One of the messages that is often discussed in the life of the church is relationships. We are a relational body. We believe in relationships. It is grounded in our understanding of the Greek word koinoia (fellowship), which plays a central role in the New Testament.
More specifically, we Christians really love the family. The family structure is an important aspect of both the Old and New Testament and to understand the Bible one must fully understand the family dynamics that are at the core of the Scripture’s teaching.
We talk about families a lot in the church. What does is a family? The value of children in the family? What is the importance of marriage in the life of the church? These are all topics that are often discussed, and for the past few weeks these are topics that I have pondered as well. For three weeks, the Sunday School class that I am leading has looked at how the church views family and specifically three different stages of a family relationship – marriage, divorce, and singleness. Both the New and Old Testaments mention these stages of relationships and they deserve full attention in the life of the church today.
But are we really playing that much attention to all three? I’m not sure. Here are some general thoughts that I have after spending a few weeks thinking through these topics. There will likely be more blogs to follow on this.
As pastors, we need to do a better job at pre-marital counseling: A class, last semester, brought this to my attention, but it is something I am thinking more about as I consider what it means to lead a congregation. Pre-marital counseling cannot be this process where the new couple comes in, talks about the wedding ceremony, and leaves, without ever talking about what a marriage is all about. This is a great teaching opportunity, but one that requires attentiveness by not only the pastor, but also the engaged couple as well. What if we brought in a mentorship aspect to pre-marital counseling that doesn’t end at the altar, but continues forward through the first year of marriage. We must be willing to discuss issues that could become problems down the road before going to the altar. Finally, I believe, as pastors we have to think about making the difficult call to ask a couple that may not have all the issues worked out or considered to hold off on their wedding plans. Of course, this is something that must be done with respect, love, and grace.
It’s easy to let the world’s idea of marriage impact the church’s views: This might have been the one that caught my attention the most. As a church, it’s easy to allow the world to impact how we view marriage and family. This has been the case in dealing with topics on what marriage, divorce, and singleness means. Margaret Kim Peterson for Baylor University’s Center for Christian Ethics talks about this in an article for the organization. Peterson says that the ideas of the world are fantasized and that it clouds the true implications and importance of marriage for the church. As Peterson discusses, too often we come with an idea of marriage that all will be well, easy, and things will work themselves out. That is certainly not the case, but I feel this is something that the church – perhaps unintentionally – has allowed the world to take the lead about these issues. This means, again, being willing to talk honestly, lovingly, and openly with grace of what it means to be married, what are the reasons for divorce, and what does it mean to be single.
If we’re not, then who will?