Study Guide: Risky Family

Sunday October 2, 2016 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

We often craft together ideal images of of what a “good Christian” family ought to look like. Images of the idealistic post-war, bourgeois nuclear families are more frequently articulated as the “biblical” family. But, is that accurate? Greg provides for us a snapshot of the various families portrayed throughout the biblical narrative. From Adam and Eve to Solomon and his many wives and concubines, to Abraham and Sarah, we gather a sense that “biblical” families are just as messy and dysfunctional as what we may witness today. The hope of the family unit is Christ! The Christ who works within the mess of it all to make something beautiful.

Extended Summary:

What is the “biblical” family? Is there such a thing? Often times we assume that a “good Christian family” is a family that never argues, is free of dysfunction, shares fruitful family devotions and prayer time, and merrily gets along every minute of everyday. During the post-war period, the bourgeois, nuclear family became the defining image of a strong, unified nation. And Christians have used the same image to define how a “biblical” family ought to look. But is this truly the case?

If we take a moment to examine the various family units throughout the biblical narrative what we’ll discover is not the idealistic nuclear family who is free of conflict and dysfunction. Rather, what we will see is often what we see and experience today. Families who have conflict… Who are messy, dysfunctional and broken. From Adam and Eve to Abraham and Sarah, yes, even to the family of Jesus, we read of mess and dysfunction. But we also read of a God who works within and through the mess in order to bring forth something beautiful.

We read of a God who, from the very start, has created a beautiful ideal for creation and community. However, through the sin of humanity that beautiful ideal is often missed and relationships are broken. God’s ‘ideal’ does not change. Instead, God works within the mess, meeting individuals, communities, and families exactly where they are in order to draw them closer to Godself and God’s ideal. This is the hope, this is the beauty of grace. God meets us exactly where we are and works with us there.

What, then, ought to be the focus of the family unit? Greg provides for us two practical steps to growing the family closer to God’s ideal image. First, it is so simply, to seek Christ and the Kingdom. “Seek first the Kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt. 6 :34). If we want to see more Christ, more healing, more unity in our family unit, then we seek first the Kingdom. If we want to see change in our family relationships, that change must begin with ourselves. “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” says Gandhi. That statement can just as well be used for a Kingdom minded family unit. “Be the Kingdom change you want to see in your family, your spouse, your children…”

Secondly, take time and be present with your family. The temptation may be to busy the family with opportunities, sports, music, careers, etc. that we fail to carve out intentional time to be present with one another. Don’t chase after these things, for, as Matthew tells us, pagans run after these things. The first priority is the Kingdom. Then, take time and be present with one another. Unplug from technology. Engage in conversation. Have game nights. Whatever it looks like for you, simply take time and be present.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Take time to intentional examine the health of your family relationships. How connected are you? What activities, priorities, pursuits may be drawing you away from one another rather than closer together?
  2. Upon reflecting on the first question, what are ways in which you can invite your family as a whole to replace those activities in exchange for opportunities for authentic connection? Can you come up with fun, unique or intentional things to do together?
  3. What might it look like for YOU to be the change you wish to see in your family/spouse/children? Change begins with you. Prayerfully consider the way in which the Spirit may be inviting you to make some changes.