For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. – Ephesians 5:31
It is obvious on all fronts that the traditional nuclear family is on the way out. The family as we have known it for centuries has fallen apart, and children are increasingly being raised by grandparents or siblings. Rising divorce rates and growing pressures in the workplace mean that parents are passing on child care responsibilities to relatives.
Assisted reproductive technologies such as artificial insemination can have tragic consequences. Many children do not even know who their real parents are, or how they are related to other children. We seem to have forgotten that the health of society is dependent on the health of its families.
Fathers and mothers should always be the main role models in a child's life. All children long to know the two people who brought them into the world – to love them, and to be loved by them. Sadly, in too many cases, these two people are absent. Thankfully there are still people who believe that the traditional definition of a family is not only workable, but vital for survival. But this can only happen if we return to the simple teachings of Jesus, who taught us to love God and our neighbor as ourselves.
Jesus tells us to judge a tree by its fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. In the same way, a sound marriage can bless thousands of people, whereas a rotten one leaves a trail of devastation behind it.
For a marriage to endure, God must lead a man and woman to each other, and they must want him to hold them together. They must also desire his order, the husband serving his wife as spiritual head, and the wife serving her husband in return. Despite what many people think, such a relationship need not be restrictive or limiting; on the contrary, it is liberating. But it is possible only if Christ himself leads both partners.
If a husband is to lead his wife to God, he must respect and love her and not rule over her in a domineering way. He must allow himself to be guided by the Holy Spirit and remember that true leadership means service. The apostle Peter warns us that unless we consider and honor our wives, our prayers may be hindered (1 Pet. 3:7). Likewise, a woman should love and respect her husband.
Prayer is crucial in keeping a marriage healthy – "the family that prays together, stays together." Husband and wife should pray together daily – for their children, for each other, and for those around them. Given the hectic pace of life today, it may be helpful to set aside regular times for prayer: every morning before breakfast, for instance, and every night before going to sleep. Of course one can pray at other times, too, wherever one happens to be. But being busy or tired is not an excuse. How many of us spend time reading the paper, texting with friends, or watching TV every evening – but have no time for our spouses or for God?
Sociological studies have shown again and again that the two-parent family is the very best soil in which to raise children. Yet the world is full of single parents who must also be commended and encouraged. I have worked with many of them over the years, and have come to love them and their children in a special way. These children have as much to contribute to the world as anyone else – regardless of their family makeup or the circumstances of their birth and upbringing.
Still, marriage between one man and one woman, with the commitment of lifelong faithfulness, is the best foundation for a child's emotional health and stability. Broken family relationships, whether due to infidelity, divorce, or addiction, are devastating for a child and can leave emotional scars that last a lifetime.
Many people pray for God's will but follow it only when it matches their own. If we really love God we will seek to follow him whatever the outcome; we will sense that our deepest joy and greatest security lies in being faithful to him at all costs. By turning to God when our marriages falter, we will find the wisdom and strength with which to set things straight. He is the only sure foundation on which to build a family and raise children.
From Why Children Matter by Johann Christoph Arnold.