Unless the Lord Builds the House (Part 4)

The last words of Psalm 127 are curious.  

“He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.”  

What’s going on here?  If the family is a house that God is building, it is not built in one day.  The mission of the family is God’s mission. God undertakes a long-term building project.  Here a long process of many long years is telescoped succinctly into a single verse. A future in envisioned when the young man has grown old.  He walks down to the marketplace at the city gates to conduct his business. He might be selling the grain that has grown in his fields. He might be conducting a real estate transaction.  He might be involved in a court case. But he is not afraid of dishonest dealers in the marketplace or corrupt judges in the local court because his adult sons are walking at his side. They, like the man himself, have the reputation of being hardworking, honest and God-fearing men, citizens of integrity.  The children who were celebrated as God’s gift have grown up, become competent, capable and strong.

As babies, these children were helpless and needed the protection of their parents.  Now they are full grown and have accepted the responsibilities of adulthood. That means they take care of their parents in their old age.  They have become business partners with their older father and they will protect him from anyone who might try to overpower, outsmart or cheat him.

Our family lived in Russia for many years where we served as mission workers.  During our years in Russia, we hired a Russian woman named Zoya to drive our children to school.  She was short and stocky. She was very jolly. She was a very resourceful person who did many repairs on our car herself.  She loved our children and became like a grandmother to them. Zoya came from a large family with many brothers and sisters.  She was a widow and had one adult daughter.

One day she came to work and discovered that our car had been hit in the parking lot at night.  She quickly looked around the parking lot where she discovered a car that had paint marks on it the color or our car.  She wrote down the license plate number and through the police tracked down the owner. The owner freely admitted that he was responsible.  His driver had been careless and had driven too fast in the parking area at night. He had fired the driver and promised that he would pay for the damages through his insurance.

The car was repaired at an auto body shop.  When it was time to pick up the car, Zoya did not go to pick it up alone.  She knew that insurance companies which sometimes promise to pay and auto repair shops who work for them, don’t always deal honestly with people.  She asked her son-in-law and her brother-in-law to come with her. They dressed in black leather jackets and stood by her side at the auto body shop.  No questions were asked. She drove the car away without incident.

Although Zoya was a widow and had no sons, she was not alone. Because she was resourceful and insightful, she recruited her male relatives to stand with her in a business situation that might call for a show of strength.  Part of the mission of the family is to protect its own members in times of vulnerability and need. God builds families to make them resilient, capable of withstanding difficult situations and tough times. Your family is your social security.

The mission of the family is God’s mission.  It demands of us the drudgery of changing babies’ diapers, cleaning the kitchen, paying electric bills and mortgage payments.  It requires husbands and wives to learn to forgive each other after losing their tempers. It’s about patiently correcting and directing and coaxing stubborn and disobedient children to get with the program and follow in the way of the Master.  We need to rally to care for and support elderly parents. It takes everything we’ve got to give and more, and without the help of God’s Holy Spirit, we won’t make it. But with the help of God’s Holy Spirit, families with all their struggles can become what Jesus called his disciples – Light to the World.  

Donald Marsden

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