One of my favorite things to do is invest in families. Being at school, I don’t get a ton of time around families, and there are no children in my family anymore. (Maybe I’m just dropping hints to my brother.) I’m writing this as a single guy who goes to a church whose children’s ministry mirrors our attendance, so it’s worth remembering that I don’t speak from experience. I simply find families to be life-giving, even when they’re exhausting.
I’ve been staying with my friend Brandon and his family in Tennessee, and my time here has been a tremendous blessing—something of a spiritual and theological experience for me. From interrupted conversations due to misbehaving children to the unadulterated laughter of a daughter swept into her daddy’s arms, family life encourages me because it incarnates the gospel. Eugene Peterson says it succinctly: “When we beget and conceive, give birth to and raise babies, we are in on the heart of creation. Every birth is kerygmatic. There is more gospel in all those ‘begats’ in the genealogical lists of our Scriptures than we ever dreamed.”
Forming families images the gospel because “every birth is kerygmatic.” In simpler terms, every birth reminds us of the God of the gospel. Births preach to us. Not only does the act of procreation recall a time when God, in His triune unity, created the cosmos; the births of children transport us to the night our Savior entered into this world so we could enter into another one. It is as if there is one long, spiritual strand connecting our fellowship-hall baby showers to that lonely manger in a tiny Jewish town—a strand of life-coming-forth.
Christ came to rescue the people of God because they are immensely valuable in the eyes of their Father. As fathers hold their newborns for the first time and raise them into independent sons and daughters, we need to remember and teach that paternity first came not from this earth, but from above.
Seeing the beauty of family life when a child is screaming at their parent or acting out is a lot harder than in the sappy, sweet times. But even when they seem dysfunctional, our family lives can still portray the gospel. In the way we correct our children, we have opportunities to demonstrate the way God corrects us—with love, gentleness, and firmness. But correction on its own does not reflect the gospel. Instead, we must offer redemption.
As a personal example, the thing that has stuck with me as I have grown up is the redemptive character of my parents. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, but my parents have always forgiven me. I’m sure I let them down with my behavior (probably several times, actually), but they never showed it. Instead, they showed that they loved me. They showed how I was not defined by my mistakes. And they haven’t loved me in spite of my mistakes; they have loved me including all my mistakes. In the way we respond to our children’s misbehavior, we reveal the redemption our true Father offers.
The biggest way families can show the gospel is by our joy. I have watched my friends’ sons and daughters glow at the sheer sight of their mom or dad. This childlikeness is often lost as we grow up, but such a joy must be found in every one of us Christians. In Christ, we have been given infinite joy—a flavor of joy that will never lose its taste. We can flood our families with this joy because it is rooted in something real: resurrection. The resurrection of Christ was the conquest of death and the promise of our future hope. It secured our futures, labeling us, “Risen.” This means that no matter what happens in our families—whether it be feasting for each other’s birthdays or anniversaries, spanking kids or tickling them—we can know joy is at the end of it all. Joy should permeate the home of the believing family.
Ultimately, our families’ imaging of creation, redemption, and joy reminds us that we live in a shadow. One day, we will be at home with our brothers and sisters, dining at the wedding feast. On that day, there will be no more carseat tantrums or wayward young adults. We will eat, drink, and be merry, for then we will live.
But till that day, we see the gospel in the normalcy of the family—a tangible euangelion—reflecting what’s in store when Christ bids us homeward.
 Eugene Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 2008), 58.
Cody Glen Barnhart
Cody Glen Barnhart (@codygbarnhart) lives in Maryville, Tennessee, and is a student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has written for sites such as Canon & Culture, For the Church, and Gospel Centered Discipleship.