Biblical Teaching on Marriage and Family—A Homily for the Feast of the Holy Family

It is not difficult to demonstrate that most of our modern problems center around marriage, sexuality, and the family. In our thinking and our behavior in these three fundamental areas, we have departed significantly from the teachings of God and from common sense.

Today’s Feast of the Holy Family provides a rich tapestry of Scripture readings and presents us with an opportunity to reflect. Many of these teachings are not politically correct, but for that I make no apology. They remain God’s teachings and it is hard to argue that modern notions of sexuality, marriage and family have produced anything short of catastrophe. And, as is often the case, it is children who suffer the most.

Any look at statistics reveals facts and trends that are not merely alarming but downright astonishing, especially given how suddenly they have occurred. More than 40% of children in this country today are raised in homes without both parents. The numbers are even lower within minority communities.

In 1961, the year I was born, 80% of black children were raised in a two-parent family; today that number is 20%. And for whatever assertions may be made regarding ongoing poverty, the poverty rate overall and in the black community is substantially lower today than it was in 1961. Even with far greater pressures, black families used to stay together and work through their difficulties. Today, despite far greater affluence, this is no longer the case. White families and other ethnic/racial groups may have numbers that are slightly less shocking, but when we factor in age and generational differences, the numbers are not that far apart across the races/ethnicities.

The two-parent, heterosexual family is becoming an endangered species. Many grave consequences have resulted from this decline: lower student test scores and graduation rates; higher rates of divorce, cohabitation, teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, declared homosexual inclination, and juvenile delinquency. Clearly, as the model of the stable, faithful heterosexual marriage becomes rarer, young people become less and less likely to be able to establish strong families of their own.

Despite the claims that this disordered state of affairs is just fine and that “alternative families” are just as good as traditional ones, most people know that this is a lie. It’s just common sense that the best for any child is to be raised in what nature and nature’s God has set forth as the proper environment: a father and a mother, a male and female, in a stable, committed, lasting marriage. In this safe environment of trust, children learn the male and female genius of being human. A mother alone or a father alone or two fathers or two mothers or any other combination is far less than ideal; to intentionally subject children to this is an injustice to them.

Yet such departures from God’s plan for marriage and family are increasingly the norm today. There is much about which to pray and reflect on this Feast of the Holy Family.

Having reviewed in a general way the problems regarding sexuality and family life today, let’s take a look at some of the highlights of today’s readings and see five basic teachings or themes.

Honor The opening of the first reading says, God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons (Sirach 3:2). The reading goes on to state the blessings that come from this honor and obedience.

Yet, in modern culture, honor directed toward parents and elders has increasingly disappeared. The steady diet of most children, whether through television, music, or other media, leads them to think that they are the smart ones while adults are clueless and out-of-touch. And when fathers are even present, they are often depicted as buffoons.

When I was a child, my father forbade us to watch The Flintstones. He said that he would not allow his children to watch a cartoon that presented adults as stupid because this would discourage respect for elders. He was right. Of course, The Flintstones is pretty mild in its depiction of adults compared to what is common today.

God teaches and commands children to honor their father and their mother. Without respect and honor, there can be no teaching or handing on of wisdom from previous generations. The lack of honor and respect for parents, elders, and authority figures in our culture goes a long way to explain why we are repeating foolish mistakes long since discarded by our forebears.

While previous generations of Christians were by no means sinless, it is evident that we are moving rapidly backwards; the folly and sinfulness of the pagan world described by St. Paul in Romans Chapter 1 have reemerged on a wide scale. Our folly is even worse, though, because unlike the pagans of old, we have access to the gospel and our culture has emerged from the Judeo-Christian wisdom. But in a kind of adolescent rebellion, we have collectively cast off the respect and honor that is due our elders as well as the traditions and wisdom that they and the Church can offer us.

We must restore honor to our parents, elders, and lawful authority (e.g., the Church) if we want to see our families and culture strong again. Parents and those in lawful authority must also learn to teach and act as those worthy of commanding respect.

Hierarchy – Although it is currently politically incorrect, the Lord through Scripture teaches that the family must be hierarchically ordered, with the father and husband as its head.

Today’s text from Colossians says clearly,

Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord (Col 3:19-21).

Headship is required of every group. A body with two heads is freakish, and a body with no head is dead. It is the same for organizations and groups. Even in consultative bodies, headship is required. God sets a husband and father as head of the household, the domestic church. This is consistently taught in scripture (Col 3:18; Eph 5:22; 1 Peter 3:1, inter al).

The authority a husband and father has is for service, not domination. He exercises it among those of equal dignity before God, but he has this authority and it ought to be acknowledged and observed. He is not to be bitter toward his wife or lord it over her, but he must be willing, with love, to manifest headship in his household. (I have written more on this topic here: A Unpopular Teaching on Marriage.)

Many today have set this teaching aside, and the result is that many marriages resemble more an ongoing power struggle than a loving, cohesive unit. It is not necessary or even wise for a husband to micromanage everything in his household; he does well to keep deep communion with his wife and often defer to her judgment. However, there are some matters that require a final decision-maker, someone to whom everyone turns for direction and for a final decision. Scripture assigns this role to the husband and father.

Scripture says, Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord (Col 3:20). God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons (Sir 3:2). While we have already commented on these verses in terms of respect and honor, we ought to note them here in terms of hierarchy. Children are to respect the hierarchy of the family. They are not on par with their parents and should not act as if they are.

When I was growing up, my Father made sure to confirm my mother’s authority over us children; he would not tolerate us being disobedient or disrespectful toward her. A good husband and father is careful to do this. Even when we were adults, my father would not allow us to speak ill of our mother or behave disrespectfully toward her.

Thus, while all the members of the family have equal dignity before God, not all have the same role. Hierarchy is important in the family for good order and teaching. God sets it forth and it ought to be observed carefully.

Helpful virtues – The first part of the second reading today from Colossians 3 provides a veritable encyclopedia of virtues to cultivate.

Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another… put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts…And be thankful (Col 3:12-15).

When I am preparing couples for marriage, I spend an entire session talking about this passage. All the virtues here are essential for good family life.

Notice how many of the virtues emphasize compassion, mercy, and forgiveness. Families are composed of sinful human beings who have issues and struggles. Day-to-day life, too, can be difficult, causing strain on marriage and family. How essential, then, to develop these virtues!

Every now and again people come to me for advice in preparing for Confession; I often refer them to this very passage. I ask them to read Colossians 3 and assure them that if they read it carefully, they’ll have plenty to confess before they’re halfway through!

So many stresses and strains could be either avoided, endured, or handle charitably if the virtues of Colossians 3 would only be cultivated.

Holy teaching – The text from Colossians goes on to say, Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God (Col 3:16).

Nothing can be more essential in having a godly and holy family than having godly and holy teaching.

With rare exception, we have utterly failed in this regard. There is nothing more important than instruction for eternal life. Yet in how many families is this instruction seldom or never given?

If a child is failing math or some other subject in school, most parents react with alarm, realizing that their child’s future may be at stake. They will often spend money to secure tutors and other help. If their child knows little or nothing about God, about why they were made, about the purpose of their life, though, who cares?

Parents put bumper stickers on their car boasting that their child is on the honor roll but have little interest in whether he or she can recite the Hail Mary or the Glory Be or knows the difference between the Old and the New Testaments. Where’s the bumper sticker that says, “My child knows the Lord!” or “My child is smart enough to pray!”

Parents will spend tens of thousands of dollars so their child can get a college degree, a career, a car, a house. Yet do they even inquire as to whether their child attends Mass or is living anything close to a Christian moral life?

This is a tragic situation: the ladder of “success” is leaning up against the wrong wall. Great effort is expended on things that pass away and almost none on things that will last forever, come Heaven or Hell.

Scripture is clear: the home must be a place where godly wisdom is taught, lived, modeled, and proclaimed. Parents should read their children Bible stories every day. Children must be taught God’s law and how to walk in the holy fear and reverence of Him. Family members should not only teach one another; they must admonish as well, summoning back to what is right and true.

Parents are the principal educators of children in the ways of faith. While much is rightly said about the dearth of teaching coming from the pulpit, ten minutes a week is not going to accomplish what is necessary or called for in a text like this. Even if a particular parish lacks a good preacher, that is no excuse for failing to teach one’s children. There’s nothing to prevent parents from carefully studying the catechism and teaching their children from it or reading them stories from a children’s Bible every day and teaching them God’s Word. Holy teaching should be the hallmark of every family.

Heroic sacrifice – In this matter we look to St. Joseph in today’s Gospel reading. Through an angel, God instructs Joseph to protect his wife and child by taking them to Egypt immediately, for King Herod seeks to kill the child.

How many fathers, indeed parents in general, struggle to get their priorities right? Too often career eclipses their vocation. For many fathers, their work takes priority over their role as husband/father. While the two are not directly opposed, there are times when the focus on career can to damage the capacity to be a good husband and father.

What Joseph has to do in going to Egypt will clearly have an impact on his career and his agenda. Scripture speaks of him as a tekton, which many think means “carpenter,” but it is more literally translated as “builder.” Joseph probably worked in the building trades. Going to Egypt in the middle if the night will certainly hurt his business. In addition, he would likely have preferred to return home than to go to a foreign land. But his child and wife need him. He is their protector; the husband, father, and head of the household.

Heroically, Joseph obeys God and immediately takes his wife and child out of harm’s way. He does not count the personal cost. This is the kind of heroic sacrifice sometimes required of parents and family members. Joseph approaches this situation as a husband and father, not a businessman.

Doing this is hard, and it is heroic; many a man’s ego is strongly linked to his work. As would most human beings, men naturally fear losing their livelihood. Joseph heroically trusts God and witnesses that his vocation as husband and father is more important than even his “paycheck.”

More than ever today we need more heroism of this sort. The pursuit of wealth and a comfortable lifestyle too often trump the essential work of being a parent and spouse. Lifestyles today are often too costly to maintain, requiring two incomes and/or long hours. But children need their parents at home more than they need a big house or nice cars. Having a vacation home may be nice but having your parents at home is better.

Too many parents today are willing to let strangers raise their children so that they can earn more money. For what? For the children? Really? If it is “for” them, why are they often pushed to the margins? Life is complicated, but every now and then it is good to re-examine our priorities and be willing to sacrifice for what is more important than what we merely desire.

Here, then, are some teachings on marriage and family from today’s feast. We do well to heed what the Lord teaches. Our families are in crisis. Individual choices have led us here and individual choices will have to lead us out.

God has a plan for marriage and family: one man and one woman in a stable, faithful, and fruitful union, raising their children in that context and bringing them up in the holy fear of the Lord. We must heed this plan or suffer the consequences.

Finally, there is a tendency when hearing teachings with which one has struggled to lash out in anger (“You’re judging me!”) or to become despondent and retreat into silence. Please do not do either. All of us, whether we have been able to keep to God’s teaching or not, ought to proclaim it. Perhaps you have not been able to get married and/or stay married. Perhaps you wanted to remain married, but your spouse was unwilling. Perhaps you had a child outside of marriage. This is all the more reason to speak clearly to your children and grandchildren and urge them to seek God’s graces early. God has a plan, and it is for our good not our ill. Teach it boldly and with courageous love!

Here is a video that describes typical family homes in Jesus’ time.

A Homily for the Feast of the Holy Family

Christ Among the Doctors of the Temple, by Giotto (1304-06)

Here in the middle of the Christmas Octave, the Church bids us to celebrate the feast of the Holy Family. On the old calendar, the feast of the Holy Family falls on the Sunday after Epiphany, which makes some sense. It is a bit odd to read, a mere five days after celebrating Jesus’ birth, a Gospel in which He is 12 years old. And then, next week, we have the Feast of Epiphany in which Jesus is an infant again.

Nevertheless, here we are. Perhaps, it is a good time to reflect on family life, as immediate and extended family often gather together during the Christmas season. Let us consider the family and marriage along three lines: structure, struggles, and strategy.

I. Structure All through the readings for today’s Mass we are instructed on the basic form, the basic structure of the family.

  • God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons (Sirach 3:2).
  • May your wife be like a fruitful vine, in the recesses of your home; your children like olive plants, around your table (Psalm 128:3).
  • Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, so that they may not become discouraged (Colossians 3:20–21).
  • Each year, Jesus parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover … Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety … (Luke 2:45, 51).
  • And he was obedient to them … And Jesus advanced in age and wisdom and favor before God and man (Luke 2:51–52).

In these passages we see the basic structure of the family:

  • A father in honor over his children
  • A wife and mother who is supportive of her husband and his authority
  • A husband who supports, loves, and encourages his wife
  • A mother in authority over her children
  • Children who honor and obey their parents
  • Fathers, and by extension mothers, who instruct and admonish their children, not in a way that badgers or discourages them, but rather encourages them and builds them up
  • A family structure that helps children to advance in wisdom and age and in favor before God and man
  • A father, a mother, and children, all reverential and supportive of one another in their various roles and duties

Here, then, is God’s basic teaching on family and marriage. Here is the basic structure for the family as God sets it forth: a man who loves his wife and a woman who loves her husband. Within this stable, lasting, and faithful union of mutual support and love, they conceive and raise their children in the holy fear of the Lord.

Add to this the principal description of the book of Genesis, which describes how God sets forth marriage: A man shall leave his father and mother, cling to his wife, and the two of them shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). To this first couple, God gave the mandate, Be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:22).

Thus, we have set forth biblically the basic structure of the family: a father, a mother, and children, all reverential and supportive of one another in their various roles and duties.

Note how the structure of the family take its basic form in terms of its essential fruit: procreation and rearing of children. Why should marriage be a stable and lasting union? Why is Adam told to cling to his wife and to form a stable and lasting union with her?

Because this is what is best and most just for children! Children both need and deserve the stable and lasting union of a father and a mother, the complementary influences of the two sexes. This is the best environment in which to raise and form children. Hence, the family structure of a father and a mother, a male and female parent, flows from what is best and most just for children. The structure of the family, as set forth by God, is rooted in what is best and most just for children. It is what is sensible and what is best, sociologically and psychologically, for the proper development of children.

Even without looking in the Bible, one can see how sensible it is for a child to have the influence and teaching of both a father and a mother, a male and a female. There are things that a father can teach and model for his children that a mother is not as well-suited to impart; conversely, a mother can teach and model for her children things that only she knows best.

This much is clear: both male and female influences are essential for the proper psychological and sociological development of children. Clearly, then, God’s biblical mandate that marriage should consist of a father and a mother is not without basis in simple human reason and common sense.

To intentionally deprive a child of this environment is both unwise and unjust to children. Hence, we see that the basic structure for marriage takes its shape from what is best and most just for children. Both God and nature provide for a father and a mother, a male and a female, to conceive and raise a child.

It also makes sense based on simple human reasoning that the marital relationship should be stable, something that children can depend on from day to day, month to month, and year to year.

Here, then, is the proper structure for marriage. It is set forth both by God and supported by human reason.

II. Struggles – Yet what should be obvious seems to be strangely absent from the minds of many. Sin clouds our judgment and makes some think that what is sinful and improper is in fact acceptable or even good. It is not. In our current modern culture, we gravely sin against God and against our children through consistent misconduct and by refusing to accept what is obviously true. The words of St. Paul are fulfilled in our modern times: their senseless minds were darkened, and they became vain and foolish in their reasoning (Rom 1:21).

It is clear that the family is in crisis today, and it is also clear that it is children who suffer the most. The modern Western world displays a mentality that is both deeply flawed and gravely harmful to children.

Marriage and family are in crisis due the willfully sinful habits of many adults in the areas of sexuality, marriage, and family life. This includes sins such as cohabitation, fornication, abortion, adultery, homosexual acts, pornography, the sexualization of children, and the sexual abuse of children. Add to this the widespread acceptance of contraception, which has facilitated the illusion of sex without consequences and promoted the lie that there is no necessary connection between children and sexual relations. The rebellion of adults against the plan and order of God has caused endless grief and hardship and created a culture that is poisonous to the family, the dignity of the individual, and the proper raising and blessing of children.

III. Strategy What are we to do? Preach the Word! Whatever the sins of this present generation (and there are many), we must be prepared to unambiguously re-propose the wisdom of God’s Word to our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  Even if we have fallen short personally, we cannot hesitate to announce God’s plan for sexuality, marriage, and family.

Our strategic proclamation must include these key elements:

  • There must be no sex before marriage, ever, under any circumstances. Sexual intercourse is rooted in the procreation of children and there is no legitimate engagement in it outside of the bonds of marriage. There are no exceptions to this.
  • Children deserve and have the right to expect two parents, a father and mother, committed to each other until death do them part. Anything short of this is a grave injustice to children and a mortal sin before God.
  • Neither homosexual unions, nor single parent households are an acceptable alternative to biblical marriage. To allow children to be subjected to such environments for the sake of political correctness does them a grave injustice.
  • Marriage is about what is best for children, not adults.
  • Married couples must learn to work out their differences (as was done in the past) and not resort to divorce, which offends God (cf Malachi 2:16).
  • The needs of children far outweigh the preferences, “rights,” and needs of adults.

Whatever the personal failings of any of us in this present evil age (cf Gal 1:4), our strategy must be to preach the undiluted plan of God for sexuality, marriage, and family to our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

 Back to the Bible! Back to the plan of God! Away with modern experiments and unbiblical schemes! God has given us a plan. Thinking that we know better, we have caused great sorrow and hardship for our descendants. We have acted unjustly; we have murdered our children through abortion. Sowing in the wind, we have caused those who have survived our misbehavior to inherit the whirlwind. It is time to repent and help our heirs to rejoice in chastity, marriage, and biblical family. Otherwise, we are doomed.

God has a plan and it must be our strategy, our way out of our struggles and back to His structure for our families.

This song says,

So, humbly I come to you and say
As I sound aloud the warfare of today
Hear me, I pray
What about the children?

What is a Holy Family? A Homily for the Feast of the Holy Family

Here in the Christmas Octave, the Church bids us to celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. On the old calendar, it falls later (the Sunday after Epiphany), which makes a little more sense as the Gospels appointed for the feast often take place far forward in time from His birth. The Gospel this year is only forty days into the future (as compared to other years, when the gospel takes place twelve years into the future), but it is still well past the Feast of the Epiphany, which we have yet to celebrate.

Nevertheless, here we are. Perhaps it is a good time to reflect on family life, for at Christmas time, family and extended family often gather together. It is important that we understand what God teaches and effectively proclaim it. In pondering the question of what a holy family is, recall that the primary meaning of the word “holy” is “set apart” or “different. Thus, even if our families are not sin-free, they can be holy if we follow God’s plan.

On this Feast of the Holy Family, let us consider marriage and family along three lines: structure, struggles, and strategy.

I. Structure – All through the readings for Sunday Mass, we are instructed on the basic form, the basic structure of the family. For example,

  • God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons (Sirach 3:2).
  • May your wife be like a fruitful vine, in the recesses of your home; your children like olive plants, around your table (Psalm 128:3).
  • Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, so that they may not become discouraged (Colossians 3:20–21).
  • Each year, Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover … Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety (Luke 2:45, 51).
  • And he was obedient to them; … And Jesus advanced in age and wisdom and favor before God and man (Luke 2:51–52).

In these passages we see the basic structure of the family:

  • A father in honor over his children
  • A wife and mother who is supportive of her husband and his authority
  • A husband who supports, loves, and encourages his wife
  • A mother in authority over her children
  • Children who honor and obey their parents
  • Fathers, and by extension mothers, who instruct and admonish their children, not in a way that badgers or discourages them, but rather encourages them and builds them up.
  • A family structure that helps children to advance in wisdom and age and in favor before God and man.
  • A father, a mother, and children, all reverential and supportive of one another in their various roles and duties.

This is God’s basic teaching on family and marriage. It is the basic structure for the family as God sets it forth: a man who loves his wife and a woman who loves her husband. In this stable, lasting, and faithful union of mutual support and love, they conceive and raise their children in the holy fear of the Lord.

Add to this, the principal description of the book of Genesis, which lays out how God sets forth marriage: A man shall leave his father and mother, cling to his wife, and the two of them shall become one flesh (Gen 2:24). To this first couple, God gave the mandate, Be fruitful and multiply (Gen 1:22).

Note, that the structure of the family takes its basic form based on its essential work: procreation and the rearing of children. Why should marriage be a stable and lasting union? Why is Adam told to cling to his wife, to form a stable and lasting union with her? Because that is what is best and just for children! Children both need and deserve a stable, lasting union of their father and mother as well as the complementary influence of the two different sexes. It is the best environment in which to raise and form children. The family structure of a father and a mother, a male and a female parent, as set forth by God, flows from what is best and just for children. It is what is sensible and what is best sociologically and psychologically for the proper development of children.

Even without opening the Bible, one can see that it makes sense that a child should have a father and a mother, should have the influence and teaching of both a male and a female. There are things that a father, a male, can teach a child that a mother, a female, cannot teach as well. The mother, a female, can teach and model for children what only she knows best. Both male and female influences are essential for the proper psychological and sociological development of children. God’s biblical mandate that marriage should consist of a father and a mother is not without basis in human reason and common sense.

To intentionally deprive a child of this environment is both unjust to the child and unwise. Both God and nature provide for a father and a mother, a male and a female, to conceive and raise a child.

It also makes sense, based on simple human reasoning, that the relationship between mother and father should be a stable one, something that the children can depend on from day-to-day, month-to-month, and year-to-year.

The proper structure for marriage is set forth both by God and human reason.

II. Struggles – Yet what should be obvious to us as a culture seems to be strangely absent from the minds of many. Let us be clear: sin clouds judgment and makes many think that what is sinful and improper is in fact acceptable or even good. It is not. In our current culture we gravely sin against God and against our children through repeated misconduct and by our refusal to accept what is obviously true. The words of St. Paul are fulfilled in our modern times: their senseless minds were darkened, and they became vain and foolish in their reasoning (Rom 1:21).

It is clear that marriage and the family are in crisis today. It is also clear that it is children who suffer the most. The modern Western world displays a mentality that is both deeply flawed and gravely harmful to children. The crisis is a result of the willful, sinful habits of the vast majority of adults in the areas of sexuality, marriage, and family life. The rebellion of adults against the plan and order of God has caused endless grief and hardship and has led to a cultural environment that is poisonous to the proper raising and blessing of children.

Children have much to suffer in this world of our collective making. While not all of us are equally guilty of contributing to their suffering, none of us is wholly innocent either, if for no other reason than our silence.

Consider that most children born today are no longer born into the stable and lasting family units they justly deserve, with a father and mother committed to each other until death do them part.

The problems begin with fornication, which is rampant in our culture. While most do not think of this as a sin of injustice, it is. It is so primarily because of what it does to children.

Many children are conceived out of fornication, and tragically many of them are murdered by abortion. The overwhelming majority of abortions are performed on unmarried women. Despite all the claims that contraception makes every baby a wanted baby, the data show that nothing could be further from the truth. Abortion has skyrocketed since the widespread availability of contraception. This is because the problem is not fertility; it is lust, promiscuity, fornication, and adultery. Contraception fuels these problems with the lie that there is no necessary connection between sex and procreation. The promises associated with contraception are lies; contraception has the opposite effect.

Fornication and the contraceptive mentality (founded on lies) cause grave harm to children, beginning with their death in huge numbers. Children conceived of fornication who do (thankfully) survive are nevertheless (typically) subjected to the injustice of being born into irregular situations. There are single mothers, some single fathers, and many other abnormalities.

Add to this picture the large number of divorced families. Make no mistake about it, these shredded families cause great hardship and pain for children, including being shuttled back and forth between households each week, having to meet “Daddy’s new girlfriend” or “Mommy’s new boyfriend,” and enduring all sorts of other family chaos. Blended families also dramatically increase the likelihood of sexual and emotional abuse, because strictly legal relationships seldom have the built-in protections of natural ones.

All of this misbehavior, individual and cultural, harms children. Not being raised in a traditional marriage dramatically increases a child’s likelihood of suffering many other social ills, starting with poverty.

The chief cause of poverty in this country is single motherhood, absent fatherhood. 71% of poor families are not married. Children of single parent homes are 2 times more likely to be arrested for juvenile crime, 2 times more likely to be treated for behavioral problems, twice as likely to be suspended or expelled from school, 33% more likely to drop out of school, 3 times more likely to end up in jail by age 30, 50% more likely to live in poverty as adults, and twice as likely to have a child outside of marriage themselves (Getting the Marriage Conversation Right: A Guide for Effective Dialogue, William B. May).

Add to the burdens that children must experience the new trend of adoption by same-sex couples. Never mind that it is best for the psychological development of a child to have a father and a mother, a male and a female influence. No, what is best and just for children must be sacrificed on the altar of political correctness. In many states, same-sex couples and heterosexual couples must be given equal consideration as adoptive parents. It is the adults and their “rights” that seem to matter most; what is best for children is quite secondary.

Here, then, are the struggles we face. Our families are in grave crisis and most children in our culture are not raised in the stable and committed homes they deserve. Let us be even more clear: to intentionally deprive children of this sort of home by raising them outside of a (traditional (male/female)) marriage is sinful, wrong, and an injustice.

Disclaimer – It is not possible to judge every instance of a broken family in sweeping fashion. The modern world has experienced a cultural tsunami and many have been influenced by lies and false promises. If you are divorced, you may well have tried valiantly to save your marriage but your spouse was unwilling. Perhaps in a moment of weakness, perhaps before your conversion to Christ, you fell and bore children outside of marriage, but have done your best since then to raise them well.

In the end, though, we must say that children have had much to suffer on account of adult misbehavior. We need to repent and beg God’s grace and mercy to undo our grave sins of commission, omission, and silence. We have set forth a bitter world for our children to inherit.

III. Strategy – What are we to do? In a phrase, “Preach the Word.”

This strategic proclamation must include these key elements:

  • No sex before marriage, ever, under any circumstances. Sexual intercourse is rooted in the procreation of children and there is no legitimate use of it outside of marriage, ever. There are no exceptions.
  • Children deserve and have the right to expect two parents, a father and a mother, committed to each other till death do them part. Anything short of this is a grave injustice to children and a mortal sin before God.
  • Gay unions, or single mothers and fathers are not an acceptable alternative to biblical marriage. To intentionally subject children to this, for the sake of political correctness or for the perceived needs of adults, does them a grave injustice.
  • Married couples must learn to work out their differences (as was done in the past) and not head for divorce court, something that offends God (cf Malachi 2:16).
  • The needs of children far outweigh the preferences and needs of adults.
  • Marriage is about what is best for children, not adults.

Regardless of the personal failings of any of us in this present evil age (cf Gal 1:4), our strategy must be to preach the undiluted plan of God for sexuality, marriage, and family to our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Even if many of us have fallen short, we must not hesitate to announce God’s plan.

In short, back to the Bible! Back to the plan of God! Away with modern experiments and unbiblical schemes! God has given us a plan. Thinking that we had better ideas, we have caused great sorrow and hardship for our descendants. We have acted unjustly. We have murdered our children through abortion. Through our selfish misbehavior, we have sown the wind and now our descendants have inherited the whirlwind. It is time to repent. We must help our progeny to rejoice in chastity, marriage, and the biblical family. Otherwise we are doomed to perish.

God has a plan. Our strategy to address this crisis of our times must be to get back to God’s structure for our families.