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Expanded Families

One of the foundational institutions in society is the family. The concept of the family is of Divine design. Adam was created, and then Eve was created and brought to him for companionship, fellowship, and the creation of new life. Adam and Eve were to be fruitful and multiply, for children are a heritage from the LORD (Psalm 127:3). Then, their offspring were to reach maturity and find a mate. Families are by Divine design.

Over the past ten thousand years of human history, the structure of the family has taken many forms. Those who study these structures by examining the origin, development, organization, and function of human society are called sociologist. As a college student my major study was in history, but my minor was in sociology.

Some of the concepts I found guiding various societies have proven to be true in my own. In particular, families divide, unite, and expand in creative ways. Because of the flexibility of the social structure, many people can be helped, protected, and included.

This protection and help is designed by God to be found in all family structures, including blended families. A woman might marry a man with children, and so become a mother to the step children. It is possible for such a woman to love the children as deeply as her own. Abraham Lincoln had two mothers who nurtured him as a child, and set him on the pathway to the White House. His biological mother was Nancy Hanks Lincoln. She gave birth to Abe on February 12, 1809. Tragically, in 1818, she died of “milk sickness.” Nancy drank milk tainted with poisonous white snakeroot. Nine year old Abe was devastated.

Fourteen months later, Abe’s father, Thomas Lincoln, went to Elizabethtown, Kentucky, and called on the widow, Sarah Bush Johnson. Her husband had died in 1816 in an cholera epidemic. Once Thomas had agreed to pay off the debts of her late husband, Sarah agreed to marry him. They were united in marriage on December 2, 1819.

Thomas loaded up Sarah’s furniture, and brought her and her three children back to a rugged Indiana cabin to live with his own two surviving children, Abraham, and his sister Sarah. Sarah found Indiana to be wild and desolate. The same could be said of young Abe. He was wild and desolate until he was embraced by the love of his new mother. Later, Abraham Lincoln would refer to Nancy as his “angel mother.”

It is good when a family can expand beyond the nuclear basis, embrace some else one in love, and then look out for, and protect the newest member of the family.

There are critics of Christians who may not understand the concept of a blended family, or an expanded family that help one another. They are incapable of rendering a righteous judgment on a situation that does not fit their template, and so they engage in critical self-righteous judgment. Those outside the sphere of saving faith know nothing of Divine providence, and how God ordains relationships.

Some individuals simply have preconceived ideas of what a family should be, and how the family should look and act. Then, they condemn what they cannot possibly comprehend. It is impossible for some individuals to understand why Christians want to look after an orphan, a widow, or include others in their families to love and look after. Such people think terrible and unworthy thoughts. They often project their own biases, personal, or family failures, onto others. It is curious that individuals who cannot manage their own household want to tell others how to live.

There is a blessing reserved for those who do God’s work by reaching out to include a widow, an orphan, or an individual in need, and bring them into an expanded family. There is a blessing for those who bear the burdens of one another (Gal. 6:2). There is inner happiness for individuals who learn to rejoice with those who have found a family where people love one another, protect one another, and support one another, even in non-conventional and non-traditional ways. “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34-35).

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