It’s possible to accurately teach the message of the cross, but still miss Jesus.
In recent years, we’ve seen a resurgence of gospel-centered books, curriculum, and devotional resources for families. We’ve emphasized right teaching about gender and marriage, catechizing our kids, and grace-driven principles for parenting. Such tools give us more than biblical morality; they focus on big theological truths—God’s character and his redemptive work.
This cross-centered message is essential, but it must be accompanied by a cross-shaped value system. To paraphrase the apostle Paul, a Christian home may fathom all mysteries and knowledge and have a faith that can move mountains, but if it doesn’t have a cross-shaped love, it’s nothing (1 Cor. 13:2). The gospel message must lead our families to the crucified life.
That’s the chief concern of Russell Moore’s new book, The Storm-Tossed Family: How the Cross Reshapes the Home.
Our Homes Are Spiritual Firing Lines
Moore—president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention—reminds us that we’re all part of a family. It’s true whether we’re single or married, no matter if we’re longing for children or if each chair around the table is full.
According to Moore, particular temptations face family members at each point in a family’s lifespan. Indeed, family is “a place of spiritual warfare, a warfare that sometimes leaves us groaning in sighs too deep for words” (295).
And in this war, our enemy is telling us lies.
Sometimes the Devil tempts us to exaggerate the importance of family so that we make gifts like sex or having kids the single defining feature of our lives. A young couple, for instance, may think achieving orgasm has transcendent importance. In a similar vein, consider how a mechanistic parenting culture—one that gives certain parenting choices determinative significance for a child’s future—can haunt a church.
“Something has gone terribly wrong,” Moore observes, “when a Christian [mother] feels she must protect herself from the church, for fear that her daughter’s spiritual crisis will be discussed as part of a debate over whether she should have breastfed longer or . . . chosen homeschooling over public school” (16–17).
Satan can also deceive us into truncating the Bible’s vision of the home. The divorce culture, rising cohabitation, and abortion are all ways our society reduces and devalues family. Moore also points out how the children of immigrants are made “invisible by language—often presented culturally or politically as parasites or as ‘anchors’ for their parents to draw welfare benefits from a wealthier country” (196).
Families Echo the Gospel
How do we stand against these temptations? The answer is found at the cross. “The cross shaped life,” Moore writes, “frees us to neither idealize nor demonize the family” (295). Instead of glory-loading our homes or reducing life’s significance, we need what Martin Luther called “a theology of the cross,” one that simply names the family for what it is.
How does this work practically?
This is the best part of The Storm-Tossed Family. Whether Moore is talking about sexuality, divorce, or aging, he carefully shows the reader what it means for family life to avoid reduction and exaggeration and instead be cruciform.
In his chapter on gender, for example, Moore writes, “A cross-shaped masculinity walks not with Esau’s swagger but with Jacob’s limp. A cross-shaped femininity comes not with the glamor of Potiphar’s wife but with the Bible-teaching prowess of Eunice and Lois” (82).
I could fill pages with more examples.
Safe in Our Nail-Scarred Home
It’s true that sometimes a crucified life is chosen; Paul, for instance, tells us to put to death the deeds of the body (Rom. 8:13). Perhaps more often, though, life’s deaths and disappointments are simply encountered. Storms like infertility, a disability diagnosis, or a cheating spouse may gather on the horizon without any regard for what we choose. Sometimes we’re hung on our own family tree. Moore shares about how his childhood insecurities still drive him (44). He writes about a dark night of the soul triggered by nominal Christians he’d encountered at funerals (267). None of us chooses the home or culture into which we’re born. Moore’s vulnerability about his past drives this point home and then directs us ahead to where a better hope is found.
There is one thing about The Storm-Tossed Family that may be a minor concern for some. Moore is unapologetically a Southern Baptist. If you hail from a denomination that practices infant baptism, then the discussion of child dedication (199) and Moore’s convictional anecdote about baptizing his adolescent son (213–14) may be a stumbling block. But Moore’s sense of rootedness and the openness with which he shares about his denominational upbringing contributes in an important way to the book’s message.
Moore writes, “The only safe harbor for a storm-tossed family is a nail-scarred home” (5). In other words, the only way to find true life is to cling, in faith and love, to the Crucified (Gal. 2:20; Phil. 3:10–11). Safe harbor is found when we make our home with Jesus Christ.