Features

The Bible doesn’t talk about 21st century family struggles, so what should we do?

Lead image for MSP Family
Source: Shutterstock.com

Every Christian aspires to obey God, avoid evil and do good. But some modern-day predicaments are not discussed specifically in the Bible. How, then, can we apply biblical principles to our lives? In this 9-part series, The Methodist Church in Singapore shares reflections on its Social Principles which, more than ever before, can help believers live by God’s firm principles in today’s volatile and complex world. Here, Dr Cheah-Foo Fung Fong looks at The Sphere of the Family, and discusses the struggle of contemporary families and how the Church can respond through a biblical lens, by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

A broken world

Ling* and her sister have grown up in a home where they have known no material lack. Yet at home, Ling lives with her parents’ constant fights and quarrels. On Ling’s 21st birthday, her parents divorced.

Mong* is a young lady who lives in a one-room flat. She ekes out a living as a massage therapist. Her husband left her after her son was born four years ago.

Tiong* is a successful entrepreneur who works long hours to provide a comfortable lifestyle for his family. He travels often and this takes a toll on his relationship with his wife. He hardly has time with his seven-year-old daughter.

These are real stories of people living in our community. They may even be part of our church congregation.

Societal norms create tensions and fracture family relationships. The church community is certainly not exempt from the causes and impact of divorces and single-parent families.

Some struggle, too, with sexual brokenness and addictions, and others with fertility issues. Some suffer in silence and perhaps in shame. How should the Church respond?

Families as God’s beautiful plan

We understand, from the Bible, that God has a good plan for families. Marriage was instituted by God—when “a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

Sex is a beautiful and sacred gift of intimacy shared between husband and wife, through which they fulfil God’s command to be fruitful and multiply.

Restoring God’s rule for individuals and families begins with a relationship with Jesus.

But the first family, Adam and Eve, did not bring children into Eden. Instead they brought sin into the world and severed the relationship between God and man. Since then, God has been on the path of restoring mankind to himself through the completed work of Christ on the cross at Calvary.

Restoring God’s rule for individuals and families begins with a relationship with Jesus, which leads us to complete salvation from our sins and the empowering, through the Holy Spirit, to lead a life of personal as well as social holiness, for ourselves and for our families.

Rather than a list of do’s and don’ts and high-horse statements, Christian Social Principles like the Methodist ones paint for us God’s plan—that marriage is a covenant of love, commitment and fidelity between a man and a woman; that children are a blessing from the Lord, with new life beginning at conception; that faith is imparted to children by their parents and parent-child relationships intentionally nurtured through quality time in worship and recreation; and that children honour, respect and care for their parents, especially in sickness and old age.

We are reminded of the effect that sin has in distorting our perception of sexuality. This manifests in several ways, including fornication, adultery, exploitation of sex, addiction to pornography, same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria. All of these are distortions of God’s original design for mankind and cannot be upheld in Christian teaching.

Yet, persons struggling with sexual brokenness are of sacred worth to God and they need the healing and transforming power of God’s grace. The Church needs to be a place where persons with sexual brokenness may be “ministered to and guided with faithfulness, courage and love, so that they may grow in holiness” (The Book of Discipline of The Methodist Church in Singapore, Methodist Social Principles, ¶84.3h).

The Church is also to be a safe place for those who may be prejudiced against in family situations that may not fit the perceived norm, for instance, those who are struggling through the pain of divorce, the hardships of single-parent families, the societal pressures faced by those who are not married, and the anxieties borne by married couples who are unable to conceive.

The Church needs to surround the hurting with a community that loves, encourages and supports them, including coaching and counselling for those who require it.

Ultimately, the journey in personal and social holiness begins with a relationship with Jesus Christ.

When individuals and families begin to understand what it means to belong to the Lord, the family transforms radically.

The question, then, is whether we believe God is able to bring the broken and hurting back into a relationship with himself, no matter how impossible that may seem.

If we believe so, then we begin to ask ourselves what we can do, as his people and his Church, to walk with people like Ling, Mong and Tiong in practical, life-giving ways that will bring the Kingdom of God to rule in their lives and in our society.


*Names have been changed for privacy.

This article was first published in Salt & Light on 1 April 2024.

Dr Cheah-Foo Fung Fong is the Vice-President of the Trinity Annual Conference of The Methodist Church in Singapore.

Menu