The Church and God’s Law (8)

He who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death (Ex.21:15).

It’s common in the modern era to underestimate the importance of the godly family.[1]

Why is this? Partially due to the declining influence of the Church, and the growth in influence of Marxist thought, for Marx hated marriage. The socialism that resulted from Marx in the West is a political philosophy which has had its day, but we’ve all grown up witnessing such an emphasis on the roles, function and power of civil government. This has tended to over-shadow the vital functions of the family, which have been laid out since Genesis.

Marriage is not lawless. It is a covenantal institution. It is the primary training ground for the next generation. It is the primary institution for welfare: care for the young, care for the aged, and education. It is the primary agency of economic inheritance. The family is therefore the primary institutional arrangement for fulfilling the terms of the dominion covenant (Gen.1:26-28). God honoured this crucial dominion function of the family by placing restrictions on it. A servant is expected to defer marriage until he is an independent man. Later, as a husband in a position of authority, he can exercise dominion under God as the head of his family. The model here is Jacob (Gen.29:20).[2]

The hierarchies of the family, Church and State under God are legitimate. Jesus had no trouble submitting to His parents (see Luke 2:51-52). No family is perfect, as the book of Genesis surely bears out, but it has been the State in violating its God-ordained limits, which historically has been the institution responsible for the death of millions of innocents. This abuse continues today.

It is in the interests of children that they learn to submit and obey their parents (Eph.6:1-3). They will spend their lives being part of various systems of hierarchy, all of them imperfect ones where there are imperfect people.

If family members view themselves firstly as servants of God, responsible to Him, they will have an attitude which brings stability, purpose and longevity to every family. Parents are foolish if they believe they are the main beneficiaries when they receive honour from their children. It is the children who in doing so, inherit the blessing of God which results from obeying the Fifth Commandment.

A ban on violence towards parents is a negative application of the Fifth Commandment, to “honour your father and your mother” (Ex.20:12), and the ultimate end of this commandment is the honour of God, and distribution of the family inheritance. Only foolish parents indeed would wish to distribute their inheritance to a child who held them in contempt; much less one who was violent towards them.

But the family is not absolute, or autonomous. It must be pointed out that

Membership in the church is of far greater consequence than membership in the family. Jesus was at war with any view of the human family that elevated it to equality with the church, “For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household” (Mat.10:35-36). The Biblical economic goal is to increase the dominion of Christians, not families as such; the institutional focus is on the kingdom rather than the family.[3]

Every family must be protected from lawlessness, from within or without. The family has a direct interest in the discipline and when necessary, removal of  law-breakers. This law permitting capital punishment (to be carried out by the State, which is “the bearer of the sword” Ro.13:3-4), illustrates the legitimacy and sanctity of the family structure, under God.

[1] See Andrew McColl, “The Significance of the Godly Family,” 2009.

[2] Gary North, “Tools of Dominion,” 1990, Vol.1, p.214-215.

[3] Gary North, “Tools of Dominion,” 1990, Vol.1, p.271.