The Devil's Campaign
The world has changed so much in my lifetime that I feel older than I am. I was born in 1942, which is not long ago. Yet life today is a long journey away from life in my childhood . Although the 40s and 50s contained the seeds of things to come, nobody then could have predicted the present crop of results.
Among all my playmates when I was child, not one lived in a home without his two natural parents, if both were living. Today, in a typical Christian school, drawing from the best homes in the community, about half of the children come from broken homes. What has happened? The devil's campaign to promote lawlessness has succeeded in trashing the traditional family.
God placed man in a matrix of social institutions designed to restrain sin. He founded the church, so that man could hear the law of God. He founded civil government to deter crime and punish criminals. And He founded the family, so that each generation could pass on its best achievements and wisdom to the next, and so that each individual could live in a situation fostering cooperation, unselfish service to others, and love. Although the devil has attacked all these institutions, his special target has been the family, because it is the most important. One of his chief tactics has been to overthrow the time-honored laws that made divorce and remarriage difficult. Within the last fifty years he has won a great victory in persuading governments throughout the Western world to allow no-fault divorce. Whereas in years past it was impossible to obtain a divorce without convincing a judge that the spouse was guilty of adultery, or desertion, or some other gross offense against the family, a husband and wife in contemporary society can sever their relationship just by mutual consent. The old laws were intended to protect children from deprivation of either natural parent. Nowadays, the laws give scant consideration to the welfare of children.
Trends in the Divorce Rate
Statistics vividly show that the devil's relentless assault upon the family has been very effective.
For the first time in history, the divorce rate reached half of the marriage rate in 1981. Since then, the divorce rate has tapered off. Now, about 43% of all new marriages are likely to end in divorce. But we should not infer that the institution of the family is stabilizing. An increasing number of the people who would be most prone to divorce are electing not to get married. Instead, they are choosing heterosexual or homosexual cohabitation.
Divine Purposes in Marriage
The first man and woman that God created—Adam and Eve—also became the first married couple. God Himself officiated at their wedding, which marked the beginning not only of their marriage, but also of the institution of marriage.
21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;
22 And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.
23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
Through the institution of marriage, God sought to achieve two purposes.
1) He wanted man to have the experience of complete human love.
18 And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.
20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.
The love between man and wife is a physical love, for "they shall be one flesh" (Gen. 2:24). Yet it is also an emotional love, for the man "shall cleave unto his wife" (same verse). That is, he will hold her warmly without ever letting her go. And their love is also friendship, for she will be his constant helper (Gen. 2:18). The failure of any animal to provide adequate companionship for Adam (Gen. 2:20) demonstrates that the love of man and wife also has intellectual and spiritual facets.
A perfect love between man and wife pictures God's love for the church.
25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:
30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
2) Another purpose of marriage is procreation.
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
The command to be fruitful and multiply preceded even the commission to subdue the earth. Since God had already instituted marriage, the first man and woman must have understood that marital love was God's appointed means of bringing new life into the world.
God's View of Divorce
Jesus' reply to the Pharisees. When the Pharisees sought Jesus' views on divorce, He advised them to look again at the Book of Genesis.
3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?
4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
Jesus reminded the Pharisees that God intended man and wife to be as one flesh. It is therefore evident that divorce is as unnatural and as contrary to God's purpose as cutting a body in two. The result for a body so maimed would be death. By implication, divorce brings moral and spiritual death to anyone who severs himself from his partner. Jesus concludes, "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." "Man" refers to any human being, male or female, and includes the married persons themselves.
Malachi's appeal to his countrymen. The prophet Malachi says that God's disapproval of divorce is so strong that it can be called hatred.
14 Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.
15 And did not he [God] make [them] one [that is, "one flesh"]? Yet had he [or, "the one"] the residue of the spirit [that is, God made them spiritual beings, not animals]. And wherefore one? That he [God] might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.
16 For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment [or "covereth one's garment with violence"], saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.
According to Malachi, God hates divorce (called "putting away") because it thwarts both of His purposes in marriage. Instead of love, there is treachery and violence. Instead of godly offspring, there are disturbed, unhappy children who find it hard to follow God.
Effects of divorce upon children. Divorce victimizes children in many ways.
1) Children from broken homes may have trouble establishing successful, stable homes of their own, because it is primarily from our parents' example that we learn how to conduct and preserve an intimate relationship with another person. One word of advice to my sons when they were young was, Marry a girl from a happy home. My wife and I are happily married. Why? Partly because our parents had good marriages.
2) Divorce disturbs the development of normal sex identity. Boys are more affected than girls, since the usual result of divorce is removal of the father from the family. The more absent he is, and the more hostility the mother expresses toward the father, the more pronounced the effect will be. A boy may become effeminate, or he may adopt an exaggerated masculinity leading to antisocial behavior. Many girls from broken homes, with missing fathers, become insecure and overly dependent, and they are prone to use sex as a means of attracting male attention.
3) The motivation to do well in school (known as "academic achievement motivation") depends more on fathers than on mothers. Unless the mother pushes extra hard, a child with a missing or remote father tends to lag in school.
4) The message of the text in Malachi is that a child achieves spiritual excellence mainly through his father's example and encouragement. The father's influence is especially critical for boys. The worst effect of divorce is to leave children with a life-shaping example of faithlessness to a solemn promise ("'Til death do us part"). Such an example breeds dishonesty in these children, and anyone with the trait of dishonesty finds it extremely hard to make a meaningful commitment to God.
4 And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable:
5 A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it.
6 And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture.
7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it.
8 And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
9 And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be?
10 And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.
11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
12 Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.
13 They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.
14 And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.
But notice especially the next verse.
15 But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.
We are all sinners saved through the gospel of grace, but one way God enables us to make a genuine and lasting decision to believe the gospel is by giving us, through our upbringing and experience, a measure of honesty in our hearts.