When Everything Is Family Nothing Is
What happens when society redefines family? Our teenagers are sorting through the wounds of a generation’s idea that family is whatever you want it to be.
Shrapnel from society’s bad ideas hits no group harder than today’s teens. I should know. As a student pastor, I work with teens on a daily basis. They (basically) have the mental capacity and global awareness of most adults, but are still as emotionally sensitive as children (though they don’t want you to know that).
These teenagers are impressionable. They’re watching, listening, and contributing to all of the complex ideas in today’s society. And ideas wield power.
Good ideas are a gift. Think back on some of your better ideas over the years. Maybe it was having another child. Or maybe you stuck it out at work for just one more month, and it ended up being a major blessing. Maybe you invented something we all use every day. Who knows? Well, whatever your good ideas have been, they are powerful.
But what happens when our ideas are bad? Often, we’re more viscerally aware of our mistakes. Even now, I’m sure you’re haunted by memories of past failures. We’ve all had bad ideas, which have led to bad decisions, which have led to bad consequences.
Let’s take it a step further. What happens when a bad idea goes viral? Or when our entire society adopts a bad idea?
For example, what happens when society redefines family? When everything is family, nothing is. Are there repercussions? Tragically, the answer is yes. A communal bad idea is like a grenade. It explodes. Right now, our teenagers are sorting through the wounds of a previous generation’s bad idea that family is whatever you want it to be.
How you define family matters.
Does happiness define a family?
During Brianna’s sophomore year of high school, her father adopted the belief that happiness defines the family. If you’re not happy, you’re not family. Well, he found himself unhappy. So he decided to abandon ship in search of happiness.
The consequences of her dad’s bad idea were deep for Brianna. Brianna hates being home, because it’s an unhappy place. So, she stays out – often later than she should. It’s led to a myriad of issues.
What started with devastation led quickly to pleasure-seeking. Why? Because she desires happiness just like her dad. She chases short-term, non-lasting pleasures (usually with boys) that never really satisfy her. Little does she know that sin never leads to happiness.
Does love define a family?
Then, there’s Christopher. His mother adopted the belief that love defined the family. If you love someone, and they live in your house, then you’re family.
After divorcing Christopher’s biological father, she dated around. At length, she brought home a man, but never married him. What’s the point? She loved him. That should be enough. Marriage only complicates things, she believed.
The consequence for Christopher? Severe procrastination. Sound strange? Well, when you can’t even commit to things you love, why would you ever commit to things you don’t love (such as school)? His GPA fell to a 1.9. Christopher doesn’t plan on marrying. Maybe Mom’s right. Marriage only complicates things.
Does faithfulness define a family?
Finally, I think of Sydney. Her single mother follows the biblical route in regards to family. She believes God’s idea is the best idea.
Sure, happiness is involved. As is love. But there’s a deeper desire for faithfulness and obedience, too.
You can’t just leave on a whim when things get tough. You stick it out, like Jesus does with us. Sydney’s dad died last year. Her parents had been married for 16 years up until that point. And they were in the process of adopting an infant boy from Asia.
Clearly not “cookie cutter” anymore, Sydney is proud of her biblically-faithful family. Her house is the “sleepover” house, where friends are always wanting to hang.
Your idea of family matters
Now, what does this mean for you and me? You matter. God hasn’t made a mistake placing you where you are. You are alive in 2019. The culture currently wields many ideas – some good, some bad. You have kids. Perhaps grandkids. Which means you have major, groundbreaking influence right now, in everything you do.
Every single idea you adopt, and every single decision that idea influences, has consequences. And those consequences create cycles – cycles that can continue for generations, whether positive or negative. If you suddenly feel a bit woozy there in your chair, then you’re in the right frame of mind. It’s a heavy burden we carry.
But would we want it any other way?
Copyright © 2019 Justin Talbert. All rights reserved.
Justin serves as the student pastor at Christ Community Church in Little Rock, Arkansas. He has a Biblical Studies degree from Belmont University and an MDiv from Covenant Theological Seminary. He and his wife, May, have three sons: Soren, Aksel, and Isen. Find him on instagram: @_justintalbert.