The Journey



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On the issue of children leaving home.

It always made me wonder to think about the verse in the New Testament which says, "for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two will become one flesh." (Ephesians chapter 5, verse 31).
One of the reasons for thinking a lot about it is because when I look at Bible stories, particularly from the Old Testament, the opposite seems to be the case in practice. That is, if the "leaving of father and mother" means a physical separation in distance and relationship, it's not modelled that way in the Bible.

There are many examples:
Sarah went all over creation with Abraham. Then, when Isaac needed a wife, a servant was sent on a mission to get a wife from among his own people, who lived far away. Isaac did not move there to marry, he went to get a wife and bring her back. In fact the role of sons traditionally seems to be to take over the family business from their fathers, leading to the well know declaration, "one day, son, all of this will be yours."

Paul said he had the right to take a wife with him on his ministry trips as others did. If it had been necessary for Paul to go somewhere to live with his wife that would have messed up the creation of a large chunk of the Book of Acts and the New Testament epistles!

In the book of Ruth, Naomi's daughters in law lived with her, even after their husbands died. In fact Ruth would not leave her mother in law when she was given the opportunity to go back to her family, and instead left with Naomi to go to her husband's people, whom she had never known and in a place which, as far as we know, she had never lived.
Even the Church, as the 'bride of Christ', will leave our earthly home and be united with him in heaven. It seems to be the way it works through the whole Bible.

It makes me wonder what the New Testament passage really means. The context in Ephesians chapter five, I  believe, suggests the real meaning. This is not an instruction to husbands to physically remove themselves from their family at all. Instead there is an explanation of how a wife can be sanctified - presented pure and holy before the Lord. Think about the passage in 1 Corinthians chapter 7: "the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy."

It's a useful passage for our understanding about sanctification. The Ephesians passage is about the same thing. So instead of a man being "covered" by the faith of his parents, the time will come when he will have to stand on his own, with his wife and "cover" her - they are now responsible for their own sanctification, and have left that protective spiritual covering of their parents' faith. It is a weighty thing to "leave your father and mother" but personal accountability comes to each one - and also the responsibility to find your own destiny, to do exploits with God and to take leadership in a family of your own. But there is no actual instruction here for a man to leave his family.

Don't lightly give up all the blessings of living with the family that loves you in misplaced obedience to a misunderstood statement.


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