The family is indeed in crisis. A recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that fully 40 percent of all babies born in the United States in 2011 were born to unmarried mothers. Divorce rates are catastrophic and unprecedented numbers of American adults are never marrying, creating a new non-marital underclass that passes on disastrous consequences that will harm generations to come. In some American neighborhoods, children and teenagers have never even been to a wedding, since marriage has simply ceased to exist as an expectation. Even when parents are married and live in the same house with their children, many of those children are actually raised by the mass media, with older children and teenagers often living in a digital world that is quite disconnected from their parents.

The social pathologies pile up in shocking statistics, but the greater tragedy is the injury in individual lives. Christians know that the family cannot save us. Only Christ can save. But we also know that God loves us and that he has given us marriage and the family for our protection and flourishing. The church must face the truth that the family crisis is, first of all, a theological crisis. Christians must recover a biblical understanding of the family and live before the world, celebrating and sharing the joys and satisfactions that the Creator gives us in this precious gift. We must live honestly before the world, knowing that our honest acknowledgement of our own need for God’s grace in our marriages and families is a testimony to our need for the grace of God shown us in Jesus Christ.

Christians are rightly concerned about the family crisis in the society, and we must work to protect and defend the family against its enemies. We must be heartbroken witnesses to the dangers the family crisis has brought, even as we are joyful witnesses to the reality of marriages and families restored.

But, long before the society at large will care about our perspective on the family crisis, the church must humbly and faithfully show the world what God intended from the beginning, for his glory and for our good.

Before anything else, the family crisis is a theological crisis. And a theological crisis is the church’s responsibility. In other words, the first responsibility in addressing the family crisis is ours, and ours alone.

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This article was originally written for a special edition of The Baptist Messenger (Oklahoma).

I also did a podcast on this article with Brian Hobbs, editor of The Baptist Messenger. You can listen here.

The Baptist Messenger also published a full range of articles on “The New Normal: Exploring Family Values in Society Today." The articles can be found here.