Thursday, May 10, 2018

The End of the Family Line

“With no complications,
  fifteen generations of mine
  all honoring nature.
  Until I arrived with incredible style.
  I’m the end of the line;
  the end of the family line.”
— Morrissey

“And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth …”

Relax, I’m probably not going where you think I am.

Nine Children or None

I have nothing to say on the subject of whether it would be better for any particular Christian couple to have nine children … or none. If you are a young, single person in the church of God, whether you should eventually marry (or not) is another subject about which I would decline to express an opinion. Birth control? Not going to touch that one with a ten foot pole.

I have opinions like everyone else; of course I do. Some choices are wiser, more selfless, more alert, more contemplative of potential long-term consequences, more self-aware — and more blessed, if we can use that term — than others.

But on such issues, unless you step into territory that scripture unequivocally and explicitly labels as sinful, it is simply not my place to say.

Self Will and God’s Will

Over the years, I have become wary of and increasingly resistant to a personal tendency to too-rigidly assemble and systematize the various teachings of the New Testament about family matters into what (in my mind) constitutes an acceptable code of conduct for all believers. That predisposition is not uncommon among Christians, but I will observe that making rules for ourselves beyond what God has written generally ends poorly.

So today, even as a father, while I have a number of very specific spiritual goals for my children, none of the things to which I aspire for them is affected in the slightest by whether or not they become husbands, wives or parents one of these days.

Marriage is not for everyone. Having children is not for everyone.

But where Christians are concerned at least, the will of God should probably have something to do with those issues, don’t you think?

Those to Whom It Is Given

The Lord himself addressed the subject. The disciples, confronted with his teaching that divorce was never the will of God, said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” The Lord’s response is interesting. It makes little concession to our craving for rules and regulations, with subparagraphs and “if/then” clauses — a foible that gave rise to the Talmud and the Midrash, the interpretations and amplifications of Jewish tradition. It doesn’t give the control freaks among us much to work with.

He says to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given.”

It sounds to me as if the Lord is indicating that there is actually some latitude as to how his will in this area of life may be applied in the individual circumstances of his followers. He recognizes that there are differences from situation to situation:
“For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”
You notice here that there is an indicator of what might, perhaps, be the highest aspiration of single life; that is that it might be chosen “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven”. That seems to be the Lord’s priority.

To Which God as Called

Paul takes a similar tack with the Corinthians, saying, “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion. To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.”

Again here it sounds to me like there is a fair bit of flexibility for the Christian as to the issue of family life, provided that “each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.”

In other words, it’s up to you. Just make sure the Lord’s priorities are seen to first.

What and Why

Here’s a thought: Within the bounds of what is morally permissible for a believer, perhaps WHAT you choose matters considerably less to the Lord than WHY you choose it.

I quoted Morrissey at the beginning of this post because his little tune about declining demographics in the UK epitomizes the self-obsessed mentality of every generation since the end of WWII. Self-occupation is not, by any stretch, the distinctive characteristic of a single generation.

He sings, “I’m the end of the family line” without apparent regret. Not much in the way of “fill the earth and subdue it” there. But there’s not just one way to end the family line. Homosexuality will do it, sure, but self is also at the root of porn addictions, online affairs, marital breakups, bad remarriages, abortion, militant “gender” expression and even the comparative banality of unions consciously dedicated to self-actualization rather than fruitfulness — all of which in their own ways subvert or destroy family life.

A Demographic Death-Spiral

Western civilization is in a demographic death-spiral because of a preoccupation with self that manifests itself in every aspect of life. The priorities of God have not taken a back seat so much as they are being ignored entirely.

The Christian who gets caught up in the thinking patterns of Morrissey and others of his generation will find him- or herself in a downward spiral of uselessness and misery.

How much grief would be avoided if we all led the life the Lord has “assigned” to us?


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