This was my Facebook status posted on Father’s Day this past June.
“On Father’s Day I want to thank my children Katie, Leah, Andrea, and Jared for being God’s servants to help me in my vocation. You have dragged me off myself (sometimes kicking and screaming) to help and serve you as your father. You have filled my prayers with petitions for safety and mercy and Godly spouses and student loans. You have made me an expert in automotive maintenance, moving, and building shelves for tiny dorms and apartments. You have helped me be a better father so that I strive (weakly) to live in faith towards God (for forgiveness, patience, and because you guys need so much more than I can give), and in love toward my neighbors (in this case, you, my children.)”
Not too many weeks later I turned to my wife on our way home from church and said, “Thank you, Val. You have made me a better man.” She, like my children, has served as God’s Law in my life. And I’m not complaining. Instead like the Psalmist I have learned to rejoice in God’s Law.
7 The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the Lord is clean,
the rules of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:7–10 ESV)
I would be the first to admit that I am weak on sanctification, but after 53 years of work by the Holy Spirit, I have come to a few conclusions about my sanctification and God’s Law.
Conclusion #1: The Law is good, right, salutary, and necessary, especially for the Christian.
Because of my old sinful nature I do not have a full-bodied love of the law. I’ll be honest. I have feigned sleep when the baby was crying. I have grumbled about repairing my daughters’ cars. I have not always been eager to leave the garage or come in from the hunt or leave the lake in order to be at home with my bride. But those calls and demands of the Law are good for my sanctification. They remind me that I am not here for my pleasure, my pastimes, or even my person.
The Lord has redeemed me from me (thanks be to God), and instead of taking me right to heaven after my baptism, he has left me here for the benefit of others – especially my closest neighbors, my wife, my children, my mother, etc. As Saint Paul says in Philippians 1 (and this is a very loose paraphrase) “If I die that’s better for me – for I’ll be with Christ. If I live, that’s better for you – because I’ll be around to serve you.” My wife and children are “Third use of the Law” Law to me. They serve as the “anti” to my antinomian tendencies. I’m not free to do whatever I want. I am not free from the Law which calls me to serve those around me in the same way Christ has served me.
Conclusion #2) The Law as “rule or guide” cannot work in the unrepentant.
The Law as I have described it above can only work on a husband or wife who are united Holy Marriage – marriage between a Christian man and a Christian woman. When I entered into Holy Marriage, the liturgy taught me what God’s Word proclaimed (which is at it should be). I was not entering into marriage in order “to get something out of it.” The rite of Holy Marriage makes quite clear the selfless nature of this bond of fidelity. I was entering into marriage to care for, honor, and love my wife, and if God granted us children, I promised to raise them in the fear and nurture of the Lord. Any rational man, standing before the altar, making Biblical vows to his bride, ought to ask, “But what’s in it for me?” There’s no rational answer to that question. Saint Paul tells us what is in marriage for a man of God, “There’s death for you in this marriage.” (Eph. 5:25ff) And it is a good death – it is the death of me living for myself. What God gives me in marriage is His Word in Christ Jesus, “I have taken care of you. I have redeemed you, atoned for your sin, and justified you. I have you in Christ. Don’t worry about you. Care for her. Care for the children I give you.”
One of the greatest problems in same-sex (unnatural) marriage is that this selflessness is non-existent. The very reason same-sex (unnatural) marriage is now recognized is that it has been demanded as a right. Its foundation and premise is entirely selfish. While the homosexuals who have demanded marriage would never agree that homosexuality is sin, they would (logically) have to agree that their demand is selfish. Natural Marriage (a marriage that can actually create children according to the natural law) has been given to men and women for all of human history in every civilized society. Natural marriage has been given, but same-sex marriage has been demanded and taken by force of law. It is selfish because homosexuals cannot procreate – therefore their “union” only serves their own pleasure and can never serve to create another to love. The Law cannot guide or rule over a person who is ruled by his own passions and desires. In that case the Law of God can only accuse and convict.
Conclusion #3) I ought to love my wife and children more, especially when they rebuke me for my sin and call upon me for help.
My wife and children have led me to confess my sins, realize my shortcomings, and increased my prayers. Sometimes my family is also used by the Holy Spirit to serve the second use of the Law and they accuse and hammer me for my selfishness. At other times those same words and their needs guide me in the way I should go. Many times they are both. My wife and children are not the Gospel. To be sure, they give me great joy and constantly show me more love and mercy than I deserve and at times I idolize them and wonder how I would ever live without them. But mostly I have grown to see them as the Law, in a good, right, and salutary fashion.
They have served God in sanctifying me and in saving me from my selfish ways. For that I thank my family, but above all I give thanks to God for my family and His work in and through them.