I was sitting in my office one afternoon a couple of weeks ago when I received one of those blessings of being a grandparent—a text message from my 10-year-old granddaughter Gabby. “I love you,” she wrote. “What are you doing today, Papa?”
I pushed back from my desk and thought about her question: What in the world am I doing today?
As I pondered, a wave of emotion washed over me as I thought about the weight of what God has given me to do with FamilyLife. I decided to answer her question as simply and as honestly as I could. I pecked out my response and hit the send button:
“Working hard to help marriages and families do it God’s way.”
Her reply? “That is awesome.”
Gabby doesn’t understand it yet, but Barbara and I have given nearly four decades of our adult lives to building godly marriages and families, both for this generation and the next. Though we expected the June 26 decision on same-sex marriage by the U.S. Supreme Court, we are nevertheless grieved that the court has ruled that, in our nation, we must uncouple the definition of marriage from its historic and biblical moorings.
Let me say this at the outset: I am also saddened that we in the Christian community haven’t done a better job of graciously standing for the truth and loving those who disagree with us about the definition of marriage. Our collective fear of offending has taken away our ability to love boldly. My personal ambition is to attempt to love all people as Christ loves all, including those who differ with me.
That’s why we have always welcomed anyone to attend our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways or listen to our radio broadcast, FamilyLife Today®. When FamilyLife is asked if gay couples can attend a Weekend to Remember, we respond with a hearty invitation. We let them know that our understanding of marriage is rooted in Scripture, but we make it clear they are absolutely welcome.
Nonetheless, I grieve today …
… over the Supreme Court ruling. God created marriage, not man. Marriage is a mysterious reflection of the Trinity. Attempting to change the divine Artist’s intentions will bring multiplied unforeseen consequences.
… for the losses this generation and succeeding ones will face. Tampering with the DNA of marriage, the most basic unit of society, will result in a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us.
… that a majority of the Supreme Court justices, by their approval of same-sex marriage, have also placed their stamp of approval on homosexuality, which the Bible clearly defines as sin. Celebrating a behavior and a lifestyle that is unhealthy for individuals and society is no different than celebrating other behaviors the Bible calls sin, such as theft or murder or adultery, which our nation continues to discourage with laws and consequences.
This is no small matter that our justices have determined for our nation. Definitions matter because the truth matters.
But you may be surprised to learn that there are three other issues that concern me just as much as same-sex marriage—and perhaps more.
We live in a culture that is steadily moving away from God’s truth. I’m reminded of the days described in the Old Testament, when “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). We build our homes upon the shifting sands of personal freedom and autonomy rather than the timeless principles of God’s Word. As a result our families are in serious trouble and need help now.
Here are three toxic crises which have concerned me for years as I’ve watched the increasing corrosion of families in our nation and around the world.
Crisis #1: A generation that has lost hope in marriage
Two weeks ago Barbara and I had dinner with two couples who teach in one of the largest high schools in our state. When I asked what they are seeing in today’s teens, they unanimously agreed that their students are so wounded by their parents’ mediocre marriages, by the lack of healthy role models, and by the growing vacuum of strong, stable families that they have no concept of what a healthy marriage and family look like. Add to that a media-driven culture saturated with distorted, confusing messages about marriage, gender, and sexuality.
Is it any wonder that our nation’s young adults are bewildered and hopeless? They are avoiding marriage, postponing it, even giving up on it. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 65 percent of Americans between 18 and 32 were married in 1960. Today only 26 percent in that age range are married.
Living together is the accepted means of determining compatibility for marriage for this generation. And if they do marry, they are tying the knot at the oldest age in our nation’s history: an average of over 29 for men and 27.5 for women.
It’s a hook-up generation—sex with no relationships and certainly no commitment. The teachers told us that young men in their classes don’t know how to relate to the opposite sex—they are increasingly passive and are clueless about how to initiate a conversation, let alone a date.
On top of that, our culture encourages young people to experiment with a multiple-choice menu of sexual identities: Facebook now offers nearly 60 different sexual identities to choose from. How can young people think about marriage if they are uncertain about their gender? It all adds up to a generation that looks at marriage very differently than their parents.
If marriage is the headwaters of a family (and it is), and if family is the supreme conductor of morality, character, life skills, and faith (and it is), then stop and consider: What kind of world will this generation of young adults leave to its children one day? Dietrich Bonhoeffer warns us, “The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world it leaves to its children.”
The bottom line is that the Christian community has been far too passive, far too complicit, and far too silent for the past four decades as the foundation of the family has crumbled. And we’re seeing the impact of our passivity in today’s generation of young people. It’s up to us to create a climate of covenant-keeping love in marriage and offer biblical help and hope to a generation that does not know how to do marriage.
If those who follow Jesus Christ don’t protect and champion marriage as God designed it, then who will?
We must determine to take care of our own homes in the faith community and recapture the “high ground” of marriage as God designed it. Churches must become the marriage and family equipping centers in our communities and world. This cannot happen without redeemed men and women passionately devoted to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Crisis #2: Fatherless America
Destroy a culture of marriage and what do you get? Men who are not civilized by the love of a woman. Dr. George Gilder, a Harvard sociologist, calls these men “barbarians.” Having no marriage and no place to invest their masculine sexual energy, they roam, they sow seeds, and they refuse to assume the noble calling of a being a responsible man, husband, and father.
No nation will outlive the death of real men.
Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project and a professor at the University of Virginia, once told me that in 1960 a little over five percent of all births in America were to unwed mothers. The nuclear family, even in its dysfunction, was solid; fathers didn’t do it perfectly, but they were having children with their wives and they were there.
Today 43 percent of births are to unwed mothers. Yes, there are dads who stick around and cohabit or even marry, but the majority of these children born to single women are raised in homes without a father.
This is a huge problem for America and its homes. Children growing up without a father face a higher risk for:
- sexual abuse
- physical abuse
- emotional abuse
- increased suicide
- drug and alcohol abuse
- placement in the foster care system
Contrast that dark picture with a Brookings Institute discovery. If four historically proven lifestyle choices are present, families and children have a 90 percent probability of avoiding long-term poverty. Those four factors are:
- a high school diploma
- a job
In other words, the timeless model of progress into responsible adulthood—education, employment, marriage, and children—is the most reliable path to a healthy, productive life. Therefore, if we don’t train men in their responsibilities and show them how to be men … if the rate of births to unwed mothers continues to climb … what does this mean for America? The majority of men in America will grow up without any model of what it means to be a man.
There will be an even greater acceleration of women and children being abused.
We will not be able to build prisons fast enough.
Government will, in effect, have to become “daddy.”
And the church will be overwhelmed with the needs of a generation that has endured unspeakable evils.
All this leads me to the third, and most important, issue that troubles me more than the recent Supreme Court ruling.
Crisis #3: Trans-spiritual Christians
Transgenderism has become the latest hot issue for the media to champion. According to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), “transgender” is a term used to describe people whose gender identity differs from the sex the doctor marked on their birth certificate.
Just as we are witnessing a gender identity and sexual orientation revolution, there’s also a revolution in spiritual identity and orientation among people of faith, resulting in what I’ll call “trans-spiritual Christians.”
Trans-spiritual Christians are those whose spiritual identity or faith expression doesn’t match the person God created them to be. They don’t understand their identity as a child of God and as an ambassador of the King. As a result, far too many believers today are confused about who they are, what they believe, and why they are here. They’ve lost their grip on biblical truth.
How a Christian thinks about the Bible, and therefore about himself, determines his identity, beliefs, and his “expression” or behavior. Therefore, instead of being ambassadors in a foreign land and setting their minds on things above (Colossians 3:2), many have sunk roots deep into the values of the world, taken up residence here, and applied for earthly citizenship.
When confronted with issues that demand a sturdy faith based upon biblical beliefs and convictions, many Christians switch identities and blend in like a chameleon. Instead of embracing their spiritual calling to resemble Jesus Christ, too many become trans-spiritual and mimic the thinking of others.
When Jesus came, it was said of Him, “And we beheld his glory, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Jesus was both kind and right, fully aligned with the Father. He arrived on mission and died on mission to redeem us and give us a new citizenship. The Apostle Paul makes our identity and mission clear, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).
But instead of being ambassadors on a mission, Christians forget to Whom we belong and Whom we represent, and we allow our emotions to guide us rather than the truth of Scripture. Instead of struggling with the assignment of speaking the truth in love, we take the easy road of just love. Instead of courageously sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and speaking to the needs of other broken people’s souls—the need for the love and forgiveness of God—trans-spiritual Christians tell people what they want to hear and tolerate any lifestyle choice as simply a personal preference. This is not the model Jesus left us.
I am most troubled by this identity confusion because of the urgent spiritual needs of our nation. We don’t need conviction-less Christians who profess their faith in Jesus but live no differently than those who do not know Him.
Helping people build marriages and families God’s way
The moral climate is eroding, but FamilyLife is standing firm.
We’re about to enter our fortieth year of providing practical and biblical help for marriages and families, helping millions of couples “do it God’s way.” It’s clear that people today need help and hope for their families more than ever. I believe God has strategically raised up this ministry to be a light on the hill, to give men and women help and hope in troubled times—to point them to our Lord Jesus Christ.
Here’s what you can count on from FamilyLife and its outreaches in the years ahead:
1. We will continue to stand unapologetically for the truth of Scripture and teach the biblical blueprints for marriage and family … regardless of the cost.
2. Even though we are imperfect, broken people, we will do our best with the strength that God supplies to “speak the truth in love.” We are going to do our best to be winsome and compassionate to all.
3. We will seize this opportunity to proclaim the need for forgiveness for all people. Jesus Christ is the sinless Savior who died on a cross to forgive the sins of all who will turn to Him in repentance and faith. This is the redemption message that the whole world needs to hear.
4. We will pray and take advantage of this opportunity to use every FamilyLife Today radio broadcast, every Weekend to Remember, thousands of video events, and our growing digital outreach, to find, equip, and unleash a movement of tens of thousands of men and women like you, who will act as ambassadors for Christ in a lost and hurting world.
Today I’m reminded of Matthew 9:35-38, which tells us:
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
The harvest is as plentiful today as it was when Jesus spoke those words. People are still “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” They need the help and hope that can only come from Jesus Christ.
Now is the time to become a laborer in this harvest—to reach out to those near you and give them help and hope. Will you join us as we help others build their marriage and family God’s way?