21/6/2020 [Thematic Message 106] www.lifechurchmissions.com
Family and Society <1 Ti 3:5,12; 5:8; 1 Chr 16:39-43>
Prelude: We often think of the family as one unit and the society as another. The family is managed with love and affection, while the society operates using law and human morals. The family is a place with love, while the society is a place to work and earn money. Such sayings certainly have its truth, but we have to think further about how the operation of the family affects our lives in the society. In Joshua's later years, he told the Israelites, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” <Jos 24:15>. This tells us a family who serves the Lord is so valued in the eyes of God. God surely values and greatly uses such a family. Perhaps such a family will become a beautiful role model, influencing many other families and gradually also influencing the society. Or because this family greatly glorifies the Lord, God raises a servant who serves God among the family, who can influence the beliefs and thoughts of all people; or God can also raise up important characters like Daniel or Joseph in that family who can influence the society. In fact, in our secular society, Christians rarely think like this. Most of us worry about whether the family is able to make ends meet, and we are contented so long that our children grow up, study hard and find a stable job after graduation. Indeed, many Christian families’ thinking is, it is enough that their families can serve the church without worries by joining the choir, teaching Sunday school, or participating in some missionary work. Actually, such a Christian family is meaningless to society. Such thinking itself marginalizes one’s beliefs from the society. Or perhaps, some people may think that if our family were to influence the society, our family should at least have some very talented people, like politicians, renowned doctors or outstanding businessmen. Because only such people can be noticed by the media and be interviewed by them. In fact, this is an absolutely wrong concept! In the Bible, there are characters like Ruth who was a Gentile woman who lost her husband but continued to honour her mother-in-law and feared the Lord <Ru 1:16-17>. She actually became David's grandmother! In the Bible, there is a woman like Hannah who was infertile, who gave birth to Samuel, consecrated him to God, and let him grow up in the temple <1 Sam 1:11>. In the end, Samuel became a great prophet in Israel, leading all Israel to repentance before God <1 Sam 7:5-6>. Moses, the greatest prophet of the Old Testament, was actually born to an insignificant Levite couple. We don't even know the names of the Levite couple, only knowing that they obeyed God beyond their fear of the king’s edict <Heb 11:23>. In fact, we should nurture our own family by believing in the promise of God, rather than by first seeing whether our family has conditions which can influence the society. If we look at the teachings from the apostles’ epistles, the apostle first talks about the family (the relationship between the couple and that of father and son) before he talks about the relationship between the master and the servant. Therefore, when a family's worldview, values, and morals are in accordance with God's promise, God will certainly use that family to influence the society, even servants can have the right heart to influence their masters. But if our family does not instil such a concept in our next generation, the couple will only value their livelihood and achievements on earth, and their family will not accomplish much no matter which era they are in. Even if they have attained certain superior conditions, they cannot bring any spiritual contribution to society. So, what we have to think about now is whether our family is in the direction of influencing the society, or is our family being influenced by the society? Are we using the gospel we know to build the worldview and values of our family, or are our children being influenced by social trends? Many a times, we do not pay attention to what is influencing our family's direction or family members’ thinking. Both husband and wife do not influence each other to stand firm in this world but are only manipulated by material wealth, and as parents, they do not have the idea of shaping their child, only to let him be influenced by the ideas of the majority in society and media. In fact, in today's flourishing online world, if we do not intentionally use the Word of God to protect our family's ideology, and use the teachings of the Lord to raise our children, we will soon see our own family being assimilated with the social environment.
1. What truly bring harmony and stability to the society?
1）Conscience, family, law
Actually, everyone desires to live in a civilized society, where people love and respect each other and live orderly. But when we talk about this, people generally think that this can only be achieved by the nation’s policies and laws. Thus, people created many systems for the society, wanting to use systems to control the people. Yet think about it, can system shape people? Can the law change the heart of man? For example: Singapore is so clean because there are 70,000 cleaners maintaining the cleanliness of the country every day, it is not because its people love cleanliness and are very civic-minded. Or we may think that a civilized society is a democratic society. However, when we look at the recent political unrest in Hong Kong and the racial riots in the States, we cannot help but ask, “Is that civilization?” From these, we will know that the laws and institutions of a country cannot completely and perfectly influence the society. That is because the human heart is corrupt and depraved, such that they cannot truly love and pursue goodness. Thus, what can truly bring stability and prosperity to the society are: (1) The human conscience. When we talk about stability, that cannot be achieved by merely using the law to restrict. Only when the human heart truly has the alertness to right and wrong, then the society can be safe, as this will stop people from doing immoral things. Furthermore, the conscience not only prevents people from committing crimes, but it also prompts people to help others. Yet, if the human conscience is already depraved, how can it be depended upon to preserve the stability and harmony of the society? Thus, only the gospel can regenerate man’s conscience, and let it be constantly anointed by the truth after that, so that man can be sensitive to right and wrong; (2) Family. Some people said, “Many Christians know the biblical standards, but their actions do not reveal their virtues.” For example: Some people also say that Christians only care about themselves, they are spendthrifts, they are not civic-minded, they have no social awareness, but they are crude in their speech, cold toward people, and go to the streets to protest when they are dissatisfied, etc. Indeed, we have all seen such phenomena. After being taught by the truth, Christians often find themselves unable to carry out what they knew. This is because they not only need to be taught by God’s word, but they also need the inculcation of the family. Family members are people dearest to us, and they are always with us. If a family has the love of God and the firm worldviews, values and morals that come from the word of God, then the family members can be more quickly rooted and built up in God’s word, strengthened in the faith; (3) The laws and systems implemented by the government. Here, we are not saying that the role of the government is not important. Because we humans all have sin, no matter how good our character is, we will occasionally still violate boundaries. Thus, the role of the government is to enforce the law, so that crimes and injustice will not become rampant. However, it absolutely cannot transform human hearts. The laws of the country may be able to make people fear punishments, the rewards of the nation may be able to make people feel proud, but for a person to be truly good, that is only when his heart has the standards of God’s good word and the right ideology has also been instilled into him by the family.
2）Family education can greatly instil the idea of being centred on evangelism
What truly influences the society is the spreading of the gospel. If believers in a society all gradually become Sunday Christians, and are afraid to proclaim their faith and dare not spread the gospel which can save human souls, then the society will gradually be driven by humanism. Because man’s sinful nature is a spiritual problem, it cannot be changed by humanism, even God’s law cannot resolve the problem of human sin. Only the great power of the gospel can enable a person to repent from sin, so that humans who are born in the written code can be in the new way of the Spirit <Ro 7:6>. Only the gospel can make a dead person come alive. Thus, the spreading of the gospel is the hope of the whole society. However, the humanism of this society will keep undermining the importance and necessity of evangelism. Humanism emphasizes including respect and fairness in the saving and renewing of human souls. Therefore, when a society moves more and more toward civilization and prosperity, the urgency in believers’ heart to evangelize is reduced. In order to respect people of different races, faiths and religions, the church will present the gospel as a teaching that fits different humanistic ideologies. The gospel of Christ’s crucifixion will be described as a gospel of general revelation. In sum, the church will lose the core concern of the Lord, which is the Great Commission. In such moment, who will still relentlessly spread the gospel? Usually, it is those believers who had known the essence of the gospel since young at home, and whose family’s core focus is on the Great Commission. Think about it, in the days of Eli the priest, the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions <1 Sam 3:1>, but God raised a prophet of an era, Samuel, through a woman who poured out her soul to God and received comfort from Him. Sometimes, a problematic family which knows how to instil God’s concerns in the children is better than a wholesome family.
2. Many modern families make the mistake of “neglecting the family”
1）If a person is blessed, will his family surely be blessed?
Many promises and examples in the Bible show that there is a relationship between a person receiving grace and his whole family being blessed. This is like Paul’s ministry in <Ac 16:15>. In Philippi, Lydia believed, and her whole family also believed; in <Ac 16:31>, Paul and Silas said to the jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then, he and his whole household believed <Ac 16:34>. The households of Abraham and Joshua are all positive examples. However, there are also rare negative examples in the Bible, such as when the sons of Samuel were judges, they did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice <1 Sam 8:3>. Solomon, son of David, also turned away from God in his later years and follow other gods <1 Ki 11:6, 9>. Of course, doctrinally, we cannot definitely assert that godly parents will surely bring about godly offspring, this is because we humans have too many blind spots, so we can only rely on God’s mercy. However, we must know that if our children are born into a blessed family, they are growing up in such a great light of grace. Think about it, a person can know God’s special revelation from young and understand things of heaven and the importance of salvation, he may be still young, and he may sometimes fall into a state of being cold and numb, but the realness of God is inscribed in his heart. Thus, one huge mistake we blessed families make sometimes is neglecting our families.
2）A few examples of neglecting the family
(1) Negligence in providing for the family. <1 Ti 5:8>: Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. Of course, this verse refers to the human obligation to meet the family’s basic needs, but this does not include meeting the excessive and endless material demands of the family members. If believers do not provide for their family members, they cannot be a good testimony to the family members. Indeed, for some believers, it is not that they do not have the ability to work, but they are simply lazy, or they have some vices, or they only care about themselves, such that they do not even take up the responsibility to feed their families. Such believers seem even worse than unbelievers, thus it is not surprising that because of them, their family members do not believe in the Lord or have weak faith.
(2) Negligence in inculcating godly and holy living. There is a classic example in the Bible that describes a person who was very upright and who feared God and shunned evil, yet his wife and children did not fear God <Job 1:1>. That person is Job. When he encountered suffering, his wife spoke blasphemy and left. Before his children met trouble, they often held feasts, eating together, leading a life of conviviality. Job also felt that their lifestyle might have offended God, so he sacrificed burnt offerings for each of them. Some Christian parents are like Job, they themselves fear God, but they have no authority over their children and allow them to lead wanton lives for a prolonged period; slowly, they no longer can correct their children.
(3) Negligence in instilling God’s promises. Perhaps, the most obvious example is Jacob. Although Jacob already received God’s promise before he was even born <Gen 25:23>, in his whole life, because he was afraid of not receiving God’s blessings, he used deceptive ways to acquire his blessings. He deceived his elder brother of his birthright, and used schemes to acquire the better flock from his uncle Laban, and because he saw that the city of Shechem was good, he settled there, then in his old age, he favoured Joseph <Gen 37:3-4>. His nature like this made his children become people full of violence, fighting with one another, even framing their own brother. Actually, if our children live in this cruel world without knowing their own dignity and worth, they will easily become people like that.
(4) Negligence in passing on the duty of leadership. This is just as when Samuel’s sons were judges, they did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice <1 Sam 8:3>. They failed in dealing with financial gains as well as in using their authority. Of course, we do not know why this happened. This could be because Samuel did not teach well, or because he was busy, he neglected inculcating his children in these areas. However, this also becomes a warning for us parents. In particular, the more qualities and positions we have, the more we should teach our children holy standards, such that when they grow up, they will not abuse authority nor pursue dishonest gains. In fact, the higher the position, the greater the responsibility. This is also what parents should always instil in their children.
3. Do not let the family get embroiled in the secular trends of the modern society, but build a family which can influence the society
1) First build a family that is centred on worship and church
<1 Ch 16:43> is a very important link. After the Israelites were blessed, they each went back to their families to bless their them. The background is that after king David brought the ark of God back to Israel, he assigned the priests of the temple to present burnt offering, in accordance with God’s commandments, and appointed Levites to minister before God. The people saw that “God’s love is everlasting”. After that, they left, each for their own home, to bless their own family. This is what must happen on every of the Lord’s Day in the families of saints, and it is the focal point of families which can bless the society. When saints hear the Word of God in the church, experience the communion of saints, see the everlasting love of God, then they have the strength to bless the family and influence the society. Today, many Christian families go through the Lord’s Day casually, and are not willing to spend more time in church, but they rather spend more time shopping. A family that focuses on church matters and the lives of saints will be greatly used by God. It’s a matter of time before they impact the society. Therefore, as our family faces some tensions because we want to lead blessed church living, examples: waking up early, being inconvenienced, trading-off time for leisure, helping children juggle their time for homework, taking care of all the affairs at home, adjusting working hours, etc., these are beautiful in the eyes of God and in the long run, will receive God’s blessings.
2) Guide the family to pursue less of material wealth, and to learn to live in contentment
Those who impact the world cannot love the world. To not love the world, the first step is to pass the test of material wealth. This was why when Abraham arrived in Canaan, famine happened. This was the first test God gave him, for him to completely rely on God in material things. Because he passed the test, he and Lot did not enter into conflicts over material things, neither did he fall into temptation like Lot. Therefore, if we want to impact the society today, we must first not be influenced by a culture with increasing demands. COVID-19 teaches the world an important lesson on not depending on loans. When we are used to using loans for our consumption, and the financial crisis happens, we will not know what to do. Today, churches and preachers who have been teaching believers that they can gain financial prosperity through Christ must repent. They created a false illusion for believers, leading them to think that when they give more, they will receive more, and when they proclaim the promise, the doors of prosperity will open. The word of God tells us clearly, that godliness with contentment is great gain <1 Ti 6:6>.
3）Let family members know how to make judgment on social issues based on biblical principles and wisdom
In an era which is very well-informed, we will see that everyone is manipulated by news and information. If we have no stand and basis of judgment regarding social issues, and allow the media to shape our family members’ thinking, we will slowly become a believer who “holds the news in higher regard than the Bible”. If that is the case, it is certainly impossible for us to be set apart from the world. Example: How do we view this pandemic? How do we view the unrest in Hong Kong? How do we judge the protests in United States? In all these things, what does the Lord want to fulfil? If what we fear is the same as the world and our views are the same as public opinion, how can we influence the society? Thus, in terms of knowing the gospel, what we must constantly equip ourselves is to let our purpose for studying and working, as well as, our views on dealing with people and matters, be different from people of the world.
4）Value the current roles God gave us, and be faithful in the little things God has entrusted us
Those who are unwilling to do small things certainly cannot do great things. Those who are unfaithful in the things which the Lord has entrusted them daily will not see the Lord entrusting them with greater responsibilities. In one’s lifetime, he has to do many small things well, then people will trust him to do a few great things. This is one principle as we work in the society. Even if Daniel and his friends had special gifts and talents, it was because they served the king faithfully for many years, then they could gain the king’s recognition and trust. A person who aims too high will certainly not get good opportunity, but will keep missing opportunities instead. It is the same with evangelistic work. Some people always think that one must stand on stage then can evangelize, but they do not cherish the opportunities to evangelize which God has given them daily. Actually, we do not need to be someone famous in order to testify about the Lord. The Holy Spirit comes precisely to enable us to testify <Jn 15:26-27>, He also constantly prepares for us the doors of evangelism <Ac 1:8>. If we seek, we will realize that every day, there are opportunities to testify about the Lord. Therefore, we should treasure time and seize every opportunity to evangelize. Some people seek and discover that in one week, there may be at least more than ten opportunities of testifying about the Lord. Some people do not seek, thus those who wish to hear the gospel or who wish to be comforted by them often just slip by.