The idol of family

In family ministry, it might be easy to treat the family as an idol. We easily fall so in love with the family that we place it where only God should be in our lives.

The goal of family ministry cannot be to protect our family, it cannot be to protect the institution of family, and it cannot be to help people to enjoy their families more.

The goal must be the goal of Abraham in Genesis 22 when he was willing to sacrifice his family when God called him to do so. It must be the goal of God himself when he called his son to give up everything for the good of the Kingdom.

We can be like Abraham when we fearlessly lead our children into God’s hands. Rather than protecting them, we demonstrate for them an example of men and women who fear God, but don’t fear worldly loss…even the loss of a child. Our children and families are in God’s hands. After all, if perfect love drives out all fear, fear of the failure and loss of our children is an imperfection in our love. We must trust them into God’s protection.

Family ministry leaders love Deuteronomy 6, but we often teach verses 7 and 8 louder than verses 4 and 5. We tell parents to teach their kids as they walk through life as a means to an end–that is holy children or children who will not stray from their faith. We forget that we are to teach them to love God with all their heart, all their soul, and all their strength. To love God is to follow Abraham’s example. He was prepared to make his promised son become his sacrifice to God.

How does the family idol manifest itself? It does so when we demand our children be raised in perfect little Christian worlds protected from anything that might drag them away from God. It does so when we value our lifestyle more than our call. We idolize our family when we make the Christian message a safe, moralistic, and black-and-white message, rather than allowing our children to discover the complexity of God and his story even as they learn to obey in an uncertain world.

God can protect our families and the institution of the family. Our job in family ministry is to be committed to the Gospel and to help others live as examples of Kingdom dwellers.

Note: I would like to thank Scott Jones for inspiring this post through his message on Genesis 22:1-19 at the Well on Sunday, December 23, 2012.

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