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Chapter 2 - The Family in the Natural World
If we consider the world God created and then cursed (for our protection after sin), we can see dangers and hazards at every turn; drought and flood, predation of beasts, death, enslavement, or robbery by other humans, and disease and injury. Into this world humans are born helpless and ignorant.
In the ancient world infant mortality rates were often over 50%. Our families were where we were protected, nurtured, instructed, and our character shaped by discipline. Our growth was not to provide us with the means to strike out on our own and build a life for ourselves. It was to be an integral part of the family eventually caring for parents who had once cared for us.
The Prodigal Son illustrates for us the necessity of family in the ancient world.
And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. - Luke 15:13-19
It is interesting to note that upon his return, the prodigal was received with love but was not to receive any more in the way of family assets. He had squandered his inheritance and would live out the rest of his life at the sufferance of his brother.
But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found. - Luke 15:30-32
Life in the natural world could be brutal. Family life in dealing with the natural world focused everyone’s attention on each other such that there were no secrets. Family life exposed everything about a person for the scrutiny of others. There is a sort of brutal honesty in such an environment.
In contrast, modern life has so many distractions that a child can grow to adulthood without anyone knowing him well at all. In the natural world character is demonstrated in adversity. In the modern world character is often less important than achievement, appearance, and acquisition all of which can be presented on a Facebook page for the admiration and envy of others.
Relationships today are often based on fragmentary, superficial, or even false information about another person. As a result, there is no depth. The desire one might have for a deeper relationship is often frustrated by the inability of people to even understand what that would entail.
The deeper relationships more common when we lived in the natural world are usually not sought and even avoided now because to do so would expose us to the discomfort, awkwardness, and brutal honesty of seeing each other as we truly are.
The modern world is differentiated from the natural world in several ways. Most notable are the material and technical devices that provide comfort, entertainment, and ease of living. However, also associated with these changes is a social world in which most can maneuver without having to reveal much of who they really are. There are even strong social customs that discourage attempts at such sharing.
Since God constituted the world and families to offer difficulty as a means to motivate us to both seek him as well as abandon that with which we destroy ourselves, Satan has worked to offer an alternative to the natural world and familial relationships such that an alternative to difficulty seems achievable.
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