If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?, Psalms 11:3.
One of the great foundations of a godly society is marriage. To be married is to partake in a grace from God experienced by Adam and Eve before their sin and expulsion from paradise. Therefore it is no surprise that the institution of marriage is under attack. For pastors who still seek to carve out a people for Jesus Christ out of the real world, the general mess that people make of their lives can be vexing. The mess made of marriages is a big part of that vexation.
Never before in Western culture have so many people done so much permanent damage to themselves before turning 25. Getting saved and joining a bible believing church will not remove their tattoos. It will not erase the word "bastard" from their children. It will not erase a criminal record. It will not undo a failed marriage that was abandoned for a new one. As I often tell my people, if you wrote a bad check yesterday, and you get saved today, it will still bounce tomorrow.
What will change is how you react to bouncing a check. As a pastor, I spend much time with people who have grievously entangled their lives. There are no instant cures. A man saved behind bars for a crime will still serve his time. If he is truly saved (a big if nowadays), he will serve his time differently. Other inmates will notice. Likewise, the single mother, the person scarred with tattoos, the couple with the confusing marriage record, the person wounded by the sexual habits of our deviant culture, and the man crippled by a felony record will live their lives differently.
All too often, bible believing churches are full of make-believe. The pulpit is used to mock those wounded by the excesses of our day. When the church doors close and the world is out of sight, what is left of the once burgeoning congregation is all too often people kidding themselves. Whereas they think of their church as pure, their immediate and extended families show the same proportion of busted marriages, tattooed children, drugs and alcohol, sexual deviancy, and whatever else miseries our culture has brought us.
A family that has preserved a truly bible believing lifestyle without hypocrisy and has successfully passed that lifestyle down to another generation is so rare that I rejoice greatly when I see one, and I do know one or two. It is simply impossible to go out into a standard community in our day, carve out a people for Jesus Christ who will come into the house of God lifting up holy hands without wrath or doubting, and not bring in the plagues of this world.
A pastor who cannot compassionately open his King James Bible and guide this new person or family into a joyful life in Christ while exhibiting patience is no pastor at all.
Jude 1:22 And of some have compassion, making a difference:
Jude 1:23 And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.
Being a pastor to a broken nation has forced me to study subjects that I would have never considered before. I read books on prescription drugs, porn addiction, ADHD, addiction to electronics, and many other topics wherein my people have been snared. I judge what these books say by the words of my King James Bible. I find that for every medical or psychological discipline out there, there is a body of literature by men and women who decry the abuse within those fields.
Remarkably, when these various professionals have critically dissected the errors of their profession, they are more often than not in line with the word of God even though I can find nothing in their professional or personal biographies that identify them as bible believing. In fact some of these people are outright liberals. Being a liberal does not necessarily blind someone to the the overreaches of their profession. Authors such as Irving Kirsch, author of The Emperor's New Drugs, or Dr. Leonard Sax, author of Boys Adrift and Girls on the Edge are by no means conservative, but they see through the folly of our day.
It often takes a while to explain to people that a doctor that is $300,000 in debt for his education and an office overhead of $250.00 an hour can not spend much time on a patient for whom he will be given $35.00 by medicaid. That doctor is perfectly safe in prescribing any of a wide range of drugs. He can't be sued because he followed the drug guidelines. He can't afford to spend any quality time with his patients, and his finances demand that he spend as few minutes as possible, write a prescription and see his next patient.
The poor of this nation and increasingly the middle class (as medicine becomes more socialized) are the victims of this system. We never override a doctor's orders but we do show people a better lifestyle. As they learn a less destructive lifestyle free of adultery, alcohol, and recreational drugs we encourage them to work with their doctor to get off the prescriptions. Most doctors are thrilled. Our people who have been successful at this love the changes.
The institution that has suffered the most from these upheavals is marriage. There is nothing I love more than to see a couple who have lived a committed and healthy relationship with one spouse. I am not so blind as to think that I can build a church with only such people.
Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge, Hebrews 13:4. I have had to make some difficult calls as a pastor to a broken society. I am not asking anyone to agree with my decisions. I am not callous to the opinions of my brethren, but neither am I subject to them. Very few of my fellows work among such people. When they do work with them, they administer a superficial prayer that they call a prayer of faith for salvation. The supplicant offers monopoly money for faith, and receives monopoly money for salvation.
The pastor then assures them that they are truly saved and tries to get them to change. It doesn't work. We have countless people in the Black Creek Baptist Church who once lived depraved lives of addiction, uncleanness, adultery, alcoholism, and the like. Their lives are irrevocably changed. They love being in church. They love singing the old hymns. They give glory to Jesus Christ by whom they have found salvation, hope and an inward witness.
I find it strange that pastors who keep flogging a dead horse and can show no visible results to their soul winning take time to criticize what works. We have a saying here, "They love our cake, but they hate our recipe". Come and visit. Privately interview our people. Follow them to their homes. See if you don't find person after person living a new life in Christ Jesus. Surprise them in the market place, catch them unawares, see if their lives are not consistent from the pew to the public, and to home.
Now try to make sense out of the entangled marital lives they have sown for themselves in the lives they lived prior to the gospel. In my next post, I hope to give some advice that has worked here. Many times I have had to look at the people sitting in our services and cried out along with King Hezekiah, The good LORD pardon every one That prepareth his heart to seek God, the LORD God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary, 2nd Chronicles 30:18,19.