There's the ideal family and then there's reality. There's a gap and it's one that's not exactly expected to be filled, says Pastor Andy Stanley.
In a new sermon series titled "Future Family," Stanley of North Point Community Church stated that many have fallen short or will fall short when it comes to following biblical teachings on family. The question is, "are we willing to embrace an ideal that may never be a reality in our current family" or "will we be tempted ... to abandon that ideal" and lower the bar, ultimately redefining the ideal?
The Alpharetta, Ga., pastor firstly acknowledged on Sunday that the Old Testament is full of bad examples when it comes to family. The first recorded murder in history occurred between two brothers (Cain and Abel) and the first civil war in the nation of Israel was between David and his son.
The New Testament, however, does teach how the family should be. Though it may sound old-fashioned, Stanley said, the teachings were revolutionary at the time they were delivered more than 2,000 years ago – particularly when it came to the status of women and children.
In summary, the New Testament teaches: husbands, love your wives and be considerate; wives, submit to your husbands; children, obey your parents; and fathers, don't irritate your children.
At that time, women had just a little bit more value than cattle, the pastor pointed out. So this teaching to love and be considerate of wives rather than owning them or treating them with such little value actually elevated the status of women.
All people – men, women and children – are heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven, Scripture teaches. Jesus went to the cross for all, Stanley said.
In every culture, he noted, that has since embraced a biblical worldview, women and children have fared better.
While Jesus taught and pointed toward an ideal, he refused to condemn those who fell short, the megachurch pastor highlighted.
Jesus raised the standard – not only is committing adultery a sin but even looking at a woman lustfully is sin, he taught. But at the same time, his grace and forgiveness became deeper and richer, Stanley preached.
Regarding divorce, Jesus said God made them male and female and they became one flesh and that no one should try to "un-one" what God made one.
Still, Jesus didn't condemn those who were divorced (at that time, men were able to divorce their wives easily), Stanley noted. Rather, Jesus gave his life for them.
There's a tension, Stanley said, between the high standard or the ideal and reality. But that tension, he added, should not be resolved.
"Jesus is inviting you, in fact I think Jesus is instructing you and is instructing me to follow him into the complexity of family life and carry the tensions between what's real ... and what's ideal," he preached.
"The question is, will we embrace the standard that many of us have fallen short of ... or will we redefine terms so that we can feel better about where we are?" he asked the congregation.
"Are we willing to embrace [the] standard ... or will we decide those verses don't count anymore in order to create a system and a view of family that's comfortable?"
He added, "Yes, we fall short; no, we don't always get it right ... but I'm not going to change the rules so I feel better. I'm willing to live with the tension between reality and this ideal that Jesus gave us."
Stanley encouraged the congregation to re-embrace the first century values that changed the world.