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marriage & family
This series of articles has covered most of the basics of Biblical teaching on marriage and sexuality. In fairness to the Bible’s overall teaching, let’s consider this one final discussion in the series: the matter of polygamy (or polygyny), which is the practice of being married to multiple spouses at the same time. This practice hardly needs to be warned against in the cultural moment of twenty-first-century America, first because it’s illegal in all 50 states, and second because the practice seems almost inhumane to us. America’s sensibilities are trained by a Judeo-Christian thought heritage in which the thought of marriage usually carries the idea of exclusivity with it, and we are so accustomed to that thought that we even struggle within the Bible to make sense of Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon, and other men who had multiple wives at the same time.
I don’t want to over-explain something which seems obvious to so many, but it bears saying out loud: Genesis 2:24 says, "Therefore a man [singular] shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife [singular], and they shall become one flesh" (clarifications added). From that statement and plenty more, Biblically speaking, it’s wrong for more than two people to be married to each other, and that’s all that needs to be said in direct address of the matter. But let me make three quick and relevant observations that are slightly more indirectly related to this practice.
First: As mentioned above, we struggle to make sense of the many examples of polygamous unions throughout the Bible, especially by men who are held up as great examples of faith in God. A couple of realizations can help us reconcile this. First, we should pay careful attention to how the stories are written and what those men are actually commended for, because we will search the Bible in vain to find a place where their polygamy is commended. Second, we should keep in mind that those Bible characters are not held up as examples of perfection, but of faith in crucial moments. And that helps us to see that they were imperfect like we are, which makes us all look to the one example of human perfection: Christ. The Old Testament narratives are often not telling the stories of what should have happened, but rather what did happen. They show us the human players in God’s grand drama with honesty; not as morally whitewashed men who did all things right.
Second: You may occasionally hear the term ‘polyamory’ bandied about in the cultural conversation about modern sexual ethics. You should know that this term does not refer to polygamous marriage, but rather to multiple unmarried sexual partners. Obviously, in a world where many are calling evil good and putting bitter for sweet (cf. Isa. 5:20), we expect this behavior from the world and yet we see it for the sin that it is.
Third: There is a lingering thought among many religious people that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints endorses the practice of polygyny. According to official teaching from the church, this is no longer true. It was accepted by that religious organization over a century ago, but it is strongly condemned in their official teachings today, and it has been for a long time. I point that out here for the benefit of any of us who get into conversations about the Gospel with a Mormon friend: we would do well not to criticize their religious beliefs regarding this matter, because while their church once taught that it was okay, the person that you’re talking to probably has a strong belief in one-man-one-woman marriage.
Again, it’s easy to see that polygamy/polygyny is a sinful practice. It appears to have been one of the many things in “the time of ignorance [which] God overlooked” (Ac. 17:30), but it was never given divine approval. And so we are thankful that this sinful practice is largely out of fashion in our time and place, and we pray that our culture will be reformed to see all other sexual and marital sins with the same sort of repulsion with which this one is generally viewed.
- Dan Lankford, minister
PS – I had thought that this article would hardly be meaningful in our cultural context, but then the matters of monogamy, polyamory, and sexual infidelity came up in this article from USA Today on Monday of this week, which just reminded me that these matters of right and wrong are always relevant.
So far in our series of articles about marriage & sexuality, we’ve addressed the biblical sexual ethic, the need for permanence in marriage, the problem with adultery, the nature of divorce, and the righteous regulations for remarriage after a death or divorce. In this writing, we’re bringing some of the darkness of human thought into the light of God’s word. We’re talking about lust—a sin of the will which is prone to lead to other sexual sins.
By its simplest definition, the word “lust” only means desire. But in common usage and in Biblical usage, it almost always means an ungodly sexual desire. This is clearly what Jesus was talking bout in these words from 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 lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Mt. 5:27-28) This kind of unholy sexual desire is also what David was experiencing when he saw Bathsheba on a far rooftop and then continued the process that eventually brought them to bed together (2 Sm. 11:2-4). It’s also what the prophets had in mind when they used the word to accuse Israel of their “whoredom” with gods other than YHWH (cf. Ez. 16:36ff, 23:11-17ff, Jr. 2:24ff).
Jesus’ words, quoted above, are the clearest moral statement on the matter to be found in the Bible. Obviously, there is such a thing as temptation which arises, as one author said, “like a hiccup, unchosen and unwanted.” Christ even said in another place that, “temptations are sure to come.” (Lk. 17:1) But in Matthew 5:27-28, he is addressing unrighteous thoughts or fantasies that each person can control—those that indulge in a moment of temptation, choosing to dwell upon what our senses desire even though we know it is unrighteous. That is what Jesus means by looking at someone “...with lustful intent.” (ESV). The unchosen temptation is not inherently sinful; the knowing and willful dwelling upon our desires is. Each of us have to be honest with ourselves and with God about the difference and choose to do what’s right, rather than making excuses for our thought behavior. Especially for those of us who are married, the choice (and it is a choice) to look at or dwell on someone other than our spouse adulterates our faithfulness to him and to his perfect design for marriage. Jesus’ words about “adultery in his heart” should not be taken as an additional exemption for righteous divorce, but they should teach us the seriousness with which we should control our thoughts.
All of this obviously prohibits all Christians—married or single, male or female—from looking at pornography (whether we consider it ‘hard’ or ‘soft’), “checking out” anyone other than your spouse, or allowing our daydreams to circle around an ungodly lust. It should also caution us heavily about watching shows or movies in which characters are dressed such that viewers are provoked to “lustful intent.”
All of this is a matter of keeping our minds and hearts pure for God’s glory. Are we faithful to him in everything, including “the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hb. 4:12)?
- Dan Lankford, minister
In recent weeks, these midweek articles have addressed the Biblical ethics of sexuality and marriage. As a direct follow-up to last Wednesday’s article about divorce, let’s give some quick consideration the the New Testament’s statements about remarriage.
The first situation in which remarriage is Biblically validated is in the case of a spouse's death. A widowed spouse is free to remarry, and that is clearly not sinful or even morally suspect. Paul enumerates this truth plainly in Romans 7:1-3 and in 1 Corinthians 7:39. He even says that under some circumstances, younger widowers and widows should remarry (1 Tim. 5:14), especially if they will be excessively tempted to sexual immorality (1 Cor. 7:8-9).
The second situation in which remarriage is Biblically validated is in the case of a spouse against whom adultery has been committed. This is necessarily inferred from what the Lord spoken in Matthew 19:9. There, he said, “whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” The implication is that any remarriage which follows a divorce not brought about by sexual infidelity is unlawful. And therefore, any remarriage which follows a divorce brought about by sexual infidelity is lawful.
Beyond these two, the New Testament’s only other mention of the subject is up for some debate. Obviously, I’m talking about the same unclear section of 1 Corinthians 7 that I mentioned in last week’s article. This situation is one which needs to be worked out on a case-by-case basis, with much prayer and with as much fidelity to Scripture as we can achieve. I will avoid addressing that matter directly in this writing, and I will do so for this purpose: So that we can see the parts of the New Testament which are plain teachings. And so that we can align our hearts to believe them and live them out.
Is this a hard teaching? Yes. Even the apostles thought so (cf. Mt. 19:10-13). And yet, Jesus stated the truth on the matter. It’s a matter of what God wants for us, what pleases him, and ultimately what is righteous in the grand scheme of all holiness.
- Dan Lankford, minister
In our recent series of midweek articles, we have discussed the Biblical sexual ethic, the permanence and exclusivity of marriage, and the problem with adultery. Now, it’s time to discuss one of the hardest batches of truth in this series: what the Bible says about divorce.
This is a hard batch of truth for two reasons: 1) Because the Spirit has shown us the where hard lines of right and wrong are drawn on these matters, and 2) because many of us find that these teachings are fraught; emotionally hard to hear and hard to think about for a variety of reasons.
The Bible does have enough to say about this matter for us to clearly understand that divorces have never been God’s intention for married people. When Jesus was asked whether divorce is approved by God, the conversation went like this: “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said:
‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast 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 not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” (Mt. 19:4-9)
His words call for little explanation or clarification. They come down to a few core points:
- Divorce is not God’s intention for married couples. It breaks a union that is put in place by God (see Gn. 2:24). The intent was always that they would be joined by God and therefore not separated by mankind.
- Divorces have happened often throughout the history of God-fearing people groups, but they are not an equally valid option in the plan that God put in place. Jesus’ perspective on the Law of Moses’ teaching about divorce was essentially: “Yes, Moses allowed you to divorce your wives under certain circumstances, but that was never what God intended for you.”
- A divorce is always a bad thing. Sometimes, it is the lesser of two (or more) evils that can present a path through a particular situation, but it’s never morally neutral or morally good. That doesn’t mean that every person who experiences a divorce is at fault for it. Nor does it mean that every divorced person has sinned by getting divorced. But it does mean that in every divorce situation, something has gone wrong. It is never a thoroughly good thing in the eyes of God.
Jesus’ teaching on the subject is a concise recapitulation of what we would learn from elsewhere in the Bible. Jesus quoted the words from Genesis and showed how they ought to be instructive to all of his followers. And Malachi said, “the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts.” (Mal. 2:16) And it’s the same in the New Testament. Admittedly, some of what the apostle Paul wrote about marriage and divorce is unclear, especially in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16. But even in that context where some things are unclear, the apostle’s underlying assumption is that married Christians will stay together (“To the married I give this charge… the wife should not separate from her husband…and the husband should not divorce his wife.” [1 Cor. 7:10-11]). The choice—and it is a choice—of whether to stick with one’s spouse or not is something about which God has spoken clearly. The command, with one exception mentioned in Scripture, is to stay with our spouses through the whole of life.
Now, there is one circumstance of which the Lord spoke in which a person may divorce their spouse righteously (the exception previously mentioned). It’s this: one who is the innocent party in a marriage that has been adulterated may righteously divorce the guilty spouse. Jesus said this in Matthew 5:31-32, Matthew 19:9, and other passages in the Gospels which repeat these same occasions (cf. Mk. 10:1-12, Lk. 16:18). And it’s important that our awareness of this righteous exception leads us to be compassionate toward our Christian brothers and sisters who have suffered a divorce resulting from a spouse’s infidelity. Theirs is a pain that should be handled with compassion and care by the church. We will address the topic of the difficulty that many of them face in overcoming a perceived stigma from their Christian family in another venue, but for this writing, let it suffice to say that those whose life pathways have led them through this door should NOT be treated as guilty, damaged, or spiritually inferior because of it. They have suffered the consequences of someone else’s sin, and they are not the guilty ones. The Lord said that their divorces are righteous ones.
Divorce is something that married Christians should not even consider as an option, except, as Jesus said, in cases of sexual immorality. Among those of us who are married, our default position should be total devotion to faithfulness in our marriages, with no consideration of a way out. Does that sound like a lot to ask of a person? Yes, it does. And we’re not the first people to think so. The apostles answered Jesus’ words in Matthew 19 by saying, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” (Mt. 19:10) Essentially, they were saying that if marriage is going to be so permanent, even in bad times, then maybe it’s better to just never enter one. While that wasn’t what the Lord was teaching, it does belie the great weight of commitment that is the warp and woof of godly marriage.
A few other things are worth a quick, passing mention:
- Divorce is a sin of which a person can repent and be forgiven (like any other sin).
- People have often said that, “Half of all marriages end in divorce,” but that isn’t true any more. In fact, it may never have been true. The method used for the initial study that revealed that truth were almost certainly mishandled, and things have actually trended in a better direction in America since that stat was first published.
- Christians should think of being committed to our marriages rather than stuck in our marriages. One can understand why the difference in verbiage would make a big difference in our daily lives.
- Homosexual “marriages” are not something that God recognizes as holy; likely he does not even recognize them as marriages. And so in the case of two people of the same sex who are ostensibly married to each other, when one or both of them come to Christ, that “marriage” would need to be ended, including a legal filing of divorce if that was what was required by the laws pertinent to them at the time. A similar rationale would apply in cases of transgender people’s relationships when they come to Christ and repent of the old ways of their former life.
- If you and your spouse find yourselves struggling to make good things happen in your marriage, and especially if you worry that your only options are either divorce or a life of marital misery, then make some time to click here and listen to this sermon for some good starting guidance toward repairing the relationship.
As God’s people, we want to protect ourselves from the evil of divorce. God’s intent was that a man and a woman become one flesh, cling to each other through all of life, and that mankind does not separate what God has joined together.
- Dan Lankford, minister
In the last two midweek articles, we started an exploration of the entire framework of Biblical teachings on marriage and sexuality. First, we talked about the Bible’s teachings on righteous sexual behavior, and then we addressed the importance of permanent and exclusive marriages. The plan is to continue to explore these topics in the next several writings, making a straightforward—and hopefully concise—case for what the Bible has to say on the following topics: adultery, lust, polygamy, divorce, and remarriage.
Adultery is what’s commonly called “cheating” on a spouse or “having an affair.” It’s when a married person has sex with anyone who is not his or her spouse. And there’s no wondering whether it’s a behavior that the Bible considers right or wrong—the Bible is clear that it’s wrong, and speaks in volumes on that subject.
The Ten Commandments forbid adultery (Ex. 20:14, Dt. 5:18). The Law of Moses exacted punishments on both adulterers and adulteresses (Lv. 20:10ff, Nm. 5:11ff). The wisdom of Solomon warned in strong terms about the damage that adultery can do to the one who commits it (Pr. 5). The prophets used the obvious wrongness of adultery as metaphor for Israel’s long-term unfaithfulness to their covenant with God and their worshiping other gods (Jr. 3:9, Ez. 16:38ff, 23:37ff, etc). And Jesus spoke clearly on the subject, noting that adultery (“sexual immorality,” Mt. 5:32) dissolves a marriage and releases the righteous spouse from it if they so choose to be released (19:9ff). He also added greater depth of heart to the Law of Moses’s command that, “You shall not commit adultery” by warning that, “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Mt. 5:28) And even though Jesus once released a woman who was caught in adultery from the hypocrisy of those who wanted to put her to death, he still admitted that she had sinned by committing adultery, saying, “Go your way and sin no more” (Jn. 8:11). And the apostles also spoke with a firm understanding that the act of adultery is sinful in the eyes of God, no matter which of God’s covenants a person may live under (Rm. 2:22, Rm. 13:9, 2 Pt. 2:14, Rv. 2:22).
So it’s clear that adultery is a sin. And that knowledge might bring about different reactions from different people, depending on what point in life we’re at.
- For a person who has committed adultery, it may seem that such a thing is too damaging and too bad to ever be forgiven. But there is forgiveness available for those who have committed adultery and then have repented and confessed that to God, just like with all other sins.
- For those who are currently married and trying to serve God, all of this reminds us of the same truth from last week’s article: That it’s crucial for married people who want to serve God faithfully to protect our marriages and to be faithful to our spouses.
Whether the world around us thinks that such a thing is right or wrong, God says that it’s wrong, and we must fight any temptation to commit adultery. Our families depend on it, society at large depends on it, and each of our souls depend on us being faithful to God by resisting the temptation to commit this sin.
- Dan Lankford, minister
The Bible speaks clearly about the importance of faithfulness to a marriage covenant. As long as it is within our power to do so, those of us who are married are commanded to be enduringly faithful to our spouses, as the traditional vows say, “forsaking all others.”
This is a simple truth stated by Christ himself when he said, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mt. 19:6) And unfaithfulness is one thing for which God gives very strong criticism of his people during the time when they were rebuilding after Babylonian exile. In Malachi 2, he said, “the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant… So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.” (Mal. 2:14-16) And in many of the prophets’ words, the idolatry of God’s people is held up as a parallel evil to the unfaithfulness of a spouse who forsakes their marriage vows by committing adultery (cf. Ezk. 16 and Hos. 3).
There are a few notable exceptions to the permanence of a marriage that God proclaims to be righteous, but this writing is focused on what ought to be the rule among Christians: that in attitude, in action, in word, and in prayer, we are devoted to healthy, lifelong, exclusive marriages.
This requires a high level of devotion, akin to the devotion that is called for in a life of faithfulness to God. It reminds us that marriage is a commitment of the will to the other person, regardless of how our emotions toward them may undulate over time. This requires us to protect our hearts and our marriages from flirtation with others, from lustful intent, and from all-out adultery. It requires us to be willing to repent of our own sins against a spouse and to forgive a spouse’s sins against us. It means that we should pray for God to give us all the good blessings that come from a righteous marriage. It requires that we must each make up our minds from the very beginning that we will truly “forsake all others” and cling to our spouse, putting a hand to the plow and not looking back (cf. 9:62) as God has called us to.
Again, there are a few notable exceptions in which the permanence of marriage may be undone with God’s approval, but let’s be clear that they are exceptions—not the rule. And so may God bless his people more and more with married couples who keep the vows that we make to him “until death parts us.”
- Dan Lankford, minister
There are some ideas within the framework of Biblical Christianity that long-time believers assume everyone among us just knows. And yet, if we aren’t deliberate about teaching the whole counsel of God (cf. Ac. 20:27), we may find that some among us simply don’t know certain Bible doctrines that we had assumed to be common knowledge. Additionally, when commonly-accepted doctrines are questioned or rejected by the world, some Christians can become convinced to go the world’s way unless we periodically make plain statements of Biblical truth.
So, in the interest making sure that the the whole counsel of God is spoken with conviction among us, consider these straightforward reminders of some basic morality of Christians’ sexual behavior.
The Bible is clear that sexual activity is right in only one relationship: a righteous marriage between a biological man and a biological woman. This is implicit in the creation story (cf. Gn. 2:24-25), and it is made explicit in the Ten Commandments (cf. Ex. 20:14) as well as many of the laws that God gave to the Hebrews after they left Egypt (cf. Lv. 18 & 20:10-21). With only a very few exceptions, these rules are restated by the Apostles in the New Testament (and good arguments can be made in favor of the unmentioned ones), with the apostles often just assuming the righteous ways in which Christians would behave in these ways (cf. 1 Cr. 5:1, Rm. 7:1-4, 1 Cr. 7:15, and other examples).
The bottom line is this: According to the Bible, sexual activity outside of a righteous marriage between a man and a woman is sinful. That means that a dating couple sleeping together before marriage is sinful. It means that homosexual activity by either gender is sinful. It means that sex with someone other than a person’s spouse is sinful. And the Lord himself added to all of that a prohibition against lustful thoughts about a person of the opposite sex, noting that such sexualized thoughts are also sinful (Mt. 5:27-28).
Does all of this really matter? Yes. A great deal. And we’ll talk in another writing about the many deep reasons why that is, but it’s one area where Christians ought to be exceedingly clear and convicted about who we are and how we are to faithfully serve God our king.
- Dan Lankford, minister
The formula for all healthy, peaceful relationships is:
Everyone Gives + No One Takes+ Everyone Receives = Enough Blessings for Everyone
Everyone gives. That means that all parties in the relationship are altruistic. That is, they are purely thinking of how to be a blessing to others. No one worries that they themselves will be hurt, taken advantage of, or forgotten. They simply give to others.
No one takes. Nobody in the relationship is a consumer any more often than they absolutely have to be. Each party is so focused on giving (see the paragraph above) that there is little time to consider their own needs and feel slighted for unmet expectations.
Everyone receives. When kind things are done by others in the relationship, they are never rejected or downplayed. Because each party understands that taking is selfish, but receiving what another has given is actually a sign of humility. And so the key to relationship is not to give everything away and be miserable with nothing, but to perpetually give and also happily receive the good that others give.
Our natural human fear is that if we give to others all the time, there will not be enough left for ourselves. But when we learn to properly balance giving and receiving, God has promised that we will all have enough to meet our needs. Remember Abraham’s faithful words: “God will provide” (Gen. 22:8).
These principles are true of each person’s relationship with God, of our family relationships, of our work teams, and of our church family relations. If we want to have peace and God’s abundant blessings, then we must each learn to live out these mentalities as God does toward us.
- Dan Lankford, minister
Two Sundays ago, we talked about parenting. This past Sunday, we talked about leadership and shepherding. I believe that the two topics fit together seamlessly: As parents, it’s our job to shepherd our children into the fold of the good shepherd. Obviously, that’s a big concept that could be talked about in a myriad of ways, but for today, just consider this one aspect of shepherd-parenting: Setting and enforcing boundaries for our sheep is a way to protect them.
It’s not often in vogue to talk about the boundaries that we set for our kids, but there are eternal reasons that Christians understand as to why we must do that. First, because the boundaries that we teach them will, over the course of time, contribute to the character that defines them. And second, because proper boundaries keep them safe. Like a fence installed near a tall cliff, properly policing our kids’ activities keeps them from wandering into territory where they’ll suffer spiritual (and psychological) wounds that simply could have been avoided.
One way to do this: Christian parents need to be particularly mindful of our kids’ digital intake. What apps do they use? Who do they contact? What do they send and see and hear? What sort of messages—good or bad—are they getting on a regular basis? Parents, we would do well to either 1) set up digital boundaries that fully prevent them from access to much of the internet world, or 2) regularly check for ourselves what they are seeing and hearing. There are plenty of reasons for all of this, both from the realm of psychology and from the realm of spirituality (again, I offer the same Biblical advice from this past Sunday: “Know well the condition of your flocks” [Prov. 27:23]). And if we don’t know how to do these things with the technology that our children own, then we’d better learn or get the help of someone who does know. There is too much at stake for our kids to not invest in protecting them.
I know that many of you already do things like this, and I applaud you for it, because even if our kids resent us for a time because of the decisions we’ve made for them, we know (and God knows) that it’s the right thing to do. Each godly mom and dad will have to use some wisdom to know exactly how we will protect and guide our kids through these issues (so be sure to have some grace with other parents who make different judgment calls than you do), but godly wisdom dictates that some boundaries must be set and enforced. It’s a matter of disciplining them into being disciples of the Lord. “For [our parents] disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but [God] disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.” (Heb 12:10)
- Dan Lankford, minister
A recent report by the Pew Research Center, who study all sorts of trends connected to faith and religion, noted the following: “About a third (35%) of U.S. parents with children under 18 says it’s extremely or very important to them that their kids have similar religious beliefs to their own as adults… But attitudes on this question vary by the religious affiliation of the parents. White evangelical Protestant parents are twice as likely as U.S. parents overall (70% vs. 35%) to say it’s extremely or very important that their children grow up to have religious beliefs that are similar to their own. Some 53% of Black Protestant parents also express this view.” The report continues: “Parents who attend religious services weekly or more often are more than three times as likely as those who attend less often to say it’s important to raise children who will share their religious views (76% vs. 21%). Overall, parents are more likely to say it’s important that their children share their religious beliefs as adults than to say the same about their kids’ political views.”
Several things came to mind when I read the report. Here are just a few observations:
First, the data isn’t very surprising in many ways. Regardless of black or white, it’s not surprising that those who are regular church-goers care deeply about sharing their faith with their kids. If anything, it’s surprising that the percentages aren’t actually higher, because those who regularly attend Christian church services are, in the main, the ones who believe that the teachings of Christianity are truth. And if we believe that these things are true, then we necessarily must believe in the need to share them with our kids. If we believe that Jesus is the singular way, truth, and life (John 14:6), then we will want to share the good news about him with everyone and see all people come to follow him… especially those of our own household!
Second, I occasionally hear Christians say things like, “The faith isn’t hereditary. Each generation must have their own faith.” And while I understand the sentiment behind that, a report like the one from Pew should probably increase our awareness of the fact that the Bible does intend for faith to be hereditary in some sense. Yes, each person must come to a point of maturity where they take ownership of their faith, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater in saying that “Christian faith isn’t hereditary.” Because each generation is also supposed to teach the faith to the next generation. That was explicitly stated in the Old Testament (Deut. 6:4-9), and there are plenty of examples or allusions to the same thing happening among Christians in the New Testament (cf. 2 Tim. 1:5). Our faith is supposed to be a gift from one generation to the next, and so it is “hereditary” in that sense, and we should be diligent to make it so.
Third, let’s make sure that we each establish a conviction in our hearts as to whether our religious practices are simply a matter of preference (“I believe in this religion, but I wouldn’t want to make anyone else feel like they have to believe it, and I wouldn’t want to pressure my kids into thinking they have to believe it just because I do.”), or if it’s a matter of conviction (“I believe that Christianity’s teachings are the will of God that he spoke thru his servants and that he verified by raising Jesus from the dead. They aren’t just ‘my personal beliefs…’ They are truth.”). Our kids will know the difference when they see it work its way out in our lives. And more than that, the Lord will know the difference, because he knows what’s in our hearts.
I hope these ideas are helpful in your thinking as a supplement to Sunday’s sermon about parenting, and I hope that in our individual hearts and in our families, all of us are growing more and more into the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:13).
- Dan Lankford, minister