The Family Isn’t Always The Answer -- By: Evelyn Bence

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 14:3 (Summer 2000)
Article: The Family Isn’t Always The Answer
Author: Evelyn Bence

The Family Isn’t Always The Answer

Some Of The Most Godly Leaders Didn’t Have Neat And Tidy Family Lives.

Evelyn Bence

Evelyn Bence is author of Prayers for Girlfriends and Sisters and Me (Servant-Vine, 1999) and Spiritual Moments with the Great Hymns (Zondervan, 1997) This article was adapted from Today’s Christian Woman (May-June 1987).

If I had to list five things for which I am most thankful, I would fill in one of the blanks with the word family. It’s hard for me to imagine what life is like for my friend Carla, who has no children, husband, or siblings, and whose parents are dead. In contrast to her, I’m blessed with a large extended family, yet like her, I’m not married and I’m not part of a nuclear family.

I’d be the first to acknowledge the importance of strong family life, but I fear that by extolling the virtues of the traditional unit, the church alienates those who don’t have ready-made families.

Some years ago I went to church on youth Sunday, an event that always seems to feature a sermon on marriage or family solidarity. Disturbed by what I heard—that marriage and the nuclear family was God’s plan for everyone—I wrote a confronting letter to the preacher. Did he know that there were eight million more women than men in the U.S.? When you add in a spiritual factor—that more women than men are committed Christians—it’s even more obvious that the traditional family simply can’t be God’s plan for every godly Christian woman.

In this letter I mentioned two women separated from, but seeking reconciliation with, their husbands. They had found this church’s continual teaching on family life so painful that they had begun to stay home on Sundays. The words they heard were not aimed directly at them, but nevertheless painfully penetrated their hearts.

The pastor never acknowledged my letter, but I was deeply moved a few months later when he introduced another sermon: “Since this is youth Sunday, you might expect me to speak about the family. But instead, I’ve felt led to preach Jesus.” He did, and I, for one, was grateful.

Although “Jesus is the answer” isn’t a biblical phrase, it—as opposed to “the family is the answer”—summarizes the gospel message each of us is called to stand on, believe, and proclaim. He is our salvation, our help in trouble, our hope for the future, even our cure for the past. The family we’re fortunate enough to have or hope to have may be, now or eventually, is the means of God’s grace to us. But the absence mustn’t be correlated with a lack of favor or with an overwhelming disadvantage.

For instance, there’s no need for struggling single mothers to despair that their children ...

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