James F. McBride:`Family', in our Western world, is today a dirty word. What we ought to be talking about are `functioning groups'. So say `the experts'. Are they right?
Marriage, of course, has served the human race well from earliest recorded civilization. That is, one man and one woman for a lifetime. Western history, however, has seriously distorted the original intent of marriage. Increasingly, driven by the drive to be 'modern', the family has become detached from its roots and heads for inevitable decline and death.
This decline is aided and abetted by unwise social leadership which sees marriage as 'just a piece of paper'. And by governments which encourage the disintegration of families through lax divorce and taxation laws. They lack the wisdom to discern the long-term harmful effects on their nation.
A question far from the thoughts of government, social service agencies, family organizations is What does God say? Rather, they 'play God' by usurping the pattern He laid down for a successful cohesive society.
That pattern produces stability. A man and a woman would bond as one - and for life. Themselves a branch of a family tree whose roots can be traced for generations past, they would extend their dynasty for generations to come.
Pride - anciently, and in some societies in our day - was taken in ancestry. Property inheritance was protected within the framework of stable marriage. The wisdom of age was respected. You knew who were your parents, and for several generations back.
There was no need to spend tax billions on welfare, on 'family support' or on legal aid for divorce
litigation. Marriage was a premeditated, structured, respected and well-regulated strand in the cords which bound society.
Contrast that with modern Western society - a perverse culture that is spreading worldwide.
There can be no doubt that the traditional unit of society, for better or worse, is falling apart. Lifestyle choice is the in-thing. In Britain, for example, governments have promoted the notion that all relationships have equal value. It's OK if you want to marry (but don't expect any privileges). But it's fine if you stay single (and it is) or if you 'co-habit'. Nor does two men or two women or a group of men/women living together as family pose any problem. It's acceptable, too, for same-gender 'couples' to adopt children. And there's no problem with 'unfaithfulness' - also known as adultery. It's also fine, maybe even a bonus, to farm out your children to professional child-carers while the parents are at work. Anything goes, in other words.
But does it work?
The facts speak loudly enough in all of Western society. The great experiment of social engineering - i.e., rejecting the wisdom of ages - has run long enough for its adverse fruit to be obvious to all who can see.
Take co-habitation - coupling without that 'piece of paper'. Such are four times more likely to fall apart than married couples - and without children will last on average only nineteen months. And four out of ten one-parent families stem from co-habitation. This form of relationship is now, in Britain, the first partnership for 70% of women. It's also true that women who live with men without marriage are at greater risk of domestic violence, ill-health, poverty and welfare dependency.
Then there's divorce. Only forty years ago there were, in Britain, just under 24,000 divorces a year - two per thousand married people. Now the rate is almost 14% of married people, with 50% of marriages likely to fail. Hardly a sign of increasing stability. And marriage rates are at their lowest level since the state began to collect relevant statistics a century and a half ago.
As divorce becomes more easily available, it becomes the first option rather than the last when difficulties arise within a marriage. Successive relaxation of legal constraints has served only to encourage marriage breakdown. Law is meant to curb harmful human behavior and to encourage the positive!
A further factor that unties families is the so-called 'nanny state'. Bureaucratic interference in the detail of life has become a government obsession.
Sown in the public mind, and now firmly rooted, is the poisonous seed that 'government knows best'. That no-one is personally responsible for how to rear and feed their own family. That government decrees are always for the public good. That the wisdom of age can be jettisoned in favor of inexperienced - but 'cool' aspirants for the 'glory' of high office and public acclaim. The elevation of 'youth', anciently, caused the loss of a kingdom (I Kings 12:4-20) - a powerful warning for modern politicians!
And increasing numbers swallow the poison. I can fritter away my resources on holidays, on alcohol and tobacco, on entertainment - and 'the government' will still make sure fm cared for. I can dump my kids in the nursery, at school, on the street and in front of the TV or the Play-Station - and someone else will pick up the pieces.
And I can fecklessly dump my 'partner' or husband or wife or kids, and someone else - i.e., the taxpayer will foot the bill for my inadequacies. Even my divorce can be publicly funded. And the abandoned children can sink or swim in a state-funded children's home if necessary.
All of these factors undermine the foundations of national stability.
A Working Model
Underlying our failures is the all-pervasive view that human wisdom transcends the Creator's rules for a stable society. That the fundamental principles for life can be trampled upon without penalty.
Go to the `ancient books', to the prophetic insights of the Old and New Testaments, however, and we see a different model - one that worked. It thrived on the concept that, while making allowances for exceptional circumstances, marriage is for life. That each human being is responsible for his and her own destiny.
While making adequate provision for the small numbers who may 'fall through the cracks', each was respected for his personal integrity as made in the image of God, and thus equipped to follow His guidance. As long as society rejects this concept it rushes headlong to the brink of national extinction.
So why have we lost this divine image?
Mankind in general cast aside the Creator. God 'rescued' one man of faith - Abraham - and some of his descendants. The nation of Israel was forged in the fires of slavery in Egypt and, despite their humble origins, were molded as a model nation to showcase the divine way to mankind in general.
God appointed a teacher-class, the tribe of Levi, to propagate His laws. Here's how the prophet Malachi describes their purpose: "...My covenant with him [Levi] was a covenant of life and peace ...the law of truth was in his mouth and unrighteousness was not found in his lips. He walked with Me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity. For the lips of a priest should keep [guard] knowledge, and men should seek the law from his mouth because he is the messenger of the Lord of Hosts" (ch. 2:5-7). A function of the religious leadership,
therefore, is to faithfully convey to the nation and its leadership the pure word of God - to successfully steer the nation in God's revealed way for mankind.
But what happened then? "But you [religious leaders] have turned aside from the way; you have caused many to stumble in the Law; you have corrupted the covenant of Levi. So I have made you despised and debased before all the people, just as you have not kept My ways" (vv.8-9).
It has echoes today! For many decades the influential religious leadership - inheritors of the Levitical teaching role - has miserably failed to guide the nation. They, too, have 'caused many to stumble at the law' - God's Law, the only sure guide to national stability. They have helped open the floodgates to immorality by utterly failing to forcefully uphold the divine standards. God's authority over every aspect of national life - not least in matters of the family, the very fabric of society - has been undermined by clerical sniping at the Scriptures. Little wonder that political leadership has sunk so low, encouraging the demise of the family through legalizing every form of perverted behavior - on screen and off - and actively undermining true family values.
An Imminent Threat
Malachi concludes his indictment of the religious leadership of his day with a doom-laden warning: "Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible Day of the Lord. He will turn the hearts [i.e., reconcile] of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse" (ch. 4:5-6). Or, "with utter destruction" as the alternative reading has it.
The 'Day of the Lord' is the inescapable end to the civilization controlled by fallen man. It is the intervention of the Creator to put an end, through the return of the King of kings, Jesus the Messiah, to man's incompetence. Every new act on the world stage flags its nearness - and the wise will take note.
All around the world - whether in the most primitive nation or in the most highly developed of civilizations - the basic structure of society, the family, is disintegrating. The marriage bond that underpins society is unravelled through easy divorce, ungodly example in high places, and rampant sexual promiscuity (with its terrible consequence of disease and civil disorder).
Seeds of Hope
The apostle Paul vividly depicts our day: "Know this, that in the last days there are troublesome times impending. For people will be self-lovers, avaricious, boasters, haughty, abusive, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, irreverent, without natural affection, relentless, slanderers, uncontrolled, brutal, with no love for the good, treacherous, rash conceited, pleasure-loving rather than God-loving. While retaining a form of piety they are strangers to its power" (II Timothy 3:1-5).
Our society is far advanced along that path. The stable nurturing family structure - nurturing of true civilizing values - has been undermined almost beyond repair.
Malachi's prophecy, however, bears seeds of hope. John the Baptist - the 'Elijah' of Jesus' day - in type fulfilled this prophecy. So the preaching of God's Word in our day, a faint 'voice in the wilderness', will "make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1:17). Some few will respond to God's call to righteous living, utterly rejecting the dumbing down of society with its co-habitation, promiscuous behavior and adultery. They will be 'salt and light' to a world in darkness and will avert the 'utter destruction' that is the inevitable result of overthrowing the divine Law.
There is still time to change your ways - to 'repent! You are invited to request our free articles What Do You Mean - 'Repent'? and Spend A Lifetime - Together.
To comment on this article or request more information, please contact James McBride by e-mail at the comment form below.
For PDF or mailed copy, see CGOM. Excerpt from New Horizons Volume 4 Issue 4, July/August 2000. Edited by James McBride of the Churches of God, United Kingdom.
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