The Healing of the family
Donald L. Norbie, Greeley, Colorado, USA [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
What is Western culture like today? What has been the Christian response?
When one becomes a follower of the Lord Jesus he is to leave in spirit the culture in which he lives and put himself under the authority of the Lord. God’s laws and standards are very different from the world around. Salvation has changed our whole standing, ‘But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered’, Rom. 6. 17. The word of God is now to mould the life and thoughts of the believer; we are ‘not to be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind’, Rom. 12. 2.
We do need to ask ourselves in the light of these scriptures, ‘What is Western culture like today and does this make any difference to us? World War II brought many changes. Men were drafted for military service, there was a great need for labour in the factories and shipyards and women went to work, doing jobs customarily done by men. Prior to this, most women upon marriage were taken up with home making and motherhood; the husbands were expected to earn the family their living. This all changed; now most married women continue to work as well as their husbands and raise their families at the same time. This has given women much more independence from their husbands, and as at times she may even make more money than he does, she may be less prone to encourage him to be the leader in their relationship. Marriage has become viewed more as a work-related ‘partnership’ rather than as a permanent union.
Culture has continued to change rapidly. Divorce has become easy and acceptable. With the advent of the ‘pill’ sex has fewer links with procreation but is viewed as recreation with no moral restraint. No longer does the woman fear becoming pregnant and so now she feels free to be promiscuous. The sexual revolution arrived in the ‘60’s and along with it the drug culture. These are still with us.
Culture changed more in a decade than it had in hundreds of years previously. It became accepted for couples to live together without marriage; the shame was gone. Marriage was viewed as an option after years of cohabitation. Homosexuality, which used to be viewed as a perversion, was now accepted as normal for some people. Pornography abounded on TV and on the internet, creating an obsession with sex. Welcome to Century 21!
All of this has wreaked havoc with families. Christians too have felt the need to compromise, to be less strict in certain areas. In fact, polls have shown that ‘evangelical Christians’ have abortions and divorce like the unbelievers surrounding them. The world now has become more like the pagan world of the first century which the apostles confronted. Rather than to compromise Paul urged Titus to ‘rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith’, Titus 1. 13. The holiness of God and the timeless nature of His moral commands need to be proclaimed vigorously again today.
When people get saved the local church must become a sanctuary
When people get saved the local church must become a sanctuary of healing for them from any of the wounds that their lives out of Christ may have caused. Divorce is a now a common occurrence in the lives of such and we are often perplexed as to what to do? This is a vexed question and needs to be faced by every one of us. If neither partner has remarried then the goal should be reconciliation and the restoration of the family. Children need both father and mother. We do have to face the reality that the marriage may be finished and the difficulties irresolvable, but if there is genuine repentance and matters honestly confronted with forgiveness on both sides, the marriage can be saved. This should be the goal.
Opinions will differ on these matters but one has to hope for good to come eventually. If one or both have remarried, the original marriage realistically has little chance of being rebuilt. The present marriage may have begun with adultery but I believe that in the mercy of God that can be forgiven. When God’s requirements are met forgiveness is always possible! God is a forgiving God and I believe His people should act in forgiveness as their God does so often. The Corinthian church was birthed in a corrupt culture. Corinth was famous for its immorality and vice. Paul could write to these dear saints, ‘And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God’, 1 Cor. 6. 11. Thank God for His grace!
It must be understood that no two situations are ever the same and each must be looked at on its own merit. Any such situation demands the humility of all and the deepest of wisdom and sensitivity in every occasion when the issues are dealt with. Each assembly with its eldership must be allowed to operate as before the Lord Himself in these matters. It is so easy for us to be judgemental and destructive in our handling of these matters.
The major need is to proclaim the word of God as an adequate guide
The church needs to proclaim the word of God as an adequate guide for marriage and the home, 2 Tim. 3. 16-17. The sanctity of sex must be taught and modelled. ‘Marriage is honourable among all and the bed undefiled, but fornicators and adulterers God will judge’, Heb. 13. 4. Church discipline must be exercised, ‘Those who are sinning must be rebuked in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear’, 1 Tim. 5. 20. ‘Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?’1 Cor. 5. 6. We must never compromise God’s holiness.
Couples will find harmony in marriage as each accepts their own role. It is hard for women in our culture to accept the leadership of the man. In the fall, Eve surged ahead without consulting Adam and partook of the forbidden fruit. Then she led him into sin, giving him the fruit to eat. When God spoke to the woman later He affirmed the leadership of the man – ’he shall rule over you’, Gen. 3. 16. Scripture later asserts, ‘the head of woman is man’, 1 Cor. 11. 3. This leadership is to be a leadership of service, characterized by commitment and love, exemplified by Christ’s love for the church, Eph. 5. 25. Such leadership should not be hard to accept. Male leadership is also commanded for the churches and this eldership is to be in the hands of men raised up and approved of God, 1 Tim. 2. 11-13.
There must be constant repentance and forgiveness
Because we are all sinners and fail at times, there must be constant cycles of repentance and forgiveness. Marriage is a binding covenant and divorce should never be regarded as an option, Mal. 2. 14-15. A couple who took those marriage vows did so before God and witnesses and God will hold them accountable. They must learn to forgive; they must strive to put the past behind them following the injunctions to be ‘kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you’, Eph. 4. 32. At the end of each day make sure there is forgiveness and reconciliation for any differences and that you can start the next day with a clean page. This is the pathway to healing and understanding, always seeking the Lord’s help to be pleasing to Him.
Read God’s word and pray together every day, Deut. 6. 5-9. Couples will find that they resolve many conflicts as they bow in prayer together. Saturate your home with God’s word and prayer, Ps. 1. Remember the exhortation ‘And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God’, Rom. 12. 2. Here is a blessed promise to lay hold upon each day:
‘Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
In the very heart of your house.
Your children like olive plants,
All around your table.
Behold, thus shall the man be blessed
Who fears the Lord.
Ps. 128. 3-4 .
AUTHOR PROFILE: Donald Norbie is in fellowship with the assembly in Greeley, Colorado, and is a commended full-time worker. A regular contributor to Precious Seed and other assembly magazines his ministry is widely appeciated throughout N. America and the UK.