In the conservative evangelical perspective, families typically are thought to consist ideally of mothers, fathers and their children. There are good sociological and biblical reasons for this assumption, not least God’s design according to Scripture. Yet Scripture also makes mention of extended families living closely with lives intertwined. To be sure, much of this can be attributed to sociological and economic factors in biblical culture. In contrast, prevalent wealth in the contemporary west has created an emphasis on independence, thereby making intergenerational households less common, except in poor neighborhoods. Also in Scripture there are many examples of families who do not fit the ideal profile of the two-parent household; still, they are families. The circumstances of these families vary widely, mirroring the diversity of their contemporary counterparts. Divorce, widowhood, remarriage, blended families, single adults with no children, single parents, families with foster children, and so on. All of these represent the vast array of possible family iterations. Are they any less valuable to God than the ideal two parent household consisting of mother and father? Of course not.
To the couple who has not been able to have children, God treasures you as precious in his sight. Some cultures look down on the childless. God esteems you as the apple of his eye. The person, male or female, who has lost a spouse to death may sometimes feel abandoned. God calls on his people to include you in the broader church family. You matter to God, even in the darkest hour of your sorrow. To those who have been involved in a divorce or who are children of divorce, God has not forgotten you, nor has he cast you aside as second place. You are not cast out of God’s family, despite how some in the church may choose to treat you. And to those who have never married, God reminds you that you are a person of value now, and that your worth is not pending, based on a possible future marriage. All who are represented in these groups and countless others as well are welcome members of God’s family. The question is, will the church, as God’s ambassadors, willingly welcome them? Will we joyfully treat them as family?
Even the early church struggled with this, not knowing at first what to do with all the widows who needed assistance with food and other needs. They ended up appointing deacons who could fill this need. What would happen if families today cooperated to meet the needs of individuals who easily are marginalized from the social sphere of family life? Likewise, how might those individuals enrich the lives of families who reach out to them?
Perhaps the church can provide a framework by which families may cooperate graciously as a family of families, inclusive even of those most at risk of marginalization. Are we willing to set aside some of our privileges for a time to enrich the lives of others who are hurting?