Does Anyone Really Believe in the Church Family?

A few weeks ago, I ran across a question on Reddit about Christians giving preference to helping Christians. Someone, who if I recall consider herself a Christian, had heard Christians wishing to especially help Christian refugees moreso than others. She was horrified by this, and asked if anyone agreed and how they could.

Does that thought make you uncomfortable at all? Are you alright with giving special treatment to Christians, at least in your personal life? Some of you probably feel fine about that, while I’m sure at least some of you find this a bit disconcerting, at least in some corner of your mind or heart. 

I’ve thought about this lately, and realized that this must stem in part from one Biblical belief which has largely forgotten (at least at a practical level) in the modern American church. What is this basic belief? The family nature of the Church.

In most evangelical churches, there is a sentiment about the Church as a family, but that is usually all it is: a sentiment, a feeling. People in close churches “feel” like a family. That’s not the point of the Biblical teaching, though. Here’s what Jesus said about family:

If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters — yes, and even his own life — he cannot be My disciple.

Luke 14:26

The person who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; the person who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.

Matthew 10:37

But He replied to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven, that person is My brother and sister and mother.”

Matthew 12:48-50

The Old Testament also demonstrates the primacy of covenant and worship over natural family:

“If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you embrace, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, ‘Let us go and worship other gods’—which neither you nor your fathers have known, any of the gods of the peoples around you, near you or far from you, from one end of the earth to the other—you must not yield to him or listen to him. Show him no pity, and do not spare him or shield him. Instead, you must kill him. Your hand is to be the first against him to put him to death, and then the hands of all the people. Stone him to death for trying to turn you away from the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery.”

Deuteronomy 13:6-10

Romans 9 also makes a point about the primacy of grace over natural family relations, but it is somewhat tangential, so I will not look much at it for now. Feel free to peruse it later.

All of this in mind, the Biblical teaching should be clear. Natural family is superseded by the Church family. We are now not, firstly, sons of our fathers, daughters of our mothers, brothers of brothers or sisters of sisters. Rather, the first and most fundamental relationship we have is the new birth from one Father, which makes us children of God and siblings of Christ and each other1 This displaces all of our other relationships. When we become a Christian and enter the Church through baptism, we are re-related. All our previous relationships of family and friends become secondary to our new true family in Christ. We are to, in comparison to Christ and His family, hate them all.

These words, alas, make many people uncomfortable in this day and age, probably because of the liberal (in the classical sense) underpinnings of American society. Embedded in our Constitution and culture is the sense of the individual as the fundamental unit. Every person is his own person and thing, defined by himself apart from all other people. What matters is your own self-determination and preferences.

Most people think this way, even Christians, to some extent and on some level. It is reinforced by the wider culture and legal structures which surround us, embedding itself into our hearts and minds. This has particularly poisoned people’s view of religion. In most people’s minds, religion is a preference, a personal interest. It is no more or less substantial than your interests, careers, or passions. Those are important to you, but are freely chosen and no objective standard really matters. What is sacred is not the religion, but your choice of religion.

If this is the framework, then your religion can’t be a new and superseding family. Religion is a preference! It can’t create obligations to other people, or override any relationships you already had. More importantly, it can’t be used to treat some individuals any differently than others, because it’s all a matter of personal preference, and you can’t discriminate among people based on personal preferences.

We must drop this nonsense. God has recreated us, given us a new birth and identity in Christ. Our old persons and identities are passing away, and only those which join with us in the new life of Christ will last. All of our families and friends outside the Church are not family in the same way that even strangers in the Church are. Our foremost obligations are to the new family, not the old which exists by the flesh.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that we are to neglect or not love the others. Rather, if we love them, we must seek by all means to bring them into the Church, to make them a part of the new family. Our children, parents, cousins, friends, and acquaintances outside the faith need us to love them into it, that they might in fact receive the high place we wish them to have.

So basically, let us remember that the Church is our true family, over and (when necessary) against all other relationships. This isn’t just a negative fact against the rest of the world. It is a positive one, the beginning of the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise that His followers would receive more than enough to replace all they gave us for Him. In fact, I had something else to say, but I think I’ll let Jesus finish for me:

“I assure you,” Jesus said, “there is no one who has left house, brothers or sisters, mother or father, children, or fields because of Me and the gospel,
who will not receive 100 times more, now at this time — houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions — and eternal life in the age to come.

Mark 10:29-30

Does Anyone Really Believe in the Church Family?

The Baby

If you know me in real life, you probably already know this, though you might be left in the dark for some reason. At 2:03PM, on July 16, 2014, my wife gave birth to David Nathaniel Smith (aka Nathan), my son. (And yes, I am 19. And yes, he was an entirely post-nuptial pregnancy.) He was 21¾ inches and 9 lbs 2.3 oz. So began a brand new and amazing chapter of my life.

Carseat

At this point its been 11 days. They have been pretty interesting, certainly fun and a bit difficult at times. But I love every minute thus far. To be honest, I was worried a bit before the baby was born that I just wouldn’t be able to love him right. I mean, babies are just tiny and mute, and I have stuff to do, and I know I struggle with being selfish. So how could I love this boy like I should? But God is gracious, and I’m blown away by how much I’m already attached to Nathan. He’s been a huge blessing in just these few days, and I am very excited to continue life with him.

Thinker

More than anything, I want to be sure to raise him well. If I can teach him to truly love God and love people, I will be satisfied. That is really all I want from him. I do have many fantasies for my boy. I imagine Nathan and I playing Zelda games together, watching Lord of the Rings, battling it out with Super Smash Brothers, discussing theology, and going to Renaissance fairs. Alas, who knows if these will happen, or if my interests will ever interest him? Though my inner 12-year-old will be crushed, ultimately I will be happy if he follows Jesus Christ. Even if he doesn’t do it the same way I do. As of now, I’m a pretty funky evangelical Protestant with some affinity to high-church Reformed stuff, but if Nathan decides to go back to my Baptist roots, Pentecostal, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Anglican, or even Catholic or Orthodox I will be proud if he lives a life of faith working through love.

Laying

I know at least one or two of you who read my blog regularly might wonder if I’ll be taking the advice from Clark’s two parenting posts. To that, I say that given I am neither an anarchist nor quite as much of a rationalist as Clark, I will probably not do everything he said, but I will definitely take a few points that I find pretty wise. He rightly sees the value of critical thinking, personal responsibility, and martial arts.

Face w Pacifier

This post, if you haven’t noticed, doesn’t have a very specific point to it. It is mostly for my various thoughts about my baby boy. But, despite not having a good angle, I did feel the urge to blog about such an important step in my life. So just know that Nathan is the most awesome baby ever, and none of you could ever have such a great baby. He he. At least in my opinion.

The Baby

The Anarchist Parent (Questions on Anarchism – Part 2)

This is part 2 of Clark’s series on anarchism. For the first part, head this way.

Eventually anarchism must encounter the challenge of parenting. How does one be an anarchist while simultaneously exerting control over a child? The confusion here is really due to misconceptions. Primarily, anarchism is concerned with exerting the right kind of control rather than with exerting no control. To an anarchist, the right kind of control is one which controls someone for their betterment. For example, the anarchist seeks to eliminate governmental structures not because she wishes to be totally rebellious and free to do whatsoever she pleases (though some idiots claiming to be anarchists might act this way), but to allow the exertion of a new kind of control which is the morality of the individual. Indeed, control or obligation or authority can never be eliminated from the world although man may resist them. Man’s appetites will always exert some form of control and things like “the moral high ground” or charisma will always exert some authority. It is not the anarchist’s desire to see those things removed and, really, she could not remove them if she had millennia at her disposal; those things are entailed by humanity.

How then does the anarchist parent? The challenge is to avoid metaphorical and literal arm twisting. Truly, the challenge is to parent the way that God may be said to parent; He asks us to conform to the way the world works. He has made it that way and that may strike us as terribly unfair. But I think it can be demonstrated, not here but another time, that God’s world is the one best suited to our fulfilment. As such, He really asks us to conform to the way the best possible world works. The challenge is the same for a parent; she must create the home as a world, specifically a facsimile of the way the world works; she must learn to “play God” and do so morally.

How might she go about morally playing the role of God? She must seek to give the child whatever she needs to achieve her purpose, to realize her humanity to the fullest extent. Often parenting is understood in negative terms as the disallowance of certain actions. Parenting is less another name for prison warden and more a name for tutor which teaches every subject. This process relies on the child being able to be highly independent and able to learn on her own because, true to the maxim that lessons are better caught than taught, a child will learn more thoroughly on her own than strictly guided. So, then, what are ingredients to this mode of parentage?

Pillar one of this facsimile world is before a child even seems capable of understanding, she must be taught how to reason. Clearly, very early on, the child may not know much progress, but the concepts of logic and right reason must be drilled into her head through memorization and demonstration. It must be constantly humming in her ears because it is upon that early education that the rest of her life will be built. The parent will also likely find that discipline will be considerably easier when the parent is able to clearly articulate a reasonable reason for discipline and the child is able to simultaneously understand. This pillar is based upon God’s gifting of the intellect to mankind, so the parent gifts the right and orderly use of the intellect to the child.

Pillar two is quite simple but by no means easy. The child must, as soon as some comprehension is apparent, begin learning the history of human thought, not the history of the world, but the history of philosophy. From the pre-Socratics to the present postmodernism the child must move, albeit at a more condensed and rapid pace, along the same path that humanity is taken. This is not to cause the child to blindly conform to this path, but to give her the opportunity to analyze and criticize and so build upon the shoulders of humanity. Many a bright young person has been confounded and defeated by discovering that the world was not as she thought it was, as she experienced it in her parent’s home. Perhaps the greatest ailment of modern evangelicalism is this lack of interaction with previous work and, for this reason, young people often scramble to “reinvent the wheel” upon stepping into a facility of higher education. This pillar is similar to the process of a “classical” education and to God’s gift of history which is passed on by the parent to the child for the convenience of the child.

Pillar three is also quite simple. The child, at a relatively later age, perhaps seven or ten, must begin an examination of the arts; painting, poetry, music, rhetoric, etc. Similarly to the second pillar, this pillar seeks to show the child what has already been done so that she might build upon it. Again, this pillar bears similarity to God’s gift of creativity; the parent delivers not creativity itself, but the fruits of creativity.

Pillar four is physical exercise and, perhaps, a welcome familiarity to the reader. Physical exercise is of critical importance as a life-long habit. Although there are many forms of physical exercise, the kind most useful is a system which combines as many pillars into physical practice as possible. Therefore, some form of martial arts will fulfill this pillar most efficiently. The child will combine physical exercise with martial theory, a theory which is not only useful on the battlefield but in the life of the mind and in the boardroom. The child will also combine the core concepts of art and creativity with physical exercise and, lastly, the child will harness a sort of release of aggression and achieve a measure of self-control through martial arts. There are many kinds of martial arts and many which have been stripped of their effectiveness in favor of ferocity, but some form like Aikido, or traditional forms of Kung Fu like Tai Chi remain as effective forms of comparatively non-aggressive exercise. The emphasis through traditional martial arts is not to teach aggression. The intent is to teach the ideal of self-controlled strength and healthiness. Yogic exercises would form a suitable discipline also, as well as being less identified with martial arts, although, ironically, yoga was practiced in connection with martial discipline in history. This pillar is similar of course to God’s gift of a physical body.

The truth is, that enacting each of these pillars simultaneously does two important things; stewards God’s gifts as well as, in parenting, stewarding the greatest gift, children. The anarchist parents by setting the child up to understand complex issues and to live healthfully, thus avoiding arm twisting. This also ensures that the parent cannot become a despot without actively surrendering authority to the child who will know exactly how to snap it up. The anarchist actively stewards the child by giving her the tools needed to become successful herself. The anarchist parent does not surrender authority but seeks to cultivate the morally and logically right authority in the home.

The Anarchist Parent (Questions on Anarchism – Part 2)