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Summary: Family can be a paradox - a place of love and support , " a haven in a heartless world", but it can also be awful. How does the gospel help us?

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We are looking at There is hope - family challenges.

Family can be a paradox - a place of love and support , " a haven in a heartless world" as one sociologist put it, can be a place of violence, abuse and despair. Something that many of us consider to be the most important and precious thing in our lives can also turn out to be the most painful.

When we asked King's Lynn What hurts the most 8.3% responded with family challenges. I was one of them. In fact earlier in the week, Jan asked "how can you preach on parenting when we are finding it so hard?" The truth is parenting, one family issue is hard. We are applying God's word and values by His grace and making mistakes everyday. It's an area where many of think we are the only one struggling and Satan loves to get in and tells us we are the only one. But when we open up we find the issues are common.

When I think about family challenges, I can identify four biggies - singleness, marriage, children and parents. The stark reality of life in the UK is that 12.8% West Norfolk households are singles, one in three kids are not living with Dad, half of marriages end in divorce.

Is there hope? Yes There is hope! There is hope in Christ and in the local church.

Local churches are amazing things

An alternative city - Matthew 5:14-16 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

An alternative nation - 1Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.

A new humanity Eph 2:14-15 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace

Family Romans 12:10-13 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. 1 Tim 5:1-2 Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.

The local church, this church is a place where the world can see what society would look like if Christ was the ultimate value and not money, sex, power of some other idol, by which I mean anything good or bad that takes the place of God. no church is perfect, least of all The Gateway, so how does a local church help you and the world gain hope for the family issues of singleness, marriage, children and parents?

Singleness & Marriage

Let's look at two passages about singleness and marriage in Paul's letters to the local churches in Corinth and Ephesus.

First the weird one on singleness 1 Cor 7:27-29 "Are you pledged to a woman? Do not seek to be released. Are you free from such a commitment? Do not look for a wife. 28 But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this. What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not;"

Huh? That's weird for two reasons!

i) It seems opposite to Paul's high view of the purpose of marriage in Eph 5:21ff where Paul shows marriage is a picture of Christ's selfless love for the church. Was Paul having a bad day?

ii) Time is short? Paul wrote that nearly 2000 years ago. time is short? By what measure.

As ever with Scripture we need to read on to get the meaning in its context. v29-31 What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; 30 those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; 31 those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.

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