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This was originally posted on the Dare Family blog, but thought I’d drop it on here too.

I’ve been wanting to write about this for a long time.  Thanks to someone who sent me an email that got me back on track and forced me to finally hammer it out.

I’ve worked in the telecommunications industry for over ten years now.  One thing I’ve learned (perhaps the only thing) is how important the line of demarcation is.  Or, for short, “the dmarc”.  Let me explain.

When a local phone company installs a line at your house, there is always a point of demarcation.  This point is where the phone company’s responsibility ends and yours begins.  Typically it’s in that little gray box mounted on your house.  The phone company will install and maintain the line all the way up to a certain point in that box and from that point on, you own the line and it’s maintenance going into your home.  If a tree falls on your drop line, call the phone company for repair.  If your kid puts a tack through your phone line in the basement, trying to build a cool fort, don’t call the phone company.  That’s your problem.  Get it?

The more I listen to the news and the great amount of social questions and problems that we face today, the more things become clear.  Don’t mistake this to mean that I think I have all the world’s problems figured out or fixed.  That’s not what I mean.  I mean that all of them seem to boil down to a misunderstanding of the lines of demarcation between the institutions of the world.  First, let me explain the institutions –

The Family. The family was created by God (Gen 1-4; Ephesians 5).  It has order.  All beings in the family have equal intrinsic value and yet all have distinct roles.  The husband, wife and children are all equal beings, but bear very different responsibilities.  The husband is to lead and bear the load, the wife is to help the husband and the children are to obey their parents and learn from them as they grow.  Much more could be said, but I’m trying to nutshell here.

The Church. The church was created by God (Mat 18, Acts, 1 Timothy, Revelation 2-3), .  It has always been the called out and gathered together people of God.  A family of families, if you will.  All beings in the church, identical to the family in this regard, have equal intrinsic value and yet all have distinct roles.  The Pastor, for instance is an equal being with the janitor (hey, sometimes these are the same person!) but each has very different responsibilities.  The Pastor is to lead and bear the load, his deacons and elders are to help and the congregation is to obey their leaders as they learn and grow into Christ like disciple-making-disciples.  Again, much more could be said.

The Civil Government. The civil government was created by God (Judges, 1 Samuel, 1 Timothy 2, Romans 13, 1 Peter 2:13-14).  All those in the government have equal intrinsic value with those they represent and lead but they bear very different responsibilities and at times great authority.  The king/president/congressman/governor/mayor is to lead and bear the load, his advisers and staff help him, and his constituents do their duty as responsible, self-governed citizens serving their neighbors in the local, regional and national community.  Somewhat of an oversimplification here, I know.

Think of this triad as three concentric circles:

The family is the green core.  Everyone is part of a family.  The family is the foundation for all other institutions; the core, if you will.  Take away the family and you have no church or civil government.

The church is the blue circle.  Made up of families, the church rests on fathers and mothers in families to do their duty.  Where there are dysfunctional families, you will find dysfunctional churches.  When churches don’t look back at the family unit, give it the training it needs and keep it accountable through discipline, they become enablers for more dereliction of duty among fathers and mothers only exasperating the problem of societal erosion.

The peach(?) colored circle is the civil government.  Only when the family and church institutions are functioning properly will the civil government do what it was designed to do, not shirking it’s duty and not overextending it’s power.

It’s all about the lines of demarcation between the institutions: the family, the church and the civil government.

All of our social issues are traced back to either an unintentional blurring of these lines, or worse, an intentional disregard of the lines altogether.  Some examples –

  • Family is not responsible or allowed to exercise capital punishment, a role of the civil government and yet we hear a story of a Father killing his son execution style in broad daylight after discovering he did something inappropriate to one of his siblings.
  • Civil government is not responsible or allowed to raise and train children and yet through the public school system and a myriad of other social programs the “it takes a village to raise a child” mantra continues to be the predominant assumption among the masses.
  • The church is not responsible or allowed to exercise capital punishment or raise and discipline children yet we see from England’s history that they continually crossed this line, over-extending their authority both in Anglicanism and even after the Reformation in Calvin’s Geneva.  Regarding children, even today the church is often viewed as the dumping ground where parents can drop their children and expect the Pastors and Priests to teach kids right and wrong.

–>The family is charged with raising and disciplining self-governing children, not the church or the civil government

–>The church is a family of families with leaders who guide and train parents to do their jobs at home, in the community and workplace but who’s primary responsibility is to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ’s life, death, burial and resurrection, calling the world to repentance and faith in Him as the only savoir from sin and death.

–>The civil government is charged with punishing the wrong doer (note: if the family and church are doing their job, there will be very few wrong doers thus smaller prisons, smaller police forces, smaller welfare programs, hence smaller government!  Therefore, it benefits the government to invest in the family, instead of creating more programs (with our money!) that allow the family to continue to neglect its responsibilities)

When these lines are blurred, we waste countless hours of debate trying to solve our social problems.  When the lines are completely disregarded we have a broken down family unit, a dysfunctional church and an over-inflated, controlling government doing things it was never intended for.  Ultimately, this creates more problems instead of solving any of them.  Even if it solves some of them short term.  Without properly maintaining the dmarc’s between these three institutions, we get ourselves into all kinds of confusing corners.  Without stepping back from the tangle, we will never be able to properly answer the actual questions and begin solving the actual problems.

Next time your voice or internet line is down at home and the local phone company says they’ve tested to “the dmarc” and proved their portion is working properly, you can try to yell and scream at them to fix your line, but your labor is in vain.  It’s not their responsibility.  Next time the wind blows hard enough and a branch takes your phone line down, the phone company can tell you it’s your problem all they want but they are obligated to come out and repair it.  Next time you’re listening to or watching the news and a story comes on about the government failing to provide some social program that does the job parents are to do or the family that screamed at the school system for failing to correct their child’s behavior or the church’s willingness to provide every entertaining bell and whistle to the youth culture so they can teach and train your kids on Sunday morning while you go read at Starbucks before the service, step back a minute.  Remember the lines between these institutions and ask yourself which ones are being crossed.