Threats to families abound in this culture and the Scripture tells us that Satan roams the earth as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Pet. 5:8). At times, family leaders and perhaps others within the family know exactly the enemy or threat they face and at other times they obviously do not. One threat may have influence and open the door to other dangers. It behooves Christians to be aware of the variety of snares that lie in wait in a culture bent on godlessness.
Some helpful information may be gleaned from a survey conducted by LifeWay Christian resources according to Baptist Press. A list of the "Top 10 Issues Facing Today's Family" was compiled. Those issues in order are: 1. Anti-Christian culture; 2. Divorce; 3. Busyness; 4. Absent father figure; 5. Lack of discipline; 6. Financial pressures; 7. Lack of communication; 8. Negative media influences; 9. Balance of work and family; 10. Materialism.
Michael Utley noted that some of the survey results were surprising. "For instance, it was expected that substance abuse would rank in the top 10. Instead, unexpected issues such as busyness (No. 3) and lack of communication (No. 7) received a majority of votes." He further commented, "We were a little surprised to see anti-Christian culture rank as the No. 1 issue, but when we took a look at the rest of the list, we realized that today's anti-Christian cultural mentality could be considered a contributing factor when it comes to these other issues." A few implications are in order here.
First, we can rejoice that substance abuse did not make the list. While that is certainly a problem, and while it is difficult to analyze the complete truth or what is really reality from a survey such as this, it is encouraging to note that Christians apparently take that issue seriously and have moved to combat it to a certain degree.
Second, the fact that anti-Christian culture made number one points to the reality of what some of us have been saying for so long. Christ is under attack in this culture and many seem oblivious to that fact. Yet, this survey indicates that there are many who do recognize that threat and see it or even feel it very clearly. A couple of implications can be made from this dynamic as well.
The first implication is that we must understand the full-orbed nature of the Christian mandate. That mandate is two-fold and includes the Great Commission and the Cultural Mandate. Christians must be involved in cultural engagement via the gospel.
The second implication is that we have perhaps absorbed more of this anti-Christian culture than we tend to realize. There is real and present danger when we pitch our tents toward Sodom (Gen. 13:12). While righteous Lot was vexed daily in his soul by the culture around him (2 Pet. 2:7), that culture indeed influenced him and his family (Gen. 19:1-26). The effect was more drastic for some. Let us be warned.
Third, that divorce made second on the list is heartbreaking. Not only does divorce grieve the heart of God (and we recognize there are cases of biblical divorce and there is forgiveness even for unbiblical divorce), but too many families have suffered tremendous losses in far too many ways as a result. May God grant Christians to find their satisfaction in Christ that they might consider others better than themselves that they might have restored marriages both for God's glory and their joy (Phil. 2:3f).
Fourth, the fact that materialism made the list is a good sign. However, the fact that it ranked tenth is disturbing. It points to the sad truth that most Christians are deceived when it comes to this issue. They have been so influenced by culture they have no idea that the typical American family that names the Name of Christ is no different from the typical American family that does not. Materialism is the American god and the church, like ancient Israel, has played the harlot. Sadly, most of us just don't realize how far we have strayed from our benevolent Savior, Jesus Christ. When Christians speak more about retirement plans and investment strategies than they do of giving their lives for the sake of the gospel, they have been influenced far too much.
Of course, these issues really speak for themselves. May God grant us wisdom to navigate the dark waters of this culture that we might truly live in such a way as to glorify Him. That means that we truly have impact in this culture as salt and light. That means that we must influence the culture more than it influences us. When we get the idea that our goal is not merely to live a significant second half of our lives now that we're saved and that our goal is to exalt Christ in every area of our lives no matter what it takes, then we will be on the right track.
We've got to show our neighbors that we are not chasing the same things they are and that we are not satisfied with or attracted to the same things they are. Soaking up the sun in Florida may be an attractive retirement goal for pagans. But, for the Christian, there must be something else. Christ and His Kingdom advance is that which is attractive to us: and our families.
Are we proclaiming that message to our families? Are we living that message before them? If our children were asked whether we would rather retire to the beach or the mission field, what would they say about us? Again, we are salt and light in this culture. The Lord said as much. "You are the salt of the earth." But, then He added, "but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men." As salt, let us not lose our flavor in this culture, or in our families.
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About Paul Dean
Dr. Paul Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. He serves as a Regional Mentor with the International Association of Biblical Counselors, speaks at several conferences throughout the year, and provides training for ministers and churches on a regular basis. Paul resides in the Upstate of South Carolina with his wife and three children.
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