Taking Custody of Family Law


The "Ruling" Edge...

NOTE: I typically teach the Children’s Church at my church on Sundays. In past weeks I’ve sent out an email around some thoughts about what we covered that week, and I’ve decided to start reprinting them in this blog. Please note that they reflect a frank expression of my faith (Reformed Presbyterian) and are specifically aimed at the parents of children at my church.

This week in Children’s Church, we began what will be an extended stretch through the Westminster Shorter Catechism on the Ten Commandments.

Q: What does God require of man?
A: God requires man to obey His revealed will.

Q: What rules did God first reveal for man to obey?
A: The rules he first revealed were the moral law.

Q: Where is the moral law summarized?
A: The moral law is summarized in the Ten Commandments.

We ended May with a discussion of the first question. Why does God make requirements? In what ways does He reveal His will? Why does it behoove us to obey?

Today we started with the different kinds of laws or rules in the Old Testament: moral, civil, and ceremonial—and I tried to analogize them to the kinds of rules, implicit and explicit within our families. I explained that moral laws got to the heart of what was right and wrong; these are eternal and unchanging, the standards of righteous thought and behavior. (“Be nice to your little sister.”)

Civil laws, on the other hand, are cultural and situational policies that promote a functioning and harmonious community; these are rules we have so that living together goes more smoothly. (“Pick out your clothes for the next day before bed time”; “Don’t feed spicy food to the children”).

Ceremonial laws are practices and protocols that shape and demonstrate the values, beliefs, and identity of the people; these rules teach deeper truths about who we are and what we believe. (“Dad always gets the first bite at dinner time”; “We serve at a soup kitchen every Christmas”). As Christians, we believe the ceremonial laws of the Israelites clarified and vivified the theological truths that Jesus actualized.

This might be a good week to discuss rules and the nature and necessity of rules within our families and larger communities. The civil/ceremonial/moral distinction is somewhat arbitrary and not always entirely clear. In addition, many of the rules we enact are unspoken and expected to be understood implicitly, including and especially moral rules. This is fine; the last thing our kids need is a lecture series on ethics. I think many of them would be interested, however, to consider what the family rules are and how some rules are universal and others are specific to particular families and situations.

This might also be a good time for you to consider yourself what the laws are that govern your family. Even though Christians tend only to pay attention to the Ten Commandments, every law in the Old Testament—moral and otherwise—was designed to cultivate and demonstrate Israel’s special covenantal relationship with God. Our boundaries and practices—and the integrity with which we hold to them—evince our priorities and convictions. They are a form of worship… you might even say one of the sacraments through which we teach our kids.

By the way, below are the two songs we’re rehearsing to remember the Ten Commandments and the books of the Bible:


3 thoughts on “Taking Custody of Family Law

  1. PJ

    This is a thoughtful challenge to parents in general b/c more than a few households have the single rule of not having any rules. On a somewhat related note, I’ve been struck by how pervasive a theme authority is in the Bible, especially in the New Testament. Our society seems to have plenty of reason to suspect authority and to do away with it altogether. The Bible’s response does seem more nuanced and, at the end of the day, more helpful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I must confess that I learned to have a difficult relationship with authority, which has been a constant challenge for me. My impulse for rebellion has made being an authority figure ambiguous. Thank God for grace!


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