In the Bible, feudalism always means family.
The biblical image is more inclusive, versus the exclusive privilege associated with Western feudalism. The Eastern potentate held forth an open invitation to adopt the right people into his household as family. And then Scripture goes on to elaborate at length that the invitation is based on moral commitment, not some luck of the draw having the right talents. The issue was always a matter of moral orientation. And then the Scripture generously demonstrates how moral temperament is subject to your moral will.
In other words, there’s no excuse for anyone to exclude themselves. You miss out only because you reject the moral obligations. It is feudalism, after all, but most humans fail to understand that if you don’t consciously serve the Creator, you’ll serve the Devil by default. Just because you can imagine a world where you are free of any such obligations is no excuse for resisting. The reality is that God made things a certain way, and the only hope we have is understanding what He has done.
That’s what divine revelation is all about. God says He has done enough to speak to your moral consciousness; the ball is in your court. You can family or you can be a fool.
The problem we face today, particularly in America, is that we have a deeply perverted mythology about family itself. I’ve written whole books on the subject of how very far we are from the biblical ideal on male and female relations, but sufficient it is here just to remind ourselves that our culture is inherently hostile to biblical marriage. And because we get that wrong, we get everything else about family wrong.
But for now, I want to emphasize how it distorts our understanding of what church should be. If you attend a mainstream church, you may be aware that all you really have is a big organized group of associates, and your conscience may be afflicted over how it fails to be the family of God. And because there is so very much basic understanding missing, the means to satisfying that burning sense of unfinished work will never come within reach. You’ll see churches come up with all kinds of efforts and studies on how to do fellowship, but it will never be enough.
This is where I sincerely wish I knew how to make a movie that could portray a better image of how an ancient Hebrew family did things. We need to demonstrate this against the common cultural context in which we live. Not that I am by any means perfect, all the more so because I’m having to research and reclaim that territory without having ever lived in it before. I’m a trailblazer exploring the ruins of a lost world. And I’ve been struggling for years to understand what I see, while also trying to entice a few other folks to join me.
This is not about the rules and customs, but the very habit itself of relying on convictions in the heart to guide. More to the point, it’s a matter of your convictions in your heart guiding your choices. There’s a critical element of learning how to negotiate amongst a household of people with sometimes widely varying convictions. This is the key to restoring the ancient Hebrew way of doing family, and it’s not something I can simply spell out in writing.
This is where we turn again to assert the necessity of heart-led adherence to the living Biblical Law of God’s divine character. This is where we restore the Eastern feudalism of the shepherd guiding his flock by his voice, to reflect how our Creator is the ultimate Good Shepherd and we are the sheep of His pasture.
We get church wrong because we don’t know how to flock.