“Marriage should be
honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the
adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” Hebrew 13:4
In the last post we looked at a USA Today article regarding the way that Americans view sin. The
article contained a survey listing various activities and the percentage of
Americans who thought these activities were sin. Eighty-one percent of those
surveyed thought that adultery was a sin. However, only 45% of this same group
thought that having sex before marriage was a sin. This difference says much
about how our culture uses the Bible to determine what is sin. The actual title
of the article in USA Today is “Has the
notion of sin been lost?” Sin is a notion? Translation – the Bible is not
connected to the cultural concept of sin.
What does this mean for Christian families? In the broad
sense it means that the necessity for a Savior is an idea that Americans do not
see as relevant. People do not need to be saved from notions. This survey
indicates that it is man, not God, who determines what sin is. (More on this in
a moment.) Raising children in a culture that believes it can determine what
sin is and what it isn’t presents a challenge to parents. Parents, you cannot
expect the culture to reinforce moral and ethical values that you teach in your
home. You must prepare your children for culture shock when they leave your
home. In this broad sense the idea of Jesus Christ saving sinners is passé.
Jesus may be a role model, he may be a teacher, but he is not a savior. If you
teach that Christ is the Savior you are counter-cultural!
In the more immediate, it means that Christian families must
honor Christ for who he is and what he has done. In short, it means that the
Gospel must be front and center in your day-to-day parenting. Jesus died to
save sinners and to bring newness of life to those for whom he died. It is not
enough to say that Mom and Dad say something is wrong. You must appeal to Christ
and his word. Otherwise sin is just a notion of parents. Consistency is
important. The contrast between adultery and premarital sex is instructive
about how our culture views morality. Let’s take another look at the difference
between those who say adultery is sin and those who say premarital sex is sin.
The first indicator of a problem is that the answer is not
100% for both categories. The Bible is clear on this. The passage in Hebrews
13:4 is but one of many places that teach that marriage is the only These statistics make it clear
that something other than the Bible is defining sin.
Next, there is the contrast between adultery and premarital
sex. More than half think that premarital sex is not sin. A quick examination
of movies, TV shows and dorm life on college campuses affirms that this view is
perhaps even more widespread than the survey indicates. How can this be? What
thinking lies underneath this standard? Clearly, people who think adultery is
sin but premarital sex is not are living with a relativistic standard. How do
people live with such inconsistency?
I mentioned consistency earlier. This is important! When
your parenting is inconsistent with regard to when and what you discipline for,
you are unwittingly setting a relativistic standard of behavior in your home. You
teach that some sins are bigger than others; sins that don’t inconvenience you
can be overlooked. Sinfulness is functionally defined by the severity of the
consequences instead of by God’s standard.
Obviously, none of us can be 100% consistent. However,
inconsistency is the handmaiden of behavior-focused parenting instead of
heart-focused parenting. This is why you must always look beyond the behavior
of the moment. If the focus is simply on changing behavior then your parenting
will be uneven. Children will not be taught to carry over concepts learned in
discipline to anything other than the exact same behavior situation. Consider the following scenario:
Jeremy, you have 5 minutes to play with the
toy truck and then Sean may have his turn. You must be fair and make sure you
both have equal time with the truck. This way you can both be happy.
This direction misses the heart entirely. It actually paves
the way for the sort of thinking that says premarital sex is okay, but adultery
is wrong. Give some thought to this example. I know this connection may seem
like a stretch. We will look at the
difference that focusing on the heart makes in the next post.