The Beauty of Raising a Family in the Cause of Christ

Ten Brothers

The other day my wife said that the pursuit of the cause of Christ would be infinitely easier if I didn’t have a family.

She said it casually, kindly, towards the end of a conversation we were having about pursuing missionary work. She said if not for the obligation to care and support a family one could easily pursue the work of God.

She has a biblical case.

She trotted out Jesus’ statement, “And there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake for the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.”

And she mentioned Paul who indicated that the married man or woman who has divided affections, serving the spouse, the children, could not give the full weight of their attention to the cause of Christ.

“Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that.” 1 Corinthians 7:7

Egg Drop Soup for Breakfast

Sensing that I wasn’t seeing her point she suggested that we wouldn’t have the house to sell or the multiple cars needed in today’s mobile society to be agile. If I was a bachelor, my accommodations would be meager, a pillow and mat in some hostile that cost me $60 a month.

All my belongings in a back pack. Egg drop soup for breakfast, bananas for lunch.

While there is something noble about the devotion and simplicity of being single to serve the cause of Christ, I hardly think it is something to be cherished by a man who is married and with children. Paul said, “Each man must remain in the condition in which he was called.” It seems that Paul was perhaps combating the acts of some Christians who abandoned their family for Christ.

Of course my wife wasn’t suggesting I abandon the family, just merely suggesting that I probably dream about the simplicity of being single to champion the cause of Christ.

Okay. Fair enough.

Lone Missionary v. the Family

The longing to be single to pursue the cause of Christ, in the name of Christ, is a very real temptation. Yet to indulge that temptation would do nothing but sully my testimony of Christ.

To justify with a cold calculation that I could possibly impact more people because I had more freedom by sacrificing my family could quite possibly be one of the most damaging things I could do–both to my family and to Christ.

The other thing that did not sit well with me, and a notion that did not occur to me until afterwards, is that God would get more glory in a family championing the cause of Christ than a single person doing the same thing.

In fact, we expect the single Christian to live unencumbered, to devote a large degree of their time and energy into the causes of Christ. We simply don’t see it as being much of a sacrifice.

We expect them to have a near-reckless faith.

A lone missionary travelling to Nigeria makes sense. A family with small children, on the other hand, is a different story.

When God Gets the Greater Glory

To even engineer that move is woefully complex. Passports, shots and finances. And the dangers are very real. The cemeteries of mission fields hold the graves of missionaries, many of whom are small children. Yet it is done hundreds, if not thousands, of times a year.

And it is that type of sacrifice and obedience that gives greater glory to God. The larger the family and the longer they stay the greater the burden, but the more grace from God needed, and the more glory that God gets in the end.

For someone like me who is prone to thinking he must achieve something great–a body of literary work that spans centuries, for example–a family is paramount to keeping him grounded and ever trusting in God for what is truly important in this life.

A corpus that cements my existence in the collective memory for a century or two is a failure if it is done at the expense of one’s family.

As Jesus said, “For a man who wishes to save his life will lose it, but the man who loses it for my sakes will find it.”

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Comments

  1. Rob says

    These ideas are right in the meat of my sandwich. I have many thoughts about this but let me give one since I’m on my phone.

    The “glamorous” pursuit of Christ in the orphanages of Nigeria would be easier as a single. But the “mundane” pursuit of Christ in changing diapers and loving an obstinate spouse would be impossible. I get what your wife is saying but I hope my mark on this world primarily includes a wife that feels protected, treasured, and pursued and kids that easily accept the love and sacrifice of Christ because of the example of their earthly father.

    I want to be faithful to God where he has me and where he calls me. To desire glamorous or mundane because of something other than that would be selfish.

    Great thoughts! Wish I could have been a fly on the wall!

    • DemianFarnworth says

      What you said about “having a wife who feels protected, treasured and pursued” is something I need to hear. I honestly wasn’t thinking that way. At least it wasn’t at the front and center. But it’s equally important. When we have children we can neglect our spouses. That’s equally damaging to our testimony.

  2. Rob says

    A.W. Tozer is one of my favorite authors. Such Christ centered, fully surrendered preaching! His wife after his death and her remarriage said Tozer loved God, her second husband loved her. Ouch!

  3. says

    This hit really close to home for me, despite being single and with no prospects currently on the horizon. I know my calling to Somalia and beyond my relationship with Christ, it’s the most assured thing about me. However, I also wrestle with the idea of a family. Family usually wins those mental tug-a-wars and not by me forcing my will. I’m not certain I’ll have a wife and children someday, I lean that way, but I do know that if I do have a wife and children they’ll be there with me.

    I know it seems strange, but it’s not the danger that worries me about having a family in such a crazy mission field. For one, no one dies before their appointed time. If God appoints me to lose a child at a young age, then the fact is I’ll lose him\her at that age regardless of where that child lives. It’s a matter of coming to terms with the fact no matter what I do or how much my flesh wishes differently, just like my own life, my family’s lives are firmly in the hands of God and not my own. Now I will say that doesn’t mean I have freedom to be reckless with myself or my family, but it does change the perspective.

    Secondly, often in today’s world, even the best parents with hearts for Christ have a hard time raising their children to find Christ for themselves. Our society has become very skilled at hiding the path to faith in empty religion and idolatry in our abundance. There is a quote that goes: “Never pity missionaries; envy them. They are where the real action is — where life and death, sin and grace, Heaven and Hell converge.” and I think that’s true. I can’t help but think that from an eternal perspective it’s far safer for a child to grow up around gun fire and death and see the brokenness of the world, with parents who are constantly and lovingly pointing that child to Jesus, than to grow up in a place surrounded by empty talk and faith numbing candy, with those same parents. It just seems that in those darker places, the gospel stands much clearer because nature and society reflect our need for a Savior so much greater. That’s just my thoughts.

    To finish this overly long comment, I’ll say that really my biggest struggle is with the fact that finding someone to spend your life with isn’t easy as it is. Add on to that someone who has a heart for missions, and missions in a hellish place, it becomes increasingly harder to find. Now finding someone who could be willing to have children there is a needle in a haystack. Which ultimately comes down to being painfully patient in faith, that He’s got it covered. And yes, the humor isn’t lost on me, in that it’s not the dangerous place I want to go that makes me desperate for faith, but rather finding a wife. I think that might be part of the definition of being a man? Ha.

    • DemianFarnworth says

      This is why I admire you, Luke. You are thoughtful and patient. Grounded in Christ. Wise with the wisdom from above and not the wisdom from below. Never apologize for a long comment. All of it was meaningful.

      I have a very good friend who actually broke off a wedding because he saw that she could not follow him over to Uganda. I would like to connect you two sometimes. His name is Todd Griffin and this is his new blog: http://insideuganda.tumblr.com/

      • says

        I appreciate the compliment. I really enjoy our conversations.

        Thanks for the link to Todd’s blog, missions + medical missions + eastern Africa = my area of interest!

  4. Rob says

    “I can’t help but think that from an eternal perspective it’s far safer for a child to grow up around gun fire and death and see the brokenness of the world, with parents who are constantly and lovingly pointing that child to Jesus, than to grow up in a place surrounded by empty talk and faith numbing candy, with those same parents. ”

    And of course that eternal perspective is the truer perspective. Great and hard to hear thoughts Luke. The love you will feel for your own kids will help you better understand God’s love for us but it will also stretch your faith as you have to entrust them to Him.

    A family from my church has gone to Papua New Guinea to take the gospel to an unreached people. Www .osbornmission.com