In the very beginning when God created the first people, Adam and Eve, He created them with purpose. I like to say that God created us to be in relationship with Him, reflect Him and to represent Him. Instead he said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and subdue it. Rule . . .” He created us male and female in His image. We therefore reflect who he is in our very being. But we were also to go, to multiply, to fill the earth. Now this was based on our communal relationship with Him. This of course takes exactly one page in the bible before we mess it all up.
However, once we are reconciled to Jesus, he essentially gives us the same command. “Go and share the gospel and make disciples” In other words, go represent me in the world and multiply.
Here’s the truth I want to get at today. We are created, each of us, with the desire to multiply. Yes there is a biological aspect to that. Understand that God even created that desire. But there is more to it than that. There is something deeper. Something that knows that we are to multiply.
This is part of the reason why we have some of the recent phenomena in our culture including:
- More women having children out of wedlock
- Even though women are waiting longer to get married, they still have children late. Sometimes far into their 40’s.
- There is a rising number of unmarried women in their 30’s and 40’s having children out of wedlock on purpose. (I address this here)
- Married couples are choosing artificial means to have children
What’s interesting is that this is true even in the face of a huge chunk of our culture saying (for a variety of reasons) that having more children is a bad idea and a declining birthrate overall in Western society.
The Church of course is all about this. This is because many parts of the church, particularly evangelicalism (whatever that actually means at this point), see the nuclear family as the answer to every question. In fact some go so far as to include in their statement of beliefs that the nuclear family is the foundation upon which God’s kingdom advances.
This is their attempt to both answer the desire to multiply and corral the misuse of that desire.
Now I’m not anti nuclear family. But the problem is that the nuclear family is not the answer to the to the problem and frankly suggesting that the nuclear family is the foundation for kingdom advancement is at best misguided and borderline heresy.
I’m going to say more soon about the “family” and the Church as well as back up and talk more about why we need a robust theology of celibacy and marriage together. But for today I’d like to tackle the desire to reproduce.
The truth is that we are all indeed called to reproduce. The desire is good. But the Kingdom of God is not grown by having babies. It is grown by making disciples. It is true that in the Old Testament, the Kingdom was in many ways advanced by physical offspring. This starts with Abraham and continues all the way up to Jesus. But even in the Old Testament there are words that point to a different future – a future we live in right now!
Hear these words from Isaiah 56
Let no foreigner who is bound to the Lord say,
“The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.”
And let no eunuch complain,
“I am only a dry tree.”
For this is what the Lord says:
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose what pleases me
and hold fast to my covenant—
to them I will give within my temple and its walls
a memorial and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that will endure forever.
Or from Isaiah 54
“Sing, barren woman,
you who never bore a child;
burst into song, shout for joy,
you who were never in labor;
because more are the children of the desolate woman
than of her who has a husband,”
How can Eunuchs and barren women have sons and daughters?
It starts with Jesus. Listen again to Isaiah from chapter 53 after he describes what the Messiah will go through he says:
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.[b]
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes[c] his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
The truth is that Jesus changed the whole thing. The gospel puts things right. It reorders the way things work, and re-establishes our call to reproduce and multiply. As a believer you may or may not be called to marry and have children. And because we live in a fallen world, even if you are called to that, it might not happen. But all of us, regardless of if we are called to marriage or celibacy are called to multiply – to grow the Kingdom. But not only are we called to it, we can participate it in it. The celibate man can have offspring. The barren woman can have children in the Kingdom.
“Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.”
The Kingdom is both now and coming. Marriage, family and celibacy are all a reflection of it, not the other way around. In the Kingdom, regardless of context, we can and in fact are called to be fruitful and multiply.