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"Be glad, oh barren woman who bears no children. Break forth and cry aloud you who have no labour pains; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband."    Isaiah 54:1

In this article I want to compare the ideals of literal, physical motherhood with spiritual 'motherhood', and how it relates to Christ's preference for us to remain single. (Matthew 19:9-12)

It's pretty hard to beat the intensity and excitement of pregnancy, childbirth and the emotional bonding that goes on between a mother and her new child (so I'm told). I think part of the design behind such a strong bonding process is to ensure that the mother's instincts are more tuned in and sensitive to her young child's needs, thus giving the newborn a greater chance of survival through having a protector to look out for its interests. Imagine how succesful we would be as Christians if we worked at developing such a powerful bond with each other on a spiritual level. A mother lays down her life on a day to day basis to provide comfort and care for her child/ren. As Christians, we are taught to do the same for each other.

Christ said that those who hear the word of God and obey it, are his brothers and sisters and mother. (Matthew 12:48-50) It would seem that the concept of true family means something different to Him than what it does to most of us.

Blood is thicker than water, but Spirit is thicker than blood.

One of the harder decisions that I've made in my Christian walk has been to forsake the idea of having children, so that I can be more effective in my work for God. When my nephew was born, and I experienced intensely the potential power of the maternal bond, I found such a decision very hard to make. But I have found much comfort and hope in scripture, and through personal revelation, to realise that there is something better in store for those who are willing to be led in such a way. (Mark 10:29, Luke 18:29, Isaiah 56:1-5).

Jesus taught that it is better to remain single (Matthew 19:10-12), and indeed that the ideal in the next age is one of singledom also (Luke 20:35, Matthew 22:30). Paul too taught that it is better to remain single. (1Corinthians 7:1 & 8) Both Jesus and Paul also gave warnings about the problems will arise from entering into marriage relationships ( 1 Corinthians 7:28, Mark 13:12, Mark 13:17, Matthew 24:19). Following on from these lines of reasoning I believe that when Jesus said for us to forsake our families if we are to begin following Him (Luke 14:26), his ideal involved the plans that we may have for a family in the future as well.

So if you are not going to start a physical family of your own, how does it work that the barren woman has more children than she who has a husband? Consider the spiritual application. We are children of God (John 3:2), who are born (again) to be able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (John 3:3); thus a spiritual Kingdom is what we are here to conceive (John 3:6). Abraham's seed is that which cannot be numbered, of whom we are part, if we keep the faith of Christ. (Galatians 3:29). I think part of this number will include those who will come out of the Tribulation. (Revelation 7:9, 13-14) So we have a role as spiritual parents to promote this important endtime message now as part of the 'conception' of the family that will come out of the Tribulation. (Isaiah 66:8, Galatians 6:8-10)

Spiritual development is not unlike that of the physical development of a newborn. They require a lot more attention the early stages of development. The job of the pastor is to tackle what you could call the 'mothering' role in a spiritual relationship. Spiritual babes are born into the fold and need to be nurtured and provided with the milk of the word by the spiritual elders. (Hebrews 5:13)

As with all families there is a place for correction and discipline in the spiritual family. Paritcularly in this area the teachers/pastors should be awarded the same respect as the literal parents (1 Timothy 5:1, 1 Peter 5:5). Discipline and correction in any family should be for the purpose of teaching and training the children to become responsible and mature adults, capable of making sound decisions for themselves. When looking through the Proverbs we find many references to parents needing to discipline and correct their youngsters (Proverbs 19:16, Proverbs 19:18, Proverbs 19:20, Proverbs 19:27, Proverbs 20:7, Proverbs 20:11, Proverbs 23:13 etc.). Along with discipline there is also the need to recognise when the child has progressed from needing 'milk' to needing 'solids' (Hebrews 6:1), and then to recognise when to start letting go, as the child progresses through to a more adult spiritual state (Hebrews 5:14), and can be entrusted to begin their own parenting/pastoring (2 Timothy 2:2)

The desire to have children of one's own I think can be traced back to a desire to BE loved (see The Cuddlies). There are definite biological urges, especially in women, to be considered, but I believe that just as we have a vent for our sexual urges (see Wanking: the Last Taboo) the drive to have a child can be channelled via caring for and nurturing either the literal children within your immediate fellowship, or in the greater community (There are plenty of orphaned children in the world who are in desperate need of loving parents.) or, in a higher spiritual realm, caring for the spiritual babes both within the fellowship, and the fostering of those in the world. When you care for a spiritual baby, the fruit that results is more likely to be of eternal benefit for the Kingdom of Heaven, whereas there are no such guarantees for the literal children (Galatians 6:8). So how can we best further God's eternal kingdom?

Values with regard to the family have changed over time, and these same values are different in different societies even in the same age. Factors like education, birth control, and (not least) religious beliefs, have all had an influence on these values. Family size has been promoted by various corporations and governments (including the Howard Government in Australia) but always with regard to how it will affect the economy. Such promotions, with their emphasis on economic values, have little to do with the value of human life. While once we were being told to cut down on population growth, now (in Australia, at least) population growth is being encouraged simply as a means to further feed the appetite of the greedy; so we could be opposing population growth on the same principles from which we argue against working for money.

Greed is destroying the world, spiritually and literally. If we are entering the the last days, how much more important that we base our decisions on the Christian meanings of love and sacrifice, than the worldly definitions.

(See also Moral Development in the Area of Sex, and the various Virgin Army studies)

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