law must be absolute and accountability invariable. At the same time, grace and forgiveness -a reception back into full acceptance by our earthly father- must be full and free.
We don’t see many men like this today. However, if we look to Scripture- and we must begin in Genesis -we find the principles upon which the family is built. And if families are well built on God’s principles, the society in which that family lives will be well built.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright @ 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
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