Over the last 60 years or so, our nation has been conducting a great experiment. We decided that the wisdom of our fathers was hopelessly outdated. We needed to be set free from old rules. New truths were required to guide this country to an even greater level of greatness.
Conspiracy theorists would love to discover that these new truths were concocted at some top-secret meeting. This meeting would have attracted all the influential leaders in our country–politicians, educators, lawyers, doctors, business executives, Hollywood filmmakers, book publishers, newspaper and magazine editors, perhaps even some key religious leaders. They would have met for days to hammer out a document listing the New Truths, and would have left with a solemn vow to promote them with all their power.
Of course, no such meeting took place. Instead, these new truths took their sustenance from dozens of sources and slowly, through the years, galvanized into a national consensus. They include the following:
- “Personal happiness, fulfillment, and independence are the highest goals for any person.”
- “The idea of marrying someone for life is old-fashioned.” Divorce is not harmful, but should be encouraged if couples are not compatible. We should not worry about how divorce affects children; they have a remarkable ability to adapt to hardship.
- “Traditional roles are confining and outdated.” Women should be encouraged to pursue careers and personal fulfillment, and it is unfair to view men as leaders of their homes.
- “Parents should be encouraged to begin ‘letting go’ of their children as they begin adolescence.” Then these teenagers can began to make their own, independent choices.
- “There is no such thing as absolute morality.” We encourage each individual to experience sexual freedom by setting aside biblical morals regarding premarital sex, extramarital sex, and homosexuality. We must embrace tolerance for any lifestyle an individual chooses.
- “We should question all forms of authority at every opportunity.”
- “The influence of Christianity should be eliminated from public life and from public discourse.”
As our nation began experimenting with these new truths, it wasn’t long before divorce rates began to rise, more and more children were born out of wedlock, and our standards of morality fell rapidly. For many of those years, religious and cultural conservatives felt like lonely prophets as they warned America that it was hanging by a thread because its families were deteriorating. As Dan Quayle, then the Vice President, said in a speech in 1992:
We are in large measure reaping the whirlwind of decades of changes in social mores. I was born in 1947. When we were young, it was fashionable to declare war against traditional values. Indulgence and self-gratification seemed to have no consequences. Many of our generation glamorized casual sex and drug use, evaded responsibility and trashed authority … The inter-generation poverty that troubles us so much today is predominantly a poverty of values. [It is a] testament to how quickly civilization falls apart when the family foundation cracks.
Quayle’s speech was ridiculed by many at the time, but since then more and more people—including leaders in business, education, politics, and the media–have begun to wake up to the crisis in our families and the devastating impact it was having in our culture. Now, politicians are trying to portray themselves as family values advocates. And you can hardly go a month without finding a major media report exploring some aspect of our culture’s breakdown in family and morality.
So we’re beginning to wake up. We know our culture is torn and tattered. The problem is that too often we don’t know where to turn to repair it.
Is the answer found in government programs? Is it found in electing Christian politicians? In attempting to clean up Hollywood? In persuading corporations to create more “family friendly” environments?
Some good will come from those types of initiatives, but real change will occur only when it is sparked by a tidal wave of individuals whose lives have been transformed. In the same way that Martin Luther sparked a return to the truth in the 16th century, families today can spark a family reformation by choosing to set aside the new truths that have governed our society and living their lives according to the real truth of God’s Word.
Living according to God’s Word
The Bible makes it clear that God blesses those who honor and obey His Word, and that one of His primary vehicles for passing His truth from one generation to the next is the family. In Psalm 78:5-8 we read:
For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, that they should teach them to their children, that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, that they may arise and tell them to their children, that they should put their confidence in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments, and not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not prepare its heart, and whose spirit was not faithful to God.
A family is reformed when they know, apply, experience, embrace and proclaim God’s truth about marriage and family. This means learning God’s Word, as an individual and a family, and then reordering your lives and your home according to His blueprints.
For many families, living according to God’s Word will require some difficult and courageous choices. It may mean setting aside personal fulfillment in order to fulfill your responsibility as a parent. It may mean turning down great career opportunities. It may mean living on less income. It may mean totally restructuring how you use your time in the evenings and on weekends.
But change will not occur until families like yours are willing to make those types of choices. Our nation will change only when our families change … one home at a time.
Copyright © 2005 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.