Throughout the Bible the family is central to God’s vision for human beings and human society. At creation God established marriage and the family as one of his first acts (Genesis 1:27–28, 2:23–25). God revealed himself to us in the language of family: adopting us as his children (Romans 8:23; Galatians 4:5) and directing us by the Holy Spirit to call him Abba Father (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6).
The Church is described with familial language (Matthew 12:48–50; Colossians 1:2; Hebrews 2:11), indicating that we are to embrace fellow members as brothers and sisters in Christ. Marriage as a lifetime covenantal relationship between one man and one woman is a normative biblical symbol of God’s relationship with his people (Isaiah 54:5; Jeremiah 3:20, 31:32; Ephesians 5:23, 31–32). We also celebrate the value of single men and women to the church family (1 Corinthians 7:32–35) who often dedicate themselves to vocations that bless the church and the world. Churches should offer them special care and support as they carry out these ministries. Family life reveals to us something of the nature of God as human families mirror, however faintly, the relational love of the Trinity.
The mutuality and service of family life stands in contrast to an emphasis on personal freedom and rights. Marriage, sexuality and family life are fundamental to healthy societies. Whether married or single, it is in families that we learn mutual responsibility and live together with our commonness and distinctions. In families we learn the give-and-take of living together, love and trust, justice and mercy, and denying ourselves for the well-being of others. Thus the family is central to life together as diverse people in society.
Human beings are relational in nature (Genesis 2:18; 1 Corinthians 12:12). Nurturing of children and the formation of mature citizens is first and foremost the role of families and churches. But other social institutions, including government, play important roles in encouraging healthy family life and the well-being of children. Government does not have the primary responsibility for guaranteeing wholesome family life, but it should understand that people live in families and are more than autonomous individuals.
Good family life is so important to healthy human functioning that we oppose government efforts to trespass on the integrity of the family; for example, by encroaching on parental responsibilities and rights to educate their children, separating nuclear families through deportation or creating economic disincentives to marriage. Similarly, labor, housing, healthcare, tax, immigration and education policies concern not only individuals but can significantly affect families. We commit ourselves to work for laws that protect and foster family life. Violations of the integrity of the family threaten public order. In order to strengthen the family, we must promote biblical moral principles, responsible personal choices and wise public policies.
God’s design for marriage and family should be clearly expressed in our churches. Christians should model healthy marriages in which a man and woman honor their vows to lifelong sacrificial service to each other and loving nurture of any children that God brings into the family. At the same time we recognize the constitutional freedom of all citizens, knowing that in our democratic and pluralistic society this freedom may lead to legal rights and personal choices that undermine healthy family life. In the midst of such a culture, we seek to embody biblical standards and to be a voice for those standards, while recognizing that people may choose contrary paths.
Social policies should take into account both the dignity of human beings and families, as well as their brokenness. Many social evils — such as alcohol and drug addiction, gambling, credit card abuse, pornography, promiscuity, domestic violence, sexual abuse, easy divorce and abortion on demand — can represent the abandonment of responsibility or the violation of trust by family members, and they seriously impair the ability to function in society.
The Church should play a vital role in restoring families to wholeness, and government should provide protection in cases of abusiveness and personal harm that can occur in families. Churches and governments should also support families and children who encounter societal challenges such as poverty, homelessness, racism, inadequate schooling and environmental degradation. We will work for measures that strengthen the economic viability of marriages and families, especially among the poor.