You know what they say – you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your relatives. Ain’t that the truth?! Maybe that’s why families around the globe are being torn apart.
As I travel around the world and see what’s going on in different cultures and societies, here’s one of the things I notice: It’s happening all over the place, this thing that we call ‘family’ is under attack. It’s a war zone out there and this war is relentlessly pounding away at the family unit, intent it seems, on tearing it apart.
I’m a former army officer and I remember once during my training they took us to a large firing range, it was open, you could see for miles, there were no trees. We were sitting on top of one hill and on a hill a few miles away they dug in a defensive installation. There were pits and bunkers with over-head protection, like the ones infantry soldiers would dig if they were defending that hill against the enemy.
Then they began to bombard the hill. First with light artillery, then with medium artillery, then with heavy artillery, it was the most unbelievable firepower demonstration I’d ever seen. And all of us who were watching, safely from our vantage point on our hill, we were thinking to ourselves, ‘Man I am glad I’m not in one of those bunkers on that hill’. And since we were training to be army officers, training to lead men into war, we knew that one day we could well find ourselves on that hill.
But the artillery, as it turned out, was nothing compared to the bombs the planes dropped on the hill! Yeah, a squadron of bombers flew over and dropped their loads on that target hill; it was just unbelievable. The massive firepower that was unleashed on that defensive position and that’s what I see happening to families all around the world. Modern life is bombarding our families in all sorts of ways and the army that’s marching against our families is called individualism.
One of the greatest variations in cultures that I see across the world is the degree to which their collective on the one hand or individualistic on the other. In many countries they remain family and community orientated. Typically, they’re the less economically developed countries and there’s a good reason for that. Because when people are less well off, they actually rely on one another for protection and support and provision. Community is important but the more economically developed countries become the less they rely on one another and the more individualistic we become.
But even in many countries around Africa and Asia in particular where I’ve travelled, there is this incessant march of western individualism. So even these family orientated cultures aren’t immune, they are very much under attack from this western style of individualism where it’s all about me, me, me.
As media globalises, as cable television channels and internet and music cross borders and cultural boundaries our kids in particular are being fed the line that it’s all about them and hey it’s a seductive line, it’s a line that says ‘you can have it all’. You see that’s why individualism is sweeping across the globe, that’s why families and family orientated cultures are very much under attack and here in the so-called economically developed western cultures hey many families are being totally decimated and those that haven’t are under attack.
In the west divorce rates hover between 40% and 50%; in the west many families don’t share a single meal together in a week; in the west many children aren’t learning to honour their parents or to respect their grandparents; in the west families are disintegrating en masse. And it seems all we’re intent on doing is talking about the symptoms but nobody much is talking about the heart of the problem.
It’s like cancer. Rates of cancer amongst people eating western diet, high in carbohydrates and seed oils are sky rocketing. I mean, a hundred years ago almost no one died of cancer, today it’s one of the top three killers and all the stuff you see on television is just about treating the disease instead of asking why is it happening and how can we stop it in its tracks?
It’s the same with this relentless attack on our families. You hear adults talking about children who are disrespectful; you see young boys and girls going out on drinking binges and getting rotten drunk. Everyone’s talking about the symptoms, the disease however is the disintegration of the family unit. It’s the falling apart of the single most important God ordained social unit on the planet, the family.
So I come back to my original thesis the family, in fact your family is under attack, relentless attack and this isn’t some geopolitical issue, it’s not just a law and order issue, it’s not just a health issue, it’s not just a social issue, it’s a deeply personal issue. Let’s bring it right down to you and to me. Your family is under attack, my family is under attack and when all is said and done, our families are the most important things on this earth… or are they?
On a scale of zero to ten, how important is your family to you? Zero is not at all important, ten is supremely important. Come on, no one’s marking your score card here except you, so how important is your family to you on a scale of zero to ten? Some people will answer with an eight or a nine or even a ten but many, many if they’re honest with themselves, will be disturbed by what they find because in their heart of hearts they’ll know that other things are much more important to them than their families.
See women tend to place far higher value on family relationships than men. In part that’s because mothers are wired to love their children in a very special way and in part it’s because men are wired to be hunters and gatherers out there providing for their families. But there are other distractions too, there’s the whole materialism treadmill that we can end up getting on and we find ourselves having to work so long and so hard and so long and so hard for the stuff that we want to have we don’t have time to invest in our families anymore.
I want to leave you with this thought: your family needs you. Mother Theresa said this once:
What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.
She had that right. Sometimes we think that there are all these big things out there for us to achieve, hey for some people there are but nothing is bigger than going home and loving your family. This family that okay you didn’t choose for yourself but this family that’s the only one you’ll ever have, this family that’s a precious gift to you from God.
For this reason a man shall leave his mother and his father to become one with his wife and the two will become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)
After God created Adam he created Eve and gave her to Adam so that the two would become one and in so doing produce children.
There you have it, right from the beginning God creates a family and that’s easy to miss. Family has always been part of God’s plan from the beginning and as it turns out He has rather a lot to tell us about how a loving and effective family should live and behave and run as a family unit. That’s what we’re going to be talking about in these next few programs.
But not long after that first family came together, the family unit, the very first family unit, starts to come apart at the seams. They had two children, Cain and Able and out of jealousy one kills the other. See the moment sin enters the world there you have it, the family unit is under attack.
When you’re gone what sort of legacy are you going to leave behind on this earth, a good one or not so much? Well let me tell you, much of the legacy that you leave behind will be through your family, through your children and their children. Sure not everybody goes on to have a family but most of us do and for most of us our legacy will not just be the DNA that we’ve passed on but the values, the morals, the competencies, the faith, the love that we’ve passed on.
I’ll say it again, your family is under attack, relentless bombardment and in this war zone, in this battle, your family needs you. So back to my earlier question on a scale of zero to ten where exactly are they in your list of priorities?
Berni Dymet – www.christianityworks.com
*Photo by Simona Balint