What is God’s intention for families? What part does God mean families to play in human life? Only when we understand what God has revealed about the family can we hope to find solutions to the problems families face today.
The clearest statement of God’s plan for our family is the one that comes right at the beginning of the Bible in the account of the creation of man. We often miss the point of this account. Living as we do in a highly individualistic society, we’re used to thinking of humanity as a mass of individuals. Consequently, we read the book of Genesis primarily as a story of how God created two individuals – Adam and Eve. Genesis, however, does not emphasize the making of an individual man and woman so much as the creation of man and woman together as a single entity, a family.
Genesis tells us, then, that God intended the human race to be a family. It was never in His mind that we should live as a mass of disconnected individuals. He made Adam and Eve to be parents, intending that the men and women who descended from them would live as a family of families.
In its central role in God’s plan for human life, the family has some key functions. An essential purpose is the teaching and training of the next generation. It is the family that is to transmit wisdom and values of life. As Moses told the Israelites concerning the law God had given them: “These words which I command you this day shall be written upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children…”
Scripture also shows us that God intended the family to be the training place for society’s leaders. In the Old Testament, it was the leaders of families who bore the responsibility for larger leadership. In the New Testament, St. Paul directed that a man chosen for the leadership in the church “must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way; for if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he care for God’s church?” St. Paul clearly thought of the family as the proving ground for leadership.
From God’s point of view, building a family is one of the most important tasks a Christian can undertake today. As family life continues to break down in our society, there is a crying need for strong families which demonstrates the truth of God’s word. People need to see Catholic families where husbands and fathers and wives and mothers are working together effectively.
God knows the challenges that face all families. But He also gives us strength to meet them. When He calls Catholic men and women to form families, He is saying, “This is the most important thing I want you to do. Take up your responsibilities here and follow Me faithfully.” As we begin to do that, He will help us surmount the obstacles in our way.