The Church as Family
One of the beautiful descriptors of church is family. This is not a metaphor but an actuality from a heavenly perspective. The Ecclesia of the church is an eclectic gathering constituting a family. This includes celibates like Paul and Jesus and married leaders like Peter and James. We know the early church practiced hospitality with strangers, loved children, and embraced slaves as family members. The Ecclesia also grew in acceptance of multi-ethnic community. The scriptures do not require the make-up of the church-family to reflect a traditional family structure.
How rigid is your christian concept of traditional family? Can we innovate in ways to parentally love more children?
John lists three social groups in John 2:12-14: children, young men, and fathers. I have to be honest here, I am not always happy with the way scripture predominantly uses male versus female language to make points. However, it is important to note that from the perspective the early church, especially living under Rome’s strongly patriarchal culture, it was more culturally honoring to everyone in the church to include girls and mothers by writing, “young men and fathers.” It would have sounded foreign and strange and even demeaning to say young women and mothers. In today’s broader context we could adapt John’s language to say, children, young adults and parents or elders.
The Unique Value of Fathers
There is something unique that a child gains from a Father. I’m not going to belabor this point but simply say there is much strong sociological data out there to support this. You can do your own research. I’m 100% for supporting women/wives/mothers and for men (including myself) to get better at this. That stated, I want to begin to narrow our focus onto Fathers working from a statement by the Department of Health and Human Services: “Fathers often push achievement while mothers stress nurturing, both of which are important to healthy development.”
Back to John’s categories of children, young adults, and parents. Mothers tend to have the most powerful influence in a child’s early development, and a father’s potential influence soars as the child matures into a young adult. This observation about fathers is a broad brushstroke, but it helps us understand that our intimacy with Father God is very helpful in growing into our spiritual calling as adults.
Forgetting Black Fathers?
With circumstances causing many black fathers to be MIA in society, it is not too much of a surprise that they are also missing from the official BLM website.
When I read over the beliefs and mission of the official Black Lives Matter site, I come away feeling that the idea that “Black Fathers Matter” is missing. This is a critical miss. There is so much evidence regarding generational cycles of injustice tied to young men growing up without fathers. American prison systems have supported this gap in our African American families. Slave systems in much of the European world crumbled their family structures down to jagged pieces.
I deeply adhere to the overarching, less politically agenda’d movement that is pursuing societal shifts like police reform because Black Lives do Matter. As we adjust here, we should neither ignore nor erase our past. The scripture record milieus of injustice, leaders who act poorly and societies that fail. It is painful to reflect on where we came from but then wonderful to discover the grace of Jesus’ cross that covers all the mess. If we are willing to remember history in the context of the cross, there is always hope.
Three Expressions of Family
Multigenerational communities should gather and parent the rising generation.
The non-religious church, those who live the gospels message, need to open their doors as spiritual family in all its wonderful and sometimes strange expressions.
The traditional nuclear family is sociologically ingrained in us, and if we walk away from this, we will see concerning increases in suicide and mental illness. Strengthen families.
#BlackFathersMatter deeply should be woven through every reflection of family that societies can muster. We must grow up the next generation of black fathers from our nation’s youth. We need to support every black father who is brave enough to take a lead in loving their rising generation with their entire lives. Let’s not forget the men who are a vital part of the solution for expressing justice.
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