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The Honor of Marriage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Honor of Marriage

 

by

 

 

Mike Gantt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published by Mike Gantt at Shakespir

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright Notice

 

Self-published 2016.

Self-published with Shakespir 2017.

 

I claim no copyright for this book. However, English Bibles are copyrighted – hence the notice I am required to give below. You are free to copy anything of mine you want, but you do not have the same liberty where the Bible verses are concerned.

 

Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the

New American Standard Bible®, (NASB)

Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995

by The Lockman Foundation

Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table of Contents

 

 

Title Page

 

Copyright Notice

 

Dedication

 

Chapter 1 – The Design of Marriage

 

Chapter 2 – The Design of Family

 

Chapter 3 – The Well-Being of Children

 

Chapter 4 – The Well-Being of Society

 

Chapter 5 – Beginning to Honor Marriage

 

Chapter 6 – Exemptions from, and Impairments to, Marriage

 

Chapter 7 – Violations of Marriage

 

Chapter 8 – The Old Testament Standard for Marriage

 

Chapter 9 – The New Testament Standard for Marriage

 

Chapter 10 – Satan’s Motives Versus Human Motives

 

Chapter 11 – A Major New Attack on Marriage

 

Chapter 12 – The War on Marriage Rages

 

Chapter 13 – Defending Marriage Through Public Policy

 

Chapter 14 – Defending Marriage Through Example

 

Chapter 15 – Defending Marriage Through Teaching Your Children

 

Chapter 16 – Summary and Conclusion

 

About the Author

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dedication

 

 

 

 

This book is for those who want to understand marriage as God has designed it –which is to say family as God designed it.  Modern American culture has lost sight of true marriage and thus no longer supports it, even turning hostile to it.  Christians must show the way to repentance by restoring honor to marriage – fulfilling its responsibilities, enjoying its benefits, and defending its unique character and central importance to human well-being.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1 – The Design of Marriage

 

This is not going to be the definitive book on marriage. For one thing, I don’t know enough about marriage to write the definitive book on it; I’m still learning. Neither is it going to be a manual of advice about marriage, even though, especially when we get to the later chapters on defending the honor of marriage through our example and through teaching our children, I will offer some counsel here and there. What this book is going to be is a study of what the Bible teaches about marriage – its design and the basic principles that govern its practice. It’s a report on what I’ve learned so far. It’s a report on what an honor marriage is, and why it is so important to the well-being of the human race.

 

Before we can talk about the honor of marriage, we have to talk about the word “marriage” itself. That is, we have to declare and explain what we mean by this word. For if it’s not clear what we mean by the word “marriage,” how can it ever be clear what the expression “the honor of marriage” is supposed to mean?

 

 

Finding a Definition of Marriage

 

Normally, if I wanted to be sure that I knew and understood the meaning of a word, I would look it up in a dictionary. There is, however, a problem with using a dictionary for this particular word. The problem is that dictionary entries for this word are changing!

 

Here, for example, is how the word “marriage” was defined by Webster’s Dictionary in its first year of publication (1828):

 

The act of uniting a man and woman for life; wedlock; the legal union of a man and woman for life. marriage is a contract both civil and religious, by which the parties engage to live together in mutual affection and fidelity, till death shall separate them. marriage was instituted by God himself for the purpose of preventing the promiscuous intercourse of the sexes, for promoting domestic felicity, and for securing the maintenance and education of children.

 

And here, on the other hand, is what the current version of Webster’s says (now called Merriam-Webster):

 

the relationship that exists between a husband and a wife

a similar relationship between people of the same sex

a ceremony in which two people are married to each other

 

Hmm. That’s no small difference – and they’re from the same publishing company!

 

Of course, dictionaries are merely reporting the way people use a word. What discrepancies like this indicate, therefore, is that people are using the word “marriage” today differently than they used to use it. More strikingly, they are using the word “marriage” differently than it has ever been used in the history of the human race! And that’s the very reason I am writing this book.

 

Marriage is being redefined in our lifetime. Is this wise? In a word, no. I will spend the rest of this book giving a longer answer than that two-letter word, but it does serve as a pithy summary of all that I will say. The purpose of my longer answer will be not merely to justify my negative reaction, but to be positive and constructive about just how wonderful God’s definition of marriage actually is. His view leads us to recognize and appreciate all sorts of benefits in marriage to which many of us have previously been blind.

 

We can find an unchanging definition for “marriage” in the Bible. And, being in the Bible, this definition, of course, carries with it the greatest possible authority. For the Bible is the word of God. If you don’t think the Bible is the word of God, then my book is not going to be of much use to you. It’s not within the scope of this book to convince you that the Bible is the word of God; I’ve written other books that can help you come to a conviction about that subject. This book is just about marriage. And we’re going to rely on the Bible to teach us about it.

 

 

Defining Marriage

 

The most direct path to a biblical understanding of the concept of marriage is to give heed to an exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees from the Gospel according to Matthew. The discussion was focused on divorce, but in the course of the discussion, Jesus defined marriage. We’ll talk about divorce later in this book; for now, let’s just focus on what this passage teaches us about marriage.

 

Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, and said, ‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH’? “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” – Matthew 19:3-6

 

The block capital letters in this quotation are a feature of the New American Standard Bible (NASB) which uses them whenever a New Testament writer is quoting an Old Testament passage. As for the specific Old Testament passages that Jesus is quoting here, I will say more about them as we proceed.

 

In order to address the Pharisees’ question about divorce, Jesus first gets them and those listening on the same page regarding marriage by saying: “Have you not read…” With those four words He’s signaling that in giving His answer He’s going to appeal to an authority that they all, as faithful Jews, hold in the highest regard: the Hebrew Scriptures. Specifically, Jesus is going to quote two verses from Genesis, written by Moses and the foundation book of those Scriptures. Here are those two verses we saw Jesus quote above, in full, as they appear in Genesis:

 

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. – Genesis 1:27

 

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. – Genesis 2:24

 

As usual, Jesus is saying a lot in a few words. He’s saying that God created human beings. He’s saying that God created them male and female. And He’s saying that God created marriage – using the expressions “become one flesh” and “God has joined together.”

 

Based on what Jesus said, we can say that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, a union designed by God. As man was designed by God, and the woman was designed by God, so the union of a man and woman is designed by God. We’re not saying that God is deciding which man is uniting with which woman; only that the idea of a man and a woman uniting is an idea that originated with God and the design for its achievement is the work of God. In short, marriage was not designed by man or woman, neither was its origin a random occurrence or happenstance. It was God’s doing.

 

 

The Duration of Marriage

 

Jesus and Pharisees disagreed about many things, but not about the authority of the Scriptures. For both He and they, the Scriptures were the word of God. And we agree. The only difference is that we now have the New Testament and the Old Testament while they only had the Old Testament. Therefore, for our study, I’m going to draw from both testaments as we seek to learn more about marriage.

 

The following passage is taken from the section of Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome in which he’s trying to explain some of the implications of Christ’s death and resurrection. In so doing, he makes this passing reference to marriage.

 

Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man. – Romans 7:1-3

 

Thus Paul is confirming for us what we would have assumed from Jesus’ statement about marriage: that it’s a lifelong proposition. (When Paul says “law,” he’s referring to the Law of Moses, of which Genesis was, of course, a part.) Note also that Paul uses the word “joined” just as Jesus did.

 

 

The Nature of Marriage

 

We have now seen this reference to being “joined” in several places. I’ve selected just the relevant sentences and repeat them here [emphasis added]:

 

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. – Genesis 2:24

 

and said, ‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH’? “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” – Matthew 19:5-6

 

So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man. – Romans 7:3

 

And here is another one from the apostle Paul. He is quoting Genesis 2:24 in 1 Corinthians 6 just as Jesus had quoted it in Matthew 19.

 

Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.”

- 1 Corinthians 6:16

 

Just scan these four passages, noting especially the six occurrences of “join” in them, and reflect on the interest God takes in the matter. The man and the woman may choose to join, but it is God who has enabled the joining. God designed marriage. And He cares very much about what we do with it.

 

 

The Profundity of Marriage

 

We can see in these verses that God considers marriage as profound for us – and for Him – as birth and death. That is, marriage, properly considered, is as important and determinative in our lives as being born or dying. Let’s think it through from the point of view of God’s design – not from the point of view of the coarsened world in which we live.

 

A male is born. He grows up being instructed to honor his father and mother. These united two are the primary authority in his life. At first, they are the only authority, but throughout his maturation they remain the primary authority. His life revolves around theirs. As an atom consists of electrons in orbit around a nucleus, so a family consists of children in orbit around their parents. As a solar system consists of planets gravitationally circling a sun, so a family consists of children gravitationally circling the center that is their parents. Over a roughly two-decade period, this male child is going to grow to adulthood – all this time in the orbit of his parents.

 

Meanwhile down the street, or on the other side of town, or on the other side of the world, a female child is growing up in the exact same way. Her family is its own atom, its own solar system. Like different atoms, like distant solar systems, the family of the male and the family of the female operate independently of each other. Each is its own sphere, living in its own world. Whether the two families are next-door neighbors or are living in two separate hemispheres of the earth, they are in separate orbits.

 

One day, this male and this female encounter each other and, after due time, eventually decide to become married to each other. How will this ever work? Each was born into a family that required complete devotion – at least according to the design of God. Each child growing up honored the respective father and mother – for twenty years or so this devotion had prevailed. How then could the male ever be devoted to the female as much as he had been devoted to his parents? How could the female ever be devoted to the male as much as she had been devoted to her parents? How could the loyalties of a twenty-year period – the only twenty years of life the male and female had ever known – be altered? Won’t the two atoms clash? Won’t the two solar systems collide?

 

God’s design is that in one night the male and female are so changed by what they experience together that a new family unit is created – a new atom comes into being, a new solar system takes its place among all the others. As close as the male was to his parents and siblings and as tightly bound as the female was to her parents and siblings, the male and the female have now been joined by God and brought closer to each other than they ever were to any member of the families in which they grew up.

 

I used the phrase “joined by God” because this is the way Moses, Jesus, and Paul viewed the matter. The male and the female may choose to be joined, but it is God that does the joining. This speaks of His design. There would be no joining if God had not designed joining. The joining is dramatic and life-changing. It brings the two participants into a whole new world in which they have previously had no experience – at least, that’s the way it was designed. There is really nothing with which they may compare it. It is like a new birth. Everything in life is different from that moment on.

 

For this reason, the couple benefits from a honeymoon because of the privacy it gives them to reflect on the many implications of so profound a change. Would it be right that they continue with their routines and have to make small talk with others when the profundity of the moment calls instead for sober reflection, gratitude to God, and discussions between themselves of all that’s to come in life for the two who have now been made one in a way that only God, not man or chance, could have orchestrated for them?

 

Now perhaps you can better appreciate why I asked you to read this narrative from the perspective of God’s design and not from the perspective of the hyper-sexualized society in which we find ourselves. Such a society can little appreciate such a momentous transition and the wonder and awe it would provoke in the godly participants. Yet this was, and is, God’s design. It is His intention that this transition be just that profound.

 

A few weeks before my marriage, my father and I were having an argument. I was 20 years old, and arguments between us had been frequent throughout my teenage years. His view throughout those years was that I had insufficient regard for his authority, yet at one point in this particular argument he forcefully said, “Son, when you get married, it’s you and her against the world.” His point was that he and I were on the verge of that life-altering moment when a new atom would be created, a new solar system would come into existence. He was acknowledging that with marriage, my rightful concern would cease to be pleasing him and immediately become pleasing my wife. Neither of us thought that my marriage meant I should cease to honor him, but he had the wisdom to recognize, and therefore to make sure that I understood what he understood: that “a new world order” was about to make what had for years been his main issue with me…moot. He understood the profundity of marriage.

 

Now you see why marriage is on a par with being born and dying. God has designed marriage so that it profoundly alters the lives of the male and female to now form a new atomic nucleus, a new sun to give light and warmth. Their old worlds have passed away; a new world exists for them. Let us re-visit therefore how much meaning these words of Moses are carrying:

 

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. – Genesis 2:24

 

Truly, by God’s design, they leave…and join. The two become one. What could be more profound – except being born in the first place…or dying in the last? If you re-read this section, or even set this book aside to ponder what we’ve just covered, it could be time well spent. I have reflected on it many times and it deepens my appreciation for God’s wise and loving ways every time I do.

 

 

Apprehending the Design of Marriage

 

If we perceive marriage along the lines I am describing, we are beginning to apprehend its design. This does not end our study of marriage, for we can spend a lifetime marveling at what God has wrought. It should end something, however. That something is obtuseness to God’s design.

 

It is neither desirable nor beneficial to go through life ignorant of what God has designed in marriage. Just as you and I are His creatures, marriage is His creation. He designed it every bit as much as He has designed us. As we are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” so marriage is “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

 

We live in an age of dulled senses, in which people ignore the designs of God and therefore cut themselves off from the blessings that come with acknowledgement of those designs. They sleepwalk through life, pursuing their own pleasures – unaware that the pleasures which God gives far exceed the ones we seek and find on our own selfish paths. But we who fear the Lord and His word, can say to Him:

 

You will make known to me the path of life;

In Your presence is fullness of joy;

In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

- Psalm 16:11

 

And when we find our pleasures in Him, He finds His pleasure in us.

 

…as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,

So your God will rejoice over you.

- Isaiah 62:5

 

Perceiving God’s design of marriage includes appreciation of the glue God provides to bond the union. It is a permanent bond – to be broken only by the death of one of the partners. Again, marriage has been designed just as birth and death have been designed. Marriage can therefore be defined as one man with one woman for one combined lifetime – and there’s a depth of meaning to that definition that deserves to be honored.

 

 

The Dual and Complementary Nature of Marriage

 

In creating human beings, God took a different approach from the one He had used to create angels. Jesus tells us that when we rise from the dead, we’ll be like the angels, with whom there is no male-female distinction.

 

“For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” – Mark 12:25

 

Unlike human beings, angels do not die. Therefore, they do not need to reproduce. Therefore, they do not need to be male and female. This is why angels are not male or female. By contrast, death interrupts human life and prevents us from continuing. Therefore, if human life is to go on – that is, if there is to be a human race – there must be a way for us to reproduce, and therefore God has designed the duality and complementary natures of male and female.

 

The words “duality” and “complementary” each communicate something important. That marriage is built on a duality is significant. One’s not enough and three’s too many. “Two” is therefore a design feature of marriage. That marriage is built on complementarity is equally important. The duality is not two of the same thing; it is two different and complementary things. They fit together and make a whole. Marrying therefore is not a matter of doubling yourself; it’s a matter of complementing yourself. It’s not a matter of providing yourself more of what you are, but rather of providing that which you lack.

 

In noticing these fundamental differences between men and angels…

 

(Let me interrupt myself and make sure you understand that throughout this book, as well as elsewhere, I use the term “man” in the same way that the Bible does. That is, sometimes it means “human beings” and therefore refers to males and females – such as “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love…” (1 Corinthians 13:1). Other times, it means males as distinguished from females – such as “Assemble the people, the men and the women and children…” (Deuteronomy 31:12). Of course, it’s context that reveals which meaning is intended in any specific occurrence. The same goes for pronouns, such as “he” or “his.” Now back to the point I was about to make.)

 

In noticing these fundamental design differences between men and angels, we can’t help but notice that something more is intended in marriage than the union itself. A male is not half a human being and a female is not half a human being. They do not need each other to become whole. Their becoming whole must be for the sake of someone besides themselves. And that’s why observing the design of marriage leads inevitably to observing of the design of family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 2 – The Design of Family

 

The modern secular mindset views marriage, sex, and having children as separate and distinct issues – perhaps loosely related to one another, but separate and distinct nonetheless. According to that mindset, participation in those three activities requires three separate decisions – each decision independent from the others. As a result, it’s become almost as commonplace to see a couple live together before marriage as it is to see them live together after marriage. By contrast, it’s clear from God’s design that He sees marriage, sex, and having children as one and the same issue – with only one decision to be made.

 

 

Marriage Leads to Children

 

If you do not want children, you should not get married. The marriage act is the sowing of seed. It cannot be viewed otherwise, for that’s the way God designed it. Every marriage is therefore a procreative opportunity – not a procreative certainty, but it certainly establishes procreative possibility in a way that nothing else does. With no other human relationship is procreation possible. Marriage is completely unique in this regard.

 

Shaking hands does not establish procreative possibility. Neither can two men be procreative. Only the marriage of a male and a female is procreative in nature, and that’s one of the main reasons why marriage must be lifelong – for the well-being of any children that might be created by the union.

 

There are over 7 billion human beings on earth today. Each and every one of them is “one flesh” produced from “two” – as in “the two shall become one flesh,” the two being “male and female.” If males and females ceased to cooperate in this effort, the 7 billion would eventually dwindle to zero. Thus we see God’s word fulfilled over and over, and walking before our eyes every day. As He said in the beginning:

 

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” – Genesis 1:27-28

 

Thus God’s plan was that the human race not only maintain its number, not only add to its number, but multiply itself over time. And that it has done.

 

 

Exceptions

 

Insofar as we know, there are only three human beings ever to have walked the earth that got here by some means other than a male-female connection: Adam, Eve, and Jesus of Nazareth. Here is the account of Adam’s creation.

 

Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. – Genesis 2:7

 

Here is the account of Eve’s creation.

 

So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. – Genesis 2:21-22

 

And here is the account of how Jesus got here.

 

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. – Matthew 1:18-20

 

Adam was formed from the dust of the ground, Eve was formed from Adam’s rib, and Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. So much for the exceptions to the rule of procreation that governs how we got here.

 

 

God Designed Marriage to Be Fruitful

 

By God’s design, the only way we can be fruitful and multiply is by marriage, and the only way to have marriage is with a male and a female. Consider the connection between these matters, and how Moses wrote of them all in the same breath.

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” – Genesis 1:27-28 [emphasis added]

 

Thus these ideas are interrelated:

 

*
p<>{color:#000;}. God creates human beings.

*
p<>{color:#000;}. He creates them male and female.

*
p<>{color:#000;}. The male-female arrangement is a blessing.

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Through this blessing, human beings are fruitful and multiply.

 

When the curse of death later arises because of sin, it does not negate this blessing. Rather the blessing and curse co-exist: that is, the blessing of marriage and the curse of death. One mitigates the other. This is the way things work, and they’ve worked this way from the beginning.

 

 

God Designed Marriage as the Core of Family

 

Just as it is obvious that the marriage act is designed to sow seed, it is obvious that God designed the female to be the one in whom any child of the marriage would be conceived, gestated, and birthed. Males were obviously not designed for this function. Again, we are just talking about God’s design of all these things, not humanity’s varying adherence to them. We’ll get to those human shortcomings later in the book.

 

The design of a car implies that it is intended for passengers. You can look at a car and see that this is the case. Are its seats intended to remain empty? The design of an office building implies that it is intended for occupants. You can walk through an office building and see that this is the case. For what other purpose would the rooms exist? Likewise, the design of marriage implies that it is intended for children, and the design of a woman implies that she is the one through whom they come. For this reason, the first woman got her name.

 

Now the man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living. – Genesis 3:20

 

Adam thus recognized that while the first female was fashioned from something within him, yet all future females – as well as all males – would be fashioned through the female.

 

This design reality was recognized by the apostle Paul. First, Paul remembers the unique origin of Eve.

 

For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.

- 1 Corinthians 11:8-9

 

Then Paul speaks of the origin of every human being since Eve.

 

For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God. – 1 Corinthians 11:12

 

Thus the Scripture makes clear that Adam and Eve were exceptions to what would be the normal design of things. That is, God unilaterally created the first two human beings, but all other human beings (save one) would be created multilaterally – that is, through a partnership of male, female, and God.

 

Since children are designed to come from marriage, we can see that marriage is the core around which family is built. Marriage is the nucleus of the family, around which the electrons (children) orbit. Marriage is the sun that gives light and warmth to the planets (children) that revolve around it. As the nucleus implies the atom, and a sun implies a solar system, so marriage implies family. We can say that God didn’t merely design family as an extension of marriage, but as the fullness of marriage. Marriage is the seed and family is the fruit – thus are the two concepts inextricably related in the mind of God. To His way of thinking, marriage and family are just different ways of viewing the same thing.

 

It is significant that God designed marriage to be the core of family. It tells us that God wanted every child to have two parents – not less, not more. It tells us that God wanted these two parents to be equal but different: a mother and a father. That is, their roles were to be complementary, not identical. There is something the children would gain from growing up under the protection and direction of a male and female who were living out a lifetime of mutually-committed love that the children could not gain in any other way. In God’s design, family is not family without marriage at its center – which is to say, godly love at its center.

 

 

Rights and Responsibilities

 

God’s design of family includes clearly-defined roles, as well as rights and responsibilities for every member. Any wise organization builder knows that a proper balance between rights (privileges) and responsibilities (duties) for every organization member is key to an effective organization…and God is surely a wise organization builder. It is not good for any member to have rights without corresponding responsibilities, or responsibilities without corresponding rights. Also important is the placement and allocation of decision rights in the organization, for everyone cannot have the same rights to make the same decision.

 

As for the couple, privileges are front-loaded into marriage. That’s why it’s so easy for people, especially the males, to renege on their marital promises. Nowadays, some have even succeeded in negotiating an arrangement whereby there are privileges but no responsibilities. But this is obviously not according to design and therefore something we will not dwell on in this chapter. The respective rights and responsibilities of the man and woman are driven by her role as the child-bearer; that is, the male must protect and provide. Anyone who thinks that this implies a command-and-control relationship between the two of them is self-destructively naïve. I’m told that between those ballroom-dancing couples doing the waltz that it’s the man who’s leading, yet all I see is a couple moving about the floor in graceful unison. It’s the same way in marriage as God designed it; a couple seen navigating through life as one.

 

As for the children, the man and woman are given authority over the children in that children are told from the beginning:

 

Honor your father and your mother… – Exodus 20:12

 

Conversely, parents are told:

 

Train up a child in the way he should go… – Proverbs 22:6

 

The parents have the right to direct the child because the parents have the responsibility for raising the child. The privilege of the marriage act carries with it the duties associated with its outcomes.

 

The stability of the family is determined by the stability of its core – that is, the marriage. For example, children imitate what they see more than they do what they are told. Therefore, though it’s necessary and appropriate to tell the children to honor their parents, the primary way children learn to honor their parents is by imitating what they see.

 

Children learn to honor their mother first and foremost by the way they see the father honor her. Likewise, children learn to honor their father first and foremost by the way they see the mother honor him. A husband who does not honor his wife is being hypocritical if he demands that his children honor him. If the marriage is strong, with each spouse continually honoring the other, the children are more likely to follow suit.

 

God has thus designed marriage to be the foundation of the family. A strong foundation makes for a strong building. If, however, the foundation is weak, then whatever is built upon it will be weak as well. If your goal is to de-stabilize a family, you would attack its core – which is the marriage. Why would anyone want to de-stabilize a family? We’ll get to that later in the book.

 

 

Growth to Maturity

 

One of the main ways that parents fulfill their responsibility to “train up a child in the way he should go” is to maintain, at each age the child reaches, a proper balance between the child’s rights and responsibilities. This is a gradual process of increasing the child’s rights and responsibilities (keeping them properly balanced at every stage of growth) until, at the achievement of maturity, adult rights and responsibilities are understood and embraced.

 

It is in this sense that the child who has become a man can wisely “leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife.” That is, a child who has been properly trained by his parents will know how to make wise decisions. He will understand that with every right there comes a responsibility. This is critical because the first and most important decision he will make as an adult is to leave his family and start a new one. That decision, as we have seen, has enormous consequences. He can ill afford to get it wrong. (Just so that you are sure, I am speaking of both males and females in this paragraph.)

 

Being a parent is often called “raising kids,” but long ago I heard a wise mother say it’s really about “raising adults.” After all, the goal of child-rearing is to produce a fully-functioning adult. As we’ve said, that’s roughly a twenty-year process. From the very beginning, a child should be taught that he always has rights, always has responsibilities, and always there should be a proper balance between the two because there is an inherent relationship between the two. Rights exist to execute responsibilities, and responsibilities exist to justify rights. Parents who don’t keep their eyes on this issue put their adult children in a position of being unprepared to make the first and most important decision they will ever make as adults. Thus the goal of parents is to turn out a responsible adult in due time.

 

 

A Tree of Life

 

Keeping with God’s language of “Be fruitful and multiply,” marriage is a tree of life and children are its fruit. The fruit ripens on the tree over time – a couple of decades – and it’s ready to be picked when the ripening is complete. It’s not good for the fruit to be picked before its time; neither is it good for the fruit to go unpicked for too long. Both unripened fruit and rotted fruit can produce indigestion. Therefore, God designed children to be raised for a time, and then released as adults. How do you know when the fruit is ready to be picked from the tree? If the children have been raised properly, understanding rights and responsibilities, they will know. The fruit therefore comes…and goes; the tree, however, is always there.

 

I could have titled this book “The Honor of Family” or “The Honor of Marriage and Family.” I settled on the title that I did because God has made it clear to me that if you get marriage right, the family will be right. This is because family is the natural outworking of marriage. From God’s point of view, they are different words for talking about the same thing. Therefore, we can even consider “marriage” just a shortened form of the expression “marriage and family.” That the key to a strong family is a strong marriage is conveyed in the old adage, “The best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.” We’ve seen that this love should be life-long; therefore, it precedes child-rearing and outlasts it.

 

As a fruit tree is designed to continue past its fruit-bearing, so marriage is designed to continue past its child-bearing. Thus marriage is the core of family, but it also extends beyond family. That is, marriage was designed to exist before there were children, and it was likewise designed to outlast the maturation of those children into adults and their roles in the formation of new families. After all, those new parents could benefit from the advice of parents who’ve graduated from those responsibilities, yet are still around to talk about the experience they gained.

 

Thus God’s design has brought us full circle. A man and a woman decide to take that momentous step of forming a union. From that union, children come. The children grow up under the shade of that tree, protected from the elements and nurtured by the enduring bond of the parents. When the fruit has ripened and is ready to pick, new trees will be planted…each bearing fruit of its own. These things are designed as surely as are the four seasons and the cycle of sowing and reaping.

 

 

God’s Design

 

We have seen God’s design of family, and of marriage which lies at its core. I can hear your many questions, but most of them have to do with human objections to the design, not to the design itself. I trust we shall address most of those as the book progresses. For now, we want to make sure we have seen the design. Ignorance of the design – whether intentional or unintentional – is a fountainhead of problems.

 

Marriage and family are designed. We cannot re-design them. We do not have that right because we are incapable of carrying the responsibility that would go with re-design. We can ignore the design, but that course has been proven by all present circumstances to be fraught with peril. To treat marriage, sex, and family as if they were separate things to be decided on and executed separately has led to an ever-expanding catalog of pathological conditions for adults and children.

 

You may not like the way God designed these things, but that does not change the way they were designed. They are what they are. A railroad train was designed to operate on rails. Try and operate it off the rails and you’re going to find dysfunction. The same is true if you try to drive an automobile through a jungle that has no roads, or if you try to sail a ship through the Sahara desert. Disregard for design is counter-productive and self-destructive.

 

The nuclear family is the family as God designed it. Those who say it is obsolete are saying that God’s design is obsolete and therefore that He is obsolete insofar as family is concerned. And indeed it seems that more and more people are taking this position today. However, we must remember that while Jesus did come to make some things obsolete – like animal sacrifice and temple worship – He did not come to make the design of family obsolete. Neither did He come to alter that design. Rather He came to redeem a people so as to give them the mind and the might to conform themselves to that design. This design is intended to advance the well-being of all the members of the family – adults and children – but especially the children. So I want to say a bit more about that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 3 – The Well-Being of Children

 

God has not designed marriage and family to the detriment or disadvantage of anyone. His design is for the benefit of all: father, mother, and every child. Most especially, however, the family structure is designed for the benefit of the children because they are so much more vulnerable than the adults.

 

 

The Vulnerability of Children

 

From the moment of conception, and for the following nine months, a human being is so fragile and vulnerable that God has designed shelter and protection to be provided within the body of the mother. Nourished and sustained through the cord that connects the child to his mother, he grows from an embryo over those nine months to a stage of life which will allow him to breathe on his own. Even at that moment of birth, this human being is so vulnerable and fragile that he must be sheltered and protected in new ways. Otherwise, he would die of exposure.

 

With each passing month and year, the child becomes less vulnerable. However, it will take a period of about twenty years before the child’s vulnerability – emotional as well as physical – is reduced to roughly the same level as that faced by his parents. Therefore, throughout that period, God’s instruction to parents follow these lines.

 

Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. – Romans 15:1

 

And this:

 

…the older shall serve the younger. – Genesis 25:23

 

In giving us these principles, God is showing us how to behave as He does – that is, telling us how to follow His example. He uses His authority as Creator of human beings not for His own benefit, but for the benefit of those human beings He creates. Similarly, parents are to use their authority as procreators of human beings not for their own benefit, but for the benefit of those human beings that they procreate.

 

The stronger and the older – that is, the parents – need to be looking out for the well-being of the child because all sorts of things can go wrong for him on the way to adulthood. He has to learn how to walk, and later on how to ride a bike. If he climbs trees, he has to learn how not to fall out of them. He has to learn how to cross the street by himself. And in his teen years, he will learn how to drive a car. All of these activities and more carry the risk of harm to his physical well-being. Leaving aside the physical dangers, just think for a minute about the emotional ones. Think about the first day at school. Remember any emotional trauma you may have experienced in your childhood. Even in our teen years, there can be experiences that will scar us for life. We have to learn how to avoid – and endure when we can’t avoid – setbacks, both physical and emotional, throughout those twenty years. Who is there to help us do all that learning? The parents whom God has given. It’s for this very reason that we’re supposed to honor and obey them.

 

The Honor and Authority of the Parents Is for Teaching

 

Any and all honor that parents receive from their children, as well as any and all authority parents have over the children, should be used to teach the children. This is because the children are more vulnerable than their parents right up until the time that they are ready to start a family of their own, and that vulnerability can be summarized as the child’s ignorance of life. That’s why the parents’ teaching is the antidote. In other words, the goal of the parents – and they are given roughly two decades to achieve it – is to teach the children how to be adults.

 

The parents teach a child how to become an adult by deed and word. That is, the parents teach first by their example, and second by the instructions that they give. Thus, whenever we read in the Bible about the role of parents we should understand it in these two dimensions by 1) example and 2) instruction. For example, consider the following references to parental teaching.

 

Train up a child in the way he should go… – Proverbs 22:6

 

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. – Ephesians 6:4

 

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child;

The rod of discipline will remove it far from him. – Proverbs 22:15

 

“Assemble the people to Me, that I may let them hear My words so they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children.” – Deuteronomy 4:10

 

Although we’re prone to think of some of these words in the context of classroom instruction, parental teaching is first and foremost a matter of modeling the life you want the child to live.

 

In teaching children how to become adults, the balance of, and growth in, rights and responsibilities is foundational and constant throughout the training period. The child should be given decision rights gradually, increasingly, and constantly throughout the period. Otherwise, in adulthood the child might be weak in decision-making ability…and such a weakness is crippling for an adult.

 

Most of us have heard and appreciated the old saying, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, but teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” This principle is a central aspect of successful child-rearing. Parents who give their children everything instead of teaching them how to earn things are doing a disservice to their children. Again, all such lessons are to be applied gradually. You don’t ask a six-year-old to pay his own way in life…but if he’s sixteen and wants discretionary income, he needs to know how to earn money for himself.

That way, when he’s an adult, it won’t be a shock to his system to have to pay his own way in life.

 

By what means are the parents to know how they’re supposed to teach their children? God has designed it so that the chief qualification to be a parent is to have been a child first. No parents – except Adam and Eve – ever achieved parental status without having had to experience childhood. This puts every parent in a position to fulfill parental responsibilities by following the Golden Rule.

 

“Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.” – Luke 6:31

 

In other words, parents, parent as you wish you had been parented. This will mean both imitating the things you think your own parents did right with you and avoiding the things you think that they did wrong.

 

God instructs parents to teach their children because the well-being of children is best achieved by teaching them – gradually filling in the ignorance of the child with the knowledge of the parents. And it is for this very reason that God tells children to honor and obey their parents – so they can constantly receive this teaching from their parents and grow into adults through it. It’s so much easier for a child to become a physical adult by age 21 than it is to become an emotional adult by that time. But when the parents teach properly, and the child learns properly, emotional maturity will be achieved as surely, and on the same time table, as physical maturity.

 

Therefore, the parents’ authority over children is primarily a teaching authority, which means it’s primarily the authority to explain life. This is all for the child’s well-being. At any given point in that period, the teaching should be provided on a need-to-know and just-in-time basis. A grade-schooler doesn’t need to know how to maintain a checking account, but at some point a teenager sure does. If success is achieved by the end of the period, the parents will have made their role obsolete. That’s not to say that parents can’t continue to provide counsel as grandparents – only that such counsel is helpful rather than necessary, and supportive rather than authoritative.

 

If we truly understand the teaching role of parents, we begin to see more clearly than ever that the deference children are to show parents is for the well-being of the children and not the peace of the parents. This is because the children need instructors more than the parents need students. And children need to obey more than parents need to be obeyed.

 

 

Parents Exist for the Well-Being of Children

 

What we are seeing is that children do not exist for the parents’ sake. It’s the other way around: that is, parents exist for the children’s sake. In other words, God does not give children to parents for the parents’ sake; rather, He gives parents to children for the children’s sake. From a human point of view, a man and woman who decide to marry are not only individually giving themselves to each other, they are together giving themselves to any children that their union might produce. Children need parents far more than parents need children.

 

Similarly, the honor that God calls children to give to parents (“Honor your father and your mother”) is not for the parents’ sake but rather for the children’s sake. That is, the honor that children give parents will benefit the children more than it will their parents. Similarly also, the authority that God gives to parents over the children is not to make life easier for the parents, but rather to make like safer and better for children.

 

I emphasize these things because I often hear adults saying that they want children. Yet when I hear these adults, it seems clear that their motivations for wanting children are selfish in nature. That is, they want what having children will bring them. They want to be parents more than they want children to have parents. Abraham desperately wanted a child not for what the child could give to him or be to him, but for what he could give to that child – the inestimable promises of God. Abraham wanted to train up a child to be an even better friend of God than he had been – both as a blessing to God and to his fellow man. The spirit of some aspiring parents today is quite different from Abraham’s.

 

When you consider that God made parents for the sake of the children along with “male and female He created them” and “they shall become one flesh,” it becomes clear that God designed that every child should have a father and mother. This is, of course, confirmed by the fact that the commandment reads “honor your father and your mother,” not “honor whoever your parental guardian(s) happen(s) to be.” Therefore, anyone who thinks a child should get less than a father and mother is shortchanging that child and arguing against the design of God.

 

Since marriage has been designed by God to produce children, no couple should marry without contemplating that possibility – even if both are medically-diagnosed as infertile. The reason for this is that such a medical situation has been known to change…and sometimes without notice. Any child born deserves to have been considered as a possibility – however remote that possibility might have been.

 

 

Seeking the Well-Being of Children

 

I want to give some specific examples of how the well-being of children is, and is not, being given proper consideration by parents today. Otherwise, I fear that these principles I’ve been describing sound like vague generalities that everyone thinks they’re already practicing. Test your thinking against these specifics.

 

A prime example of insufficient consideration for children in our age is something I began describing above: what we can call the “trophy children” phenomenon. By that expression, I simply mean that there are adults who want children the same way they want a certain house, car, or other consumer good. That is, they want children because of the statement it makes to the world about the adult. In such cases, the children are “accessories” to the adult’s life – status symbols. The children are in that sense objectified and used to enhance the self-image of the parents. This does not fulfill God’s design for marriage and family; rather, it violates that design. Abraham’s desire for a child conformed to that design.

 

A related example is the desire of some parents to have a son rather than a daughter. In some cases, parents have even been known to test for gender during pregnancy and seek an abortion if the child is not male. Such parents are violating the fundament requirement of parenthood: to seek the well-being of any children created.

 

A different kind of example that speaks to the need to consider children’s well-being is the matter of interracial marriage. There is nothing in the Bible that prohibits interracial marriage; therefore, interracial marriage is just as acceptable in the sight of God as an intraracial marriage. However, any contemplation of a specific interracial marriage should consider life as it will be experienced by the children as well as how it will be experienced by the adults. In fact, even more consideration should be given to what the children will experience because they have no opportunity to speak for themselves in the matter before it is decided. Life can be very difficult for child of mixed race, especially in our tribalized world with its identity politics. The parents are not of a mixed race, but the child is. We can wish it were not so, and even declare that it should not be so, but none of that changes the reality for the child. I seldom hear this consideration discussed. Instead, there only seems to be an argument between those who think interracial marriage is acceptable and those who think it isn’t. If the couple decides to proceed with such a marriage, they should do so convinced that it is a good thing for their potential children – not just for themselves. If and when society decides to ditch its race-consciousness, this consideration for a child’s well-being will no longer be necessary.

 

When it comes to the number of children, how many is enough? God did say “Be fruitful and multiply,” but the Bible does not quantify that instruction. We can, however, extract a principle. Since marriage and family exist for the well-being of children, we can say that the number of children is enough when the parents deem that an additional child would subtract from the well-being of the existing children rather than add to it. If, for example, an additional life would threaten the life of the mother, that would obviously subtract from the well-being of the additional children. And there are many other reasons, not so dire or obvious, that would subtract from that well-being. Thus there are ways to come to a conclusion about family size on a family by family basis.

 

The examples we’ve been considering have to do with bringing children into the world, but parents, of course, have to consider the well-being of the children throughout the child-rearing period. One of the things this means is the constant distinguishing between a child’s wants and his needs. Part of being a child – that is, part of being immature – is not recognizing the difference yourself. Therefore, the parents are there to help the child make this distinction. Of course, children – whether toddlers or teenagers – do not always immediately appreciate being made aware that there is a difference. Therefore, an unavoidable aspect of seeking the well-being of your children are those periods when they are convinced that you are not. These are th periods when children express disapproval of the way they’re being parented. This can be painful for parents, but a parent who needs his child’s approval is doing him no favors. Therefore, considering the well-being of children means not confusing it with their approval.

 

This matter of doing what’s best for your child rather than what your child wants you to do applies throughout childhood right up to the very end when adulthood comes. A fully-grown human being who prefers his parents’ nest to one he builds himself has been coddled rather than properly prepared for adulthood. His parents have sought his approval more than they’ve sought his best interests. A healthy young adult seeks independence from father and mother at the appropriate time. It’s not good when a child seeks his independence prematurely (which amounts to teenage rebellion), but neither is it good for him to unnecessarily postpone that seeking. The well-being of the child has to transition to the well-being of an adult. If the parents have been tending to the child’ needs more than his wants, the transition will take place on time.

 

There are many more examples I could give. I hope, however, that these have been sufficient to illustrate that proper consideration of a child’s well-being is a time-consuming task, and that this task is to be taken on before the child is ever born…and even before the couple is ever married…and continued right through until adulthood.

 

 

The Well-Being of Children Is the Purpose Behind the Design

 

God could have chosen to create human beings as He had created angels…but He didn’t. Because He wanted to see reproduction – that is, human creation – spread over time, He designed that children should live in families until they became adults ready to establish their own. Because of children, therefore, God designed marriage. And in the design of marriage He created male and female. Therefore, male and female do not at all exist for the pleasure of adults. That is a feature of the design but not the purpose of the design. The purpose of the design is the well-being of children. Whenever we forget that, we go astray. That’s why after a chapter on the design of marriage, and another on the design of family, I wanted to spend a chapter on the well-being of children. Now let’s look at what the well-being of children means for the larger society.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 4 – The Well-Being of Society

 

God’s focus on the well-being of children in an individual family is not myopic. He does care about individual members of individual families, but not to the exclusion of society as a whole. Rather, caring for individual families is how He cares for society as a whole. We would be wise to perceive the situation in the same way as He does.

 

 

The Well-Being of Children Is the Well-Being of the Human Race

 

The human race is a relay race, each generation passing the baton to the next. The family is a microcosm of the human race, and its children a microcosm of the next generation. Therefore, as the children go, so goes the next generation. If families raise weak and sinful children, then the next generation will be weak and sinful. On the other hand, strong and godly children will add up to a strong and godly generation.

 

Each generation is a link in the chain that is the human race. The strength or weakness of each link – that is, each generation – is a function of how well God’s design has been followed. If the parents provide the proper quantity and quality of teaching, and the children give the proper attention and obedience, then that next link in the chain can be quite strong. Putting the next generation in the position to make the links after it even stronger.

 

As nations are the building blocks of the human race, so families are the building blocks of a nation. I said at beginning of the previous chapter that God designed family for the benefit of everyone in it. I am making the point here that God designed family for the benefit of everyone outside of it as well. When my neighbor keeps his children under control, it not only improves life in his family, it improves my life, too. A problem child is seldom a problem for the parents alone.

 

I am told that the desk at which I am working – as well as everything else physical – is composed of atoms. I can’t see them or count them, but I take it as fact that they are there. Similarly, the world is comprised of families. I can see and count some of them, but not nearly all. If I want to change the fundamental nature of the desk, I’d have to deal with it at the atomic level. Thus if we want to address the fundamental state of the world, we have to address it at the family level.

 

To Get the World Right, Get Marriage Right

 

To get the world right, we have to get the nations right. To get a nation right, we have to get its families right. To get a family right, we have to get the marriage – which lies at its core – right.

 

We can view this same dynamic from the opposite perspective – that is, the way Satan views it. He is the god of this world, the corruptor of it. How does he achieve the corruption of the world? To corrupt the world, he corrupts the nations. To corrupt a nation, he corrupts its families. To corrupt its families, he corrupts its marriages. What God designs for good, Satan seeks to destroy with evil. Both God’s activities and Satan’s confirm that marriage lies at the core of society’s well-being.

 

At this point, some of you will say to me, “But, Mike, shouldn’t you take things one step further and say that it all comes down to the individual?” Yes, we could do that, and there is truth in it. However, each individual lives in a context. As soon you start talking about either “getting the individual right” (God’s view) or, on the other hand, “corrupting the individual” (Satan’s view), you will have to talk about the individual’s responsibilities in life…and that takes you right back to marriage and family. No human being exists in isolation. (Remember? We didn’t come to this planet full-grown and independent.) Every human being exists in relationship and his responsibilities are defined in terms of relationship. Therefore, family is the context for deciding what the individual should (if you want to get things right) or shouldn’t (if you want to corrupt things) do. When an individual turns his face toward his Creator and says, “Thy will be done,” family responsibilities are the first thing God will address with him.

 

You could also challenge me and say, “But, Mike, if you say that focusing on family is necessary to help the individual decide what to do with his life day by day, why do you keep reverting to a discussion of marriage instead of family – that is, you keep reverting to a discussion of the duties of spouses in particular rather than family members in general?” My answer to that is that my focus is on you, and if I can make my point about the honor of marriage to you, you will teach your children their duties. In other words, I don’t want to insert myself into your family by attempting to teach your children; that’s your job. If I can convince you to get your marriage right, then you and your spouse will get your children right – unless you still think having children is something separate from marriage. I trust that’s not the case.

 

We can see that God has designed marriage so that the human race might survive and thrive. In other words, God designed marriage not merely as the vehicle through which the human race would be propagated but also as the vehicle through which its individual members would receive the greatest care and strength. Therefore, to ignore God’s design of marriage is to disregard and even endanger the well-being of the human race.

 

 

The Importance of Marriage

 

Because the health of the marriage is central to the health of the family, so the health of the family is central to the health of the nation. Compared to the health of families, the decision about who will be the next president of the United States or which party will control its government is utterly inconsequential. Of course, if the voting decision could affect the health of marriages (i.e. families) then it is consequential to that extent.

 

Marriage is the fundamental building-block bond that holds family together and therefore society together. De-stabilize it and you’ve destabilized everything. In fact, if you want to blow things up in the biggest possible way, you detonate an atomic bomb. And I’m told that what makes an atomic bomb so explosive is that it involves the splitting of the nucleus of an atom – not just splitting the atom, but splitting its nucleus. Likewise, the way to split a family is to split the marriage that is its nucleus.

 

I hope that I have helped you see more clearly that the design of marriage is for the well-being of the world. That’s why it’s so important to get it right – and so devastating for human beings when we get it wrong. The adage currently popular in some quarters – “It takes a village to raise a child” – misses the mark…by a mile. The way that expression is understood today is almost antithetical to the way we could say that God has characterized the matter – which would be “It takes a marriage to raise a child.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 5 – Beginning to Honor Marriage

 

In recognizing God’s design of marriage and His design goal – which is the well-being of children individually and the world collectively – we can begin to see why it’s so critically important to honor marriage. Let us therefore begin to explore how we can do that.

 

 

Honoring Marriage as an Institution

 

We give honor to marriage by recognizing that God has made it to be something – a condition, an estate, an institution – that is worthy of honor. That is, marriage is something honorable. We can say therefore that marriage is honor-able – able to be honored.

 

We are not giving honor to marriage in the sense that it would have no honor if we did not give it. Rather, we are recognizing the honor that marriage is due by virtue of what God has made it to be. By honoring marriage, we are understanding and appreciating the honor that God has invested in His design of marriage.

 

By designing marriage, God has created it. That is, marriage is just as much the creation of God as are the man and woman who enter into it. As we treat human beings as His creatures, so we should treat marriage as a “creature” of God. When we look to human beings and try to understand and appreciate them as God’s creation, we seek to define them as they are – which is to define them as they are designed. We want to do the same with marriage.

 

If we are going to define something imaginary – like, say, a cartoon character – we can define it however we wish. However, if we are going to define something that exists, we need to define it as it is – otherwise we’ll just confuse ourselves. An automobile, for example, is what it is by design. Therefore, we should define an automobile as it has been designed, as it is – not as we might wish it to be. Redefining an automobile as an airplane will not make it fly. The automobile is what it is.

 

Because marriage was instituted by God, we call it an institution. Therefore, marriage is a divinely-made institution – not a man-made institution. Because marriage is not a man-made institution, we cannot redefine it. We cannot redefine it because we cannot re-design it. Its design involves all sorts of complexities which are beyond our ability to understand, much less control. With all the knowledge we have in the 21st century, what man can say that he understands how a woman thinks? And yet there are men today who think they can create a woman from a man.

 

Marriage is what it is. Males are what they are. Females are what they are. The four seasons are what they are. The cycle of sowing and reaping it what it is. You can say, “We want to redefine sowing and reaping so that the reaping comes first and the sowing later,” but you won’t get a crop. You can say, “We’re tired of planting tomatoes and getting tomatoes, so we’d rather plant tomatoes and get something else,” but you’ll still get tomatoes. To live life successfully, we have to live it within the designs God has woven into the fabric of the universe.

 

I am belaboring the created nature of marriage so that we will recognize that just as we have to respect the four seasons and the cycle of sowing and reaping if we want to engage with them and benefit from them, so we have to respect marriage if we want to engage with it and benefit from it. This means that marriage deserves respect (honor) separate, apart from, and in addition to, the respect (honor) we give its participants. Therefore, we honor people who are married, and, along with them, the institution of marriage itself.

 

People who know me and my wife will say, “Mike talks so favorably about marriage because he has such a wonderful wife.” They are correct about my having a wonderful wife, and God knows how grateful I am for her. However, in addition to crediting (honoring) her I credit (honor) also the institution of marriage for so many benefits in my life. Yes, my wife is a wonderful person, but her wonder is magnified to me many times over through the institution of marriage.

 

This book is not about how much I appreciate (honor) my wife; it is about how much I appreciate (honor) the institution of marriage.

 

 

The Institutions of God Versus the Institutions of Men

 

God is not the only one who can create institutions. He has enabled men to do so as well. Thus we create all sorts of institutions: governments, colleges, societies, clubs, and so on. Since we design these institutions, we can redesign them at will…and we sometimes do. Yes, we even redesign and redefine our governments, as was the case for this country in 1776. There is nothing wrong with this. What is man-made can be man-changed.

 

The institutions of man often need to be changed. Times change and therefore needs change. Plus, we are always hampered in life by our lack of omniscience. Therefore, we lack the knowledge necessary to design an institution in such a way that it would never need to be changed. The U.S. Constitution therefore contains within it the process for amending it. The point is that it is normal and natural for human beings, over time, to modify the institutions they have created.

 

God, on the other hand, is not hampered by a lack of omniscience. Therefore, His designs have no need of an amendment process. They will serve at all times and throughout all ages. The cycle of sowing and reaping does not need periodic revision; neither does marriage.

 

Even if a design of God required revision, He is the only one who would have the authority or ability to revise it. He has left us to design and maintain our own institutions. We determine the roles, rights, and responsibilities of the participants in the institutions we create. Let us therefore leave Him to design and maintain His own institutions – including the respective roles, rights, and responsibilities of its members.

 

 

Honoring the Institution of Marriage

 

Military forces are examples of man-made institutions. These would include, of course, the U. S. Army and the U. S. Marine Corps. Army Rangers have “Leave no man behind,” and the Marines have “Semper Fi.” What are these statements? They are value statements; that is, they are statements about a value particularly prized by the organization (institution). That value is allegiance. This defining value is taught to all who join the organization. Thus each participant learns that he has a deeply-held responsibility to everyone else in the organization.

 

Marriage is – it sounds almost silly to say – a much smaller organization than the Army Rangers or the Marine Corps. Yet we are to have an allegiance to it, because of the deeply-held value God calls us to ascribe to it. If the Rangers are determined to leave no one behind, and the Marines are determined to always be faithful, is it so strange that we who enter marriage should be determined to never leave our partner behind and to always be faithful?

 

These values of leaving no one behind and always being faithful are independent of who our partner is. A Ranger or a Marine doesn’t get to be selective about which of his fellow soldiers should benefit from the deeply-held value. Rather, that benefit goes to anyone wearing the uniform. Similarly, in marriage I owe my loyalty to my spouse because she is my spouse. Even if she weren’t wonderful, I would still owe her allegiance because she “wears the same uniform” that I do.

 

God has established marriage to have its own esprit de corps. Where has it gone? It has gone away. Why? For the same reason that it could go away from the Army Rangers and the Marine Corps. How could it go away from those two institutions? It could go away if the defining values were forgotten and no longer taught to those who entered those groups. What is cherished by one generation of human beings is passed on to the next generation of human beings. What ceases to be cherished ceases to be passed on. We are living in a generation of America that has been preceded by generations that did not sufficiently cherish the values of the institution of marriage. That is why we see Army Rangers leaving no one behind and Marines remaining faithful and yet married couples deserting each other.

 

It is a privilege to be married. Yes, it is a privilege for me to be married to the particular wife I have. But it is also a privilege for me to be married no matter who my wife might be. God created marriage as a blessing, and there is reason to be grateful for it no matter who its two participants happen to be. There is more honor in being in the American military in the 2010’s than there was in the 1960’s. The reason for this is that the military set about restoring honor to its institutions. Let us likewise set about restoring honor to marriage so that, in time, it may recover the status it deserves.

 

 

Honoring the Institution of Marriage from Within

 

The most important way that we begin restoring honor to the institution of marriage is by our example – that is, the way we practice it. We honor marriage by recognizing its design and conforming our married lives to that design.

 

First, we accept our respective role – whether male or female. We then determine to know first our responsibilities. We seek our rights only in order to fulfill our responsibilities. We seek no more rights than our responsibilities allow.

 

By fulfilling our duties and enjoying our privileges in marriage, we bring honor to the institution. As we experience the fullness of benefits that come to those who honor marriage in this way, we honor marriage even more. People will see us and recognize the surpassing value of treating marriage as God designed it to be treated. While some people will tend to think that all the goodness comes from the fact that you and your spouse are “perfectly suited” to each other or some other reason that is unique to the two of you, the wise will recognize that it is the institution itself that has brought the goodness to you and that if they will “sow” to the institution what you and your spouse have sown to the institution then they will “reap” from the institution what you and your spouse have reaped from it.

 

Beyond the example we set, we further honor marriage from within by teaching its precepts to our children. That means explaining God’s directions and how they are to be followed. This can also mean being candid about your shortcomings, and the importance of forgiveness. The children should not be privy to all the issues between father and mother, but share enough with them so that they not only see your example, but benefit also from your explanation of why the example is working. They can observe the output; by your verbal instruction, give them some examples of the input so that they can better understand how to achieve the same output when it’s their time. As with all subjects that parents teach their children, the teaching about marriage should be on a need-to-know and just-in-time basis. That is, you would teach a child about marriage at every age, but precisely what you teach them about it would vary depending on the child’s age. You wouldn’t say the same things to a 5-year-old as you would a 10-year-old. Likewise, you wouldn’t say the same thing to a 15-year-old that you would to a 20-year-old.

 

Speaking of children, it is not necessary for them to wait until they are married to honor their own marriages. Children who accept this teaching honor their own marriages from within by saving themselves for marriage. Putting the matter more personally, they should save themselves for the person whom they will one day marry. Purity before marriage makes way for purity in marriage. Such notions are consider old-fashioned and outdated by today’s society, but they are absolutely essential to a better future. Ignoring them will only keep American society on the path of decadence and decay.

 

 

Honoring the Institution of Marriage from Without

 

We should honor marriage first of all from within, but we should honor it from without as well. By that, I mean that we should not only honor our own marriages, but also the marriages of everyone else. This is primarily a matter of attitude. That is, we regard every marriage with an attitude of respect. But there are also more specific things that we can do, too.

 

It’s seldom that the first wedding we ever attend is our own. Usually, we’ve been invited to someone else’s. When we go, we often hear words like this spoken in the beginning by the person officiating the ceremony:

 

Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony…

 

The words – whether in their traditional form or in more contemporary phrasings – continue, explaining marriage, explaining the ceremony, and especially explaining the vows that the couple will exchange.

 

These words from the minister answer obvious questions: Why are we, the audience, in this room? Why are we are watching and listening to you and this couple? What role are we to play? The traditional idea is that we’re there to be witnesses. As witnesses, we become a support system for the marriage. If, at some time in the coming years, the couple is of a mind to renege on the marriage vows, they’re supposed to recall all of us – as in “How can we break a promise all our family and friends saw us make?” The “village” is supposed to take note and remember that lifelong promises of commitment were exchanged. Among other things, therefore, the “dearly beloved” are there as a restraint against any potential dissolution of the marriage. Alas, modern congregations don’t tend to see their role in this way. They just show up at the next wedding of one of these divorced spouses, acting like they’re hearing the “’til death do you part” line for the very first time. We could honor marriage more by recognizing that the rings being exchanged are more than jewelry being exchanged.

 

We should recognize that marriage ceremonies are full of meaning. For this very reason, another way we can honor the institution from without is to decline to attend same-sex wedding ceremonies. Such ceremonies are celebration not of marriage, but of a lifelong sinful practice. Of course, the participants don’t see it that way, but what are you and I going to do when the officiant gets to the part of his administration of the wedding when he says this?

 

If any man can show just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter forever hold his peace.

 

A Christian would be duty-bound to speak up whenever this question is asked. Therefore, you’d be showing more respect and kindness to stay away from such a ceremony, and explain why you’re doing so, than to show up and create a scene.

 

These are just a few examples of how we honor marriage in the lives of others. There is much more we can do to honor the institution of marriage in the lives of others. Honoring God’s design of marriage means honoring it in any and all cases where it is being practiced.

 

 

Just the Beginning

 

In the first four chapters of the book, I explained why we should honor marriage. In this chapter, I’ve begun to explain how we honor it. The rest of the book will be an expansion of what I’ve just begun in this chapter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 6 – Exemptions from, and Impairments to, Marriage

 

We’ve been discussing God’s design for marriage and family, which means we’ve been discussing the ideal. The ideal is not, and cannot, be achieved in every single situation. Therefore, we want to spend some time identifying and describing non-ideal situations. In the chapter after this one, we’ll talk about violations of marriage which dishonor it. In this chapter, however, we’re going to discuss exemptions from, and impairments to, marriage which do not by their nature dishonor it.

 

 

Exemptions from Marriage

 

The first Bible passage I quoted for you in this book came from Matthew 19, which describes how the Pharisees confronted Jesus on the subject of divorce. We’re still not ready to talk about divorce, but we are ready to discuss what happened immediately after that part of the discussion. Jesus answered the Pharisees’ question about divorce by reinforcing God’s desire for lifelong commitment in marriage in spite of Moses’ allowance for divorce and, in so doing, allowed only one reason for divorce, and discouraged remarriage. This answer left His disciples shaken.

 

The disciples said to Him, “If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry.” But He said to them, “Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.” – Matthew 19:10-12

 

Jesus is identifying three exemptions from marriage: 1) birth defects, 2) acts of others, 3) dedication to God. In the first two cases, the choice was taken out of the person’s hands. In the third case, the person was making a choice to serve God with a degree of devotion that precluded marriage.

 

Jesus Himself was an example of the third category. Jesus was not dishonoring marriage by refraining from it. His life mission called for His celibacy. He began His ministry when He was about thirty years old and died about three years later. Had He married, He would have been leaving a widow and probably one or more children. Earthly marriage would not have made sense in His case.

 

The default decision for a young man is to marry. That is, unless you as a young man have a good reason for not marrying – as Jesus did – you should plan on marrying. If you think you have a calling from God that would require you to avoid marriage, then you need to become sure about it – that is, come to a strong conviction. If you cannot arrive at a strong conviction that you should not marry, then marry.

 

Marriage is good for the man and the woman. Remember what God said about man being alone: it wasn’t good.

 

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” – Genesis 2:18

 

The helper was given to the man that they might have relations and produce children for whom they can care. Thus they would not remain alone. We can correlate “to be alone” in this verse with Jesus’ use of the term “eunuch” in the Matthew 19 passage above. In doing so, we can see that “It is not good to be a eunuch” (the first two categories, which are to be lamented), unless there is a higher purpose to which an individual is called (the third category, which was like Jesus). To put it in simpler terms, “If you can marry, do…unless God has specifically exempted you.”

 

It is rare that God calls a man to forego marriage. That’s why I say that only if a young man is convinced beyond doubt that God wants him unmarried should he seek to remain in that state. It’s very hard to be an unmarried adult; for this reason God says it is “not good.” If, however, you are absolutely sure you are an exception, so be it.

 

 

Marriage Means Family

 

Notice in Genesis 2:18 above that when God describes man’s aloneness as a problem to be solved, He gives the woman to the man as “a helper.” Thus the woman is not the solution to the problem, at least not the immediate solution; rather, she is given to help solve the problem, to help in providing the solution.

 

God was not giving the woman to solve the problem of man’s aloneness; He was giving the woman to help man solve the problem of aloneness. Together, the man and the woman would solve the problem. How is this problem of aloneness solved? Children. Until the children come, the man and the woman are still alone. This is one more way we see that, in God’s design, the concepts of marriage and family cannot be understood apart from one another.

 

Only because modern secular culture has “put asunder” the institution of marriage by divorcing its essential elements from each other, do we have to struggle to see this. In God’s design, sex and children are fully-integrated aspects of marriage. The modern mind, however, sees marriage, sex, and children as three independent issues. Therefore, they think Eve was the solution to Adam’s aloneness. They think marriage was God’s solution to aloneness and that their having children was an entirely separate matter that arose later.

 

Adam did not struggle at all to see what God had done for him. He could see that, unlike his own body, the woman’s body was designed for bearing children. For this reason, as we saw in an earlier chapter, he gave her the name “Eve.”

 

Now the man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living. – Genesis 3:20

 

Adam knew instantly that marriage meant children. It was as plain as the woman standing before him. It would never have occurred to him to say, “I like what I see, but I’m not ready for kids.” If he was not ready for kids, he was not ready for her. That’s what she was about; his name for her confirmed it. Together, they would solve the aloneness so that their lives would cease to be “not good.” Adam and Eve did not miss the point of what God had done in bringing them together…and neither should we.

 

Sex is for marriage, and marriage is for children. Therefore, if you’re not ready to have children, you’re not ready for marriage. In other words, if you’re not ready for marital responsibility, you’re not ready for marital intimacy. Oh, how much better a world we would have if teenagers were taught this simple truth! Instead, modern culture teaches them something very different – that the privileges of marriage are there for the taking while the duties of marriage can be deferred indefinitely. And there opens a Pandora’s box of all kinds of evil.

 

Marriage means family because marriage is the means to produce family. Marriage is not the end; it is the means to the end. The end is family. Marriage is not an end in and of itself. To want marriage without family or family without marriage is to try to make marriage and family something they are not. To “focus on the family” is to focus on the marriage…and to focus on the marriage is to focus on the family. They are just different stages of the same thing.

 

Go back to the image of marriage as a tree of life. It is a fruit tree. An apple tree is designed to produce apples. The tree of marriage is designed to produce children. If children are not produced, it means something has gone wrong in the same way that an apple tree that does not produce apples means something has gone wrong. God told the man and the woman to “be fruitful and multiply.” Therefore, marriage is a fruit tree, not merely a shade tree.

 

Am I saying that every instance of marital intimacy must result in a pregnancy in order to be legitimate? No. Am I saying that it’s wrong to use natural means to space out children so their individual arrivals are best for all concerned? No. Am I saying that every couple’s goal should be to have as many children as are physically possible? No. What I am saying is that marriage is designed as a child-producing relationship and therefore to say “I want marriage but I do not want children” is to say “I want an apple tree without apples.” It’s counter to design and illogical.

 

If, however, for some reason a tree of marriage does not bear fruit, this does not excuse if from being a good shade tree. This principles has to do with approaching the ideal, about which I’ll say more before the end of this chapter. For now, the point is that God’s alternative to aloneness is family. Marriage is just the means to that end.

 

 

Impairments to Marriage

 

An exemption refers to a marriage that doesn’t take place, while an impairment refers to a marriage that does take place but that is subsequently impaired. The most obvious biblical example of such an impairment would be the death of the husband. For this reason we see in the Bible a recurring theme of concern for “widows and orphans,” as we see in this verse from James:

 

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. – James 1:27

 

Just as it is “not good for the man to be alone,” it is not good for the women and children to be left alone.

 

By God’s design, therefore, though we cannot say “It takes a village to raise a child,” we can say, “It takes a village to help the widows and orphans.” James made clear that widows and orphans are, by definition, in a state of distress.

 

Marriage is good, and when it is impaired by loss, its goodness is diminished to that extent. It’s not that life become unbearable; only that it becomes more difficult. This is why God calls us to be sensitive to those whose family life has been impaired by loss which they themselves did not cause and over which they had no control.

 

No Dishonor Involved

 

Widows have not dishonored marriage by their widowhood. Orphans have not dishonored marriage by becoming orphans. Neither have those who cannot marry, or in the will of God choose not to marry, dishonored marriage in any way. Therefore, in our quest to honor marriage we should be sure not to dishonor folks like these. They deserve our support, for they are doing nothing against marriage.

 

Not only are none of these people doing anything against marriage, they all still benefit from it. They all came into the world through marriage, and, we can hope. were raised to adulthood by the mother and father who conceived them. Also, they benefit from the stable society that results when families conduct themselves in good order. Therefore, even exemptions from, and impairments to, marriage keep it held in honor.

 

 

Approaching the Ideal

 

As I said at the beginning of this chapter, what is designed is ideal. Specifically, in recognizing God’s design of marriage (family), we are recognizing what He considers – and therefore what we should consider – as the ideal state. What then should we do when, for one reason or another, the ideal is out of reach for us? The answer is that we should approach the ideal as closely as we can.

 

Take, for example, a widow. A woman who has become a widow should not think, “My family has become impaired so I should give up hope for it.” Yes, she has lost the father of her children, but she still has a right to hope that God’s consolations can help her raise all her children to responsible adulthood. God recognizes that it will be more difficult, and that’s why He’s sensitized His people to help her and the children. If she has the chance to remarry, as Ruth did with Boaz, she should feel free to take it. If there is no opportunity for remarriage, however, she is right to do the best she can as a single parent, trusting God for the welfare of her family. We can hope that she has parents and siblings to whom she can turn…and that they are ready and willing to help.

 

Such a broken family is like a man whose legs are lame. The man who is lame tries to get around the best he can. When Jesus encountered such men, He healed them. But even when men had no such opportunity to be healed, they still tried to do everything else in life which they were capable of doing. They either got themselves around with the crutch, or implored others to get them around on a pallet. Their lameness was insufficient reason for them to give up entirely on life. Similarly, widowhood is insufficient reason to give up on family. Even when family life is handicapped, crippled, or disabled – choose your adjective – God’s design for family is an ideal still worth getting as close to as you can.

 

Let’s consider another example. Though we won’t get into violations of marriage until the next chapter, consider, just for this issue of approaching the ideal, a man who’s on his fifth wife. What should he do if he wants to get right with God? Be faithful to that fifth wife as if she’s the only one he’s ever had or ever will have. He cannot do anything about the first four that he divorced; and divorcing the fifth won’t help either. Besides, to divorce again would be to sin again, and we never get right with God by committing another sin. By being faithful to his fifth wife, he is approaching the ideal as closely as his life circumstances will allow him. The principle is: if you are divorced, do not remarry. If you have already remarried, treat your current spouse as your only spouse. Live as close to the ideal as you can.

 

Worldly people want to say that because the ideal of marriage is too idyllic, too far out of reach for too many people, that we should discard it. They want to re-design family according to what they think appropriate, what they think is more achievable or desirable. As we have said, though, re-designing such things is above our paygrade. We might as well decide to re-design the cycle of sowing and reaping so that we can reap a harvest of oranges by planting apple seeds. New designs for marriage and family are neither necessary nor desirable.

 

The ideal – that is, God’s design – always remains worth seeking. If and when we find ourselves in a situation where we cannot achieve that ideal, we should still continue seeking it…approaching it as closely as our circumstances will allow. It is for this reason I suggested that a fruit tree no longer capable of bearing fruit can still please God by providing good shade. If we are living as closely to the ideal as our life’s circumstances will allow, then we will find His blessing. If, on the other hand, we despair and give up on His ideal, there is no blessing for that.

 

We can honor the ideal without condemning everyone who doesn’t seem to fully attain to the ideal. Take, for example, a childless couple. We usually do not know why they are childless; we only know that they are. Until we do, we’d be foolish to speculate. The same is true with a couple who divorces. We should be able to recognize childlessness and divorce as undesirable states without having to condemn some or all of the participants as if they must all necessarily be responsible for their less-than-ideal state. Conversely, we should not let our sympathy for people in these situations cause us to downgrade the ideal so that no one will feel bad – awarding everyone a “participation” trophy. Let the ideal be the ideal, and let us all get as close to it as each of us can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 7 – Violations of Marriage

 

While exemptions and impairments do nothing to dishonor marriage, there are many violations of marriage that do indeed dishonor it. To those we now turn.

 

Our focus is violations of the design of marriage because this book is about the honor of marriage. I’m not focused on the wrongs that a husband does to a wife or that a wife does to her husband. Rather, I’m talking about violations of marriage itself. Indeed, there are wrongs that one spouse does to another but this book is about the wrongs done to marriage itself.

 

 

What Dishonors Marriage?

 

What dishonors marriage is what violates it – that is, what abuses it, misuses it, perverts it, or corrupts it. We have seen that marriage is the design of God; it is His gift to the human race. His gifts are to be received thankfully and used properly. When they are not, trouble ensues.

 

Remember that whatever harms marriage diminishes the well-being of all family members – most unfairly, children – since marriage is the vehicle by which family is sustained. Since God has designed the human relationships that exist in family, anything that does harm to those relationships does harm to the institution of marriage which exists to support and sustain them. The human roles that make for family (husband-wife, father-mother-children) are as much the creation of God as the humans who populate those roles.

 

Perhaps the most common and obvious – certainly the most blatant – violations of marriage are “sexual sins.” Since sex is an essential aspect of marriage and cannot be extracted from it, any violation, abuse, misuse, perversion, or corruption of sex, by definition, does harm to marriage.

 

We have been speaking in general terms. Let’s take a look at specific sins that undermine marriage.

 

 

Biblical Violations of Marriage

 

I’ve selected a few passages of Scripture which contain violations of marriage, listed along with other sins. This will give you a sense of the, sad to say, pervasiveness of sexual sin in the human experience. When you consider that the Bible was written over a period of 1,600 years and covers human history over about a 4,000-year period, we see that sin changes little. There is indeed “nothing new under the sun.”

 

As you read through these verses, try to notice when any reference to a defilement of marriage is being made. Here are some of the words you will see:

 

*
p<>{color:#000;}. adultery – violation of existing marriage vows

*
p<>{color:#000;}. fornication – sexual activity outside of marriage

*
p<>{color:#000;}. homosexuality – sexual activity between people incapable of being married

*
p<>{color:#000;}. coveting – (as it applies to your neighbor’s wife)

*
p<>{color:#000;}. sensuality – (as it applies to the pursuit of pleasure for its own sake)

*
p<>{color:#000;}. immorality – (as it applies to sexual immorality)

 

Here then the Scripture passages. Try counting the references to sexual sin and see how you did at the end.

 

from the Old Testament

 

“Honor your father and your mother…”

“You shall not murder.”

“You shall not commit adultery.”

“You shall not steal.”

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” – Exodus 20:12-17

 

 

from the New Testament

 

“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”

- Mark 7:21-23

 

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. – 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

 

But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted. – 1 Timothy 1:8-11

 

Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge. – Hebrews 13:4

 

If you counted more than ten, you did well. There’s at least that many there.

 

Remember that these references I’ve given you are selective and merely meant to give a general sense of 1) how the Bible addresses sexual sins and 2) how frequently such sins occur in human experience. I could have included verses that denounced prostitution, bestiality, and other perversions but it’s too depressing to try to catalog all human depravity. Thankfully, not even the Bible tries to do that.

 

It is worth calling your attention to a word that came at the end of the list above: immorality. When you see any occurrence of the word “immoral” or “immorality” in the New American Standard Bible (NASB) New Testament, it is referring to sexual immorality. The Greek word being translated is “porneia” – the same word from which the word “pornography” comes. This Greek word is most often translated as “immoral.” When it’s not, it’s translated as “fornication” or “unchastity.” Only once is it translated as “sexual immorality.” This is unfortunate because in modern English usage, “immorality” is a broader term and covers more than just sexual immorality.

 

Here’s a demonstration of how the NASB translates “porneia.”

 

Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. – 1 Corinthians 6:18

 

We can see from the context that Paul is speaking of sexual immorality. Alas, every occurrence of the word in the NASB New Testament (30 in all) does not have so clear a context. Therefore, many of these references to sexual immorality are lost on readers and listeners. Nevertheless, I am telling you that all 30 of these occurrences of the word refer to the misuse of sex – which we know to be sex outside of marriage. The point for us is that this is just one more indication of how God – through the Bible – takes marriage seriously, instructing us in many ways about how deleterious sexual sin can be to the human experience. God says that He created sex as a part of marriage and therefore any sex outside of marriage is immoral.

 

 

How Many Ways Are There to Violate Marriage?

 

There you have it: a brief scan of sexual sins as identified by the Bible. I’ve not given you an exhaustive list. Nor does the Bible itself try to name every single way someone can get marriage wrong. The question “What is one plus one?” has only one correct answer, but many wrong ones. Likewise, the question “What constitutes marriage?” has only one correct answer, but many wrong ones. God has shown us the way, and we continue to fight Him every chance we get.

 

Actually, many people find it convenient for their purpose to expect the Bible to name all specific prohibitions, for then, if the Bible doesn’t condemn a certain activity clearly enough or often enough, then in their minds it must be okay. The irony is that the more deviant a sexual practice, the less likelihood that it will be named in the Bible, and therefore the more likely such people are to think they are justified in practicing it.

 

To be focused on the deviations from the norm instead of the norm is asking for trouble. God has told us what is good: and it is marriage. Moreover, He has told us what marriage is: one man and one woman for one lifetime. He has also made clear that marital pleasures are not meant to be extracted from marital duties and practiced by unmarried people. He should not have to catalog every way possible to resist His design in order for us take His design seriously.

 

From God’s point of view, there is only one kind of family. And at its core there is only one kind of marriage. Violations of these standards are dishonoring to Him and to ourselves. Therefore, marriage is about sexual morality and anything against that norm is sexual immorality. Now consider the one occasion in the New American Standard Bible (NASB) New Testament in which the Greek word “porneia” is translated as “sexual immorality,” rather than as simply “immorality.” (Why the translators picked just this occasion to be explicit about it, I do not know.) Notice how helpful this more explicit expression of immorality is, even though the context would have inclined us to think in this direction anyway.

 

Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you.

- 1 Thessalonians 4:1-6

 

Thus the goal is for a young man to keep himself pure for marriage that he may keep himself pure in marriage. And the same is true, of course, for the young woman. Each has a “vessel” to “possess in honor” – that is, without violation. Thus they honor marriage by honoring the bodies God gave them.

 

God made marriage to be a place for purity. The young man and young woman of whom I just spoke, keeping themselves pure until marriage, will lose their virginity at marriage, but they will not lose their purity. Rather they will maintain their purity. Marriage is pure and if these two keep their marriage pure, it will keep them pure. There is nothing impure about marriage and the interaction that defines it. Rather, these thing are holy. They deserve honor.

 

Therefore, when we hear the word “marriage” we should think of it the way God does –as something chaste. That’s why it’s so jarring to the ears and disconcerting to the heart to hear the term “same-sex marriage.” It’s not just an oxymoron, it’s a defilement of an idea that is chaste.

 

Extramarital affairs are conducted in private because they are unchaste – something of which we should be ashamed is taking place. Legitimate marital intimacy is also conducted in private…but it is nothing of which to be ashamed. It is of God and is therefore altogether holy and altogether honorable.

 

Again, in seeking the norm, it is more profitable to focus on the norm rather than to focus on deviations from the norm. Therefore, we want to know more about the standard than we do about violations of the standard. We only want to know enough about the violations to help us clarify just what the standard is. Since we’ve done that, let’s turn our full attention to the standard. We know we will find it in the Bible. Let’s take it one testament at a time. For if we don’t first get a firm grasp on the standard as presented in the Old Testament, we won’t fully appreciate just how much more the New Testament brought to the discussion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 8 – The Old Testament Standard for Marriage

 

In this chapter, we’ll examine the view of marriage that was presented in the Old Testament, but also that extended itself into New Testament times. In that way, when we get to the chapter on the New Testament standard, we’ll have a smoother transition.

 

 

The Early Days

 

We’ve spoken enough about Adam and Eve so there’s no need to re-hash that foundation here, except to remind ourselves how important Jesus considered those two lives to be when the Pharisees brought up the subject of divorce to Him (Matthew 19:1-12).

 

In discussing the Old Testament, we should mention the perplexing subject of polygamy and concubines. I say perplexing because we see such practices occasionally among the patriarchs of Israel (Abraham and Jacob) and later among the kings of Israel (David and Solomon), yet they not explicitly condemned by God. Though perplexing to us, there are several things that we can say. First, such practices were not commended by God either. Second, the practices were limited. Third, their occasions seem not to have been driven by lust, but rather by other considerations (such as, economic necessity and the quest for an heir in the case of the patriarchs and international alliances in the case of the kings). This is not to excuse the practice, but to recognize that it occurred in a different time and place; context is relevant even if it is not completely exonerating.

 

Polygamy and concubines are like divorce in that whatever tolerance God may have had for such things in the early days was completely exhausted by the time Jesus brought the new covenant. More about that shortly. In the meantime, let’s note how the Ten Commandments, given by the great lawgiver Moses, clearly and emphatically confirmed the design God had established through the prototypes of Adam and Eve.

 

 

The Ten Commandments

 

The Ten Commandments were an essential part of the law of Moses and appear first as a group in Exodus 20:1-17, and are repeated as a group in Deuteronomy 5:6-21. Let’s look at the commandments most pertinent to our subject.

 

“You shall not commit adultery.” This command is the clearest of all; marriage between the man and the woman was not to be adulterated. Thus marriage was to be kept pure. Note that marriage was not the end of purity for the man and the woman who had kept themselves for marriage. Rather, marriage was the continuation of their purity.

 

“Honor your father and your mother…” As we have seen, the honor that the husband and wife show each other becomes a foundational value which the children of that union see and then build upon. Whenever and if ever the father or mother dishonors the other – whether it be as major a dishonor as divorce or as minor a dishonor as a cross word – it undermines the foundation of filial obedience and therefore the well-being of the children.

 

“…[Y]ou shall not covet your neighbor’s wife..” A man who covets his neighbor’s wife has lost sight of what he has in his own wife. He is paying insufficient attention to her. He has ceased to be content with, and thankful for, what God has given him, and has become greedy. Covetousness is a form of greed.

 

“You shall not steal.” Premarital sex “steals” from your future marriage. Extramarital sex “steals” from your present marriage.

 

We could say more but these are enough to demonstrate how God spoke by commandment to reinforce and uphold the design He established in the beginning with the first man and first woman. These commands about marriage, and others like them, show up all over the Old Testament – from one end of it to the other. In fact, bookending the Genesis foundation for marriage is this from the last lines of the last book of the Old Testament.

 

“Remember the law of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel. Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.”

- Malachi 4:4-6

 

By “restoring the hearts of the father to their children,” the Old Testament comes full circle to the life-giving dynamic that had launched and preserved the human race. With Eve, God had turned Adam’s heart to children. Thus while Eve was indeed given to Adam to be his wife, she was even more given to him to be the mother of children – as God calling her “helper” and Adam calling her “mother of the living” both confirm.

 

It’s more than just that commandments like these are strewn all about the Bible that reinforces God’s design and hope for marriage, but also that the central importance of marriage is woven into the very fabric of the Bible through metaphors that are constantly being put to use describing the relationship between God and His people.

 

 

The Role of Father

 

We see the term “father” employed regularly in the themes of Scripture. The “father” is the one from whom all things originally come. Thus God is the father of all creation. Specifically, God is the father of Adam, and He is called such in Luke 3:38. Adam is the father of the human race, Eve having been the helper who enabled him to play that role. God could do it by himself, but Adam could not.

 

Even though Adam preceded him, perhaps the human being best known as a father in the Scripture is Abraham. The name given him at birth was “Abram” which means “exalted father.” When he reached age 99 and was still childless, God defied circumstance by calling him “Abraham” which meant “father of a multitude.” Thus God promised the man not just to make him a father but to make him “father of many nations” (Romans 4:17-18). God could have chosen a different metaphor for His plan of salvation; He could have chosen to call Abraham his “leader” or “chief” or something similar…but God chose to use the metaphor of father, which would call to mind, among other things, the pattern He had established with Adam.

 

King David was one of the many, many sons of Abraham. And he himself is known to us as a great father – first of Solomon, but then ultimately of Messiah (the Christ). In fact, the term “the son of David” is considered a messianic title as well as a declaration about heredity.

 

Messiah (Christ) is the son of Adam, the son of Abraham, and the son of David. For this reason Jesus’ genealogy is traced back to Adam in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 3:23-38), and it is traced back to Abraham and David in Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 1:1-17). Thus Messiah came into earthly existence through the three great fathers of the Old Testament. Of course, that Messiah is the Son of God provides the crowning reference to the importance of fatherhood.

 

As for Jesus being the son of Adam, a little more can be said. You may know that Jesus often referred to Himself as “the son of man.” In the days after Jesus’ resurrection, this was often considered an allusion to the prophecy of Daniel 7:13-14 and to Psalm 8 as well. However, because the expression “son of man” was also used elsewhere in Scripture, and in different ways, it was considered enigmatic before Jesus’ resurrection. One of the things that contributed to the uncertainty of meaning was that a Hebrew word for “man” or “mankind” was “adam.” This means that “son of man” meant to the Hebrew mind “son of adam,” which might also mean “son of Adam.” You can see why Jesus’ disciples needed His resurrection to clarify for them what Daniel 7:13-14, Psalm 8, and other Old Testament references to “son of man” might mean. For our purposes, I just wanted to show how much more that Bible spoke of Jesus as a son of Adam than we might realize at first. All those times Jesus called Himself “the son of man” were, among other things, allusions to Adam.

 

Messiah was not just a son of great fathers, He Himself was to become a great father. Isaiah prophesies this very thing:

 

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;

And the government will rest on His shoulders;

And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,

On the throne of David and over his kingdom,

To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness

From then on and forevermore.

The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.

- Isaiah 9:6-7 [emphasis added]

 

Messiah was not a father on earth, for He never married. Yet He became a father from heaven, for in heaven “they neither marry nor are given in marriage” (Matthew 22:30). Our concern, though, is with fatherhood that derives from marriage. Therefore, let us for now, at least in this book, keep our focus on Messiah as a son.

 

 

The Role of Son

 

Long before Israel’s Messiah was known as the son of David or even as the son of Abraham, He was known simply as a son. When humanity fell to temptation and allowed sin into the world, God promised deliverance through a son. In the following text, God is speaking to the serpent about this deliverance to come.

 

And I will put enmity

Between you and the woman,

And between your seed and her seed;

He shall bruise you on the head,

And you shall bruise him on the heel.” – Genesis 3:15

 

On the one hand, this is a most unexpected expression: “her seed.” Usually, it is the man who provides the seed, but in this case it would be the woman’s seed because it would come to the woman (Mary the mother of Jesus) through the Holy Spirit and not through a man. Thus the seed from the woman’s womb would ultimately bring down the serpent (“bruise you on the head”). The reference to “seed” is, of course, a reference to a child, and the reference to “He” means that it will be a male that come forth from a woman (Eve originally and Mary eventually).

 

The women of old knew of Eve, of this prophecy, and therefore of womanhood’s central role in God’s plan to redeem creation. Messiah would come through them. So in every generation, they kept looking. Thus, whether it was “son,” “seed,” descendant,” or some similar references, everyone knew that mothers were the key – they were the doorway through which God’s promised one would come. Even from the earliest days, this expectation was present. This made Cain’s murder of Abel all the more shocking – as if there could be anything more shocking than the first murder. It demonstrated that while the woman’s seed would provide deliverance, the serpent’s seed would be there to thwart the woman’s seed when possible. And the Cain and Abel story even portrayed how the woman’s seed would overcome through dying, thus foreshadowing Jesus’ crucifixion.

 

Through a woman’s womb, types of Messiah would come. Not just Abel, but Seth, Enoch, Noah, and others. Each of these righteous sons gave a measure of the deliverance that would come in fullness with Messiah Himself. Our interest is to see how deeply woven are these concepts of father, mother, and son into the fabric of biblical revelation and even into the very fabric of God’s plan to redeem the universe through Messiah.

 

 

The Metaphor of Marriage

 

Just as the father-mother-son relationship is woven into the fabric of Scripture by the many and varied references to these roles, so also is the metaphor of marriage used as a theme throughout Scripture – most importantly in describing the Lord’s relationship with His people. In fact, it’s fair to say that in discussing God’s relationship with individuals it is the “father and sons” metaphor that is invoked, and when it’s God’s relationship with His people as a whole it’s the “husband and wife” metaphor that is invoked.

 

Listen to God speak through the prophet Isaiah as a husband to his wife.

 

“Fear not, for you will not be put to shame;

And do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced;

But you will forget the shame of your youth,

And the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.

For your husband is your Maker,

Whose name is the Lord of hosts;

And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel,

Who is called the God of all the earth.

For the Lord has called you,

Like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit,

Even like a wife of one’s youth when she is rejected,”

Says your God.

“For a brief moment I forsook you,

But with great compassion I will gather you.

In an outburst of anger

I hid My face from you for a moment,

But with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,”

Says the Lord your Redeemer.

- Isaiah 54:4-8

 

Isaiah also wrote this.

 

… as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,

So your God will rejoice over you.

- Isaiah 62:5

 

And then there’s this through the voice of Jeremiah.

 

The word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, ‘Thus says the Lord, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown”.’”

- Jeremiah 2:1-2 ESV

 

This marriage imagery is carried over into the New Testament, only there it becomes the glorified Messiah who is husband to His bride, the church. This next verse I want to show you is John the Baptist speaking about the Messiah and His bride. Note that John regards himself as the friend of the bridegroom (that is, the Messiah).

 

“He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full.” – John 3:29

 

In this regard, John is fulfilling the prophecy we read from Malachi above, that “Elijah the prophet” would come to “restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers.” That is, John preached repentance to Israel, that the people should get back to keeping the law of Moses, which meant returning to the commandments which would restore order and love to the families of Israel. Thus did John the Baptist “in the spirit and power of Elijah” prepare the people of Israel for the Lord.

 

From this point, the New Testament goes on to, for example, parables of wedding feasts (e.g. Matthew 22:1-14), Paul’s use of husband and wife as analogy for Christ and the church, and the Revelation 19:9 reference to “the marriage supper of the Lamb.” In other words, there are multiple instances of this marriage metaphor being used to explain the relationship of the Lord to His people.

 

The common theme through both testaments in the use of this metaphor is that the Lord husbands His people. The Lord has a covenant with His people, which is rendered “old” and “new” by Messiah. That is, the old covenant was for the Israel of the flesh and the new covenant is for the Israel of the spirit. Now consider that a covenant is exactly what marriage is. That is, marriage is a covenant between two parties: husband and wife.

 

Therefore, God’s design of marriage and family serves not only to preserve and nourish human life, it also serves to define how the Lord interacts with His people. Thus His design works both for life in the flesh and in the spirit. In the flesh, every new human is give life and breath through a mother; in the spirit, every new life comes through a faithful remnant of the Lord’s people. Because God’s design is useful in multiple contexts, references to it are pervasive in the Scriptures. Marriage is at the heart of life; we should not be surprised, therefore, that it’s at the heart of the Scriptures as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 9 – The New Testament Standard for Marriage

 

While the focus of the previous chapter was the Old Testament, you saw that I did not limit myself to it. This is because many Old Testament themes carry over into New Testament times. However, there was something that would dramatically change God’s relationship with people in New Testament times. Because this profound change affected all of life, it certainly would change the way people should think about marriage. It wouldn’t at all change the way marriage had been designed, but it would drastically change the degree to which humanity would be expected to honor that design.

 

 

Jesus Brings a New Standard for Marriage

 

In leading a migration of the people of God from the old covenant to the new, Jesus brought in a standard of behavior which none of His contemporaries had been expecting. Our concern is for how that new standard would affect marriage. Jesus Himself addresses this very subject in the Sermon on the Mount.

 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. – Matthew 5:27-28

 

Jesus first quotes Moses’ commandment not to commit adultery and then explains how much farther He is taking it. That is, Jesus uses the same commandment that Moses gave but interprets it in a far more comprehensive way.

 

The Ten Commandments as delivered by Moses to the people of God required them to refrain from the act of adultery. The same Ten Commandments as delivered by Jesus to the people of God required them to refrain from even an adulterous thought. The old covenant governed actions; the new covenant would govern all thoughts, all words, and all actions. Judgment would be comprehensive. This meant, among other things, that marriage would have to be taken far more seriously than it ever had been before.

 

Some people talk about how we today are released from the dietary provisions of the Law of Moses, and indeed we are. That is, we are not forbidden, as the Israelites were, from eating pork or shellfish. The new covenant places no such eating restrictions on us. This is certainly one way that the new covenant is “easier” than the old covenant. In other ways, however, including this one about adultery, the new covenant is far more demanding than was the old covenant. There are many men who do not even think it’s possible to do what Jesus is asking – refrain from even an adulterous thought – but it is when He gives you the grace to do it.

 

The new covenant requires less dietary purity than the old covenant, but more sexual purity. Therefore, the command for husbands to love their wives is not just about how husbands behave, it’s about how they think. And it’s about how they think all the time. The good news is that if you can keep lust out of your mind, you don’t have to worry about it showing up in your behavior.

 

It would be hard to over-emphasize how much difference this new standard of Jesus makes to the conduct of marriage. Jesus makes marriage first and foremost a matter of the thought life. Consider that one’s view of all the sexual sins of the previous chapter must be revised accordingly. There was an element of Jesus’ standard in the commandment not to covet, for coveting involves thoughts. But what applied to coveting, now applies to all those prohibitions. This is the deliverance from evil God had been promising from the beginning. It would be a thorough deliverance because it would begin in the human heart, where sin begins. Everything in the old covenant was dealing with sin as if it were branch and fruit. The new covenant deals with sin where it is: at the root.

 

Under the old covenant, “forsaking all others, keep yourself only unto her, so long as you both shall live,” meant physically; under the new covenant, it means spiritual – that is, in your thought life. Under the old covenant, the song “I only have eyes for you” meant physical eyes; under the new covenant it has to mean “I only have imaginations for you.” This is true purity of mind.

 

I MUST SAY IT AGAIN, AND WITH MORE EMPHASIS: THE COMING OF JESUSTHAT IS, THE COMING OF THE KINGDOM OF GODMEANS THAT GOD JUDGES OUR INWARD THOUGHTS AND NOT JUST OUR OUTWARD ACTIONS. YOU MUST THEREFORE LIVE LIFE FOR THE APPROVAL OF GOD WHO SEES YOUR INWARD THOUGHTS AND NOT FOR THE APPROVAL OF MEN WHO CAN SEE ONLY YOUR OUTWARD ACTIONS.

 

It’s not that God wanted men to live for the approval of men in Old Testament times. It’s that Moses’ regulations – because of the hardness of human hearts – dealt only with a limited number of issues. As Paul says of Moses ordinances:

 

…they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation. – Hebrews 9:10

 

With the coming of Jesus, God offers to thoroughly clean the inside of the cup that the outside may also be clean (Matthew 23:26).

 

If this difference in what God is asking in the transition from the Old Testament to the New is old news to you, then you will appreciate why I am taking such pains to emphasize it. If the concept is new to you, you may now appreciate why I called an earlier chapter “Beginning to Honor Marriage” (emphasis added). For until a person appreciates the depths to which Jesus wants us to go in honoring the works of God, you can only begin to obey Him. That’s what the Old Testament is: the beginning of a people honoring God. The New Testament is intended to provoke and lead to the fullness of a people honoring God. What I am saying applies, of course, to everything in life – not just marriage. Since, however, this book is focused on marriage, this is the subject to which we apply this all-important truth.

 

If marriage is tree then the thought lives of the husband and wife – that is, the father and mother of any children that might come – are the root of that tree. From thoughts, to words, to behavior – this is how we give honor to marriage from within. The purity of marriage in the new covenant is a purity that was neither required nor even possible in the old covenant. Because such a greater degree of purity is both possible and required in the new covenant, it has an impact on the subject of divorce.

 

 

Why Divorce Is Treated Differently

 

In understanding that the new covenant brings a person’s heart fully into the sphere that God judges, we can see why Moses and Jesus had different views about divorce. Let’s listen to how Jesus described that difference in the Sermon on the Mount.

 

“It was said, ‘WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE’; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. – Matthew 5:31-32

 

Jesus first quotes what Moses said about a “certificate of divorce” and then gives His own view. The difference is stark, yet it makes sense. If Moses is concerned about the outward behavior of the ancient Israelites and Jesus is concerned about the heart condition of all human beings, it stands to reason that their views on the issue of divorce would be different.

 

This brings us back to the Matthew 19 passage we examined in part at the very beginning of this book. At that time, I promised that we’d deal with divorce later. Later is now. Let’s return to the passage, quoting more of it (going beyond the point to which we read before). It’s possible, if not likely, that that Pharisees had heard about Jesus’ teaching on divorce. We ourselves heard it from the Sermon on the Mount, so they probably had heard it , too. It would have surprised them, as it surprised everyone else. But when Jesus demanded more than Moses had, the Pharisees saw an opportunity to drive a wedge between Him and Moses that could work to their advantage. They considered themselves the true heirs of Moses and Jesus to be just another messianic pretender. Their purpose in confronting Jesus on this subject, therefore, would be to more fully expose His distance from Moses on the subject of divorce in an attempt to discredit Him in front of the crowds He was teaching. It wasn’t that they cared greatly about the rightness or wrongness of divorce. Rather, they were jealous of Jesus’ crowds and felt sure that if His hearers knew that He was not properly revering Moses, those crowds would desert Him and return to the teachings of the Pharisees.

 

Here’s how the incident played out, including the exchange about divorce.

 

Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, and said, ‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH’? “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” – Matthew 19:3-9

 

Much to the Pharisees’ disappointment, Jesus was not repudiating Moses in the least. He was saying that Moses had a limited purpose. Moses was focused on the descendants of Abraham for the time prior to Messiah. By contrast, Jesus was the Messiah and was establishing a kingdom that would reign forever – and over all humanity, not just Jews. Moreover, Jesus was restoring creation to the way God had establish it in the beginning. That means the original design for marriage and family that we have studied. Moses had to deal with hardened human hearts – hearts that had been hardened by sin. Jesus, however, had come to transform human hearts, thus enabling them to keep to the design of marriage the way God had originally established it.

 

Jesus rules out divorce because He is not interested in accommodating hardened human hearts; He wants to change them. In Moses’ defense, he was not interested in accommodating hardened human hearts either, but he had no choice. Moses was not the Messiah, was not sinless, and therefore could not die for our sins. Only with the coming of Jesus could this complete renovation of the human heart take place. Moses certainly taught a very strong marriage and family ethic. It only seemed weak when compared with what Jesus was asking.

 

In the passing of the Old Testament standard and the establishment of the New Testament standard, we see more than just tolerance for divorce evaporating. Any tolerance of polygamy, concubines, and other such aberrations from God’s original order passed away as well. In general, Old Testament times (after the fall of Adam and Eve, of course) were a time that God overlooked much human sinfulness and did not try to instruct humanity, except that He raised up the nation of Israel to bear a general witness to Him. In the New Testament, with the coming of Messiah and the revelation of God’s character that He brought, we see God establishing the means for teaching all the nations of the world and calling them to repentance so that they might enter the kingdom of God – that is, be subject to, and enjoy, the rule of God in their lives. The blessing of Abraham was coming on the Gentiles.

 

Here is how the apostle Paul described this transition from Old Testament times to New Testament times:

 

“Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

- Acts 17:30-31

 

Jesus had come to remove the hardness of human hearts. He had come to teach men how to live. Thus while Moses was sent only to instruct the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Jesus’ apostles were sent to instruct the entire world. This is why, after His resurrection from the dead, Jesus commissioned His apostles in this way:

 

…“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, …teaching them to observe all that I commanded you…” – Matthew 28:18-20 [emphasis added]

 

The weaknesses of man that God had endured in Old Testament times, would now be forgiven and washed away by what He was doing through Jesus.

 

…in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

- Romans 3:25-26

 

Understanding the difference between New Testament standards and Old Testament standards is monumentally important, because the difference is big – a lot bigger than simply the removal of a requirement to abstain from certain foods.

 

If we seek the kingdom of God, if we claim the new covenant, if we call Jesus Lord…then we must embrace the elevated standard that Jesus brings. We must honor marriage to a greater degree than that required in the original giving of the Ten Commandments. We must honor marriage in the way God made it in the beginning. That means honoring marriage from the heart – every thought of the heart. Understanding and practicing this elevated standard – that is, the New Testament standard – will be essential for the issues we’re going to be addressing in the rest of this book.

 

 

The Gentiles and Sexual Sins

 

Before leaving this chapter on Old and New Testament standards for marriage, I need to explain something about a difference between 1st-century Jews and Gentiles regarding the subject of marriage. To explain the difference, I want to talk about some aspects of New Testament teaching on marriage you may have noticed in your reading of the New Testament.

 

Some people express surprise that Jesus doesn’t say anything explicitly about homosexuality in the New Testament, yet Paul does (Romans 1:18-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:8-11). In other words, such people wonder why the Epistles specifically condemn homosexuality but the Gospels don’t. The answer is simple. Jesus was teaching Jews. He never traveled beyond the regions of Galilee, Judea, and Samaria – what has traditionally been called Palestine. Although there were some Gentiles present in this region, especially Roman soldiers, it was predominantly a Jewish region. Jesus taught Jews.

 

By contrast with Jesus, Paul taught Gentiles. The mission to the Gentiles was launched, at Jesus’ direction, by Peter and Paul, maybe as much as 5-10 years after Jesus had been raised from the dead. Not only did the mission to the Gentiles start later, it went farther. Whereas Jesus’ ministry was confined to Palestine, Paul was traveling hundreds and hundreds of miles, far beyond Palestine to Rome, and even spoke of plans for going to Spain.

 

So what difference does it make that Jesus was teaching Jews in Palestine while Paul was teaching Gentiles in various Greco-Roman cities? The Jews had been brought up under the teachings of Moses. Therefore, they had been taught the basics that we have seen about Adam and Eve, the purpose of marriage, the Ten Commandments, the importance of keeping oneself pure, and so on. They did not need to be told that homosexuality was wrong. The Old Testament had been quite clear on that. The Gentiles, by contrast, did not have the benefit of Moses’ teaching. They didn’t know about how and why God had created Eve for Adam. They had none of that. They were often caught up in idolatry and all sorts of sexual sins. Therefore, Gentiles needed some basic training in marriage and family relationships that would have been superfluous for Jews. For this reason, the Epistles get more explicit about marriage and related issues than do the Gospels.

 

In the Epistles, we find three passages focused on the basics of family life – how husbands should love their wives, how wives should respect their husbands, how children should honor their parents. One of those passages is in a letter written by Peter (1 Peter 3:1-7) and the other two are in letters written by Paul (Ephesians 5:22-6:4 and Colossians 3:18-21). This stands to reason because Peter was the apostle whom Jesus used to open the door of faith to the Gentiles, and Paul was the apostle whom Jesus called to focus his ministry on the Gentiles. That is, these two men would have been more likely to have in their writings the sort of explicit instructions about marriage and family that Gentiles would need – more likely than the other apostles could be expected to have.

 

Therefore, it was not the case that Jesus was “loose” about homosexuality while Paul wasn’t. On the contrary, there’s no way Jesus could have believed and taught the sexual ethic that He did unless He was opposed to any and every violation of the form of marriage created by God in the beginning. And, as we suggested in the previous chapter, it’s neither possible nor desirable for any apostle or prophet to try to list all the possible violations to marriage that a sinful humanity can concoct. Instead, they give us the correct formula for marriage and exhort us to follow it, occasionally mentioning some of the ways we humans fall short. That’s why any list of sexual sins in the Bible should always be considered as a representative sample and not an exhaustive catalog.

 

As you and I in the 21st century seek to learn about marriage and its requirements, we should recognize that modern American culture has given us a mentality about marriage that is much more like that of 1st-century Gentiles than it is like that of 1st-century Jews. As 1st-century Gentile culture was licentious and more decadent than 1st-century Jewish culture, so pop culture is licentious and more decadent than biblical culture. Therefore, we should not think that we are like 1st-century Jews who might rightly consider Peter’s and Paul’s basic teachings on marriage and family to the Gentiles as too elementary for them. We need such explicit teaching just as the 1st century Gentiles needed them because we, too, come from a culture that is bereft of the benefit of the foundation Moses laid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 10 – Satan’s Motives Versus Human Motives

 

I want to talk about the war on marriage being waged in American culture today and how we can defend against it. Before I do, however, I need to sort out and distinguish Satan’s motives from human motives. Otherwise, we won’t fully appreciate how the war on marriage is being waged in two different dimensions.

 

 

Who Satan Is

 

Satan is, of course, the serpent in the garden who tempted Eve. He is God’s adversary. In fact, this is the actual meaning of the Hebrew word “satan” – that is, “adversary.” Here are just some of the other names that he is given in the Scriptures:

 

*
p<>{color:#000;}. the accuser – Revelation 12:10

*
p<>{color:#000;}. the destroyer – 1 Corinthians 10:10

*
p<>{color:#000;}. the devil – Matthew 4:1

*
p<>{color:#000;}. the great dragon – Revelation 12:9

*
p<>{color:#000;}. the enemy – Matthew 13:29

*
p<>{color:#000;}. the evil one – John 17:15

*
p<>{color:#000;}. the father of lies – John 8:44

*
p<>{color:#000;}. the god of this world – 2 Corinthians 4:4

*
p<>{color:#000;}. the prince of the power of the air – Ephesians 2:2

*
p<>{color:#000;}. the ruler of the demons – Matthew 9:34

*
p<>{color:#000;}. the ruler of this world – John 12:31

*
p<>{color:#000;}. the serpent – Revelation 12:9

*
p<>{color:#000;}. the tempter – Matthew 4:3

 

These names indicate the role Satan plays in this creation.

 

Satan is a spiritual being. Spirituals beings include God, angels, and demons (evil spirits). Because we cannot physically see spiritual beings, we cannot see Satan. If you struggle with believing in his existence and power, then you struggle with believing the Bible. The Bible is how we know about Satan; we wouldn’t know about him unless God had told us about him. Once we have learned about him from the Bible, however, we can begin to recognize his hand in the affairs of humanity.

 

Satan and the demons preexisted this creation. In fact, this creation of which we are a part was the means God chose to deal with the evil of Satan and his forces. This life is a battle between good and evil. Jesus Christ led the forces of good to victory through His resurrection from the dead. By His installation in heaven as Lord of all creation, Satan was cast down to earth. We still fight him, though he fights from a position of comparative weakness and we fight from a position of comparative strength.

 

 

What Motivates Satan to Sin

 

Satan is evil and does evil as a natural course of his existence. It’s what makes him tick. And this is what makes him God’s adversary. God is good. Satan opposes God because God is good, and he opposes goodness because goodness is of God.

 

Satan doesn’t care that much about us; He just uses us to get at God. The devil seeks to dishonor God in the sight of heaven and in the sight of earth. He accomplishes that when we sin.

 

Jesus spoke of Satan as a thief.

 

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…” – John 10:10

 

Satan’s power to steal, kill, and destroy can come in an instant or it can come over time. For example, corruption is just destruction in slow motion.

 

Satan is “the evil one.” What motivates him to sin is his nature.

 

 

What Motivates Us to Sin

 

Whereas Satan seeks to dishonor God, we fall into sin by seeking more pleasure or power than is our right. Whereas Satan sins out of his nature, we sin by capitulating to either fear or greed. Satan actually wants to do evil; it’s who he is. By contrast, we don’t have an evil nature; just a weak nature. In the weakness of that nature, we are prone to selfishness and thus our sin usually comes from anxiety about losing something we have, or lust to gain more than we have. Yet our nature is so weak, that we often end up doing evil even when we want to do good. Satan is our “helper” – if you can bear my using that term in this context – to do evil; Satan himself needs no helper.

 

The apostle John, described our weakness and susceptibility to temptation in this way:

 

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. – 1 John 2:15-17

 

The three paths to sin that John identifies sound very much like the three things that occurred to Eve when she contemplated the forbidden fruit:

 

When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. – Genesis 3:6

 

Likewise, we see three forces working against God’s word in Jesus’ parable of the sower and his seed – the seed representing God’s word.

 

but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. – Mark 4:19

The imagery Jesus uses here is of thorns that “choke the word,” causing it to be fruitless.

 

Therefore, when we sin, it is because we are tempted.

 

 

How the Motivations of Satan and Man Interact

 

We see that Satan needs no help to do evil because it is his nature, but we are helped to sin by temptations that are in the world. That is, we want to do right, but our worldly desires can get the best of us. James puts it this way:

 

But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin…” – James 1:14-15

 

Who does the tempting? The tempter. That’s one of his names. He sets his mind to those things that are most likely to tempt us. After a while, we can recognize his patterns. Thus Paul could write of Satan’s “schemes.”

 

so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes. – 2 Corinthians 2:11

 

It was by a scheme that Satan tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. God had forbidden Adam and Eve to eat the fruit of a certain tree. Satan’s opening gambit with Eve was “Indeed, has God said…” That is, Satan’s opening move was to plant doubt in Eve’s mind about what God had said. Satan followed this same scheme when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness. Weeks after Jesus had heard a voice from heaven say of Him, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased,” Satan approached Jesus and said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” His goal, as it was with Eve, was to plant doubt about what God had said.

 

It’s beyond the scope of our discussion to survey Satan’s entire playbook, but we can say that its pages are finite in number. There are patterns to his work, and as we grow spiritually we can recognize those patterns as they recur. The point of our discussion is that though Satan’s motivations and ours are different, he recognizes our motivations and seeks to play on our baser instincts in order to achieve his purposes. That’s how he gets us to unwittingly collaborate with him.

 

The schemes of Satan apply to all sin, but in this book we are particularly interested in those temptations that have to do with marriage. Satan’s goal is to dishonor God by dishonoring marriage. Human beings can be tempted, not because they want to dishonor God, but because they want the pleasures that marriage offers without its responsibilities. So great are the pleasures associated with marriage that Satan recognizes it as a particularly advantageous way for him to achieve his purpose of dishonoring God.

 

Therefore, Satan and weak human beings collaborate against marriage. The humans are unwitting participants. They’re not intending to dishonor marriage or dishonor God – they just want to satisfy their desires. They don’t recognize that Satan is constantly fanning the flames of those desires by planting temptations in their minds and placing temptations in their paths. For this very reason, Jesus instructed us to pray every day “Lead us not into temptation.” This is because it’s better to avoid temptation than to be continually facing it and resisting it.

 

This point matters in our upcoming discussion about the war on marriage and its defense, because hardly any of the devil’s human conscripts in that war realize that they’re fighting for him or that they’re fighting against marriage. They just think they’re “being normal.” Sometimes they even think they’re doing God’s will. In any case, they’re convinced that we are “religious bigots” standing in their way. Satan knows what he’s doing in the war against marriage, but they don’t. We have to remember that.

 

As to Satan’s ability to ensnare human minds, Paul wrote this to Timothy.

 

The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. – 2 Timothy 2:24-26

 

Sometimes, however, Satan’s captives do not come to their senses in time, and they do evil things – such as crucify an innocent man. For this reason, Jesus prayed:

 

“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” – Luke 23:34

 

And we should pray for our human opponents in the same way.

 

Not only do Satan’s captives seldom know that he is the one pulling the strings, he can sometimes convince them that they’re actually serving God. To this point, Jesus had to warn His disciples that…

 

… an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. – John 16:2

 

If human beings be convinced that God wants them to murder innocent people, then we have to acknowledge that Satan’s ability to deceive is substantial.

 

Consider this question asked in the opening lines of the second Psalm. Consider it especially in the light of the “fetters” and “cords” that come with marriage, meaning the exclusive fidelity and lifelong commitment God requires of husband and wife.

 

Why are the nations in an uproar

And the peoples devising a vain thing?

The kings of the earth take their stand

And the rulers take counsel together

Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,

“Let us tear their fetters apart

And cast away their cords from us!” – Psalm 2:1-3

 

Why are so many people interested in tearing away and casting away the bonds of marriage that God prescribes? Because they’ve been incited to do it by Satan. And how does he accomplish this incitement? By appealing to their lusts. Why do people give in to their lusts? Because they don’t trust that God loves them and will provide all the pleasures they could ever stand if they will only focus more on doing what is right in His sight rather than on doing what’s right in their own sight. In God’s economy, if you accept responsibility, you will find pleasure in due time. The world (which is Satan’s domain) contradicts God’s promise with “But why deny yourself when you can have the pleasure now without the responsibility? Of course, the world’s pitch is a lie…but one you can see is effective with a lot of people. No wonder Satan is “the father of lies” – lies work.

 

I said to you in the second chapter of this book:

 

“If your goal was to de-stabilize a family, you would attack its core – which is the marriage. Why would anyone want to de-stabilize a family? We’ll get to that later in the book.”

 

Well, here we are. Satan is the one who would want to de-stabilize a family and his purpose would be to trouble God.

 

Satan’s purposes are counter to God’s. God wants peace for the world He created and Satan therefore wants to de-stabilize that peace. The peace of the world is a function of the peace of the nations that comprise the world. The peace of a nation is a function of the peace of the families that comprise the nation. And the peace of any family is a function of the peace of the marriage that lies at the family’s core. Therefore, Satan – to be really effective at corrupting the world – has to be really effective at corrupting that which holds the world together: marriage. Since you can see how effective Satan has been at this task, both throughout history and in the current age, you have one more reason to see just how important marriage is.

 

Why, though, do people want to de-stabilize marriage? People aren’t out to trouble God, at least not intentionally. They’re motives are different. They just want to be free from the constraints of marriage. They do not want to have to deny themselves any personal sexual desire. This is why you hear so many of them re-defining marriage. That way they can claim to be pro-marriage. But they only support marriage and family as they define these terms, not as God defines them. When you or I say, “Let not man put asunder what God has joined together,” they say something like, “Indeed, has God said that marriage has to be one man and one woman for one lifetime?” They may not know why it occurred to them to frame their question in that way…but we do.

 

Therefore, as I begin to talk about the major new attack on marriage that was launched in the mid-20th century, know that both Satan and people were involved. Know also that hardly any of the people pushing that movement and following that movement thought they were doing Satan’s work or that they were capitulating to his temptations. That’s how effective Satan is at what he does.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 11 – A Major New Attack on Marriage

 

Satan has been at war against marriage ever since he sought to come between Adam and Eve. However, in the second half of the 20th century he opened a new front in that war, a major new line of attack. That new front is still advancing to this day. Having been born in 1951, I have been an observer and participant in this stage of the war. If marriage is to survive and thrive we must understand the fierceness of the assault it – and we – have come under.

 

 

The Sexual Revolution

 

The primary front on which marriage has been attacked for the last half-century or so has been what is called “the Sexual Revolution.” I recognize that there are limitations to the reliability of Wikipedia, but let’s give them a shot at defining this term.

 

The sexual revolution, also known as a time of sexual liberation, was a social movement that challenged traditional codes of behavior related to sexuality and interpersonal relationships throughout the Western world from the 1960s to the 1980s. Sexual liberation included increased acceptance of sex outside of traditional heterosexual, monogamous relationships (primarily marriage). The normalization of contraception and the pill, public nudity, pornography, premarital sex, homosexuality and alternative forms of sexuality, and the legalization of abortion all followed.

 

I’m using Wikipedia not just because it’s very accessible, but also because it fully reflects the cultural ethos in which we live – the cultural ethos in which the Sexual Revolution has taken root and is thriving. The only thing I think this definition gets wrong is that it seems to suggest that the Sexual Revolution ended in the 1980’s. Since the U.S. Supreme Court re-defined marriage in its 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision, and the President of the United States has in 2016 designated the Stonewall Inn as a national monument to honor equality for “homosexuality and alternative forms of sexuality,” it seems obvious that the sexual revolution is continuing unabated…and even can be said to be gathering steam. Perhaps the authors just meant that the 1960’s to the 1980’s were the foundational period. I wouldn’t argue the point with them. Either way, the Sexual Revolution began in the 1960’s and its values are with us today.

 

 

The Seminal Idea of the Sexual Revolution

 

The signature event launching the Sexual Revolution in the minds of most people is the FDA’s approval of the birth-control pill (“the pill”) for contraceptive use in 1960. For the first time, women could take a pill that allowed them to have sex without conceiving a child. Both conceptually and practically, “the pill” allowed sex to be separated from both marriage and child-bearing in a way that had never previously been possible on a wide scale. The separation of sex from child-bearing was obvious. Less obvious was the separation of sex from marriage. Since, however, premarital and extramarital sex had been inhibited at least to some degree by the fear of pregnancy, the removal of that possibility removed that inhibition. It wasn’t so much the development of “the pill” that launched this sexual revolution – it was the rapid, widespread acceptance and use of it.

 

In a great irony, thirteen years later, in1973, the U.S. Supreme Court would make legal abortion the law of the land throughout the United States. I say “irony” because you would think that the widespread availability of a pill that prevented unwanted pregnancies would have obviated the need, and therefore reduced the demand, for abortion. Such are the mistaken assumptions of those who underestimate the power of human lust unleashed from the fear of negative consequences. The fear of displeasing God alone would have been an adequate restraint on sexual urges, but there obviously wasn’t much of that around. The fear of negative consequences was the only remaining constraint. Once that, too, was removed, it unleashed and fostered a widespread sexual rebellion against God’s design for marriage.

 

The dissolution of the marriage concept into three distinct and separate concepts – marriage, sex, and child-bearing – is the seminal idea, the toxic fountainhead from which almost all the pathologies of the Sexual Revolution flow. This seminal idea has taken deep root in a majority of modern American minds, such that no one is surprised when a couple sets up household, a few years later has a child, and a few years after that gets “married.” In so doing, they actually eviscerate the meaning of the word “marry,” but hardly anyone seems to notice that. Such couples have reduced the meaning of marriage to a ceremony – and it’s a ceremony essentially devoid of import, for if, a few years later still, the couple files for divorce, no one will even try to talk them out of it – not the legal system and probably not even the guests who bore witness to the vows exchanged at the ceremony.

 

At the root of the Sexual Revolution is a revolt against God’s view of marriage. This revolt, as I said above, was not caused by “the pill,” but rather was enabled by it. The revolt was already present in human hearts; “the pill” just became the means by which that revolt manifested itself. Therefore, the foundation of the Sexual Revolution is not “the pill” per se but rather the belief that marriage, sex, and child-bearing aren’t one thing. This is why proponents of the Sexual Revolution will say that the belief that marriage, sex, and child-bearing are one thing is an antiquated, pre-scientific view that is unworthy of modern humanity.

 

The separation of sex from procreation and the reduction of marriage to a ceremony is indeed a seminal idea. Its implications that are still sprouting. If marriage is nothing more than a ceremony, which is by definition a man-made event, then there is no reason men can’t redefine it. I mentioned above about the Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage in 2015, but that was merely a formal ratification of the decision made in the early 1960’s by society at large that marriage could be divested of its conjugal and procreative functions leaving only the husk of a ceremony. That being the case, all that was necessary for a redefinition of marriage was a political constituency savvy enough and strong enough to compel its adoption. Once the seminal idea was broadly accepted in society, it was only a matter of time before marriage was re-defined. And it is only a matter of time before that re-definition is re-defined. Once you abandon the true objective foundation for marriage, there is no way to ever have another objective foundation. The foundation will simply be the opinions of the majority of society…and those always change with time.

 

From Satan’s standpoint, the Sexual Revolution is an anti-God movement, specifically an anti-Christ movement. From the standpoint of the revolution’s participants, however, it is a pro-pleasure movement, though they will seldom describe it that way. They will say that is it about freedom – from repression and from discrimination. However, in “freeing” themselves from the restraints of God’s design for marriage, they are only enslaving themselves to their lusts. What they are calling freedom is therefore actually bondage. This bondage to lust leads to all sorts of malignant effects.

 

A Personal Testimony of the Sexual Revolution

 

The 1960’s were a tumultuous decade, still unique among the almost seven decades that I have lived. For people who didn’t live through it, I describe it by asking them to imagine what 9/11 would have felt like if, instead of occurring on one day, it had been experienced in slow motion over a ten-year time period. There was war and the fear of more war, riots and civil unrest, assassinations, and more. In the midst of all this chaos, the Sexual Revolution quietly and rapidly permeated the American consciousness.

 

I attended high school from 1966 to 1969, and college from 1969 to 1972. By latter half of the 1960’s, the seminal idea of the Sexual Revolution – that marriage, sex, and procreation were three separate things – had spread so thoroughly through the culture that it was the accepted reality. That is, it was assumed to be true and hardly anyone questioned it – at least not in the circles in which I moved. You could say it was unconsciously accepted – never argued. Just as it is today.

 

I was a typical middle-class kid. Our family was Roman Catholic and my parents had sent me to parochial school for the first six years of my education. However, when it was time to enter the seventh grade at age 12, they switched me to public school. Therefore, I spent all my junior high and senior high years in public school, and then attended the local state university until I graduated in 1972 at age 20. My transition from a religious school to a public school in 1963 coincided with my transition to adolescence and also with my transition from regard for religious values to adoption of secularism and agnosticism. The views I held about marriage, sex, and procreation throughout my teenage years and into early adulthood were those promoted by the Sexual Revolution and in this regard I was typical of the young people my age.

 

I am not saying that everyone my age thought identically about the issues of the Sexual Revolution, but only that we thought consistently about them. Certainly, some of us were more tame in our behaviors while others of us were more wild. I had the benefit of a happily-married father and mother who were willing to discipline me and my brothers, and this kept my behavior in check more than my peers who lacked such a restraining factor.

 

The reason that we all were consistent in our views about marriage-related issues is that we all imbibed the same popular culture. Consider a few examples of pop culture during that period. The April Fools (1969) was a typical movie for that era, an uncontroversial romantic comedy. It portrayed a middle-aged man locked in a loveless marriage who encounters an attractive woman, eighteen years his junior, who likewise is locked in a loveless marriage. The two of them find happiness and the movie ends with the couple leaving their respective marriages (in the man’s case, he’s leaving a young son, too) and, presumably, entering their “happily ever after.” The movie was entertaining but its plot points were unremarkable to us in 1969. “Of course, true love trumps the dying institution of marriage,” we thought. We weren’t going to be “plastic” like our parents’ generation; we were going to “love” one another. The 1950’s had proven to us that marriage was an old-fashioned formality that was devoid of life. For us, marriage was an option – not a destiny. After all, the previous year we’d been singing along with the hit song “Gentle on My Mind.”

 

It’s knowing that your door is always open

And your path is free to walk

That makes me tend to leave my sleeping bag

Rolled up and stashed behind your couch

And it’s knowing I’m not shackled

By forgotten words and bonds

And the ink stains that are dried upon some line

 

That keeps you in the backroads

By the rivers of my memory

That keeps you ever gentle on my mind

 

Written by John Hartford • Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

 

Thus the value system of the Sexual Revolution was spread…from song to movie to book to television show to another book to another movie to another song and so on. Round and round these ideas went. Each expression of pop culture reinforced another, and together they moved farther and farther to the margins any vestiges of biblical or traditional morality about marriage.

 

In the 1960’s we considered “true love” – not marriage – as the proper context for sex. “True love” was for us “romantic love,” though we seldom called love “romantic” because that sounded “sappy.” Of course, it was sappy – we just didn’t want it to sound that way. As the Bible established marriage as the justification for marital intimacy, we established “love” as the justification while avoiding the commitment that would have legitimately justified calling what we were doing “love.” We were so full of ourselves that we could sing to each other “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with,” without recognizing how childish, if not downright stupid, we sounded. Feelings, by their very nature, are fleeting, yet somehow our generation saw them as a more secure environment for marital intimacy than the mutual lifelong commitment prescribed by the Bible. Of course, back then I did not want to be even found in the same room with a Bible.

 

In the 1960’s, we looked to each other as the standard – not to God, not to the Bible. Baby boomers today still look to each other as the standard. The Bible calls this sort of attitude “the fear of man” but in less-biblical language it’s two drunks leaning up against each other for support. It’s students telling each other, “We don’t need an algebra teacher, let’s just agree among ourselves what the answers are.” The Sexual Revolution is a state of sexual lawlessness. As long as you can find one other person to agree with what you want to do, it’s considered right (“two consenting adults” is the language you’ll hear). This is moral insanity. More shockingly, it believes itself to be morally superior to any moral code that preceded it.

 

I never looked to the Bible for moral guidance about issues of the Sexual Revolution back then because I never questioned the things society as a whole assumed to be true. Everyone I knew, old and young alike, talked about marriage, sex, and procreation as if they were three very distinct things. No, views had not deteriorated to the point they are now. Back then, the act of a couple moving in together without benefit of marriage was still called by the pejorative expression “shacking up.” But the disintegration of God’s design for marriage was widely accepted – so widely accepted that I had no conception of the original design as I have explained it to you in this book. Thus I had no reason to look to the Bible, for I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I might not have let my behavior lapse into as many faults as my contemporaries, but we were all operating on the same value system, which we considered to be an evolved ethic of love.

 

To this day, 1960’s morality considers itself a moral improvement and triumph over 1950’s morality. As “the pill” had first enabled 1960’s morality, so Woodstock in 1969 cemented its identity and provided its experiential emblem. The die was cast. When the Supreme Court redefined marriage and the president designated Stonewall a national monument, these government functionaries were only working out the implications of a worldview adopted in the 1960’s. And as long as the Sexual Revolution occupies it place of privilege in the American consciousness, those implications will continue to unfold, with increasingly-ruinous effects.

 

I am most certainly not calling for a return to 1950’s morality. It was indeed a problematic morality, though not always for the reasons that my fellow baby boomers would give. Nor am I calling for a return to “traditional” values per se. Rather, I am calling for a return to biblical values. It was in 1978 at age 26 that I began to read the Bible seriously for the first time. That marked the beginning of my change in attitude about marriage. The “marriage” that baby boomers have relegated to mere ceremonial and legal status is not the marriage that is promoted in the Bible. Neither is the “true love” which they extol the love which is commended by the Bible – the former being selfish while the latter is selfless.

 

I was there when the Sexual Revolution took hold of the American imagination, and I have watched it tighten its grip ever since. By the grace of God, which has come to me primarily through the pages of the Bible, I have escaped the force of its grip. Yet I will not be satisfied until every last vestige of it is fully driven from my mind and it has begun to release its fierce grip on the minds of my countrymen…or I die trying.

 

 

This Book Versus the Sexual Revolution

 

Let me tell you why I am speaking so forcefully on this point. I wrote this book to honor marriage. I also wrote it as a polemic against the Sexual Revolution – a defense manual, if you will. This does not mean that this book has two purposes. It’s one and the same purpose. The purpose of the Sexual Revolution is to dishonor marriage. Therefore, a book that honors marriage in our age has to take on the greatest enemy of marriage in our age – which is the Sexual Revolution.

 

Satan’s purpose in the Sexual Revolution is to corrupt the world by corrupting marriage. We’ve talked about the strategic logic behind his taking that approach. People’s purpose in the Sexual Revolution is to live for the lusts of their flesh instead of the will of God. My purpose in writing this book is to give support to people who want to do the will of God instead of give in to the lusts of their flesh.

 

The Sexual Revolution is diametrically opposed to the will of God. People are on one side or the other. People who try to take a middle ground end up being opposed to God because God does not compromise His principles; He does not take up residence in the middle ground. People who support the Sexual Revolution are sexual revolutionaries, sexual rebels – whether they are willing to call themselves by these names or not. They are rejecting God’s pure design for marriage by accepting any other design.

 

The Sexual Revolution is evil to its core. It is a poisonous vine with many branches. You don’t have to have contact with all its branches to be poisoned. It only takes contact with one. I have yet to find a single plank in the platform of the Sexual Revolution that is not rotted. There is nothing good about it. It does not get better if you take it in smaller doses.

 

Sexual revolutionaries will not admit to their immorality. On the contrary, they ascribe immorality to the Christians who honor marriage and refuse to dishonor it. They will call you every name in the book if you resist them.

 

I am writing forcefully because I want – while you are midway through this book – to sharpen your understanding of the focus of the book and its message. In the world we live in today, it’s either honor marriage or succumb to the Sexual Revolution. And that revolution is coming at you and your children and your grandchildren practically every book, every television show, every movie that there is. Sometimes it’s subtle and sometimes it’s blatant. Sometimes it’s obvious and sometimes it’s not. But in all cases it’s coming. And it’s going to keep coming until we overcome it “by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.” This book is for the purpose of strengthening your testimony.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 12 – The War on Marriage Rages

 

Having discussed the birth of the Sexual Revolution, we want now to trace the broad outlines of its advance in our culture – and the destruction it is leaving in its wake. The 1960’s were merely the beginning of the harm it has done.

 

 

The March of the Sexual Revolution

 

Proponents of the Sexual Revolution consider themselves progressive and innovative thinkers, yet their attitudes are as old as Sodom and Gomorrah. Nevertheless, technology does seem to be providing new techniques for resisting God’s ways. Here are a few of the “innovative” and “advanced” defilements of marriage that have come to us since the birth of the Sexual Revolution.

 

Pre-Marital Sex. Baby boomers used “true love” to justify sexual encounters outside of marriages, but millennials don’t even need that for what has come to be called “hook-ups.” Smartphones provide handy dating apps which facilitate casual sexual encounters. Even the ubiquitous FaceBook got its start as a way for college students to rate one another’s looks.

 

Abortion. Technically speaking, this is murder and not a sexual sin. However, it is most often sexual sin that precedes it and sets the context for it. Our country legalized this form of brutality in 1973 and it has been increasingly celebrated as a human right essential to the freedom and equality of women. In the original Supreme Court decision, there were restrictions on abortion relative to the “trimester” to which the child had progressed. Those restrictions, however, have been relaxed to the point that there is today an effective right to abortion-on-demand with the only requirement being the unilateral decision of the mother.

 

Reproductive Technology. While abortion and the resistance to it have played out in public arena, the development and deployment of reproductive technology techniques have taken place for the most part well outside of public scrutiny. These techniques include artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, cloning, embryonic splitting, assisted reproductive technology (ART), and much more. I’m not suggesting that any use of technology in human reproduction is necessarily sinful. What I am saying is such techniques seem to be employed without sufficient ethical, religious, or even legal oversight. Therefore, it is their relatively unexamined and unrestrained practice that is so alarming. One obviously problematic example is that sperm and eggs are being separated from the males and females from whom they came, then sold to and stored in “banks” from which they are sold in the marketplace – constantly increasing the number of “donor-conceived” children who do not know either the mother or father who gave them life.

 

Divorce. Of course, divorce had its beginnings in antiquity, but modern wrinkles includes divorce-on-demand and unilateral divorce. Divorce-on-demand effectively became the law of the land when judicial “speed bumps” to divorce were removed in state laws so that couples could become divorced with minimal explanations to authorities; previously, one of the parties usually had to demonstrate adultery, abuse, or abandonment. Unilateral divorce makes divorce even easier by allowing one party to terminate the marriage without the consent of the other; resistance by the other party is practically useless. Unilateral, on-demand divorce makes marriage vows essentially meaningless.

 

Pornography. This activity was considered rampant in the 1960’s with magazines such as Playboy and Hustler. However, access to pornography in magazines then pales in comparison to current access through the internet. So much is this the case that Playboy recently pulled back from providing graphic content saying that it could not compete with all that was freely-available on the internet. While hard-core pornography is practically ubiquitous and free, it at least can be avoided. Soft-core pornography, however, shows up in places that take much more effort to ignore. Society is becoming so hardened to provocative images that many people no longer recognize the sensuality in them that is appealing to their lusts.

 

LGBT political activism. Resistance to God’s design for marriage and family has reached an unprecedented level in American culture with the rise of the powerful political lobby known as LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender; also known as LGBTQ or similar constructions). Through the exercise of political, media, and legal power, they have succeeded in legitimizing homosexuality and other sexual deviancies while simultaneously delegitimizing Christian opposition to such practices. By such political efforts, so-called “same-sex marriage” (“SSM” – the quote marks indicate the inappropriateness of the term) has become the law of the land and transgenderism (the idea that a person can change his gender) has become a widely-accepted notion – so much so that whereas homosexuality used to be considered immoral now homophobia is, and whereas transgenderism used to be considered delusional now transphobia is considered a kind of prejudice and discrimination akin to racism. As if the power exercised by this political faction were not obvious enough by these changes, it can also be seen in comparing it to the political power formerly exercised by such Christian factions as the Moral Majority (Jerry Falwell), the Christian Coalition (Pat Robertson), and the American Family Association (Donald Wildmon), mainly during the 1980’s and 1990’s. Even at the height of their powers, these Christian political organizations were never able to galvanize government, media, and business support for their interests to the degree that the anti-marriage organizations have been able to do.

 

There have been many pathological consequences of the Sexual Revolution. I have only given you a representative sampling of its most current effects.

 

 

Ideological Allies

 

The Sexual Revolution, of course, did not occur in a vacuum. There have been other trends at work over the last five or six decades that have had their impact on marriage and the rebellion against it. These include an increasing acceptance of drugs, greater access to gambling, and other social pathologies. I could not possibly survey them all. However, there are three trends that I want to highlight because they have been particularly useful to the supporters of the Sexual Revolution.

 

 

Ideological Ally: Feminism

 

Depending on how you define feminism, it has been at work in America in one form or another throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Women gained the right to vote in the 1920’s and expanded their role in the workplace significantly in the 1940’s. Like any social movement for good, however, it eventually develops negative aspects – especially once it achieves its original purposes. I’m referring to the fact that leaders of social movements are out of a job – that is, out of power, money, and prestige – if they ever admit that their movement’s goals have been largely achieved. Oh, yes, they could declare victory move on to other activities, but human beings are often weak and so it is more often the case that such leaders keep inventing new goals for the movement or keep insisting that the original goals still haven’t been met. That way, these leaders can hold on to their positions of power and privilege.

 

If the original goal of feminism was to obtain regard for women as the equal of men, that was achieved a long time ago. I can’t think of a single person I have ever known who thinks men are better than women. Maybe some of them think it secretly, but, if so, they are awfully good at hiding it. And if they’re hiding it, what problem are they causing?

 

Nevertheless, feminist leaders continue to talk about a “war on women” as if one actually existed. The press dutifully reports it while, ironically, ignoring the actual war against marriage that is taking place. The latest “victory” in the women’s movement is that American military forces are opening up all combat positions to women. I don’t have the time in this book to argue with you if you think this is a good idea, so I’ll just say that it’s foolish to expect women to meet the same physical standards as men, foolish to put women and men in constant proximity to one another without expecting consequences other than military ones, and foolish to put potential mothers in harm’s way – particularly in view of how vicious, brutal, and heartless are some of America’s enemies these days. Are men who support this idea devoid of any desire to keep their sisters and daughters away from these animals?

 

The ideological absurdity at the heart of today’s feminism is make sure women are allowed to do every single thing a man can do. That’s what feminists believe will be true glory for women. Yet the glory of women is in what they can do that men cannot – most notably, bring new life into the world. Therefore, feminists are trying to get women to exchange the glory of being a woman for the glory of being a man. That’s like a king trading a crown that fits him for one that won’t. A woman has been given ultimate glory by God. Any man obtuse enough to ignore it is not going to have his eyes opened by a woman beating him in an athletic contest. A clear-headed man, by contrast, sees the glory of a woman not in how many push-ups she can do in a PT test, but rather in the pain she endures when pushing a baby out of her womb.

 

The absurdity of modern feminism manifests itself in a variety of ways. One of the most common is in writing. We are never supposed to talk about “him” without mentioning “her.” As a result, a man or woman reading a book must learn from it what matters most to him or her because that’s what’s important in his or her life. Do we really have to endure such bloated sentences for women to think they’re the equal of men? Don’t women already know that?

 

Do you remember this paragraph that I wrote earlier in this book?

 

(Let me interrupt myself and make sure you understand that throughout this book, as well as elsewhere, I use the term “man” in the same way that the Bible does. That is, sometimes it means “human beings” and therefore refers to males and females – such as “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love…” (1 Corinthians 13:1). Other times, it means males as distinguished from females – such as “Assemble the people, the men and the women and children…” (Deuteronomy 31:12). Of course, it’s context that reveals which meaning is intended in any specific occurrence. The same goes for pronouns, such as “he” or “his.” Now back to the point I was about to make.)

 

Human beings have written this way for thousands of years, but modern feminism has decided it’s a vestige of patriarchy and demeans women. I think women are astute enough to know when a masculine pronoun means men and when it means men or women. It seems condescending toward them to assume they are that unimaginative.

 

If I’m reading a book with a passage about heavy machinery and the author uses a female pronoun when referencing the operator because he wants to make clear to readers that he believes women can be just as good at operating heavy machinery as men, I feel like he has changed the subject from heavy machinery to women’s rights. If you want to write a book about women’s rights, then write it, but don’t complicate every other book you write by feeling the need to substitute “she” for “he” just to make sure no one thinks you’re a male chauvinist pig. It’s all become tedious and silly, and even more so now that the concept of transgenderism has come along to further trivialize the subject of gender.

 

Another absurdity of modern feminism is that it insists that a woman should not be dependent on a man, while, without admitting it, encouraging women to be dependent on the government – whether for abortion, welfare, or child care. Married women tend to vote for the party of less government while single women tend to vote for the party of more government. Somehow, in the eyes of feminism, these single women are considered independent. How is it better to be married to the government than to a man? At least the man is there with you in the night to take a baseball bat to any intruders.

 

I am decrying feminism not so much because it induces women to give up the glory they have in the sight of God in order to seek what glory they might find in the sight of men, which it does, and which is bad enough as it is, but rather because proponents of the Sexual Revolution hide behind feminism’s skirts in order to justify abortion. That is, feminism and the Sexual Revolution are accomplices in the mass murder that is legalized abortion.

 

Sexual libertines want to kill babies because babies are incredibly inconvenient. Yet even the most debauched pro-choicer doesn’t want to admit that he wants to kill babies for the sake of convenience. Therefore, the issue is framed as “a woman’s choice.” The baby – even if female – is left completely out of consideration. Aren’t the pro-choicers brave and noble! They are not against babies, they are for women. Bravo! That’s why I say that abortion is the most sickening aspect of the intersection of the Sexual Revolution and Feminism.

 

We speak of the war against marriage as a spiritual battle, or as a battle for the mind. And it is. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t flesh and blood consequences. Real babies with real blood are dying at the hands of abortionists and the fathers and mothers who give these butchers their assignments. It’s bad enough that the children are killed, but that the killing takes place in the name of liberating women is diabolically hypocritical.

 

 

Ideological Ally: Secular Science

 

There was a time when science was pursued for the glory of God. No more. Science has become almost completely secularized. There are still Christian involved in scientific activity, but they have to be very careful about how they speak of their faith in the scientific context. As a result of the secularization of science, it is now being used as an alternative to faith in God – a form of idolatry that has been called “scientism.”

 

Scientism is excessive trust in scientific knowledge and methods. This has been a growing trend for over 150 years – that is, since Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species. Renowned evolutionary biologist and militant atheist Richard Dawkins has famously said, “Although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” Dawkins is claiming that Darwin’s work gave the world permission to leave God out of any discussion of science or even out of any scientific discussion of life.

 

As evolutionary theory has permeated every corner of our educational system, it has driven out references to our Creator – so much so that even the suggestion of “Intelligent Design” as a form of Neo-Darwinism sets off alarm bells that call the sentinels of science who come running desperately to keep it out of the classrooms at all costs. I’m alluding to the 2005 New Jersey court case which ruled it illegal to teach intelligent design alongside evolutionary theory in public schools. Such legal prohibitions are sought by people who consider themselves intellectually fulfilled?

 

Scientism is the logical consequence of Naturalism – the belief that the natural world is all that exists and that supernatural or spiritual explanations are unwarranted. This is clearly a religious, not a scientific, point of view. Similarly, atheists like Dawkins wax exceeding strident, mocking believers, and yet seeming to be unaware that their message amounts to “There is no god and I hate him.” Of course, not all scientists are atheists, and the ones who are, aren’t necessarily like Dawkins. Yet, the general tone of science has become increasingly hostile to any references to God.

 

A science that is practiced without reference to God- that is, a secular science – is a science without a moral anchor. It’s a science that will be tossed and turned whichever way the winds of expedience will take it. Secular science could create “the pill” but could not provide any objective moral guidance as to its use. The more science does for us, the more it needs moral guidance. If science itself cannot provide that guidance, and if science itself disallows guidance from God, then how can science receive the moral guidance needed for its use? The answer is that it can’t.

 

Notwithstanding the limits of science we have just discussed, consider how the “findings” of both natural science and social science have been used to advance the Sexual Revolution. For example, we now have the supposedly scientific notion of “sexual orientation.” We are told that this orientation is set before birth and that it is immutable. Oddly, we are also told that “gender identity” is an equally scientific notion, but that it can be changed at will. These notions contradict each other, and both notions fly in the face of biblical revelation about male and female.

 

The Bible says God makes humans male and female, yet science supposed says, “No, He makes them heterosexual and homosexual – or, as we’re taught to say it, “straight and gay.” No one can point to this orientation in the human body and yet we’re supposed to believe that it’s there and can’t be changed. Yet when it comes to “gender identity” we have clear physical evidence in the human body for male or female and we’re told that science says these signs may belie reality and that, in any case, the decision to change can be made at any time – and changed back again at any time. Anyone who believes that a male can be made a female, or vice versa, by some cutting, sewing, and hormonal injections is delusional.

 

It’s not new that there are men in mental hospitals who think they are women. What is new is the vast number of people willing to affirm the reality of such a delusion. It’s secular science that has enabled us to descend to this sort of mass madness. There’s nothing else to call it when lots of people think gender, which you can see, can be changed, but orientation, which you cannot see, cannot be changed.

 

Why are we even looking to science – much less, secular science – for moral guidance? It has none to give. Scientific discoveries can overturn ancient conceptions of the physical world, but how could scientific discoveries overturn the moral strictures of the prophets, apostles, and Jesus? That is, science should be able to overturn science, and it often does, but it should not be able to overturn biblical morality. They are different fields of knowledge.

 

Proponents of secular science get to have it both ways. They declare that they are “not in the God business,” but end up imposing their view of morality on society. When they provide the means for, say, “safe sex” they are implying that biblical strictures that declare sexual immorality to be unsafe (such as “fornicators and adulterers God will judge” – Hebrews 13:4) are not to be trusted. Thus such proponents have seated themselves in God’s place at the table.

 

The Sexual Revolution and secular science make common cause when they agree that it is unnecessary and even counterproductive for anyone to consult God about what’s within their purview. The findings of science are selectively used to buttress the claims of the sexual revolutionaries. Anyone who thinks otherwise is “anti-science” and therefore backward. Probably bigoted, too. The alliance between sexual revolutionaries and secular scientists has effectively stigmatized the Christian conception of marriage in public discourse.

 

 

Ideological Ally: The Civil Rights Movement

 

Speaking of bigots, racism has been the third great ally of the Sexual Revolution. Through the crucible of emancipation in the 1860’s and civil rights in the 1960’s, African-Americans have provided the main theme of today’s version of the American civil religion. The word “religion” is ironic because it’s become a worldview without God. That is, today’s civil religion in America is almost entirely secular. Slavery is America’s “original sin,” and salvation is defined as freedom from discrimination, provided by government – not by God.

 

With the backdrop of such a narrative, sexual revolutionaries are working into the legal code of the United States protected status for “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (SOGI, as it’s called by the legal practitioners and those who follow such things). Thus the list of categories that cannot be discriminated against has gotten quite long. As Americans, we used to say that don’t discriminate based on race or creed; now it’s “age, race, creed, color, sex, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, marital status or socioeconomic status.” There are problems with such a long list. First, it becomes increasingly difficult and time-consuming to think through all these categories when making decisions. Second, with every new protected class added to the list comes the potential for conflict with a class on the list.

 

There is certainly a conflict between “creed” and “religion” on the one hand and “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” on the other. And it’s the SOGI classes, because of their political upper hand, who are winning out in those conflicts. The political upper hand is maintained by portraying SOGI people as the oppressed who are seeking freedom. In this view, “creed” and “religion” people are the oppressors who must be stripped of their power to oppress. The Civil Rights Movement provides the vocabulary and the emotional narrative analogy to transfer protected status from those seeking freedom of religion to those seeking freedom of sex.

 

Think about how dramatically America’s self-perception has changed in the process. Consider the freedom sought by the original settlers of America. Generally speaking, they sought freedom from the persecution they faced in Europe for their faith. They were willing to risk life on the other side of a large ocean, among savages, and with no guarantees of safety, for the right to worship God without interference. Now contrast those settlers with those who are currently seeking freedom today. The freedom-seekers of our generation want the right to practice sex without negative consequence. They want government support for any children conceived, and they want to right to kill them at will. They are seekers of pleasure. This is how dramatically America’s moral direction has changed. It was originally populated by people seeking the freedom to be worshipful; it is now populated by people seeking the freedom to be sexually promiscuous – oh, and celebrated as heroic for doing so.

 

Racism and the Civil Rights Movement provides sexual revolutionaries with the political cover and American civil religion justification for the licentious course of the Sexual Revolution. They have successfully cast sex as a civil right, replacing marriage as a civic responsibility. As a result, we are called to honor those who defy marriage as we have honored those who defied slavery and those who defied segregation. The confluence of the Sexual Revolution and the Civil Rights Movement has been as energizing for the Sexual Revolution as has been its confluence with feminism and secular science. Since the Sexual Revolution already had great energy, these additional forces have transformed it into a seemingly unstoppable force. Feminism and secular science set the stage, and the Civil Rights Movement vaulted the Sexual Revolution to a commanding position in the political structure, even fundamentally transforming the legal code, of what was once a Christian nation.

 

 

The Sexual Revolution Is a Cancer

 

The Sexual Revolution is not only a raging battle in Satan’s war on marriage, it is a cancer. People with cancer talk about “fighting” their disease. No cancer deserves to be fought harder than the Sexual Revolution. Like a cancer, it is growing without restraint. It has been metastasizing throughout society. It is consuming healthy marriages and replacing them with false and abnormal facsimiles in the same way that cancer consumes a body’s healthy cells and replaces them with abnormal ones. (Recall the likeness of family to an atom with marriage as its nucleus.) Like a cancer, the Sexual Revolution will continue destroying every cell in its path. It cannot be redeemed; it is malignant. It must be eradicated.

 

Everything about the Sexual Revolution is intended by Satan to enslave people to their lusts. According to Satan’s will, this movement divorces sex from marriage; it steals sex from marriage; it puts asunder that which God forever joined together: sex and marriage. The Sexual Revolution steals sex from marriage, it kills marriage by eviscerating it, and it destroys people by destroying the families of which they are a part, accomplishing that by destroying the marriage that is at its heart. Thus the Sexual Revolution steals, kills, and destroys just as Satan does (John 10:10).

 

The adherents of the Sexual Revolution don’t consciously share Satan’s goal to steal, kill and destroy. These people are just out to have fun. They think they are seeking freedom but is only slavery that they find – enslavement to their lusts. The apostle Paul described the essence of the Sexual Revolution long ago. It’s not a new idea. It’s just being practiced to a high degree and is supported by technology like never before.

 

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

- Romans 1:18-32

 

Paul is telling us that if we turn from God, we’ll only adopt false gods. Therefore, if we turn from God’s design for marriage, we’ll only practice false marriages. Paul also shows us how a hyper-sexualized society incites lust among the population. The indulgence of lust leads only to more lust. That’s the enslavement. Lust cannot be satisfied; it can only be stoked. That why, if it is not denied, it keeps leading to more perversity among more people.

 

The cancer that is the Sexual Revolution is leaving an increasing number of victims in its wake, but none more vulnerable or tragic than children. The Sexual Revolution sacrifices the well-being of children so that adults may pursue pleasure. This is most obvious in the case of abortion, but it’s also true in many cases where it’s less apparent – such as divorce. Children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of adult self-seeking. They lack the maturity to fully understand what is being done to them, and so they hardly know how to raise their voices in protest. I cannot think of any aspect of the Sexual Revolution that does not harm children either in a general or specific sense. Since God created marriage for the well-being of children, and since the Sexual Revolution is a war on marriage, this should not surprise us.

 

Whether victimizing adults or children, Satan wages his war on marriage through lies – for lies are his stock-in-trade. One of the biggest lies of the Sexual Revolution is that it represents something new for the human race. On the contrary, “the new morality is the old immorality.” The only thing that’s new is the packaging – the legitimizing of that which is inherently illegitimate, the celebrating of that which deserves to be mourned. We have come to deserve the woe pronounced by Isaiah:

 

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;

Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness;

Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes

And clever in their own sight!

Woe to those who are heroes in drinking wine

And valiant men in mixing strong drink,

Who justify the wicked for a bribe,

And take away the rights of the ones who are in the right! – Isaiah 5:20-23

 

Our generation calls evil good, and good evil. Woe is us.

 

The cancer rages on. We ignore it to our peril. To see the Sexual Revolution as anything less than Satan’s latest vicious attack on God’s design for marriage is to misunderstand it. Its fury has been rising throughout my lifetime. It will not be pacified with victory; its hunger for destruction is insatiable. How shall we defend against it? By God’s grace, there is hope for us. The next three chapters are about finding the grace to live holy in the midst of a society crumbling around us…and to be a refuge for them when they come to their senses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 13 – Defending Marriage Through Public Policy

 

America is a republican democracy or a democratic republic, depending on your choice of terms. In either case, it is a nation in which citizens are expected to participate in their governance, at the very least by voting. As Christians, we want to fulfill our God-given duty to be good citizens, to be good neighbors. In the case of marriage, this means asking ourselves about the place it should occupy in public policy discussions.

 

 

Should Marriage Be Addressed by Public Policy?

 

Some Christians have sought to cope with the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision by saying that the government should get out of the marriage business altogether. Here’s their thinking: If the government stops regulating marriages, then it will be incapable of redefining marriage because it will have no say in the matter. There are two problems with this line of reasoning.

 

The first problem is that proponents of same-sex marriage desperately want the public approval that the government’s legal sanction gives it. Remember that homosexual couples were living together in what at least some of them considered to be marriage long before 2015. What Obergefell gave them was official public approbation and certain legal rights of married couples. Both are important to them, and both would go away if government ceased to recognize marriage at all. LGBTQ activists – and they are a powerful political lobby – are not going to willingly give this up.

 

The second problem with this line of reasoning is that it is actually beneficial and important for society to regulate marriage through its government. To leave it unregulated would invite eventual chaos and anarchy. Let me explain.

 

For the first nine months, a human life is completely dependent upon the mother. Even after that period of complete dependency, it will take roughly twenty years before that child can achieve fully-independent status as a responsible adult. Two decades! From where is that twenty years of care going to come – who’s going to provide it? The most appropriate and efficient source is the man and woman who collaborated to produce that child. To the degree than one or both of those people renege on that responsibility, society has to pick up the cost. That can be quite expensive, especially when you consider the numerous difficulties – social, educational, economic, and so on – that children of single-parent families encounter relative to the children of stable father-mother households. Therefore, it is in society’s interest to regulate and incentivize the relationship between the mother and father so that they will stick together and take care of any children they produce. The fewer of those new human beings who have to be supported by tax-payers, the better. Hence, laws about marriage. That’s the reason government has an interest in marriage.

 

If there were no possibility of children being produced from a relationship, there would be no justification for government involvement in that relationship. What right or compelling interest does the government have in regulating romantic relationships? None. Do we want the government deciding who our friends are and what the shape of those relationship should be? No. If you want to share things with another adult, the two of you write a contract and sign it. The government will guarantee the enforcement of it. But why should the government have the right to define the conditions of that contract for you? They shouldn’t. Your relationship cannot produce children so it’s none of the government’s business what conditions the two of you want to live by.

 

On the other hand, society, through its government, has every reason to be concerned about the children who are coming into the world every hour of every day. It has a keen interest in making sure that someone is taking care of all those children. Over 40% of them coming into the world these days, at least in America, are coming into single-parent households. Who is going to bear the costs of these children that the single parent (almost always a female) cannot afford? Society. This will be in the form of food stamps and other tax incentives and payments. And the costs are eventually going to be more than society can afford, if they’re not already. Out-of-wedlock births are going to bankrupt the country. As the nation’s debt approaches $20 trillion, I wonder how many more trillions it will take before they realize this? No, children are not the only reason that the debt keeps rising, but a nanny state is incredibly expensive.

 

Political conservatives are quick to see the logic here. Liberals and Libertarians also have reasons to see it, even though they generally don’t. Liberals have been saying for years “We should keep government out of the bedroom!” but applauded with vigor when the government’s sanctioning of bedrooms increased to include even non-procreative couples in 2015. Libertarians, who claim to prize the most limited of governments, likewise supported this massive and unwarranted expansion of government oversight. Thus do spiritual factors make people capable of thinking, speaking, and acting in contradiction to their own stated principles.

 

We’ve said that it takes a family, not a village, to raise a child. However, the village will either be a help to the parents or a hindrance to them. As I’ve shown you, the village has a legitimate interest – in fact, a compelling self-interest – in regulating marriage. Positively speaking, they want as many independent adults holding jobs and paying taxes as they can get; therefore, they want parents to raise their children to responsible adulthood so the children will eventually be paying taxes, too. Negatively speaking, they want to have as few dependent adults and children as possible; therefore, they do not want fathers or mothers abandoning the children they have produced. All in all, there are more than sufficient reasons for the village to take an interest in marriage.

 

We therefore have a government that is rightly involved in marriage policy, yet this government has unwisely redefined marriage. This leaves us with bad public policy regarding marriage. It’s bad because it destabilizes marriages and thereby threatens the well-being of children. If it’s not immediately obvious to you that this is the case, just consider for a moment that the legalization of “same-sex marriage” leads to the legitimization of such couples adopting children. Since such couples cannot produce children on their own, they will be dependent on some other male or female (or both) producing that child. Though “SSM” couples could restrict their adoptions to only those children already orphaned, they seem unlikely to do this. This means that many of the children to be adopted will be removed from one or both parents, which is hardly in the best interest of the child. Thus the legalization of “SSM” stimulates demand for fatherless and motherless children. What then do we do about this faulty public policy regarding marriage? Before answering this question, we first need to take stock of where we as Christians stand in the electorate. That is, how much influence do we have?

 

 

From Majority to Minority Status

 

America began as a Christian nation. It is now a secular nation. That’s a big change. It’s hard to pinpoint just when we ceased being one and began to be the other, but it’s beyond doubt that we’re the other now.

 

One way we know this is that Christians only fight defense in the culture wars. The Sexual Revolution has taken practically all the offensive stances in the culture war face-offs. Economic conservatives, who are often political allies of Christians, say to us, “You Christians ought to just drop the social issues; your focus on them is inhibiting our ability to attract independents and moderates to vote with us on other issues.” But since we engage in culture war activity only as a defensive measure, for us to quit the battle would mean unconditional surrender. And the sexual revolutionaries will just press for the next perversion, which will be worse than the previous one.

 

Religious conservatives girded their loins in 1996 and passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defined marriage for federal purposes as the union of one man and one woman. It passed in the House of Representatives 342-65 and in the Senate 84-14. Yet despite these overwhelming majorities, it was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in the 2013 U.S. v. Windsor case. This set the stage for the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision which redefined marriage so as to legitimize and dignify homosexuality. Since this time, religious conservatives have given up on marriage policy and have retreated to defending religious liberty – saying, in essence, “Do what you want but leave us out of it.” That doesn’t seem to be working any better. Since then, in almost every skirmish over religious freedom, it is characterized by its opponents as “discrimination.” And the opponents have been consistently winning the skirmishes on that basis.

 

Simultaneously, Christian bakers, florists, and wedding photographers have been fined, harassed, and otherwise coerced into either supporting wedding ceremonies they conscientiously believe are blasphemous no matter how well-intentioned. There is no way of knowing how many more such vendors might have quietly gone out of that line of business, or perhaps out of business altogether, so as to avoid the coercion and the spotlight.

 

The rapid rise in the political power of LGBTQ groups has coincided with the swift decline in power by Christian lobbying groups. Politics has been, at least in this case, a zero-sum game, with one side gaining at the other’s expense. Yet these anti-Christian forces are displaying an ability to shut down resistance to a degree I have never seen displayed by Christian political forces. It’s stunning.

 

I could marshal more evidence, but surely we can see that America is now a secular nation and Christians are a minority in it. Further, they are even a minority within the Republican party. Our political influence is the weakest I have seen it in over half a century. And it’s still declining, even as I type. If we are going to attempt continued defense of marriage in the realm of public policy, we have to recognize the weakened minority status we hold in the electorate and manage our expectations.

 

 

Managing Our Expectations

 

Our options to improve public policy on marriage are currently limited. We lack the political clout to do anything major; we need therefore to find “half a loaf” where we can, lest we end up with none. If we can achieve minor successes, that’s about the best we could hope for unless and until revival and repentance turn things around.

 

Our options are limited, not merely because of our minority status as Christians, but also because the country has gone way off its constitutional rails. That is, it’s not just that Christian have less influence over the country, it’s that the rule of law has less sway as well. The Supreme Court now routinely see rights in the Constitution that no honest and reasonable reader can find there. It used to be that that revered document was the law of the land; now the Constitution and the law of the land are whatever the Supreme Court says they are. And it’s not just the Supreme Court that has been striking down existing laws to make their own. Between all the laws that are made by judicial fiat in lower courts, and all the laws that presidents make by executive order, and all the laws that federal agencies make by their rules and regulations, it appears that Congress, the legislative branch of government, makes the fewest laws of any of the branches of government. And yet they are supposed to be the legislative branch! And even when Congress does make laws, the executive branch often overrides them with executive orders or else the judicial branch rules them unconstitutional. The idea of a separation of powers and balance between the three branches of government that was held so dear by America’s founders seems quaint and bears little resemblance to the way American government actually operates today. Making matters worse, government in total has far more power over our lives than it has ever had before and than was ever envisioned by our founders.

 

Even though we dedicated Christians are in the minority, and even though the operations of our leviathan government bear decreasing resemblance to their original design, I don’t think we can afford to forsake our responsibilities as citizens. If we withdraw from voting and speaking out, then marriage policy will only deteriorate more quickly. We are the salt, and the meat just spoils faster without it.

 

As for voting, we are seldom going to find a candidate who excites us these days. Therefore, it’s a matter of choosing the better of whichever two choices you are given (or, to frame it negatively, the lesser of two evils), for it usually comes down to two. Let our every vote count and let’s remember that even when we lose, voting is better than not voting because it keeps us in the game.

 

As for speaking, how much can we expect unbelievers to listen to us? Well, we have to distinguish between open-minded people and close-minded people. We’re wasting our time to explain our position to close-minded people. But there are people sitting on or near the fence, and they will give us a hearing. We want them most to hear about the Lord, but when they hear our common-sense views on specific issues it may cause them to realize we might be right about their need for the Lord, too.

 

Jesus Himself has told us to be selective about what and to whom we speak:

 

“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”

- Matthew 7:6

 

Obviously, it’s not the open-minded who are likely to trample our arguments under foot and tear us to pieces.

 

As for which issues to address, I think the recent pivot to religious liberty is a mistake. We should stay on marriage. To defend marriage has the potential to help everyone. We therefore need to stay on that subject. It’s not that we can change their minds at this point; it’s to keep them aware of the fact that they haven’t changed ours. That keeps the standard alive in their minds, to which they might one day return. On the other hand, if we fight instead for religious liberty, we would be seeking to help ourselves. Religious liberty means we get to do what’s right in God’s sight with regard to marriage without being persecuted for it. We should, however, forego the exemption from persecution.

 

We should not seek religious liberty for two reasons. First, if they didn’t listen to us on marriage, they won’t listen to us when we ask to be conscientious objectors to their idea of marriage. To put it another way, if they wouldn’t listen to God about marriage, they won’t listen to us about religious liberty. If anyone is in doubt about this, just look at what’s happened since Obergefell. The other side is not granting any exemptions for bowing the knee to their god. And irreligious people, by definition, have little interest in religious liberty…or religious anything! Second, we should just exercise our religious liberty irrespective of whether or not they’re willing to grant it. Our commitment to obey Jesus’ teachings doesn’t just include those teachings for which we are granted religious liberty by surrounding society. We honor all His teachings…regardless of the personal cost to ourselves. This is why He told us to “count the cost” before we choose to follow Him.

 

Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’.”

- Luke 14:25-30 [emphasis added]

 

Part of that cost is persecution, for the apostle Paul wrote:

 

Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

- 2 Timothy 3:12

 

We are going to be persecuted for our views on marriage. It’s already started. We can’t act like it’s optional.

 

Now, I often hear Christian leaders saying things like this:

 

“When you consider the persecution that Christians in the Middle East are facing – confiscation of all their property, physical abuse, and even death by beheading – it’s not reasonable or appropriate to talk about persecution in America.”

 

I agree in part and disagree in part.

 

I agree that our brothers and sisters suffering in the Middle East deserve honor in our sight and that, insofar as I know, there are no Christians in America facing that degree or that kind of hostility. I disagree that nothing American Christians are experiencing deserves to be called persecution. I see many Christians losing income, assets, promotions at work, and even their means of livelihood. It’s easiest to see in the small business owners of florists, bakers, and wedding photographers, but it’s happening in other occupations, too. Anyone who does not toe the politically-correct line with respect to attitudes toward homosexuality, “SSM,” “transgenderism,” and other current culture-war issues, is stigmatized and ostracized with vehemence. And social media has become a powerful tool for expressing the vehemence. Persecution is actual and it is substantial in some American lives.

 

Therefore, though persecution of Americans is not as painful as that being experienced by Christians in the Middle East, it is significant and we’re callous if we overlook our brethren here at home who are paying a real price for their faith in Jesus and allegiance to His ways. They deserve our respect. They are setting an example for the rest of us. None of us should ever seek persecution, but neither should we be surprised by it, or be cowed by it, when it comes. The honor of marriage makes suffering for it worthwhile.

 

Therefore, in the short term, we should expect persecution and only minor policy successes. We should not expect a secular America to vote and act like a Christian America, but we can pray that America will become Christian once again. If we are faithful in our witness to Christ and His view of marriage, we might just be part of His work to accomplish that.

 

 

Strategy and Tactics

 

We must play for the long term. We must believe in a multi-generational strategy. That is, if our generation doesn’t succeed in turning hearts to the Lord, then our children will build on our efforts, and their generation will turn hearts to the Lord. And if they don’t succeed then their children will build on the efforts of our and our children’s generation…and so on. God works for the long term, so we should, too. Even Satan works through a multi-generational strategy, so we should, too.

 

Remember that the devil has advanced the Sexual Revolution strategically, one stage at a time. For example, “same-sex marriage” would never have become law if divorce-on-demand and unilateral divorce had not become law first. The reason so many couples are willing to jump into “SSM” is because they know they can jump right out of it pretty much any time they want. We have to be similarly savvy in promulgating the ways of the Lord, recognizing that some principles need to be accepted before others can be recognized.

 

We must remember also to stay on message and stay on guard against faulty and disingenuous arguments. Each stage of the Sexual Revolution has been advanced by making such arguments. For example, they argued for abortion on the basis of hard cases like rape and endangerment of the life of the mother…but never intended to limit abortion to those cases. They just used those rare cases to open the door for all cases. Similarly, when they were pursuing legalization of “SSM,” they told Christians to stay out of it because it would have no effect on Christians. Yet the effect on us began as soon as the Supreme Court’s gavel came down. I could go on with examples of both their tactics and Satan’s. (The two sets of tactics are not the same, but they work toward the same ends.) Let us be wise to their ways. As Jesus said, let us “be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).

 

Most of all, remember that all this is a warfare of the mind – Satan, and those who serve his purposes, want to wear you down. Don’t let them. Go to the Lord every day for the grace to stand firm every day. The battle we fight is primarily spiritual, not political. And just because we cannot currently win the world over through the ballot box, does not mean that we cannot win them over in other ways. In fact, our mission to be light to them (“You are the light of the world” – Matthew 5:14) begins with our example.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 14 – Defending Marriage Through Example

 

Okay, so our opportunities to defend the honor of marriage in the arena of public policy are limited. The good news is that there is no limitation whatsoever on our ability to defend its honor through our own example. I’m referring, of course, to the example of our own marriages. There’s no better or stronger defense of marriage than a successful marriage. In fact, one of the very best ways to defend the honor of marriage is to be in awe of it and to enjoy it.

 

 

A Caveat

 

In this chapter, I’m going to give advice about marriage – advice which at times goes beyond what the Lord specifically commands. Please regard such advice as just that, and no more. Moreover, even when you take any of the advice to heart, take it lightly. That is, do not become fixated on the specifics. This is the problem with much marriage and family advice: people can treat principles and examples as commandments. This is not wise. Be as smart as a cow: eat the hay and spit out the sticks.

 

If your situation is an exception to something I’m saying, let it be an exception. Don’t make a rule out of it. If I’m not making a rule of my advice, you shouldn’t make a rule of your exception. There’s no way that everything I say in this book can address every aspect of your situation. That’s why you have a Bible. That’s why you have prayer.

 

Also, be aware that I speak this advice primarily as a man to men. As you’ve seen is my custom, I trust the female readers among you to make allowances as you read to apply when and where appropriate to your own lives. You’re too smart to need me to be constantly reminding you of the similarities and differences between men and women. If I were reading a book by a woman, I would grant her the same latitude I’m asking you to grant me. (By the way, this manner of writing has served us well throughout the entirety of human history, right up until “five minutes ago.”)

 

 

Get Married

 

I was married at age 20 in 1972. Aside from accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior it was the most important, the most consequential, and the most beneficial decision of my life. We have now been married for 44 years; each year my heart grows more full of gratitude and happiness for her and for our marriage. God made her, and God designed the vehicle of marriage which has held us together and nourished us together all these years.

 

Some people today will think that 20 years old is too young to get married. In fact, I recall that some close friends of my parents told my wife and me that very thing when we became engaged. Fortunately, they kept their peace and supported us when we politely declined to call it off. The wedding was scheduled for the week following my graduation from college. I had taken summer school and other extra courses in order to graduate early just so I could be married. We had been interested in each other for over three years. We were prepared to financially support ourselves. We neither sought nor received any financial help from our parents. In other words, we were fully prepared – and quite eager – to take on the full responsibilities of adulthood and marriage. Therefore, I don’t think age 20 was too young at all. If anything, I wish we had married sooner. At the time, however, we didn’t see a way to do that. Better late than never!

 

After 44 years of personal experience, do I recommend marriage? With every fiber of my being.

 

You may remember that I told you I started reading the Bible in earnest at age 26. I accepted Jesus as my Lord in that same year. One of the first things I told my wife as a result of this experience was “I know we’ll never be apart.” She was a little incredulous at first because we were like most couples our age, influenced by the mentality of the 1960’s, and therefore prone to put more faith in “as long as you both shall love” than in “the ink stains that have dried up on some line.” In fact, several of our friends who had married around the same time we did were already divorced, with some of them already on their second marriages. Nevertheless, my wife soon began to see that the work the Lord had done in me was real and was substantial. As a result, I gained the grace and tools necessary to contribute more to our good marriage and make it something far better – something so much better than I had ever hoped. She, too, accepted Jesus and it caused her to blossom as a woman. Our love story went from black and white to color.

 

Most importantly, we were able to add three more children to the one we already had. Once all four of them had grown up and gotten out on their own, I realized something about myself: marriage had civilized me and having children had humbled me…and I had needed both. That is, I needed civilizing and I needed humbling. I began to say this to people whenever the subject of marriage and children came up. It has always gotten a laugh, but few people seem to realize how sincerely I hold this view and how profound its actual effect on me has been. Young men need civilizing and young married men need humbling.

 

When I see inner city gangs or riots with young men acting as a horde, I see how uncivilized is such a life. It’s like a pack of feral dogs prowling the streets. An individual dog is man’s best friend, but abandoned and left to packs of similarly abandoned dogs is a frightened and frightening animal. Marrying puts responsibilities on a man that cause him to stabilize. He wants to do a better job at work. He wants to get ahead. He wants to please his wife because he’s learned that nothing makes him feel more like living than when she’s proud of him and nothing makes him feel more like dying than when she’s ashamed of him. Young men, get married before you get into trouble. Find a woman worth sacrificing your life for and you’ll receive a life in return immeasurably greater than the one you gave up.

 

As for children, it breaks my heart to hear that 40% of American children are being born into single-parent homes. Where is the other parent? Both parents were together just nine months ago. What was so important that one of them couldn’t stick around to see the child they created? God grants the greatest pleasure in life to those willing to take on the greatest responsibility in life. Who are these people who take the pleasure and chuck the responsibility? They are not the civilized.

 

The Scriptures remind us of the illegitimacy of absentee fathers and the tragedy of forsaken children.

 

It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. – Hebrews 12:7-11

 

Having the child is the easy part – at least for the male. The hard part – the responsible part – is disciplining that child to adulthood. If God is not willing to sire us and walk away, then we must be prepared to care for those we have brought into the world. When we do, we spare the land from a curse.

 

“He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.”

- Malachi 4:6

 

America is experiencing a curse right now and only the return of the fathers to the children will remove it. Until then, we’re just going to see fatherless young men producing yet more fatherless young men.

 

Young men, get married and care for the children that your marriage produces. Nothing you do in life could ever be as important. And nothing you do in life will ever be as rewarding. Do this and you will come to find thrills in your own heart that you didn’t know could flow there. This is the greatest defense of marriage’s honor that you could ever undertake.

 

 

Stay Married

 

Divorce is more horrible than most adults realize. I say “adults” because children tend to understand the horror of divorce more than adults do. It’s just that children know they’re not supposed to complain about it. So they tend to suffer quietly. As I’ve said, the Sexual Revolution is all about adults getting what they want and children paying the price.

 

Think of what marriage is supposed to produce. A child looks up at his parents and sees reflections of his own face. He doesn’t always understand this…but it comforts him. A child’s looks are a blend of the looks of his parents. I can look at a child’s face and see the mother, and then see the father, and yet not know how the child can look like both at the same time. And another thing: how is it that a girl can look like her father and yet still look feminine? And a boy can look like his mother and still look masculine? It’s a wonder. Each child is a unique expression of your marriage. An echo of who you are as a couple. Their very being is worth pondering for this reason alone.

 

A child’s identity is derived from the union that produced him. Divorce therefore – by its very nature – fractures the child’s identity. And this is true whether the child is 4, 14, or 44. Why don’t parents understand that divorce splits a child’s personality; it pulls him in two different directions. Do you remember our discussion of the atom bomb? Split the nucleus of the atom and create the explosion. Divorce doesn’t just divide the parents – it immediately divides the child against himself. And don’t you remember that Jesus said:

 

“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.” – Mark 3:24

 

Oh, yes, it’s possible for the child of a divorce to overcome its devastation…but why put the child through that? Why add to his burdens in life?

 

While the children of divorce suffer the most, they are not the only ones who lose. The whole village loses. I still feel pain whenever I think of any of the couples I’ve known over the years who became divorced. I’m thinking right now of several of those couples. Some divorced over 20 years ago. Some over 40 years ago! And yet I still mourn for the loss of the marriage whenever they come to mind. Two really did become one flesh. They were one flesh to me…and that one flesh has been torn asunder. Don’t ever think your divorce is just between you and your spouse.

 

Since the 1950’s the idea of “sticking together for the kids’ sake” has been discredited, but tell me what is wrong with that idea. I don’t mean sticking together miserably; I mean working on your problems and sticking together happily. If you two can work out a joint child custody agreement why can’t you work out other agreements? The only reason you’re not working out agreements is that you’ve ceased to want to. In other words, it’s not a matter of ability; it’s a matter of will. And your will is something you can change.

 

I’m convinced that many people are getting divorced today simply because it is not occurring to them that it’s possible to turn things around. Societal norms have become such that whenever compatibility issues arise, divorce becomes the logical expectation. If, however, you make the decision that divorce is not an option, you will thereby have provided yourself the motivation to work through irritations and work out problems. In other words, if you’re disappointed with marriage you can do something constructive about the disappointment.

 

Even if your marriage doesn’t get better, it’s only temporary. That’s right. Marriage is a temporary state. When we go to heaven, there’s no male and female there. It’s hard for us to imagine this because we are wearing these heavy suits of flesh – whether a male suit or a female suit. Yet it’s true. Therefore, all you have to do is stick out your unpleasant marriage until death and you’re home free. In the light of eternity, that’s not very long at all.

 

Now I know some of you happily-married readers are becoming a little uncomfortable with this discussion because you don’t want your matrimonial happiness to end. You don’t like the idea of possibly losing track of your spouse in heaven. This is the time to fall back on your trust in God. I can’t easily imagine life in heaven spousewise either, but I am confident that whatever it’s like won’t be a disappointment – for her or for me. The bond between my wife and me is greater than flesh, and the One who forged it is not going to break it – even though I can’t picture exactly how He’s going to pull that off. A baby in the womb might never want to leave, might never be able to imagine that life outside the womb could be as good as life inside it. Yet life in the womb is not really living compared to life outside it. And so it is with life in heaven compared to life on earth. Which person is more capable of knowing and loving his mother – the child inside the womb or the child outside it? Remember also that marriage itself offers a world vastly superior to the one that preceded it. At least that’s the way you felt in the beginning. Just because we can’t foresee life in heaven is not reason to doubt that we’ll be thrilled with it – both individually and collectively. I have loved the arrangement I’ve had with my wife here on earth, and I know – by virtue of my well-founded trust in God’s goodness – that I will love whatever arrangement He grants us in heaven even more.

 

Back to the unhappily married, I don’t remind you that marriage is a temporary condition because I want you to merely endure it. I want you to enjoy it, too.

 

 

Endure and Enjoy Marriage

 

The key to a successful marriage is simple. Enjoy it. And when you can’t, endure it until you enjoy it again.

 

When you’re married, the time is going to come when you feel you’ve been wronged. In fact, it will happen more than once or twice. It will happen a lot. There will be little wrongs and big wrongs. Most people think that the key to a happy marriage is to minimize these. That’s why they’re constantly trying to change the spouse, who is the source of most of these wrongs. However, this never works. I’ve never met a person who was able to fix his spouse. Nor have I ever met a spouse who appreciated being fixed.

 

The solution to the wrongs that are done to you is to endure them until they stop. That shouldn’t be so hard. Christians are called to suffer.

 

For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, – 1 Peter 2:19-21

 

Someone will say, “But, Mike, isn’t that passage talking about unbelievers treating us harshly – not a Christian spouse?” No. If you’ll read this passage in context you’ll see that it’s an instruction to servants about how to respond to harsh treatment from masters. It then goes on to say:

 

In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your husbands…

- 1 Peter 3:1

 

So the wife is supposed to respond to harsh treatment in the same way as the mistreated servant. Peter keeps going and says:

 

You husbands likewise live with your wives in an understanding way…

- 1 Peter 3:7

 

So the husband, too, is to “likewise” respond to harsh treatment. It sounds like Jesus thinks husbands and wives might be treating each other as enemies. Indeed that is exactly the way He described it when He said:

 

“…A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD.” – Matthew 10:36 [quoting Micah 7:6]

 

Now we can better appreciate why Jesus said:

 

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” – Luke 6:27-28

 

The Christian life is a life of turning the other cheek, as Jesus did. If Jesus expects us to do this with our neighbor, how much more in our family? And if in our family, how more with our spouse.

 

The ancient Job wisely said to his wife:

 

Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” – Job 2:10

 

If Job felt that way about God, would he feel differently toward his wife? No. Job would have accepted his wife as a package deal – the bad with the good.

 

The good news about this sort of godly endurance is that it does eventually “fix” the spouse – by the combination of changing both of you.

 

If the Christian life will not make a marriage better, how can it make any of life better? What Christ revealed to us is that the more love endures, the more it ultimately enjoys. Conversely, the less we’re willing to endure, the less we ultimately enjoy. And, as Paul said:

 

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

 

When love endures all things, it ends up changing all things. How do you think it was that you ever became more loving toward God? By His endurance through all those times you didn’t love Him. Baby boomers can sing “All you need is love” as long as they want, but the “love” they extol has nothing to do with this love. This love endures all things.

 

 

Remembering the New Testament Standard for Marriage

 

If we want to experience marriage the way Jesus intends it, we must remember our study of the New Testament standard for fidelity in marriage that He gave.

 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” – Matthew 5:27-28

 

Men, you must be completely faithful to your wife in your thought life. You must cherish her. You must have eyes only for her. You must make no place for a thought of anyone else – whether it be a woman you pass in the hall or a promiscuous image that beckons to you from some pop-up ad on a computer screen. If you love her like this, your affection for her will grow, and grow, and grow. If, on the other hand, you are unwilling to so discipline your thoughts, then you are living no better than the Pharisees. Jesus said of them:

 

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.”

- Matthew 6:1

 

Apply this to our situation, men, it means that if you love your wife to be noticed by her, that you have no reward from God. But if you love your wife to be noticed by God, your reward will be great. The more He is convinced that you love her, the greater the shower of blessings He causes to come your way.

 

It matters that my wife knows that I love her, but it only matters a certain amount. It matters that my children know that I love my wife, but it only matters a certain amount. It matters that my neighbors know that I love my wife, but it only matters a certain amount. It matters that God knows that I love my wife – and this matters more than all the rest put together.

 

Loving your wife does not mean that you always agree with her. It means that you always seek her best interests; you always put her well-being ahead of your own. If you think she’s wrong about something, you give her the benefit of the doubt. If you know she’s wrong about something, you resist gently but firmly. A husband who agrees with his wife when he knows she is wrong is not loving her. Love endures all things, it does not capitulate to all things.

 

How much does God want me to love my wife?

 

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, – Ephesians 5:25

 

Yes, that’s a high standard, but it’s the standard Jesus requires. Since it’s the standard He Himself met, it’s not too much for Him to ask it of us. I have plenty of sins to regret, but I am a better man because I have taken His commands – including this one – seriously. Do you think I am special or great because I love my wife this much? I am neither special nor great. I am merely doing that which Jesus has told me to do, for He said:

 

“So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’”

- Luke 17:10

 

Regrets aside, this unworthy slave is the happiest man I know. I want you to be that happy, too…and with fewer regrets.

 

Summing Up

 

There is much more that I could have said, but I have at least given men the broad outline that will lead to the kind of marriage that displays the honor God designed it to have. As I said at the beginning of the chapter, women have to adapt what I’ve said to their side of things. For both husbands and wives I commend to you the passages from Peter and Paul about relationships that I mentioned earlier: 1 Peter 2:13-3:16; Ephesians 5:22-6:9; Colossians 3:18-4:1.

 

Nothing honors marriage more than living it as God designed it. And nothing is more rewarding. Yes, we live in a fallen world. That’s why we need the instruction of Jesus to navigate marriage. There are bumps and potholes in the road of life, and those who expect nothing but a smooth ride are going to be disappointed. Jesus tells us not just how to navigate the road, but how to handle the bumps and potholes. The miracle is that if we practice His commands long enough and diligently enough, the bumps get smoothed out and the potholes get filled. When you get to this point, you are defending marriage through your example.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 15 – Defending Marriage Through Teaching Your Children

 

If you are living out a godly marriage, you are setting a good example for your children. That is good, but you can do more for marriage and more for them if you teach them about marriage through your words as well as your deeds.

 

As in the previous chapter, I’m going to give the Lord’s commands but I’m also going to add some specific advice. Be sure not to regard my advice as on a level with the word of the Lord. Nothing He says is optional, but my advice is like a pair of shoes that should only be worn if the fit is good.

 

 

The World Is Teaching Your Children

 

Whether or not you teach your children, know that the world is teaching them. It is teaching them all the time.

 

The world is teaching your children through various means. For one thing, it’s teaching your children through media – both mass media and social media. The presence of media in our lives has increased significantly with each passing decade. Prior to the 1950’s there was no television, yet it’s almost impossible for anyone since then to conceive of life without it. It’s now everywhere and it’s all the time. Given the state of smartphone technology, people are carrying around television sets in their hands all day long. Radio is still with us, and to television broadcasts have been added cable and satellite…and now internet streaming. The daily newspaper has been almost completely supplanted by text message updates, e-mail, and other forms of digital communications. And then there’s social media: text, sound, and images (both moving and still). The information coming at your children all day long through mass media and social media is overwhelming. And it’s all carrying the values of the day – what the village considers important.

 

You can attempt to restrict your children’s consumption of media, and it is wise to do so. But, mainly for practical reasons, your ability to restrict it will decrease with each passing year. And even at restricted levels, its content will still be felt by your children. That media is teaching them values. It is teaching them what they should consider important and what they should consider unimportant. Even back in the 1960’s, well before cable television and long before social media, I and my fellow baby boomers were being taught a worldview through media. That worldview was secular and geared toward personal pleasure. There was hardly anything biblical about it. The value system of the Sexual Revolution was promulgated and reinforced by the media of that age. How much more is that the case today!

 

Another important way that the media is teaching your children is through the education system. This starts in pre-school and goes all the way through every level of college. It is a system of indoctrination. Yes, there is history, math, and science being taught, but along with those academic subjects is an ever-present worldview. That worldview was already secular in the 1950’s and 1960’s, and it is even more so today. It’s no coincidence that prayer and the Ten Commandments were being removed from public schools around the same time that sex education and consciousness-raising were being added.

 

The educational system is not just indoctrinating your children into a politically-correct worldview by its instruction. The social pressure of all your children’s peers is a factor as well. Everything in the educational system is about conforming. The erstwhile hippies who now command the heights of the educational complex have always prided themselves as nonconformists, yet they are the most intolerant of nonconformity. Everything for them is about getting everyone to think the same way about everything. That same way must be what is politically correct. And what’s least politically correct these days is any respectful reference to something God has said.

 

Because both media and the educational establishment are bombarding all the youth of the country, your children would be affected by the secular worldview even if somehow you were able to quarantine your children from all media and schools. That’s because the other children in your neighborhood, the ones with whom your children play and interact, are receiving this brainwashing daily and can’t help but pass it on to your child. Thus is the power of the world – its media, its educational system, and all those adults and children indoctrinated by them – aligned to teaching your children its ways.

 

Before you even wake up in the morning, the world is already at work teaching your children. And the lesson being taught that is most important to the world is: Conform! This might not be so bad if world’s ways were worthy of conformity. Alas, they are not. And that is increasingly the case.

 

 

Living in a World Gone Mad

 

Your children are being taught by a world that thinks, among other things, that men can marry men and that men can become women. Moreover, it thinks that anyone who disagrees with such things is bigoted, hateful, and deserving of societal stigma and ostracism. Have a good day!

 

Not only is the world trying to teach madness to your children, they’re trying to contradict and override anything you might be teaching. Even as long ago as when our children were going to public school, the PTA meetings had ceased to be forums for collaboration between parents and teachers for the sake of the children in the classroom and instead had become a platform for teachers to tell parents how to parent the kids at home (“Feed them a good breakfast before you send them to us!”). The teachers were all mouth and no ears. The village has decided that you’re good enough to change the diapers but they’ll teach the children, thank you ma’am.

 

So, the world is not just wrong about a lot of things, it’s insufferably wrong and it’s oppressively wrong. How do we raise children in an environment like this? First, we recall what Jesus said:

 

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” – Matthew 10:16

 

We must teach children to be discerning – how to separate wheat from chaff. That means scheduling a lot of time for debriefing them. That is, whenever they have interaction with the world – whether it’s media, school, or other kids – we need to make sure there’s time afterward when we can hear what’s on their minds and interact with them about it. This applies especially to subjects related to marriage.

 

I say “subjects related to marriage” because it’s rare that children will have marriage per se on their minds. What’s not rare at all is for the world to be presenting them with references to sex, lifestyles, orientations, and…you get the idea. Discussions of marriage-related topics, for the most part, should be on a need-to-know, just-in-time basis and that’s most often determined by what’s on their minds at any given point of time. And that’s often a function of what just got pumped into their minds by a world that, while still sane on some subjects, has completely lost its mind on others – especially on any marriage-related subject.

 

 

The Interplay of Word and Deed

 

Your example, without verbal explanation, can only teach your children so much. If I wanted to learn how to dance the waltz and all the ballroom instructor would say to me is, “Follow my example,” I’d feel I was being short-changed. It helps when he tells where to put my feet and where to move them in between his personal demonstrations of the technique. If marriage is a waltz, I need explanation as well as demonstration. If we teach our children to dance properly, and they teach their children, then each generation should get successively better at the waltz that is marriage.

 

When he founded the nation of Israel, Moses gave this as God’s order to mothers and fathers:

 

“These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” – Deuteronomy 6:6-7

 

Remember that “these words” would most certainly include the elements of the Ten Commandments that apply to marriage (“Honor your father and mother,” “Do not commit adultery,” and so on). How will future generations know what marriage is if we do not tell them what we have learned?

 

As we saw back in the third chapter of this book, the one on the well-being of children, it is teaching that is the paramount role of parents. When you teach them by your example, you do well. When you teach them also by word you do even better.

 

 

Preparing Your Children for Marriage

 

Your goal in teaching your children, as we’ve previously said, is to graduate them into responsible adulthood. That means you are preparing them for their dance of marriage. You could even state it this way: your goal is to raise responsible fathers and mothers. You are caring for them in your family until they’re ready to start their own.

 

You’ve heard me use the terms “need-to-know” and “just-in-time.” I hoped they were intuitive, but I’ll spell them out here because they’re crucial to the point I want to make. The former term comes from military and espionage references to highly-sensitive information, and the latter comes from best practices in manufacturing where it’s considered inefficient to have all sorts of inventory stacked up that is not needed in the current production cycle. Let’s face it: marriage involves some highly-sensitive information, and there can be a lot of curiosity about it long before it’s actually needed. There’s no sense in giving that information to someone who doesn’t have a need to use it. Giving sex education to sixth graders makes about as much sense as giving them driver’s ed. Do sixth graders have a need to know how to drive cars? If you go ahead and give them the training for drivers anyway, will that encourage or discourage their curiosity about driving. Like I said…madness.

 

Children need twenty years of preparation for marriage; they don’t need twenty years of preparation for sex. I know my contemporaries don’t agree with this. In fact, today’s secular American baby boomers down through millennials seem to think there are only two subjects worth talking about: sex and racism. For most of my life, those have been the two primary topics of public discourse. People want to talk about sex because it’s what’s most important to them. And they want to talk about racism because, having abandoned the biblical moral code, need a condemnable sin to replace all those they discarded. Racism is perfect for that role because America has the sordid past of kidnapping Africans and putting them to hard labor. And it’s all the more desirable as an original sin now that it has been linked to “bigotry” against homosexuality and other sexually-deviant behaviors. I hate to talk about such coarse matters, but your children are being shown commercials promoting such things – such as, loving father #1 speaks gently to loving father #2, with “their” son between them, about the best detergent for their “family’s” laundry. Madness.

 

Leaving aside all perversions of marriage, another case of violating a need-to-know-just-in-time approach is all the “play marriage” things that teenagers do, and are often encouraged to do by their parents. It may be cute when little kids “play house” in the living room with plates and saucers, but it endangers the soul when teenagers pair off, go steady, get pinned, and otherwise act like romantic couples as if this is a normal way to spend the last stage of life before full adulthood. Forgetting entirely for the moment the sexual temptations that such arrangements impose, think of the havoc it plays with the emotions as teenagers forge and break bonds with each other. The feelings of a teenager dealing with a break-up can be as psychologically painful and damaging as a divorce. Puppy love is real to the puppy. I would discourage young people from forming a romantic attachment until they are ready to think about marrying. I recognize that what I’m suggesting seems near-impossible for parents who look forward to their youngsters going off on the “first date,” but I think that the emotional health of the teenager is better served by being steered away from heartbreaks. And I hate it when people bemoan “Sweet sixteen and never been kissed” as if it’s something to be sad about. Why would you push your children to go swimming in a shark tank?

 

I have written this book so that you might give it to a mature teenager as a reinforcement of your teaching, and so that he might continue to hold marriage as the goal when the time is right and be strengthened to not seek half-measures and substitutes in the meantime just because they are available to him in abundance.

 

Sex will be the easiest part of marriage for the couple to figure out; there are other subjects on which they’ll need much more help. Therefore, what you need to spend most of your two-decade teaching project on are subjects like “How to get along with people when they’re being difficult,” “How to shut up and do the right thing when all you feel like doing is venting,” “How to be loving when you’re being mistreated,” “How to believe things are going to be better tomorrow when today is the worst day ever,” “How to live for the approval of God and not in the fear of man,” and more.

 

 

The Ministry of Grandparents

 

When it comes to teaching your children about marriage, grandparents have a role to play as well. However, contrary to the village’s approach these days, grandparents do the most good when they focus on the children rather than the grandchildren. It will take me a minute or two to explain what I mean.

 

I mentioned earlier in the book about how some parents seem to have children as “accessories” or “trophies.” I have seen this dynamic even more among my fellow baby boomers who seem to objectify their grandchildren, and, in the process, dote on the grandchildren instead of helping to train them. A grandparent should not be trying to get the grandchild to love him. A grandparent should not be seeking the grandchild’s attention or affection. All these things flow naturally from the grandchild to the grandparent when and as appropriate. It’s not necessary or helpful for grandparents to seek more attention from grandkids than what comes naturally.

 

Some grandparents seem willing to be almost full-time unpaid nannies for their children. This reminds me of parents who let their grown children live with them indefinitely. Children need to move into adulthood when it’s time and not linger in dependency. Having children and depending on your parents to help raise them is just another form of dependency. When grandparents want trophies and parents want nannies, it can result in co-dependencies between grandparents and parents that provide no true benefit to the grandchildren. Children need training, not entertainment.

 

We have grandchildren. We love them, enjoy them, and play with them. However, the most important thing we do when with them is to reinforce their parents’ authority and their parents’ teaching. That includes reinforcing the parents’ decisions as well. Grandparents who communicate to the grandchildren, whether vocally or tacitly, that different and more lax standards apply where grandparents are concerned are doing no favors either to their children or their grandchildren.

 

As we’ve seen from the beginning of studying God’s design for marriage and family, Satan’s goal is to divide the husband and wife. In this cause, he even seeks to enlist children. Thus children can be found trying to pit one parent against the other. And even when the child isn’t consciously attempting this, uncertainty and differences of opinion about what the child needs – whether reward or punishment – can drive the parents apart. This can happen with grandparents as well. Grandparents do the most good when they recognize that their responsibility is to support family order, and that means parental authority – not grandparental distractions. Sure, grandparents can afford to have a softer touch, not being responsible for the day-to-day discipline, but they should be circumspect in its use and always affirm parental authority at every opportunity.

 

Some of you will say, “But, Mike, you sound like you don’t want the children to have any fun.” On the contrary, I love to see them have fun. But with each succeeding year of their lives, I want them to grow in maturity and responsibility. I only sound to you like I don’t want kids to have fun because pop culture puts way too much focus on kids having fun – right through their teenage years into their twenties and even beyond! That’s why we have so many immature adults walking around these days. Children do not need to be taught how to have fun; it comes naturally. What they need to be taught is how to accept responsibility, for this does not come naturally. Their responsibilities need to be increased very, very gradually, but that can’t happen if the majority of their responsibilities are deferred until after their teenage years. I want children to have fun; I even want adults to have fun. But there’s a time and a season for everything. And it’s precisely because adults in American culture today, whose thinking has been permeated with the assumptions of the Sexual Revolution, are having too much fun that children are having too little.

 

Grandparents teaching the grown children is even more important than grandparents teaching the grandchildren. While the grandparents no longer have authority over the parents, because the parents are grown and have children of their own, the grandparents are in a position to offer guidance to the children that they have never before needed – guidance about how to raise children. This guidance should come mainly in the form of encouragement and not direction. Parents don’t need overseers; they shouldn’t have to give an account of their parenting to the grandparents. Still, the grandparents have something to give. What the parents can use are comfort and assurance when the days of parenting are dark and discouraging. Grandparents, having endured the same themselves, can always offer a shoulder to cry on and a pat on the back.

 

My wife and I learned parenting as we went along. We knew the most about it by the last day that the last child moved out. It’s bad enough that we didn’t have all that knowledge when we started out; it would be shameful not to offer it to our children as they are starting out with raising theirs.

 

Grandparents can be a helpful adjunct to parenting and bring about a true multi-generational strategy to improve life for each new generation of children. It just requires remembering that the nucleus of mother and father is the true center of family, and grandparents strengthening that center – not competing with that center – is good for the children.

 

 

Rights, Responsibilities, and Decisions

 

Let me remind you of something I wrote in Chapter 2 – The Design of Family. There I wrote about the balancing of rights and responsibilities, along with the importance of teaching a child how to make wise decisions – especially in light of the most important earthly decision they’ll ever make, the decision of whom to marry. I want to build a little on that foundation here.

 

The right to marry comes with the responsibility to stay married. While God can grant your children the grace to succeed in marriage even if they marry someone who’s difficult, you don’t want your children to put themselves through the unnecessary trouble. Therefore, you teach them how to make decisions on all sorts of subjects, knowing that it will help them when the time comes to make a decision about marriage.

 

The Bible gives us a bad example of making decisions about marriage in the life of Samson. His story is found in Judges 13-16. You can teach your children the story of Samson at any time, but there will come a time when it’s appropriate to focus their attention on the marital dimension of Samson’s decisions. It will help them. He decided based on the way he feltin the moment. He couldn’t have picked two more inappropriate bases for making a lifelong decision. He would have fit right in with the sexual revolutionaries of today. Perhaps his parents considered his unique calling by God to be sufficient, and that they didn’t need to teach him basic decision-making skills. If that’s what they thought, Samson’s experience proved otherwise.

 

I want to emphasize the importance of letting children make decisions and learn consequences from the earliest possible age. If parents try to protect children from bad decisions by making decisions for them or overriding decisions they have made, the child doesn’t receive the opportunity to make good decisions. Of course, one of the ways you learn to make good decisions is to make some bad ones and have to eat their fruit. That leaves the sort of taste in your mouth that makes you want to make a better decision the next time around.

 

As I said above, the village these days is about raising immature children. That’s not what the village thinks they’re doing, but parents’ unwillingness to teach their children at every stage of life rights, responsibilities, and decision-making will lead to nothing else. This kind of parent raises immature children because the parent himself is immature. Our children deserve better. They deserve to be taught principles that will help them do well in life. A solid understanding of the balance between rights and responsibilities and the ability to make and follow through on wise decisions will serve them every day they live.

 

When the explicit and specific subject of marriage does come up with your children, teach them that it’s a one-time decision. One of the reasons so many people are getting divorced these days is because they go into marriage thinking that if it doesn’t work out, they’ll just divorce and remarry. No big deal. All the retail stores have “easy-return” policies, so people just assume marriage should work the same way. You’d take the decision to buy a television set a lot more seriously if you knew there was no possibility you could return it. Jesus could promote a no-return policy on marriage because He was granting along with it a lifetime supply of grace that would make returns unnecessary and undesirable.

 

So teach your children that there’s only one dance in this ballroom. Only one chance to get it right. No mulligans, no do-overs. If they listen to you, and if you’ve taught them decision-making all through their childhood, they’ll never need or want a do-over.

 

 

Teaching Them to Walk in the Spirit

 

Of all the things you teach your children about marriage, and of all the things you teach your children about life, the most important thing to teach them, by far, is to walk in the spirit. This means making all their decisions, and thinking all their thoughts, knowing that the eyes of God are upon them. As it says in Hebrews:

 

And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. – Hebrews 4:13

 

Because God’s eyes are always upon us, we are in a position to make all our decisions so as to please Him.

 

Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. – 2 Corinthians 5:9

 

What I mean by “walking in the spirit” can be expressed in different terms. Even the Bible itself uses different expressions to communicate the same idea. I presented this concept to you in the chapter on New Testament standards for marriage when I talked about the standard that Jesus brought – that we be not like the Pharisees who did all their deeds in the sight of men. Jesus’ standard is that we do all deeds in the sight of God. This is “walking in the spirit” – a phrase we find in Paul’s letters (Romans 8:4; Galatians 5:16). It can be thought of as simply being in the spirit, or being spiritual aware, or conscious of God. It is also called walking or living in the fear of God – as opposed to the fear of men. Modern-day expressions for living in the fear of man are “doing what is politically correct” or “caving in to peer pressure.”

 

Peer pressure is a subject that often comes up when children and their training is being discussed – especially when they get to middle school and high school. Yet it is a lifelong phenomenon…because the fear of man is a lifelong temptation. I used to be a church youth pastor. I marveled at how parents could bemoan their children’s susceptibility to peer pressure and not recognize it in the their own lives. The parents felt pressure to buy certain clothes, drive certain cars, associate with certain people – the same sorts of pressures their teenage children felt. The teenage years aren’t that period of life in which you’re susceptible to peer pressure. Rather, they are those years that you begin to experience the peer pressure that will be with you the rest of your life.

 

Prior to the onset of peer pressure, it’s the opinions of the parent that naturally matter most to the child. Through the influence of media and the educational system, we can see the onset of peer pressure occurring at earlier and earlier points of children’s lives. You want to teach your children to be independent thinkers – not independent from God, but independent from people. Remember the goal of parenting: you even want them to end up independent from you. They can’t resist peer pressure if they don’t first learn to recognize it.

 

To help your children recognize peer pressure, you want to teach them that there are two kinds of people in the world: those alive to God and those dead to Him. The secular world is dead to God. Even much of the religious world is dead to God. He is near to their lips but far from their minds (Jeremiah 12:2). If there are two kinds of people in the world – living ones and dead ones – you want your children to be among the living. Therefore, teach them to live life in the spirit. That what it means to live by faith, to walk in the spirit.

 

God taught it to Abraham this way:

 

…” “I am God Almighty;

Walk before Me, and be blameless.” – Genesis 17:1

 

For us, it’s Jesus we walk before. And walking by faith means having a conviction about it:

 

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. – Hebrews 11:1

 

Children –and adults – who walk in the fear of man only have a conviction about what the crowd thinks, and those convictions shift with the winds.

 

If God is a subject that only comes to their minds when they talk with you, then they are not walking in the spirit. Don’t feel bad if this happens; it’s natural. It’s why they need you. You are there to instill in them a sense of the presence of God – His omnipresence.

 

Practically every Christian in the world will profess the belief that God is everywhere but has become exceedingly hard to find Christians who actually think and act according to that perception. Your goal with all your teaching is to get your children to do what most people don’t do: honor God in their thought lives. That most people won’t live this way is what Jesus meant when He said:

 

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” – Matthew 7:13-14

 

If you’ve read this far, I’m convinced you are a person who takes seriously the exceedingly simple but devilishly difficult command to live your life before the living God – Jesus Christ our Lord. If your children follow in your steps, they will think about marriage and live out their marriages in the fear of God. To teach them this you must live it out before them. You must practice what you preach to them. That is, you must teach them by example and by explanation, by deed and by word. Therefore, whatever you want them to know and do – about marriage and about everything else – keep teaching yourself to know and do.

 

 

The Value of Defending Marriage to Your Children

 

We know that children come into the world vulnerable and defenseless. We have learned from the Scriptures how to defend them:

 

To defend children, defend family.

To defend family, defend marriage.

To defend marriage, live it right and teach it to your children.

 

You defend marriage through teaching your children about it so that it will be there to help your children. And their children. And their children.

 

My hope is that my children do marriage better than I did, so that their children can do marriage better than they did. May the Lord’s government keep growing in us, one generation building upon another.

 

There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace… – Isaiah 9:7

 

This is the value of doing all this work I have outlined to you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 16 – Summary and Conclusion

 

When I began this book, I told you it would not be the definitive book on marriage. I trust that’s now been proven to your satisfaction. Nevertheless, I do hope that you consider this book to have given you a good start on better understanding the subject. If you can put the principles I’ve shared into practice in your life at earlier ages than I did, then you’ll have time to learn more than I have learned. And those of you who write will be putting yourselves in a position to write that definitive book – or, at the very least, a better and more informative book than this one.

 

In any case, to whatever degree these pages may have helped you, it has been a privilege for me to share with you what I have learned – both from the Bible and from personal experience in applying what I’ve learned – about the honor of marriage. A fitting summary and conclusion for our study is this exhortation from the closing chapter of Paul’s letter to the Hebrews.

 

Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge. – Hebrews 13:4

 

Let’s break down this statement – a word or phrase at a time – to reinforce what we’ve learned throughout this book.

 

 

Marriage”

 

We can’t very well honor marriage if we don’t know what it is. God wouldn’t expect us to honor it if He wasn’t willing to make sure we understood its design. Therefore, He has made the structure of marriage clear in the Scriptures. It’s one man and one woman for one lifetime. It started with the very first man and woman, and was confirmed by Jesus our Lord.

 

Nothing else is marriage. Nothing else can be marriage. A nation cannot decide what marriage is. A nation cannot re-define what marriage is. It’s obvious our nation thinks otherwise. But Jesus said it’s our responsibility to “make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:18-20). Therefore, we must stand firm for the truth of the marriage no matter what the rest of the nation does. The nation will not teach what marriage is to Christians; Christians will teach what marriage is to a nation that has forgotten.

Marriage means family, for the very nature of the coupling God designed creates children. Children were not God’s afterthought to marriage; they are the very reason that He decided to create marriage. He created male and female in order to establish the collaboration between God and mankind that is procreation.

 

Therefore, to stand firm for marriage and family also means standing firm for what is male and female. This duality is an essential part of God’s design. Just as nations cannot re-design marriage, neither can they redesign male and female. These realities – marriage, family, male, female – are built into the fabric of the universe. Mothers and fathers are the building blocks of civilization. To abandon these models is to de-stabilize civilization.

 

Marriage is the union of a man and a woman for life, and the center of the family that results.

 

 

Held in Honor”

 

I have just alluded to ways in which marriage is not “held in honor” – divorce, redefinitions of marriage, transgenderism, premarital sex, adultery, and much more. There are endless ways to dishonor marriage and only one way to honor it: regarding it as God designed it.

 

True marriage – marriage as God designed it – is honorable in all respects. There is no aspect of it about which we should be ashamed. In it, the wonder of God is displayed in a variety of ways. “Holding in honor” includes apprehending and appreciating that wonder.

 

“Holding” means “not letting go,” even when the pressure to let go of marriage’s honor becomes intense. Much, if not most, of society today has let go of this honor and is now pressuring us to let go of it as well. We must hold it fast and never let it go…until its honor is restored – even in the hearts of those who hate us for our steadfastness.

 

 

Among All”

 

Yes, the honor of marriage will be restored among all…even if it doesn’t happen in our lifetimes. The kingdom of God was designed to prevail. It prevails when the righteous few stand firm against the unrighteous many. Jesus overcame the world when He was one. There are more than one of us now.

 

The kingdom of God is like leaven – it spreads gradually but surely. Therefore, marriage will be held in honor “among all” by the gradual spread of that honor. Stand firm…and God will cause the spread.

 

 

The Marriage Bed Undefiled”

 

We have seen the myriad ways in which the marriage bed is being defiled. We need not dwell on them. Instead, let us focus on the marriage bed that is undefiled…and keep it that way.

 

 

Fornicators and Adulterers God Will Judge”

 

Not only have we avoided cataloging and dwelling upon the many ways in which marriage is being defiled these days, we have spent hardly any time at all in studying the wrath of God that comes against these things. Nevertheless, those judgments are present and more are coming. There is no such thing as “safe sex” outside of marriage. No such thing.

 

With God, there is kindness and severity – kindness to those who obey and severity to those who do not. Some Christians have turned God’s mercy into a license to sin without consequence. This is a perversion of His mercy. Yes, everyone goes to heaven, but sin will cause many people – and their children – to go through hell on earth to get there.

 

I have not focused on the judgments of God against the defilements of marriage in this book because I trust that you are more motivated by your love for God than by your fear of punishment. Yet punishments for sin are real, making it all the more important for us to secure His mercy. Make sure you are not among “the fornicators and adulterers” by keeping your mind pure. He who avoids fornication and adultery in his mind will never engage in it with his body. And remember that the single best way – and only way – to keep your mind pure is to keep it set on Him who is pure. In this way, everything you think will be pure, whether it’s something mundane, like which shirt to buy, or something profound, like whom to marry.

 

 

Summary

 

Having focused on each of the phrases in Hebrews 13:4, let’s read again the summary of our study.

 

Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge. – Hebrews 13:4

 

Dwell on this. Embed it in your conscience. Teach it to your children. His words will save you. And they will save your children.

 

 

Conclusion

 

We have begun to learn what it means to hold marriage in honor. And we have realized that we are living in a generation that increasingly holds it in contempt. In such an environment, it will cost us to honor marriage. And it could cost us dearly. But we do not worry about this, because we would rather have the world against us and God for us than to have God against us and the world for us.

 

The honor of marriage is the strength of family. And the strength of family is the stability and salvation of our lives – even in the midst of a crumbling world.

 

Marriage is of God. Therefore, he who honors marriage, honors God. And he who honors God is honored by God. The honor that God shows you will keep you in any and every circumstance.

 

“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies”

- Psalm 23:5 KJV

 

Your enemies won’t see the table…but that’s okay…because you will. God has designed it to be so.

 

Short of Jesus Himself, marriage is the best thing that ever happened to the human race. The best thing. Nothing else is even close.

I can speak to this personally. Being married, especially considering the woman to whom I am married, has been the greatest earthly honor I have received in life. I feel sorry for all the great men who, though they have been written about in encyclopedias for all the great things they have done, have failed at marriage. “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world…” The lowliest man who has succeeded at marriage has succeeded at what matters most in life.

 

A man who succeeds at marriage succeeds at children, for they are the fruit of his marriage. A man who succeeds at marriage succeeds at work, because working hard for his family is what gives him meaning. A man who succeeds at marriage succeeds at love, because love is not a feeling – it is the giving of oneself for another.

 

Yes, there are exemptions from marriage – it’s not for every single human being. But Jesus has made clear that the exemptions are few. Therefore, to everyone else: I wish for you the honor of marriage.

 

More to the ideal of the point, may every young man, who upon seeing across the ballroom of life the woman who sees him as he sees her, approach her and, having the requisite knowledge and understanding of God in what he is about to say, humbly but confidently ask, “May I have the honor of this dance?” And if she, likewise knowing full well what she is doing in the sight of God, says, “Yes,” then will the honor flow from the two of them to everyone around, including any children to come – all to the glory of the One who invented the waltz.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the Author

 

See http://www.mikegantt.com.


The Honor of Marriage

This book is for those who want to understand marriage as God has designed it –which is to say family as God designed it. Modern American culture has lost sight of true marriage and thus no longer supports it, even turning hostile to it. Christians must show the way to repentance by restoring honor to marriage - fulfilling its responsibilities, enjoying its benefits, and defending its unique character and central importance to human well-being.

  • Author: Mike Gantt
  • Published: 2017-05-14 23:05:12
  • Words: 50071
The Honor of Marriage The Honor of Marriage