The family is the root of our physical and emotional existence, the place where we belong. It is where small things are praised and where achievements are lauded. We celebrate anything, from good grades to blooming flowers to a captured butterfly. It is the place where we cannot be kicked out even when we have made fools of ourselves or when we have offended the world. The family is such a powerful institution that God himself called His Church a family.
The family has been under attack. In February of 2002, a report was issued that said that most children would be better off being in a day care center than being kept by family members. In an edition of The O'Reilly Factor in May of that year, the discussion was around the TV show, Friends. The character played by Jennifer Aniston is going to have a baby out of wedlock. O'Reilly asked the question, is this doing damage to young girls who see her as a role model? One of the women discussing the subject actually said that in some cases, it is good that teenage girls get pregnant and have babies outside of marriage. She noted that she did not have a father and that she turned out ok. In fact, fathers are totally unnecessary. What is necessary is that one have a group of friends and they become your family.
You can find these and other anti-family attitudes in the press, media and the movies and on TV shows. Every kind of perversion is acceptable. But, it isn't just the worldly view that is harming the family. Churches are harming the family with bad practices and with bad theology. George Barna, a Christian pollster, says that as a percentage, Church members have a higher rate of divorce than do non-church people. This is such a disturbing statistic that it causes me to wonder why this is so. I believe it is because in the last 20 years, churches have bought into the entertainment model for church. We have been so open minded that we will allow anything into Church that amuses us whether or not it has anything to do with the purpose of the Church. We have given in to the selfishness of those who see Church as a place to be entertained, a place that makes us feel good, a place that does not challenge us with the truth of Scripture. Often we will do that which is against Scripture with the retort that God will just have to forgive me for that. Some seem to forget that God does not have to do anything. And if Scripture is true, God may be more inclined to bring judgment than forgiveness.
We need to understand that the state of the family and the state of the Church are intertwined and one affects the other. And if one becomes damaged, the other does as well.
God's intention for mankind is to live in the context of a family. Family is the first institution created by God for man. Before there were nations or churches or economies, there was the family.
God made man and placed him in the garden. The garden was the place where God walked with Adam and yet, Adam was not complete. God said that it was not good for man to be alone. God decided that he would provide a helper who corresponds to him. The idea here is one who stands as a mirror image, a counterpart. James Montgomery Boice cites a child's riddle to explain what it means to be a helper suitable to him. What is most like half of the moon? Half an orange? Half of a basketball? Half of an Edam cheese? No, it is the other half of the moon. What is most like man? A woman.
God created all the animals and brought them before Adam. Adam names all the animals but, the text says, Adam did not find a helper who was suitable to him. God wanted Adam and us to understand that we are different from all the other creatures. Among them, there is no one; personhood is not bestowed on them. Personhood is bestowed only on Adam, the one who was made in the image and likeness of God. Adam was lonely, not because there weren't any other creatures around or because God was absent. Man was lonely because there was no one else like him. His mate would not be found among the creatures he was commanded to rule over. His mate would be his equal.
God spoke all the animals into being. He spoke Adam into being. God could have spoken a mate into being but He did not. God caused Adam to go into a deep sleep took out one of his ribs. Why did God put Adam to sleep, to control pain? Was this the first practice anesthesia for surgery? No. I think that we are to understand that God is in control, that Adam is totally passive, he is asleep as God works out his will and divine provision.
The text indicates that God removed, not only a rib, but the flesh that went along with it. It was not just a bare bone. There was meat on that bone. God fashioned from that bone, a woman. Why did God create woman in this way? Creation was not yet complete. Man who was in the image and likeness of God was not yet complete. God made man male and female. And just as man was made in the image of God, woman is made in the image of man. But, there is a difference. We are not the exact corresponding image of God, we are not divine, and we are not gods. But, woman is a corresponding image; she is the exact likeness of man because she is made from the same flesh as man. The emphasis here is not on man first and woman second, but upon being the same, upon both being in the image of God. She is the other half. She is not made to be his servant but his companion.
God brought the woman to the man. God is involved in this every step of the way. Here God is the matchmaker and He presents His choice for Adam. And Adam is impressed, he approves. The text is the first poetry in the Bible and it is an exclamation: "This is now the bone of my bones and the flesh of my flesh." The man recognized his own likeness in the woman. She was Someone, a person, a being who was a corresponding image to him. She shared with him that exclusive mark of being in God's image. She, like him, was unique. She is of the same stuff as Adam and yet, she is her own person. He said she will be called Ishshah, woman because she was taken from Ish, from man. It is a play on words, a pun. It is the story of Ish and Ishshah. And now creation is complete.
This is how and why man and woman were made, "a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall be united (cleave) to his wife; and they shall be one flesh." One family unit is broken so that a new one is formed. Uniting and being one flesh obviously refers to sexuality, but, it is quite more. Man and woman are put back together again. It is soul to soul, spirit to spirit and flesh to flesh. It is a symbol of completion. There is a spiritual union that takes place. This is why it is difficult at best when a Christian marries a nonchristian. And when one is made spiritually alive while the other is spiritually dead, it is as if something is missing in your soul. Man and woman are not complete without the other. Adam was lonely because there was no Eve. Thus a man shall leave his family and cleave to his wife. He leaves—it is an exclusive relationship not shared with anyone. To cleave means to cling to, to join, to keep close. Cleaving suggests that it is a permanent relationship; to break it is to do great spiritual damage.
Scripture elevates marriage to a level of the deepest spirituality. Romance is not a game that is sometime played. It is about finding oneself. Paul did indicate that there are some who have the gift of singleness, but that is the exception. Marriage is about love, certainly. It is about family, yes. And it is definitely about commitment. It is also about finding our corresponding image and it is about fulfilling our calling as the image and likeness of God.
Ish and Ishshah; man and woman. If we are to understand God's design for family, then we must begin at the beginning. This is where family begins.
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