GOD’S PRIMARY INSTITUTION by Rev. Billy Murray, former Overseer The Church of God of Prophecy ______________________________________________________________________________________ I wish to applaud the Southern Baptist Convention for the resolution they approved in 1998, which supported a strong, scriptural perspective on marriage and the family. This resolution is as follows: “God has ordained the family as the foundational institution of human society. It is composed of persons related to one another by marriage, blood, or adoption. Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. It is God’s unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and His church and to provide for the man and the woman in marriage the framework for intimate companionship, the channel for sexual expression according to biblical standards and the means for procreation of the human race. The husband and the wife are of equal worth before God since both are created in God’s image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to His people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband, and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and maturing the next generation. Children, from the moment of conception, are a blessing and heritage from the Lord. Parents are to demonstrate to their children God’s pattern for marriage. Parents are to teach their children spiritual and moral values and to lead them, through consistent lifestyle example and loving discipline, to make choices based on biblical truth. Children are to honor and obey their parents.” The family is God’s primary institution. Long before there was a nation or a church, the family existed. It has been correctly termed the linchpin of society. Civil governments are ordained by God, as is the church, but both the nation and the church were created to serve the family, not just to be served by it. In many places, Satan has succeeded in making the family subservient to autocratic or authoritarian governments, but this was never God’s plan. In like manner, this enemy also has reversed the ministry of churches to the family, making the families to become servants to the church. This is wrong. Through whatever means Satan may employ, I believe the family today finds itself under the most furious attack it has ever suffered. Homes are being torn apart, and children are being traumatized as what should be their bastion of security, the stable family unit, is being swept away. Emotional scarring occurs that may never heal. When God’s primary institution fails, the church cannot compensate for the damage that is done. We can help some, and we want to help where we can. This is not to criticize noble attempts by the church or even by civil governments to ameliorate the painful conditions that are left behind when a home is broken up; these are to be appreciated, but emotional scars remain. We must recognize and identify the destructive enemies of this God-ordained institution. When Paul warned against some of the perils of the last days, he wrote, “For men shall be lovers of their own selves…” (2 Timothy 3:2). Strong families will not be built by self-loving, self-centered parents. To the contrary, a spirit of selflessness must prevail in the home. “He/she does not meet my needs” is a cry heard often in ongoing calls for divorce. Meeting the needs of our partner instead of having our needs met is a step toward building a solid marriage. Selfishness indicates immaturity, and it leads to childish, destructive behavior. Divorcing is rampant in a self-loving, self-serving society. Statistics vary as to the percentages of marriages ending in divorce, but even the lowest figures we are given are much too high. When we observe the damage that is done with the breakup of a home, it is easy for us to understand why God said that He hates putting away (Malachi 2:16). Jesus was emphatic in His stand on this matter. His answer to those who questioned Him was, “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 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? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:4-6). The reason God hates divorce is easy to recognize. It is an instrument designed by carnal man to contravene the words of an all-wife God. Being birthed in a hardened conscience, divorce strikes at the core of God’s primary institution, the family, causing great pain to those who are dear to the heart of Jesus. The children are dear to the heart of Jesus, and to see them hurt, also hurts Him. We are told that here in America, 18 million children grow up in a single-parent home. Of these homes, only one out of eight is headed by a father. The fathers are the ones most likely to skip out of a marriage. The results of a fatherless home is devastating. We are told that from fatherless homes come 71 percent of all pregnancies, 75 percent of all adolescents in chemical-abuse centers, 85 percent of all youths in prison, 85 percent of children exhibiting behavioral problems, 90 percent of all homeless and runaway youths, 63 percent of youth suicides, and 71 percent of school dropouts. Difficulties arise in most every marriage, and relationships can become strained. This is to be expected, but such is a time for developing understanding. It is a time for forbearance and emotional growth. We grow and mature in our relationships with one another. This is especially true in the relationship between husband and wife. Marriage was designed for this purpose – to help you mature. When God gave you a wife to be your helper, it was to help you mature. It wasn’t just to carry your slippers to you. She’s not going to always agree with you. She’s got a mind of her own. These conflicts are for our growth. I want you to get that in your mind. When you say, “You’re not helping me like you’re supposed to,” she may be helping you more than you know. Reconciliation may not always be the easiest course to pursue, but it is the one which Jesus approved; and it is what He has exemplified as He abandoned His own will and, ultimately, gave up His life as a price for the reconciliation He would effect with us. It cost Him something, this ministry of reconciliation, but He wanted to reconcile with us. It cost Him something, but we will be blessed when we reconcile our relationships. To see people opt for divorce as the easy way to resolved conflicts must surely grieve out Lord, especially when it occurs among Christians. And some of you have read the statistics that have come out – that Christians are opting for divorce more than non-Christians. That’s shameful. The covenant of marriage is a holy ordinance as two people vow in the presence of God and witnesses to forsake all others and to cleave to each other as long as they both shall live. It is Satan who promotes thoughts of divorce. God hates divorce! When Satan wins the battle and divorce is followed, he rejoices. Recognizing their vulnerability to his devious schemes, he will set about the lead the divorced persons toward the sin of adultery within a second marriage. The church has stood firmly for a long time against the sin of divorce and remarriage. Our greater emphasis, however, has been against remarriage as we have embraced Jesus’ words: “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery” (Luke 16:18). It is important that we continue to be faithful to Jesus’ teaching against the sins of divorce and remarriage. At the same time, we must know that if there was no divorce there would be no remarriage. It is time to life up our voices against the evils of divorce. We must see it as a man-made instrument which is employed as a means to annul God’s Word. Jesus said, “…What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6). A divorce may be necessary sometimes as a legal instrument to annul a biblically illegal marriage, but it can never dissolve a biblically valid marriage. It is time to teach our young people, with greater conviction, the sanctity of marriage. We may be sure, with Satan’s determination to destroy the family as a divinely created institution, that he will intensify his efforts to create disturbance and conflicts in the home. Then he will be pointing out to emotionally distraught couples that divorce is the solution to their problem. The success that this enemy is now enjoying is devastating, and it must be stopped! It’s devastating to the children. The church must rise up against him with firm conviction, a conviction based soundly upon God’s Word. People must hear from us that divorce is not their answer. Positive action must be taken. The need for premarital counseling must not be overlooked. We must not b e reactive, but pro-active in ministry to those couples that Satan is attacking. Let us remember that the family, not the church, is God’s primary institution. It is the church’s business to minister to the family. To fail in this ministry carries devastating consequences. Family breakdowns are primarily responsible for the ills of our society today. And that is the truth! I rod eon a plane with a judge recently, and I asked him, “Do you see any hope for the people who are constantly coming before you?” And he said, “Frankly, no. The only solution is the family becoming what it is supposed to be.” Oh, I am so stirred about this! If we would listen to the judges in our criminal courts, this is what we would be told over and over again. Let us then pray for a greater sensitivity to the needs among us – to sense the needs before they get out of hand. A sensitive church if more likely to be a ministering church. We can be and we must be more proactive in addressing needs and ministering to these needs, rather than simply being reactive after damage has been done. Where there are those who are divorced among us through no fault of their own. We certainly need to be supportive. Let me emphasize that. There are those among us who are divorced through no fault of their own. Many of them are living on reduced incomes, and in every way that we can, we need to minister to them and to their children. Someone needs to assume a father role to their children. And the church needs to address financial needs as we are able to do so. We can ill-afford to see further destruction of the family. May God help us!