Family pictures the Trinity, the gospel, and Jesus Christ. It also pictures the church and the relationship between Christians. Spend time around Christians and you’ll soon hear someone speak of “brothers and sisters.” That’s not just a charming little quirk, but a spiritual reality that follows from our adoption into the family of God.
I’ve put together a little mini-series on family, and have shown first that God created family and second that God created family as a means of carrying out his will. In today’s article I want to show that God also created family to picture his truth.
Here is what I mean: God uses family as a means of providing pictures that can teach crucial truths to humanity. There are things we cannot easily understand if we do not understand family. On the other hand, there are things we are well on our way to understanding when we understand family. When God wants to teach us certain truths, he essentially says, “picture a father and a son, or picture a wife and a husband, or picture a brother and sister.” Because he made these family relationships to be universal, he can use them as pictures in every context and in every age. He begins with what we know, then uses that knowledge as a bridge to what we don’t know.
So if we understand family, we have language and concepts that help us understand certain truths about God and his works and his ways. But if we lose family, or redefine it, we begin to lose that language and lose those concepts.
Let me give you four important pictures God uses that depend upon family.
Family Pictures the Trinity
First, family pictures the Trinity. If you don’t understand family, you can’t understand God himself. Why? Because God reveals the first person of the Trinity as God the Father and the second person of the Trinity as God the Son. Of course this Father-Son relationship is not identical to our father-son relationships, but it does help us understand that they relate and interact as Father and Son.
Imagine there was a place with no fathers and sons. In that place you would have trouble explaining John 3:16: “For God [the Father] so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” If you don’t understand the powerful, natural love and protection of a Father for his Son, how could you understand what it cost God to provide his beloved Son as a sacrifice?
This is one reason fatherlessness is harmful—it removes the point of comparison between our fathers on earth and our much greater Father in heaven. This is one reason why fathers who abuse their children are committing a terrible offence—they are giving a false picture of the way God the Father relates to God the Son—No one would ever accuse God of cosmic child abuse if there wasn’t the reality of human child abuse. This is why we need to be concerned about same-sex relationships—in a partnership where there are only two mothers, the picture of God as Father is negated.