“The soul who sins is the one who will die.” (Ezekiel 18:4).
Mary was sixteen going on twenty one. Sitting with her father in church, she was somewhere between being his little girl and his adult companion. Mum was not around—she had left them a few years ago. It was just Mary and Dad.
The preacher was warming to his subject: the decline of Western civilization. The statistics were pouring forth on all the symptoms of decline. The drugs, the gambling, the corruption, the rise in crime rate, the violence, the media—there were apparently intractable problems on all sides.
Then the preacher turned to the real cause of all these problems—the modern family. The parents who did not have time for their children, the spouses who did not communicate with each other, the children who showed no respect for their elders. Here was the source of the whirlwind that we are inheriting.
Divorce was settled on—easy divorce—the destruction of the nuclear family. Easy divorce was the dream of the early twentieth century communists and the achievement of the late twentieth century capitalists.
So the statistics of the consequences of divorce were spelled out. Children from divorced homes fare worse on every known criteria that you care to mention. They live in greater poverty. They have worse health, greater rates of psychiatric disorder, lower educational achievements, earn less money, have a higher rate of drug dependence and substance abuse, are more commonly in debt as well as more likely to have a gambling problem. The list of disadvantages of growing up in a divorced home went on and on and on. Furthermore the problem is deeper because they themselves have a higher rate of divorce and relational failure bringing the problems of their own childhood onto the next generation also.
Mary’s father felt uncomfortable. He was the villain being denounced in church. He had nowhere to go but own up to responsibility for all the problems of the world. He hoped that the preacher may point out that sometimes we do not have a choice about divorce. He hoped the preacher would point out that the redeeming work of Christ and the renewing work of the Holy Spirit meant that we do not need to be part of the statistical mess. That we can, through the cross, find forgiveness and by the power of the Holy Spirit be so transformed in life that we do not need to be the victims of our parents’ choices. That parents whose lives had come unstuck in marriage do not necessarily have to fail their children.
But no—the preacher was content to preach the politically safe, statistically accurate moralisms of our sick society. There was no cross, there was no forgiveness, there was no spiritual transformation. There was no hope.
As the hymn was being announced and people were reaching forward for their books, Mary winked at her father and whispered with a conspiratorial smile:
“Well I guess that flushes my life down the toilet doesn’t it.”