|s it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man” (Matt. 24:37-39).
The condition of the world today reflects this prediction of Christ. Whether it is the newspapers, magazines, radio, or television news programs, a day does not pass without a withering report of the ills of society. To an amazing degree, the very media outlets are in many aspects not only recorders, but the global purveyors of the very evils they often report.
One of the characteristics of the antediluvian society was the highly cultivated ability to communicate. The ability to speak the same language, communicating the imaginative inventions of man, brought about God’s intervention at the building of the Tower of Babel. This acceleration of the skills harnessed toward avoiding God and His plan for humanity can be observed today in the media and communication industry. Although they are available for better purposes, computers, cell phones, videos, DVDs, and satellite and cable outlets are among modern-day highly sophisticated communication mediums that have led today’s society in the proliferation of immorality.
Ellen White wrote concerning the parallels between our times and those before the Flood: “Society at the present time is corrupt, as it was in the days of Noah. To the long-lived, antediluvian race, only a step from paradise, God gave rich gifts, and they possessed a strength of body and mind of which men now have but a faint idea; but they used His bounties, and the strength and skill He gave them, for selfish purposes, to minister to unlawful appetites, and to gratify pride. They expelled God from their thoughts; they despised His law; trampled His standard of character in the dust. They reveled in sinful pleasure, corrupting their ways before
God, and corrupting one another. Violence and crime filled the earth. Neither the marriage relation nor the rights of property were respected; and the cries of the oppressed entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. By beholding evil, men became changed into its image, until God could bear with their wickedness no longer, and they were swept away by the flood” (Fundamentals of Christian Education, pp. 421, 422).
Much of the sin of our contemporary generation did not initially appear in full bloom. It appeared first as lightness and frivolity, then escalated into debasing, violent conduct. “[Christ] presents the result of unrestrained indulgence of appetite. The moral powers are enfeebled, so that sin does not appear sinful. Crime is lightly regarded, and passion controls the mind, until good principles and impulses are rooted out, and God is blasphemed. . . . This is the very condition of things which Christ declares will exist at His second coming” (Counsels on Health, p. 24; cf. 2 Tim. 3:1-5).
God calls us to escape the corruption that characterizes the world. In our homes and in our personal lives we should establish limits to what we are willing to watch and read. Each family should make clear to all its members the values that as Christians they want to preserve. We must establish controls for the Internet and cable television, because through these media moral corruption reaches into the sacred precincts of our homes. At times like this we need a daily recommitment to Christ and a constant walk with Him.
One of the most conspicuous signs of Jesus’ coming is the breakup of the home and marriage. In less than 30 years it has become uncommon to see marriages last 25 years. We may think that Christians would be immune from the moral decay in the world, but that is not the case. Although many Christian churches attempt to dissuade congregants from getting a divorce, research by George Barna shows that in the United States born-again Christians have the same likelihood of divorce as do non-Christians. Thirty-five percent of both have experienced divorce. Although the legal grounds for divorce do not list self-absorbed, self-promoting, crude, coarse, unbending, ruthless, addicted to lust as causes for the breakup of a marriage, if we could speak to the individuals involved, we would probably find those qualities listed among the reasons for the deterioration of the marriage.
How does this happen in Christian marriages? Let’s look at some issues, beginning with money. Most Christians would be the first to argue that they are not money hungry. Yet today’s society is very subtle in the pressures it puts upon marriages. No matter how well-meaning a couple may begin, the challenge is to show how successful they are as a couple by where they live, how their home is furnished, where they go on vacation, what types of cars they drive, and, when they have children, where they attend school. All these things require money. If a couple is not careful, they find themselves focused on how to get the funds to accomplish these goals, forgetting that a lasting marriage is based upon three—God, a husband, and a wife. They will forget to open their home for Christian hospitality and to help others as God intended.
A marriage that loses its focus on the three—God, husband, and wife—often becomes coarse, self-absorbed, crude, treacherous, and addicted to lust. These are all qualities that lead to abuse. Abuse starts out in subtle ways—name-calling, put-downs, disrespect. The spouse is never “good enough.” An atmosphere in which one spouse is constantly cynical, crude, coarse, and self-absorbed begins to break down the desire for Christian worship in the home, and then for church fellowship. That same abuse escalates to physical and often sexual abuse. Often the abuse is wrongly justified by referring to the scriptural call to submission. But that is a call to live in harmony and mutual respect.
We belong to a world church that does not condone abuse in any form—physical, spiritual, emotional, or sexual. Abuse runs counter to what God says through His prophet: “I hate the violent dismembering of the ‘one flesh’ of marriage” (Mal. 2:16, Message).* God speaks strongly here. “Dismember” is a strong word to use when speaking of violence.
Sometimes we think that abuse is not so serious, but God takes it very seriously. When we consider that male and female were created in God’s image, being abusive in any manner stirs up God’s ire! There is no scriptural basis for abuse.
In a world in which Christian marriage is being rejected, we should demonstrate that God’s plan for our families is still relevant and significant. We face challenges that make it difficult for a Christian marriage to survive, but with God’s help marriage can be what He intended it to be. We must reestablish family worship in our daily schedule and spend time praying together for each other. Why not ask God to keep our hearts full of love for our spouse? We should cultivate the habit of saying kind and loving words to each member of the family and spend time together. Let each couple vow to each other that, through the power of God, they will not allow their marriage to break up, and that, if necessary, they will seek help to make their marriage a true Christian success.
Absence of Honesty
Paul indicates that sin does not exist only in the criminal element of society. It is also expressed in behaviors that include personal and business relationships. He speaks of “unrighteousness”—all offenses against our neighbor, our parents, our country, etc. These include the crimes committed by large business corporations.
The wrath of God, Paul says, is expressed against all human wickedness and dishonesty. “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. . . . Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless” (Rom. 1:25-31).
In these last days, “we are living in the midst of an ‘epidemic of crime.’ . . . And while the world is filled with these evils, the gospel is too often presented in so indifferent a manner as to make but little impression upon the consciences or the lives of men” (Counsels on Health, p. 25). We must not run for cover and hide in fear from that which is a sign of Christ’s coming. Christ tells us that because of increased wickedness, love is often difficult to find (Matt. 24:12). As God’s people, the hope within us needs to be a powerful beacon of God’s love in the darkness of this postmodern world’s sinfulness. We must live out God’s love in grace-filled relationships. The Holy Spirit is able to direct the lives of God’s ambassadors in the pathway of righteous living, leading others to the cross of Jesus our Lord.
Paul said to Timothy that “every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us” (2 Tim. 3:17, Message).
The pressures on relationships from all directions fulfill the prediction that these are difficult times. But the promises of God’s Word give reassurance and hope that we can handle any challenge that comes to us. This will happen only as we are personally and prayerfully in touch with the grace of God; when He inhabits our hearts, our minds, and our lives.“But he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matt. 24:13).
*Texts credited to Message are from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND SHARING
1. What are “the three” on which Christian marriage must be based?
2. List specific ways that our homes can be kept safe from today’s evils, such as the Internet and cable TV.
W. S. Lee and Wilma Kirk-Lee, married 41 years, have provided marriage strengthening for more than 30 years throughout the United States, Canada, and various parts of the world. They live in Houston, Texas.