So by “lost the concept of family” I mean we’re individuals even in our families. The dad is just the individual. He is not truly Dad-the-head-of-a-body-that-is-a-family. If a family today was entirely comprised of witches and the father converted to Christianity, the rest wouldn’t think twice about whether they should follow Dad’s lead. They wouldn’t. You can see it in just about any family. If Gospel truth comes from the leader’s mouth, the response is rarely positive affirmation or ponderance. If the mother decides something is best, the rest of the family won’t assume anything, but tend to ignore it unless it clearly serves self-interest. From the root, we are anti- or a-covenantal.
This is something I would dearly love to get conditioned right out of me ASAP. And following that, same for my family. I speak in extremes here: Attending church as a family? Unimportant. Missing out on Sunday or Sunday Communion? Forgiveable. Burning commitment of one family to another in the church? Not a chance.
What’s all this? Duh, individualism. We’ve isolated and isolated until “my responsibility is only to God” which really means “my responsibility is only to me” – a lie, of course. Now, I’m not down-playing individuality. The God we worship is a God of great diversity and colors. He created individuals and uniqueness, called it all good and then set all in motion. We individually contribute to a whole that is greater than the parts. We are hands and feet and eyes and mouths, some one and some many in their gifts and abilities. But we’ve overgrown the garden of plenty so much that the unity is gone for the sake of the individual branches and fruits.
One factor, a cause and a symptom is the idea of Individual Liberty. First off, I think that 200+ years ago the Liberty we had was not the same as it is today. Back then, there was a concept of unity that is missing now. So I don’t think (especially today’s) liberty is necessarily a good thing. There are so many out there who call our liberty a great blessing, but I’d rather lean toward it being just a thing, an event that is comprised of good and bad.
The bad is really bad – it allows me to interprete everything myself. Nobody can hold me to a covenant. That means my family is a group of 6 islands loosely connected by reefs of common ideas or dependency. We don’t cleave to each other and so cannot conceive of cleaving to the church. In modern day, our modern culture and nation, in my modern family, I can worship the way I want.
Doesn’t that just sound wrong? I’m free to choose New Life PCA and if the pastor says something from the pulpit that I don’t like. I’m leaving. No commitment. And though my family may follow me, they certainly don’t have to, and might not. The pastor preaches in and out on Sundays to a crowd of people who are saturated in “my way” Even if they’re born-n-bred old school uber-presby saints, it’s still lurking in there. The pulpit’s constant litany of covenants, corporate worship, community and family must continue – it’s fighting the insanity of Individual Liberty’s dark side.
Once upon a time, the wife, the son, the workers, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren belonged to the father. They served each other under his watchful care and their sins were his responsibility. He was accountable for his family. Today? I do not belong to my father, nor do my kids, or anything else. His responsibility is to love me in some distant way, and though as a God-fearing man I’m sure he cares for me, wishes the best for me and prays for my growth and godliness, I can’t look to him as the head of a covenant family. Who can? I know this is insanely silly for today, but I’m exaggerating the point on purpose. We’ve sacrificed our vital corporate identity for our excessive and decadent individual identity.
So excessive is the individual identity today that I begin to wonder how much of me is entirely false. How much have I been italicized and underlined and bolded and iconified and nicknamed and networked until what’s important about me is blown out of proportion. I’m purely the sum of me and no longer does belonging come easily. I don’t belong to my family, to my church, to Christ…! because I’m too much me. I wonder if that is part of the root of strife in the family. I wonder about a lot of my problems and if they’re because of the devilishly inflated selfishness of this age? Heck, I try to find me in the Bible – how does it apply to me is more important than God’s people most of the time.
Relevant Tangent: I find that when I’m at the Lord’s Table, awaiting the food and drink that we are taught is our sustenance, I must consciously break from me and think of the others. I watch the plates served to others, I pray for my girls or whoever in the congregation comes to my mind – that they would be sustained and gathered into the arms of the rest of us as Christ is gathering us at His Table. I perceive the Supper as a sharing, not an individual act. I’m not savoring the choicest gift of all time on my own, but participating in a toast, a communal sharing of life. I try to visualize this, or recite it, as breathing from the same air, just for the moments we are together. I’m not bragging on my piety or spirituality here, rather I’m lamenting the effort it requires! All of this is a force of will. It does not come to me naturally.
Don’t get me as if I’m going all mystical, though the word mystical is there in our words. I’m not talking about contemplative prayer and zoning out to the collective consciousness junk. I’m talking about how we are all united in Christ and that this means something more than just me and you and him and her across the room. Think about it – lift the bread so that the ones around you can see you lift it, and place it in your mouth with them. Ever see a real wedding where the husband and wife feed each other the cake? That’s it. That’s us. Same with the cup – it’s a toast, too! A toast to the love the father has for us that has given us His Son, the best gift ever given.
Now can we apply that to any other part of our lives? Can we see that He has fed us on Sunday as we are united and this does not change on Monday? We’re still one, just separated by different places. From space, from God’s perspective, we’re all right next to each other. And we’re all in the same time zone.