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Destruction of Family Starts in the Pulpit

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What It’s Like to Date Your Dad,” writes the New York Magazine, on January 15. The report on “an 18-year-old woman from the Great Lakes region” by Alexa Tsoulis-Reay says the teenager lost her virginity to her biological father after a two-year romance (that is, starting at age 16). They are moving to New Jersey to marry, where apparently that is legal. The father and his teenage daughter plan to have children. She met her father again at 16, after twelve years of being estranged after divorce.

When they have sex, they leave the father-daughter aspect out of the bedroom. But “When I need my dad I say, ‘Hey, Dad, I need you.’ And then he’s not going to be my fiancé or my boyfriend, but my father.” But this is all normal now because there’s a name for it. (Sarcasm alert.) The label “Genetic Sexual Attraction” was coined in the 1980’s, so then I guess it’s okay. The UK Guardian raised a familiar theme in 2003: “Last month, a former police officer was convicted of incest with his half-sister – but should we criminalise a bond hardwired into our psychology?”

This past weekend, I attended a conference. An international Christian teacher prayed for Christians who feel called to fight for the institution of marriage. Teaching that there are seven major areas or “mountains” of influence in society, she prayed for God to “commission” leaders into that particular ministry.

But this is wrong. The decay of family in society is a symptom of larger, more-urgent problems that start in the pulpit. When the divorce rate among church-going Christians is little different (some sources claim) from the divorce rate among atheists, is the Church serving as salt and light in our culture?

We need a dramatic change in the pulpits across America. Surveys show that the average pastor admits to praying only rarely. There are so many ways that churches are not fulfilling Jesus Christ’s calling, commands, and expectations.

The tragic breakdown of relationships and family is a consequence of Christian leaders who have long ago abandoned the gospel of Jesus Christ. They attract large followings with secular pop psychology and feel-good happy talk. One real pastor reports that Christians criticize him for being “controversial” (as if Jesus was not in His day).

The failure to teach the New Testament is driving the breakdown of society in so many ways. Relationships, marriage, families, and helpless children suffer the consequences.

First, we have lost any sense that marriage and families are God’s plan rather than our own invention. Modern Americans view marriage, dating, romantic relationships, sexual relationships, and families as if humans came up with the idea. So why wouldn’t three women be just as good a marriage as one man and one woman? It’s all arbitrary, based on what you feel, anyway, right? Why can’t you marry your dog, if your own personal feelings are the only standard?

Why is marriage only an unrelated adult man and adult woman and nothing else? Ultimately, because God said so. We can do a magnificent job – and I feel I am good at it – arguing in pragmatic and utilitarian terms why the traditional family is essential and the only right solution. But in the end none of that can be truly persuasive to people who don’t understand that God is the Creator of humanity.

We can spin all day long. But bottom line: We did not create ourselves. We did not create male and female, sex, romance, or marriage. At its root, the only valid marriage that can exist is between a man and a woman because “Thus sayeth the Lord.” God created humans, “male and female He created them.” And our obedience to our Creator – even when we don’t like it or want to follow God’s plan – has dozens of ramifications.

Many years ago, I was in a church that grew out of a nationwide ministry on college campuses. As a result, nearly everyone was only a few years out of college. The church was mostly unmarried singles. Our pastor, Mark Caulk, called a meeting only for the singles in the church. You know, the kind of thing that makes everyone uncomfortable wondering how their being single is causing them to be singled out.

Pastor Caulk preached and led us singles in prayer against a false understanding of marriage and family. We have been indoctrinated growing up in the “Walt Disney” gospel of romance, that marriage is all about us and our own personal feelings. The fairy tale will bring us beautiful feelings, we will float two feet off the ground in happiness, and all the little forest creatures will come out and sing and dance with us.

While everyone longs to be happy, we have grown up with the belief that marriage and romance are all about us and our own feelings, rather than obedience to God’s plan. When we put ourselves at the center of anything in life, rather than God, we will ruin it. So if it makes you happy to marry your brother, why not? If two men want to marry, what’s wrong with that? If being happy is all that matters in life, than how dare Christians cramp your style?

God is the missing ingredient. Romance, sex, love, and marriage are God’s ideas, not ours. And when we disobey God and try to invent our own version of creation, we will create only misery and disappointment, no matter how shiny and attractive our new ideas seem at first. Truly, we make ourselves out to be God.

Well, what about people who don’t believe in God or only pretend to believe in God? Sure, they may not respond immediately. But if the Church doesn’t believe in God – not really – why do we suppose anyone else will?

Second, restoring broken relationships and making relationships work are clearly very high priorities in Jesus’ teaching. God’s people are a family, and we will live as a family in eternity for trillions of years. If you cannot (refuse to) get along with someone here on Earth, imagine the embarrassment of being invited to dinner in heaven and being seated next to the person you just refuse to forgive here on Earth. And you can take it to the bank that God will go out of His way to arrange that opportunity.

But the church does not teach what Jesus taught. Index the teachings of Jesus. Then index what your church teaches throughout the year. Do they match up? If Jesus sat in the back pew listening, would He recognize your church’s teachings as based in His sermons? (Naturally, some allowance for current events is fair. Jesus used events in people’s lives as opportunities to make His points.)

Relationships – of all types – can be very difficult. Well, anything can be difficult without the acquired skills needed for success. Nobody is born knowing how to get along with people. Jesus taught many things about it. Yet most churches give only the most superficial treatment to these central topics.

Jesus taught that if someone hurts you, you must go and talk to them. (Luke 17:3-4; Matthew 18:15-17.) Not if you feel like it. Thou shalt. Period. Jesus taught that if someone else thinks you hurt them – even if you don’t agree – you must go and talk to them. (Matthew 5:23-24.) Not if you feel like it. Jesus commanded that you go and talk it out.

Yet is that what Christian culture says? No. Why not? Because talking to people about a conflict isn’t easy. Dealing with real life and teaching about the hard work of living takes work. Dishing out superficial happy talk is so much simpler.

The preaching of the gospel needs to speak to people where they really live. That doesn’t mean changing the gospel to be relevant. It just means caring about real people in their real lives. You know, the way Jesus told us to love our neighbor (and our enemy) as ourselves.

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