With these words the Lord Jesus emphasized the sanctity of marriage. It is God who hears and acknowledges the solemn vows entered into by husbands and wives in which fidelity to each other is promised until death or the coming of the Lord. This solemn undertaking should not be entered into lightly, hastily or without due thought being given to the responsibilities and commitment involved. It is therefore a matter of grave concern to hear of a growing number of marriages within the brotherhood breaking up, with all the dreadful sequels for children, grandparents and family members. It is an earth-shattering event for all parties involved. We might pose the question, Why should this happen in a community so keenly aware of Divine principles and God’s all-pervading presence and knowledge?

The reality is that we live in “a wicked and adulterous generation” where there is little or no fear of God. Men and women are “liberated” from the taboos of a past age, so they think. They consider themselves free and able to dictate what is right and what is wrong. So doing they have become slaves to sin. They have devised a new morality, which is actually old morality. For them their actions are only wrong if they infringe the rights of fellow human beings. There is no regard for God or His commandments in the modern world, or any such word as sin. Many of the churches have capitulated and make no stand on moral issues in this permissive society.

It is the influence of this godless society and its aggressive media that has and is having its impact upon marriages in the world and in the Truth. Even though the horrendous statistics for divorce in the world are not mirrored in the ecclesias, the growing incidence of marital breakdown is alarming.

Infidelity

It is important to be aware of the dangers lurking in the workplace. With so many now in the workplace who do not have a commitment to marriage, and who consider others ‘fair game’ whatever their relationships might be, temptations abound. Brethren and sisters need to be on their guard and avoid all activities and situations which may lead to compromise. Faithfulness and loyalty to one’s spouse should be manifest from our attitude, our words and our deeds, and that should deter any who might seek to breach that trust. As brethren and sisters of Christ we should not be naïve: we know what the “works of the flesh” are and should resist behaviour that could bring downfall and calamity. Paul makes it abundantly clear that falling victim to such temptations may cost us a place in the Kingdom: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind… shall inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor 6:9–10).

Promotion

The lure of promotion and a handsome salary can be a mixed blessing. Sometimes interstate and overseas travel can be involved, taking the breadwinner away from wife and family. Inherent in such ‘advancement’ is compromise and peril. Nights away from the family routine need to be profitably spent with Bible readings, and phone calls to home a daily activity. Promotion in this world comes at a price. Often the mind is occupied with greater responsibilities, leaving less mind-space for the things that are really important, meditation on the Word of God and awareness of the needs of wife and children. Those are the matters that really count. We need to ask ourselves what are our priorities, what things are most important to us and how much time and energy do we devote to them? What do we think about when we can think about anything we want to think about?

Selfishness

It is natural to think of oneself first; it is mature and spiritual to think of the needs of others before our own needs: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:4, rsv). Within the bond of marriage the importance of caring for one’s spouse takes on an even greater dimension: husbands are to “love their wives, even as Christ also loved the ecclesia, and gave himself for it” (Eph 5:23). How is this possible if a career has been chosen which robs a marriage of valuable time spent in developing loving relationships, in providing affection, care and guidance to children? Fathers need to be with the family and to make sure all the child’s needs are met. This should not be the sole province of mothers; it is a mutual responsibility.

One of the factors leading to marriage breakdown is self-interest, a failure to appreciate one’s obligations and responsibilities as a parent and a spouse. This can lead to presumption and a continual “taking out” instead of a “putting into” the marriage, with the ultimate result of all good will being drained out and a crisis looming. This tragic state of affairs should never eventuate “in Christ”, for we are exposed to the constant instruction of the Word of God telling us how we should conduct ourselves in marriage and in the ecclesia. Let each of us take stock, and see that we are not placing our marriage in jeopardy in any way.

Perilous Last Days

With those apt words the apostle Paul described the days in which we live. He went on to say, “For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, fierce, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of religion but denying the power of it” (2 Tim 3:2–5, rsv). You could not imagine a more accurate description. Every adjective used is true. It is an exact fit. But we need to take the warning out of these, his last words. He went on to warn that “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived”. How can we defend ourselves against these pernicious influences that are everywhere abroad and which threaten us, our families, all we have laboured to build in our lives, and indeed, our eternal well-being? Paul encourages Timothy to “continue in the things he has learned and been assured of, knowing of whom he has learned them”—in Timothy’s case, the divinely commissioned “Apostle to the Gentiles”. He points out that the sacred writings, the holy scriptures, are able to instruct “unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus”, because they have been given by direct inspiration of God. Here are our moorings in this tempestuous world, and this will remain the case until the Lord comes. Let us read the Word of God with our families. Let fathers perform their divinely appointed role as head of the house, and let them give careful and prayerful thought to the spiritual needs of their wives and children.

Remember, the family that prays together and reads together, stays together.

Readers will find much help from the articles which comprise our feature in this issue, “Families Walking Together to the Kingdom”.