This entry is part 16 of 18 in the series: A Better Story (Harrison)
- ‘A better story’ – intro
- ‘A better story’ – 1
- ‘A better story’ – 2
- ‘A better story’ – 3
- ‘A better story’ – 4
- ‘A better story’ – 5
- ‘A better story’ – 6
- ‘A better story’ – 7
- ‘A better story’ – 8
- ‘A better story’ – 9
- ‘A better story’ – 10
- ‘A better story’ – 11
- ‘A better story’ – 12
- ‘A better story’ – 13
- ‘A better story’ – 14
- ‘A better story’ – 15
- ‘A better story’ – 16
- ‘A better story’ – 17
To flourish is ‘to realize the full potential of what it means to be created and redeemed in the image of God.’ It is to follow our Creator in being creative. It is to make more of the world in which he has placed us.
There is also a relational element to human flourishing. Because relationship is central to God’s being as Trinity, love belongs to his very nature. And, as God image-bearers, we ourselves are incomplete without God and without one another. See John 17:20f.
Human flourishing is not, at heart, a project in self-fulfilment. It points to God, and brings glory to him (see Revelation 21:26).
We should see flourishing both as a gift of God’s grace and as a responsibility of our own. We are commanded to love (Deut 30:15f).
We reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7). God is full of forgiveness, but we can’t evade the consequences of our choices and actions.
One of the mysteries that Scripture (e.g. the book of Job) grapples with that wicked people do not always seem to get what they deserve, and nor do good people. But we must take the long view. God is more interested in the formation of long-term character (Eph 4:13) than in giving short-term rewards. And it is in the well-formed, godly, character, that we experience life in its fullness.
Institutions operate at three levels. The smallest – marriage, small group, prayer triplet – affect our immediate world. The largest are those of government, civil service, health service, and so on. Intermediate-level institutions include local community organisations, the extended family network, and a local church.
It is the intermediate-level institutions that have suffered particular decline in recent years. This is a problem because ‘character development is a particular virtue of intermediate communities because they contain a broader mix of personality types and force us to work out our relational conflicts over the long term, often through having to cooperate around some common interest or cause.’
The oldest and most durable of these institutions is the family. The family promotes flourishing precisely because it throws a wide range of different people together over a long period of time. It can be agony! Yet think how joyful and fulfilling family relationships can be! There is no better crucible for the development of godliness.
Don’t forget that Christianity is responsible for raising the status of children to that of valued persons. The first Christians:-
This suggests an obvious task for today’s church leaders:-
Everybody has a stake in seeing families thrive. This includes the single person, who by chastity honours the covenant marriage, and can support family life in all kinds of ways.
The second great institution in the Christian vision is the local family of the church. The individual flourishes within the family, and the family flourishes within the local church:-
The importance of the single person to the local church is immense. Here, they become spiritual fathers and mothers, like Paul to Timothy. Here they become Lydias, who ran a thriving business from her own home, which then became a place of hospitality and for meetings of the local church. All this calls for ‘an explicit, intentional engagement with the idea of the Christian single life as a vocation.’
Then there is flourishing within the wider society. We recall the command given to the Jewish exiles:-
We recall, too, Jesus’ command to his followers to be salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:13-16).
The Christian vision for sex, marriage and family has far-reaching effects on wider society, bringing blessing to all. We need to work for the flourishing of children, women, young men, and others.
We need to open a new chapter of Christian apologetics, making our case in reasoned debate and using evidence provided by the social sciences. This will include supporting the work of think tanks and pressure groups that advocate in this whole area of human flourishing. In our local churches we can offer parent and toddler groups, father and son ventures, parenting classes and marriage courses.
Above all, we can commend the Christian vision of flourishing by the witness of our renewed lives.
Harrison, Glynn. A Better Story: God, Sex And Human Flourishing. IVP. Kindle Edition. Chapter 15