Perhaps you are familiar with the illustration of cultural and ideological osmosis; that is, how it comes to pass that slowly but surely we begin to embrace wrong ideas that otherwise would be easily rejected. I am speaking of the story of the frog and the pan.
It is said that, if you place a frog in scalding water, it will immediately jump out. However, if you place the frog in cool water and slowly turn up the temperature then, rather than escaping while it can, it will eventually succumb to its death-bearing environment. It will be boiled alive. Leaving aside the cruelty of doing such a thing (!), this powerfully illustrates how we can so easily get used to the values of our society, even when those values are ruinous if not deadly. But first, an important digression.
Someone (its authorship is disputed) once wrote,
If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefields besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.
With reference to the “battlefields besides,” too often evangelical and Reformed Christians and churches are guilty of “flight and disgrace.” We tackle doctrinal issues such as election, church discipline, and biblical elements of worship, etc. But when it comes to addressing (read: confronting) other practical applications of biblical principles, all too often we flinch. And in many cases, it is because we are busy being boiled alive by what seems to be an innocuous and harmless pragmatism promulgated by our culture.
For instance, we rightfully oppose homosexual marriage, but are we as vocal about husbands sacrificially loving their wives as Christ did the church? Are we as vocal in our opposition to divorce?
Or consider the matter of church membership. We uphold this as a biblical implication and even injunction. Yet when it comes to practical issues, such as church members fulfilling their responsibilities, we often grow strangely silent. After all, to get specific and practical is to possibly invite conflict and controversy. So we content ourselves with having a membership list containing the names of people who have little, if any, love for the church. “After all,” we argue, “we don’t want to be legalistic. We live in a ‘free’ nation and so we need to give people their space.” So we allow the integrity of the local church to boil away as the flames of the cultural sin of autonomous individualism turns up the heat.
Consider another matter: We rightfully oppose abortion. We rightly believe and teach that the killing of children, whether inside or outside of the womb, is murder. We value life and are unashamedly prolife. We are unapologetically pro-family. But when it comes to other matters of family life, are we being boiled alive by an unthinking embracing of cultural norms? I fear that, generally speaking, we often are.
For instance, Scripture clearly teaches that children are God’s gift to families and to the church (Psalm 127:3–5). And Scripture is equally clear that both mother and father are responsible under God to raise their children for Him. There is little, if any, debate about this among true Christians. This is not where the current battle is being fought. This is not “that little point which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking.” Rather the battle is raging in the discussions concerning moms pursuing careers and significance and things and leisure rather than pursuing the salvation of their children. This salvation is not restricted to the regeneration and justification of their children, but includes their ongoing sanctification. For this to happen, children need their parents; and when it comes to nurturing this, they especially need their moms. Sadly, this has become the place where the “battle rages.” And it is precisely here where pastors “must not flinch.” It is here where the “loyalty of the soldier is proved.”
I want to be a loyal soldier. I want to give a faithful account to the one who “enlisted me to be a soldier” (2 Timothy 2:4). Further, I want to guard the flock over which the Lord has made me an overseer. It is for this reason that I sometimes need to address issues that can be viewed as controversial. It would be far more comfortable to leave such meddling alone, but to do so would make me guilty of “flight and disgrace.”
I believe that, as an elder, and especially as a pastor-teacher, I am responsible to help our community of faith develop and practice a biblical worldview. And that often means challenging the status quo. Whether it is dating and courtship, or issues of homosexuality, or divorce and remarriage, or responsible church membership, or any number of so-called controversial issues, I am called to give biblical instruction to help Christians to know and to obey the Bible regardless of how countercultural it may be. But this is not the only motivation for such sermons and articles. Rather, I also want to equip the church to be able to give a biblically sound and winsomely cognisant answer to those with whom we rub shoulders outside of our own congregation (1 Peter 3:15). In fact, the particular issue that I am about to address is not a major concern for the majority of those in membership of BBC. However, I have tried to equip myself in this area in order to equip you to equip others.
To cut to the chase, I am persuaded that our nation is inhabited by many sincere Christians who, for whatever reason, have succumb to a less than biblical ideal in many areas, including family life. And evidence of this is the plethora of day care centres that dot our land. I believe that this industry thrives because many parents are not properly thinking through the issues.
I am well aware that to address this issue may potentially arouse some misunderstandings, or even anger. But it must be addressed, for failure to do so is to merely acquiesce to a culture that is destroying itself.
Next week, I will be publishing an article in which I will address this issue. Please read it with biblical lenses. Please feel free to interact with me. My prayer is that it will further equip us as a community of faith to live by faith and to make a difference to the glory of God. May we feel the heat and appropriately respond. May we help others to appropriately respond before the increasing heat of a wrongheaded pragmatic culture boils us, and our families, alive.