Thinking Biblically About Family

September 24, 2023 ()

Bible Text: Mark 10:2-9 |


Thinking Biblically about Family | Mark 10:2-9
Brian Hedges | September 24, 2023

I want to invite you to turn in your Bibles this morning to the tenth chapter of Mark’s Gospel, Mark 10. In a few minutes we’ll be reading from Mark 10:2-9.

We are continuing in a series that’s been a short topical series where we’ve been looking at a number of different themes in Scripture and asking, “What does the Bible teach about this particular theme?” So far we’ve looked at work, identity, and last week was politics. Next week we’ll conclude this series and talk about the church, and today we’re going to talk about family.

Now, all of us have a family in some sense of that word. We might think of our family of origin, the parents who raised us. Whether it was your biological parents or foster parents or adoptive parents or some other guardians, we all grew up with some people caring for us. We also have families in the sense of our siblings, those we are related to, either by blood or maybe step-siblings. We also have extended family. Many of us know our grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and so on.

There are all kinds of family situations represented in the room this morning and in our church. There will be couples who are married, there will be families who have children, there will be some families who have blended families, where you have children who come from a previous marriage and now you’re blending these families together. There are some who are divorced, there are some who are widowed, there are many who are single. Some, perhaps, are in a second or even a third marriage.

There are all different kinds of family situations, and if we’re honest most of us could say that we have both some positive family experiences and some negative family experiences. Some would say that their experiences have been mostly positive, where in your family of origin both parents were Christians, and not just in word but in deed, and you grew up in a home where God was worshiped and honored and where you were loved and cared for and healthy, life-giving relationships were modeled in your family.

But there are many who grew up with very negative family experiences, and you grew up perhaps in a dysfunctional family. Healthy relationships were not modeled; in fact, it might have been worse than that. You might have been the victim of abuse or even trauma.

Most of us have seen a mix of good and bad. Whatever your background this morning, whatever your family situation was growing up, and whatever your current, your present family situation is, family is an important topic for us to address.

What we’re trying to do in this series is ask, “What does the Bible teach about the given topic?” In one message, “What’s a summary of what the Bible teaches about family?”

We’re trying to situate these topics within the broader storyline of Scripture, so that we have a Christian worldview and we’re understanding this topic today, family, in light of creation and the fall and redemption and the new creation for which we hope in Christ.

Today we’re asking, What does the Bible teach about family? Believe it or not, that question is not as easy to answer as you might think. When you look at everything the Bible says about family—and it says quite a lot—it doesn’t quite fit into some of the categories that we might have in our minds when we first begin to think about family.

The English word “family” only appears in the New Testament ten times, but that doesn’t even represent one Greek word. The Greek word for family, patria, is only used three times in the New Testament. More often you have the word oikos, or house, that sometimes represents a household, but it can also just mean a literal house. When the Scriptures talk about a household it usually means something broader than a nuclear family. Sometimes it would include several generations living under one roof; sometimes it would include the bondservants and the slaves in a family.

In the Old Testament, the word “family” can refer to a household, but more broadly it usually refers to a clan of people, or maybe even a tribe of people, or even a nation. Remember how God had promised Abraham that “through you and your seed all the families of the earth will be blessed.” He meant the nations, the clans, the different tribal groups in the world.

That means that when we come to the Bible and we start asking questions about family, we have to be careful that we don’t just import our idea of a nuclear family—a husband and a wife and three or four kids and a dog and a mortgage—into the text of Scripture where it’s not there. We have to think a little more broadly than that, we have to speak with more nuance, in order to be really helped by what the Scriptures teach about family.

What I want to do this morning is look at the family within this broader storyline of Scripture. We can consider the family in three ways:

1. The Institution of the Family in Creation
2. The Brokenness of the Family at the Fall
3. The Reorientation of the Family in the Kingdom of God (that’s where we will dig especially into the New Testament teaching about the family)

1. The Institution of the Family in Creation

Here I want us to see two things that I think make up the institution of the family in the creation narrative. We’re going to begin in Mark 10, where Jesus quotes from Genesis 1-2. These two things are the gift of marriage and then the command to reproduce and have children. I want you to look at Mark 10:2, where Jesus is being asked questions by the Pharisees. The question is about divorce. Now, that’s not what this sermon is about; I’m not going to talk about divorce this morning. But what I want you to see is how Jesus’ answer to the question affirms the basic teaching of Genesis about the institution of marriage. Let’s begin in verse 2.

“And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’ He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ They said, ‘Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, “God made them male and female.” “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.’”

This is one of the clearest statements of the Lord Jesus Christ about marriage that we find anywhere in the gospels. Jesus, in answering this question, quotes two verses, Genesis 1:27 (God made them male and female) and Genesis 2:24 (“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh). Then he explains that this is the divine intention for marriage in creation. From the beginning of creation, this was God’s will. He says, therefore, “What God has joined together, let not man separate.”

This institution of marriage, the gift of marriage, the provision of marriage, lies right at the heart of the institution of the family in the creation order. We could spend an entire sermon just on this, and I’m not going to do that, I’m not going to expound this, but I want you to just see very quickly—really in bullet-point form—that this teaching about marriage shows us that there are five essential characteristics of marriage, if it is to be biblically defined. It’s important to emphasize this, because this is exactly what is contested in the culture today. Five characteristics about the marriage union.

(1) First of all is equality, that the man and the woman were created equal before God. Men and women are equal in the sight of God—both in the image of God, as we saw a few weeks ago in the identity sermon.

(2) Secondly, complementarity. Not only are men and women equal, they are also distinct. They are different. Men and women are not the same. They are biologically different from one another, and anyone who’s been married for long knows that they’re also psychologically and emotionally and mentally different from one another. Men and women approach things from a different vantage point, and that is a good thing that God created. He built that into the order of creation.

(3) Thirdly, heterosexuality. Scriptures teach unequivocally that marriage is to be between a man and a woman, not between two people of the same sex.

(4) Not only that, but monogamy—marriage is to be between one man and one woman. Marriage is not to extend beyond that. That’s the order of creation.

(5) Then it’s to be characterized by fidelity. Marriage should be lifelong, where the man and the woman are faithful to one another.

This is the ideal that is set forth in Scripture for marriage. I appreciate these quaint but I think charmingly helpful words from the Puritan Matthew Henry, in his commentary, on how Eve, the woman, was made out of a rib from the side of Adam. He said,

“She was not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.”

That shows us what God intended marriage to be: this union between a man and a woman for life in the bonds of holy matrimony. That’s the ideal that is set forth in Scripture and in the created order.

It gives us a picture of marriage as it was meant to be, and then implicit in the marriage is that they were to have children. In fact, this is clear in the command given in Genesis 1:28 to “be fruitful and multiply.” God gave the man and the woman to one another with the mandate, the very first command given in Scripture, that they are to have children.

These two things together—the command to reproduce with the gift of marriage—make up the institution of the family in creation. Now, we don’t know what an ideal family in an unfallen world would have looked like, because Adam and Eve, though they had children, didn't have children until after the fall. So we don’t know what it would have looked like. We can try to imagine what would have been the joy and the harmony and the love and the respect that would be true of every home, of every household, and the relationships between the human families of the earth, as the human race would have grown over time. We can only imagine that; we don’t know exactly what it would have looked like. We have this ideal picture that’s suggested to us.

But the reality—and it’s certainly the reality in our own lives but also the reality described in Scripture—is that the family is a broken institution. Even though it is an institution created by God and given in the creation order, it has been broken through man’s fall into sin.

2. The Brokenness of the Family at the Fall

That leads us now to the second point. We can say without any hesitation that every family is broken by sin. Grief and sorrow touch even the happiest of homes, but many homes are not happy at all. The ways in which sin has distorted and destroyed families and the relationships between family members are legion.

You might remember those words of Leo Tolstoy, from the opening lines of his novel Anna Karenina, where he said, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

You don’t have to think long to be able to see that there is much unhappiness in the world that is connected to these family relationships. We see it, of course, in the Scriptures.

In Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve disobey God, immediately we see that there’s friction and division that’s brought into the relationship with one another. Then in Genesis 4, Cain and Abel are born, and we know how the story ends. It ends with fratricide—murder—one brother murdering the other. If you keep going in Genesis and you just trace the family relationships in the book of Genesis, even among the patriarchs, even among the people of God, you see all kinds of problems.

Here’s just a sampling. You have polygamy, you have incest, you have rape, you have deceit, you have parental favoritism, sibling rivalry, the selling of a brother into slavery, and more.

I read off that list and you can immediately remember the references to Lot or to Abraham or to Isaac or Jacob or the sons of Jacob. These are the stories of the Old Testament.

What this means is that when you look at the families of the Bible, even the so-called heroes of the Old Testament, men like Abraham and David, what you see, in spite of their faith, are not happy homes and happy families. You see, instead, breakdown, heartache, and brokenness.

We have to acknowledge this, and it’s important for a couple of reasons. These are a couple of things I would suggest as applications for us.

(1) It’s important because we need to have a biblically nuanced view of the family. It’s easy for us to start thinking about family in idealistic terms, where all we do is think about the family in its creation ideal. That’s important to affirm, as we did in the first point. But that’s not all that the Bible says about family. If all we have in our minds when we think about family is the ideal that is set forth in creation, we’re going to be terribly disappointed, because the reality is that no family lives up to that ideal. The reality is that every family is broken by sin. We need the nuance that the Scripture gives us.

I found one author in particular very helpful in this. His name is Christopher Wright. I’ve quoted him before. He’s written a wonderful book called Old Testament Ethics for the People of God. I recommend it to you. I want to read a lengthy quote from him, because he states this so carefully, so well, and I can’t say it any better than he does. Christopher Wright says,

“Biblical material on the family presents a series of paradoxes or ambiguities. This is inevitable because the family closely mirrors the ambiguity of human life itself. On the one hand, composed of persons made in God’s image, the family reflects something of God’s own relational self, and is also an appropriate context and vehicle for the worship of God. There is abundant material in the Bible affirming a high view of the family as God’s intended creational context for human lives to begin, for them to be nurtured and shaped according to the values and standards that please God, to learn and express the social and relational skills essential to our humanity, to offer and receive support at many different levels of life and work, abundance and need.”

I think all of us would affirm that.

“On the other hand [Wright says], composed of persons who are fallen and sinful, the family can intensify the horrors of human oppression and wickedness. And when it is endowed with ultimate value or priority it can become an idolatrous substitute for the true worship of God. There is, similarly, abundant material in the Bible depicting dysfunctional families, broken and grieving families, and families acting in concerted rebellion against God. We ought, therefore, to avoid a naive or simplistic view of the family, which assumes that anywhere and everywhere in the Bible will happily affirm that it is simply a good thing. It is, of course, like everything else in God’s creation, something God created to be very good, but it has the power, like all things human, to be distorted into something very evil.”

That’s a biblically nuanced understanding of the family, and it’s important both for us to have a realistic portrait in our minds of how the Bible portrays family life in the world, so that we will not be disappointed if we’re only thinking about the ideals. The Bible speaks to the reality in which we live, not just to the ideal. It’s also important to give us the resources of compassion and kindness and care to help minister to people who come from very dysfunctional homes and families. All of us experience that to some degree or another. So we need a biblically nuanced view of family.

(2) Secondly, we need to examine our own hearts for sin. When we’re thinking about family relationships, the starting place for us should be to look within and to recognize our own need for repentance and for forgiveness.

There are many examples of this. There are, obviously, the big sins like adultery and abuse and addictions or criminal activity of any kind, and the kind of heartbreak and destruction that that brings into the home. But there are also many more respectable, everyday sins. These are the things that maybe we don’t talk about as much. We are quick to brush these things under the rug, but unacknowledged and undealt with, these are the things that wreak havoc in our homes. Let me give you some examples.

Sharp tongues
Hurtful words
An angry outburst at your spouse or children
Anything that leaves behind you a trail of hurt feelings, broken relationships, and bitter memories
Self-centeredness, expressed in the use of time or money
Withholding attention or affection
Insisting on one’s own way in large or small things
Always insisting that everyone else adjust to your prerogatives, your priorities, your preferences
Not deferring to the wishes of others—that kind of self-centeredness, what it does to family relationships
The problems of neglect of your spouse or your child’s needs for time and for attention
The withholding of affirmation and basic compassion and care and kindness and forgiveness

This is one of the horrible things about the reality of much home life is that sometimes we are more cruel to the people who live with us than to anyone else. We say more hurtful things, more harsh things to the people who live with us than the people we work with and we keep up a better front.

Brothers and sisters, I want to urge you to ask God to search your heart. Where have you sinned in this way and you’ve hurt maybe your spouse or your children or your parents or your siblings? Where the Lord reveals there to be sin, this is what you do. You confess those sins to the Lord, you repent—you seek to turn from those sins and ask God for forgiveness and for transformation in your lives—and then you go to the person you have hurt and you ask them to forgive you, and you seek out reconciliation in those family relationships.

Let me just say, dads and moms, you should be the pace-setter for this in your family life. You should model this, so that when you sin against your children you are the one who seeks reconciliation, and you do that by humbling yourself, by going to your son or to your daughter, to your spouse, or whoever you’ve hurt with your words. You confess it, you acknowledge it as sin, and you ask them to forgive you.

When you do this, you are demonstrating humility. You’re humbling yourself and you’re showing your children that you recognize your own sins. Listen, they already know you’re a sinner. They know it. But they need to know that you know it, and the way they’re going to know that you know it is if you’re humbling yourself and demonstrating that humility to them.

You also, in doing this, create a culture of grace in your home, where this becomes the currency that you exchange grace to one another, you give grace to one another. Love covers a multitude of sins. But that doesn’t happen well unless there is honest and open confession of our need for grace and seeking of forgiveness.

You will also model for them the rhythms of repentance and forgiveness, teaching your children how to deal with their sins and modeling for them the basic skills of conflict resolution and reconciliation in relationships. We all need this.

I’ll tell you from a personal standpoint, Holly and I gave up a long time ago the idea of trying to be perfect parents. I think every set of parents, when they start having kids, they have all kinds of ideas about parenting and how they’re going to do it better than they saw their parents do it, better than everybody else around them does it. We probably had some of that. We gave that up a long time ago, and what we’ve landed on is we’re not going to be perfect parents, we’re going to blow it, we’ve blown it many, many times, where we’ve said things we shouldn’t have said or we’ve hurt our children in various ways. What we can do is we can model repentance by seeking their forgiveness and trying to make things right and keep those relationships whole and healthy. I would urge you to do that as well.

In extreme cases—I should also say this—there may be times when you need to pursue outside help, where you need counseling, where you need either a pastor or a biblical counselor or even a psychologist or therapist to help you work through severe cases of trauma and abuse and engrained sin patterns in your family life. People can help you with that, and I would encourage you to seek that help.

Here’s the deal, folks: there are no ideal families, there are only sinful families, there are only broken families. There are only families that need grace and forgiveness and redemption. We need to recognize that. We need to acknowledge it. We need to be honest about it, and we need to model that recognition in our own habits of repentance and confession.

3. The Reorientation of the Family in the Kingdom of God

We’ve seen the institution of the family in creation, we’ve seen the brokenness of the family because of sin and the fall, and finally, I want us to think for a few minutes about the reorientation of the family in the kingdom of God.

What I mean by reorientation is something like this—think of looking through the lens of a camera—have you ever done this?—and you don’t have a clear focus. You don’t have a clear picture. What you have to do is you have to adjust the lens until everything becomes sharp and you’re able to focus in and you get a sharper and a clearer image.

I believe that the teaching of the New Testament helps us to do that, to get a sharper, clearer image of what relationships should look like within the kingdom of God and how this should affect all of our relationships, including our family relationships.

We learn this reorientation through three strands of New Testament teaching.

(1) Here’s the first: the affirmation of basic family relationships in the created order. Now, I’ve already shown you that in Jesus’ teaching in Mark 10. You also see it in the teaching of Paul and of Peter in other places in Scripture that affirm the basic institution of marriage. We see it in the parent-child relationship in the household codes and in how Paul, especially, teaches parents to raise their children and to train them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

We see it modeled in Jesus’ own relationship with his mother. You remember that when Jesus was dying on the cross, one of the seven words from the cross is to John and to his mother, when he said, “Behold your mother,” and to Mary, “Behold your son.” He’s seeking to care for his mother’s needs.

Marriage is affirmed, the basic responsibilities of husbands and wives to love and honor and respect and be faithful to one another are affirmed, and the responsibilities of parents to children and children to parents are affirmed. This is all clear in the New Testament.

If you want more detail on this, what I would urge you to do is go back and listen to Brad’s sermon on the Christian household from Colossians 3 about six weeks ago. It was an excellent sermon, it was well-nuanced; there is a lot of wisdom in there for you. I didn’t want to just repreach that sermon today, but if you didn’t hear it you should go back and listen to that message. So the affirmation of basic family relationships; that’s fist.

(2) But the second thing may be surprising to you. The second thing you have in the New Testament is the realignment of family priorities under Christ. There’s a realigning of family loyalties and family priorities under the lordship of Christ within the kingdom of God. This comes out in very stark ways in the ministry of Jesus. Let me give you some examples.

In Luke 14:25-27, Jesus says some almost shocking words in his call to follow him in discipleship. The text says,

“Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.’”

Those are shocking words. Jesus says, “You have to hate your father and mother, your husband, your wife, your children, in order to follow me.” What does he mean by that?

I think all biblical scholars would agree that Jesus here is speaking in hyperbole. It’s a figure of speech where there is exaggeration in order to make a point that is a very important point. I think what Jesus is saying is, “In comparison to me, in comparison to loving me, in comparison to following me, your love for every other relationship must look like hatred in comparison to your loyalty to me. But if you would follow me, if you would be my disciple, I must come first.”

You see examples of what this looks like in actions in Luke 9:59-62.

“To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ [Shockingly,] Jesus said to him, ‘Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ Yet another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’”

Again, these are shocking words. What is Jesus doing here? He is recognizing in these would-be disciples that their loyalties are still divided. He’s telling them, “You have to prioritize the kingdom of God, you have to submit to my lordship. It has to come first, over everything else, over every competing loyalty. Christ must come first.”

One more passage, Mark 3:31-35. Jesus is early in his ministry here, and he’s teaching in a certain setting, and it says,

“And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.’ And he answered them, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.’”

Again, these are radical, shocking words that certainly would have rattled the ears of those who first heard them, including his family, because Jesus, in a way, is relativizing those natural family relationships with his own mother and his own brothers—even though he obviously cared for them, as was demonstrated at the cross. And yet he says that “my true family are those who do the will of my Father, those who are my disciples, those who follow me in the kingdom of God.”

Brothers and sisters, this means several things for us. This means that if we realign our priorities so that Christ comes first, it means that following Christ will at some point cost you in your family relationships. There will be times where you have to put Jesus ahead of your husband or Jesus ahead of your spouse or Jesus ahead of your children.

Now, if your nuclear family is all made up of Christians and all share that same loyalty and that same allegiance, that will be a beautiful thing. But I knew someone, many years ago, who became a Christian. He was married and became a Christian, and his wife was not a Christian, and she did not want to be married to someone with allegiance to Jesus Christ, so she divorced him because of his conversion. I met him after that; he was remarried by that point. But it had cost him his marriage to follow Jesus.

There are many people who have become Christians and their parents have basically disowned them for that. There is oftentimes a division between brother and sister, between siblings, because of religious choice, the choice to follow Christ rather than follow the world. Following Christ may cost in your family relationships.

But not only that—here’s the second implication—following Christ will radically shape your whole approach to your family relationship. So if your allegiance is first of all to Christ, your loyalty first of all to Christ, that’s going to dictate how you engage all the other relationships. The basic ethic in the kingdom of God is the ethic of love. Jesus says to love your neighbor as yourself, and your nearest neighbors are the neighbors who live under your roof. Your nearest neighbor is your spouse or your children. If they’re not Christians, it means that your household is your first mission field, the place where you’re seeking to share the gospel and you’re seeking to imitate the love of Christ and be such a winsome presentation of who Jesus is and how he changes a life that it will win your family members to Christ. As Peter says to wives, they are to try to win their husbands without a word, simply by their behavior.

If those in your family are Christians, then your household is your first and primary discipleship zone. It’s where you’re seeking to teach the word of God and you’re seeking to imitate Christ together and to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Our priorities get completely realigned if Christ is Lord. That’s the second strand of teaching.

(3) Here’s the third: we see the appropriation of family language for the church. Now, I’ve already touched on this, really. You see it in Mark 3, the passage I just read, where Jesus looks around him and he sees his disciples, and he says, “These are my mother and my brother and my sisters: those who do the will of God.”

But did you know that the familial language of Scripture, the language of brother and sister and even father and mother, that language is used broadly to speak of relationships within the church? Even the word “household.” Three times the Scriptures talk about the household of God (Ephesians 2:19, 1 Timothy 3:15, 1 Peter 4:17) or the household of faith (Galatians 6:10). Jesus promises his disciples—you see this at the end of Mark 10, Mark 10:29-31—he promised his disciples,

“Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the gospel who will not receive a hundredfold, now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. And many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

What does Jesus mean by that? “In this time you will receive” mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and so on. He means that if you follow Christ and it costs you in your natural blood ties, your family relationships, it’ll be more than compensated for through the family relationships you have with the people of God, family relationships in the church.

Here’s one more passage, 1 Timothy 5:1-2, where Paul writes to young Timothy, and he uses the family as a paradigm for how relationships are to be characterized in the church. He says,

“Do not rebuke an older man, but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.”

This should characterize our relationships with one another in the church, this close familial relationship, because we are part of a new family, we are part of the family of God.

Brothers and sisters, this is hopeful. This is encouraging. This can be helpful for us, especially if we can learn how to really live this out. That’s the topic for next week’s sermon. If we can learn how to really live this out in our relationships with one another, it means that no matter how bad your natural family relationships may be, you can experience the warmth and the love and the grace and the flourishing that comes with human relationships in the church as part of the family of God. It means that if you’re single or divorced or widowed that you’re not a second-class citizen. It means that you have a place of belonging in the church every bit as much as someone who’s happily married. It means that if your home relationships are fraught with problems, there’s a place where you can find help and you can find encouragement, you can find mutual support with other brothers and sisters in Christ who are struggling to live a life of love in their family relationships in a less than ideal world.

(4) At the heart of all of this is the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is really the final exhortation. The gospel should inform our thinking and should form our hearts and our lives and our family relationships. How does the gospel do that? It does that when we remember—when we think about fathers, when we remember that we have a heavenly Father, a Father who opens his arms wide to receive his prodigal children.

It does this when we think about brothers, that we have a brother, an elder brother, an older brother, who is not ashamed to call us brothers, but he took flesh and blood upon himself to be like us, in the same nature, and as a merciful and faithful high priest he went all the way to the cross to die for our sins. When we’re thinking about marriage, when we remember that we have a bridegroom with love in his eyes who loved us so much that he would go to the greatest lengths and he would pay the utmost price in order to win the heart of his beloved bride. The heart of the gospel is the heart of a father who seeks us, a brother who dies for us, a bridegroom who loves us to the very end.

I want to leave you with these words of C.S. Lewis. This is from his wonderful book The Four Loves. Lewis says,

“God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that he may love and perfect them. [He’s showing us here what self-giving love looks like.] He creates the universe, already foreseeing the buzzing crowd of flies about the cross, the flayed back pressed against the uneven stake, the nails driven through the mesial nerves, the repeated, incipient suffocation as the body droops, the repeated torture of back and arms as it is, time after time, for breath’s sake, hitched up. Herein is love. This is the diagram of love himself, the inventor of all loves.”

As you and I heed the call to love one another and to love our families, our husbands, our wives, our children, our parents, our brothers and sisters, and one another in the body of Christ, and our neighbors as ourselves, this is the pattern. This is the model. This is the diagram! Jesus has shown us what love looks like, and it’s not a self-seeking kind of love, it is humble, self-giving, self-sacrificial love that lays down his life for the sake of others. This is our call, brothers and sisters, to imitate the love for Christ as we are reoriented to him as our supreme husband and brother and friend.

Are you in the family? Not a natural family, but in the family of God? If not, let me encourage you this morning to seek Christ, to turn to him in faith, and to trust in him, and you will be welcomed to the table of the Lord. Let’s pray together.

Lord, we thank you so much for your dying love for us, that you would love us as your Bride so much that you would suffer for us in this way. Lord, this is the model for us. This is the new commandment that has been given to us, to love one another, and to love one another as you have loved us. We can’t do that in our own strength; we can only do it in the strength of your Holy Spirit, who is given to us, and by whom the love of God is poured into our hearts. So we ask, Lord, for that gift and that blessing. We ask for you to do more for us than mere words or mere teaching or even a mere sermon can do, but that your Spirit would take the word of God and apply it in life-changing, heart-transforming ways so that the effect will be a more humble heart, a more penitent, repentant heart, a heart full of love for others. Lord, we need you to do that for us, to produce that in us.

We ask that as we come to the Lord’s table this morning that we would come with our eyes fixed on you as both our example and as our Savior and Redeemer, the one who by your grace continues to nourish us and mature us and build us up into the ways of love in your kingdom. Lord, draw near to us now in these moments as we seek your face. We pray this in your own blessed name, amen.