For some reason, I tend to burn through outdoor gas grills (no pun intended). I have purchased and put together so many grills that I can almost assemble them blind-folded. As I was about to complete the assembly of our newest grill this summer, I found an extra part lying around. It didn’t seem important, and I’d never seen anything like it before, so I decided to do what I always do with extra parts: throw it out.
My wife, Rosemary, who knows nothing about grill assembly, suggested I might want to look at the manual before I discarded the part. As it turned out, she was right. The part was a safety device the maker of the grill had invented to save me from blowing myself up. Once again, saved by the owner’s manual!
In today’s world, many people have forgotten to check the owner’s manual when it comes to the purpose of family. Instead of looking to the One who created us, they question the need for the traditional family structure.
People are posing questions like: Do we really need family? Does it really fit this modern culture? Does the traditional family do anything that couldn’t be accomplished by various nontraditional family paradigms?
However, to understand the need for family, we need to ponder the One who created it and the purpose He planned for it. After all, it was God who placed the family unit at the center of society.
The plan for family goes all the way back to the beginning. First God announces that it’s not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18), a fact every woman will applaud. It’s not best for any of us to be alone, so next God invented marriage, a union of one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24-25). This invention of man and a woman coming together to work and function as one person began the process and purpose of family.
The look at God’s purpose for family begins in the statement “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). Families are called to replicate themselves and direct the next generation to reach their individual purposes.
Individuals reach their purpose by getting to know the One who made them. God even tells us this in His statement of why He selected Abraham. In Genesis 18:19, God says, “I have singled him out so that he will direct his sons and their families to keep the way of the Lord and do what is right and just. Then I will do for him all that I have promised.”
The number one assignment for parents is to train their children in a way that will allow them to reach their full potential. That means training them and helping them develop their gifts. But more than anything else that means guiding them to develop their own relationship with the One who knows the plan He has for them (Jeremiah 29:11). All the academics and extra curricular activities on the planet won’t help them become better adults if they don’t find the plan God has for them.
The primary purpose of family is to raise a generation that loves and trusts God (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).
But, when leaders don’t know why we need family, they tend to weaken their resolve to fight for it. When parents don’t know why we need family, they can unknowingly stop training the next generation to perpetuate family values.
Therefore, it shouldn’t surprise us that our culture is trying to remove any reminder of God from our public squares. It shouldn’t shock us that our public schools are having a hard time getting permission to talk about God. Nor should it catch us off guard that there are those questioning God’s paradigm for the family. But the purpose of family, to be fruitful by teaching the next generation to love and trust God, should not get diluted.
It is one thing for the culture to misunderstand the purpose of family, but it’s an absolute tragedy if parents, the ones entrusted with the purpose of family, drop the ball. The tragedy will be evident in the lives and marriages of the next generation. They will just be human doings, rather than experiencing the privilege and fun of becoming human beings, reaching beyond their own abilities, doing what their Creator made them to do.
As a family, are you raising a human doing or a human being? Are you raising a child who will grow up and get to do what he or she was made to do, a child who is everything God intended for him to be? That’s the awesome purpose, privilege and plan for the family. It’s family planning at its best!
Dr. Robert Barnes is the president of Sheridan House Family Ministries. He and his wife, Rosemary, are authors and speakers on marriage and family issues.