FAQ: Family Responsibility

Some questions that have been asked (or implied) by multiple people (including myself) over the course of the discussion about our responsibilities as it relates to those outside of our nuclear family.

Isn’t there a specialness to a nuclear family that isn’t there with others?

Of course there’s a specialness- even psychologically, we have some crazy hormones that help us to form that bond with one another (spouse and children). So, naturally, yes, definitely a specialness (thanks for that, God!). And for many of us, yes, it’s not there with others.

I would like to argue that God wants us to be moving towards having this specialness with everyone. In John 17, Jesus prays that His disciples would be one with each other like the Father and Jesus are one (uh, which is some serious unity). This isn’t just a “let’s hang out with people from other denominations and sing nice songs”…this is some serious “knowing” of one another. Just as a set of parents develop this specialness with a child that they adopt or foster, we can develop this oneness with others. I have to say that there are people in my life that are not my husband or children or mother or father that I care for deeply. I consider them true family and they do I… well, at least I think they do 🙂 (we have spent or will be spending holidays with one another instead of being with our biological families). On the other hand, there are some extended family members of mine that I have no relationship with, no bond with, and would not consider them my friend (and there are some that I haven’t seen in years, but still feel a deep bond and love for). I don’t think that specialness is intended to be limited to the nuclear family. And if it is, everyone whom God has chosen to be single or chooses to be single better get married and have kids, because when your parents die, you won’t have a special bond with anyone (note the sarcasm, I don’t really believe that).

Isn’t my child my responsibility? Is it really my responsibility to look out for someone elses’ child too?

Yes, our child is absolutely, 100% our responsibility. However, our child is also other peoples’ responsibility (to a degree)– our community whom God has placed us in. We are our brother’s/sister’s keeper. Maybe they are not in our culture, but there certainly was a sense of this in the early church’s culture, as well as in many cultures around the world today.

We’re called to love one another. Love isn’t partial (choosing one person over another, favoring one over another, check out James 2). As hard as it is, I think we’re called to creatively love our own nuclear family well (if we have a nuclear family) in a way that loves others well too. If we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, that literally means to love someone else like we love ourselves (and probably our family too). We are never given an exempt card on this, that I know of, in Scripture.

Doesn’t Scripture lift up the importance of the nuclear family?

From my understanding, when Scripture is referring to family, for the time in which it was written, the readers would have known that it was talking towards a very “extended family.” Very few people thought in the terms of nuclear family in the way that we do (spouse and kids).

Why is it so bad for the church to build itself up around the importance of family (read: nuclear or biological family)?

A partial love for our own families may speak volumes to those around us who don’t have that kind of love, but it stops speaking lovely things when they get to know our family and see that that love is not for them to be included in on. Ask any single person you know, and they will tell you that the lifting up of nuclear family values in the church today does not speak love to them. It speaks exclusion. And loneliness. And rejection. It’s lovely from a distance, but it doesn’t show them God’s love for them.

Isn’t the idea of family the best for a peaceful, God-centered society?

I have no idea. I’m not a sociologist. But, what I do know is that God desires us to love one another well, with a deep unifying love. If we have an intact nuclear family, then we are in the minority. This conversation may go well for us, but there are a lot of people on the outside looking in. Children whose parents don’t care about them all that much (and those children can be found in our church buildings as well). It’s not the children’s fault. Are we supposed to say, “Too bad for you. You have no one to have a special relationship with. If your parents would die then maybe I would love you and take you into my home because that’s the point when God calls me to love you [as an orphan].” No way! It’s like asking Jesus…so, who is “my family” (Luke 10.29)?

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