This year, more children are growing up between homes and with a single parent than ever before. If you are a single parent or a child or teenager and your family has been torn apart for whatever reason, please know that I weep for you in your current circumstances and that you will receive nothing but love and support from me. There is no condemnation here.

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            In the following statistics, the term, “intact family,” will refer to a family with two parents who are married and children who live in the household. This can include remarriages and adoptions. According to several recent studies[1] (within the last 15 years):

  1. Children raised in intact families have, on average, higher academic achievement, better emotional health, and fewer behavioral problems.
    1. In this case, those with step-families did not fair as well as those in a household with both of their parents present.
  2. Fathers of intact families spend, on average, more time with their children.
    1. This is either because intact families just spend more time together, or because spending time together increases the health of a family.
  3. Teens who frequently have dinner with their families are at a lower risk for substance abuse.
  4. Adolescents from intact families are less likely to become sexually active.
    1. People who are more sexually active earlier in life, outside of marriage, are more likely to live in poverty and more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.[2]
  5. Children raised in intact families by happily married parents tend to be more religious in adulthood.
    1. People who are more religious tend to struggle with depression less and respond better to treatment when they do struggle with depression, cope better with stress, and less reactionary.[3]
    2. These are true across religious systems of practice whether or not those systems are correct.
  6. Children raised in intact families are more likely to have stable and healthy romantic relationships as adults.
  7. Intact families are more likely to provide a safe home for children.
    1. Non-intact families showed a higher tendency toward domestic violence.
  8. Married mothers tend to create a better home environment for their infants. Married mothers also tended to interact more positively with their infants compared to cohabiting or single mothers.
  9. Married mothers are less likely to experience abuse and violence.
  10. Married fathers tend to have better psychological well-being.
    1. Divorced men, whether with or without children, experience a higher level of depression than married men.

 

In 2016 the divorce rate in this country was anywhere from 40-50%.[4] This means that half of our families are not intact. Children in half of the homes in this country are more likely to experience depression, less likely to be religious, less likely to make academic achievements, and less likely to have good emotional health. Children and teenagers in half of our households are more likely to act out, more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, more likely to ignore religion altogether, more likely to have bad and unhealthy romantic relationships, and more likely to experience domestic abuse.

So many people want to try and fix these problems by giving people more money, lowering taxes, and getting rid of religion when these things clearly are not the answer. The statistics are equal among rich and poor people. People with more money or things do not get-along better than those with less. What can we do? What can we do to facilitate a better world for our children and the generations that come after us? What can we do to create a better world with less domestic violence, less depression, less hate, less emotional drain, and where people can live life better?

 

Ruth 4 (HCSB)

Boaz went to the gate of the town and sat down there. Soon the family redeemer Boaz had spoken about came by. Boaz called him by name and said, “Come over here and sit down.” So he went over and sat down. Then Boaz took 10 men of the town’s elders and said, “Sit here.” And they sat down. He said to the redeemer, “Naomi, who has returned from the land of Moab, is selling a piece of land that belonged to our brother Elimelech. I thought I should inform you: Buy it back in the presence of those seated here and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you want to redeem it, do so. But if you do not want to redeem it, tell me so that I will know, because there isn’t anyone other than you to redeem it, and I am next after you.”

“I want to redeem it,” he answered.

Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the land from Naomi, you will also acquire Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the deceased man, to perpetuate the man’s name on his property.”

The redeemer replied, “I can’t redeem it myself, or I will ruin my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption, because I can’t redeem it.”

At an earlier period in Israel, a man removed his sandal and gave it to the other party in order to make any matter legally binding concerning the right of redemption or the exchange of property. This was the method of legally binding a transaction in Israel.

So the redeemer removed his sandal and said to Boaz, “Buy back the property yourself.”

Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses today that I am buying from Naomi everything that belonged to Elimelech, Chilion, and Mahlon. I will also acquire Ruth the Moabitess, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, to perpetuate the deceased man’s name on his property, so that his name will not disappear among his relatives or from the gate of his home. You are witnesses today.”

The elders and all the people who were at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is entering your house like Rachel and Leah, who together built the house of Israel. May you be powerful in Ephrathah and famous in Bethlehem. May your house become like the house of Perez, the son Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring the Lord will give you by this young woman.”

Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When he was intimate with her, the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. Then the women said to Naomi, “Praise the Lord, who has not left you without a family redeemer today. May his name become well known in Israel. He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. Indeed, your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” Naomi took the child, placed him on her lap, and took care of him. The neighbor women said, “A son has been born to Naomi,” and they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.

David’s Genealogy from Judah’s Son

Now this is the genealogy of Perez:

Perez fathered Hezron.

Hezron fathered Ram,

who fathered Amminadab.

Amminadab fathered Nahshon,

who fathered Salmon.

Salmon fathered Boaz,

who fathered Obed.

And Obed fathered Jesse,

who fathered David.

 

It was about who, not what, Boaz gained

            At this point in Ruth and Boaz’s love-story and story of redemption, Boaz went to the man who was more qualified than he to redeem Ruth and he asked if the man would like to redeem Ruth’s late husband’s land and her. He did not want to because he would lose his inheritance. He was concerned more about the things than the people. He gave Boaz permission under oath to redeem Ruth and Ruth’s land. Boaz did this, not for the land but specifically for Ruth and Naomi, and he gave Ruth a son and family heir so that the family line could continue on.

According to the Midrash, which is a Jewish commentary on the Hebrew Scriptures (what we call the Old Testament), Boaz actually died the day after he and Ruth married.[5] If this is true, then Ruth lost two husbands and raised a child as a single mother. That child was the grandfather of King David, and lived in Bethlehem. Through King David’s line of descendants, Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem and the world is offered salvation through Him. There is hope for families that have fallen apart, that have experienced loss, that have gone through divorce, and that seem to be falling apart. There is hope!

I was a child who grew up in a dysfunctional home. I did experience domestic violence. My dad abused alcohol. He and my mom separated and divorced. There was hurt. There was and still sometimes is a sadness that impacts my heart and my mind, and there was hope for me. God rescued me and chooses to use me in His Kingdom’s work. If it wasn’t for my mom’s involvement in a local church and my being a part of that church with her and my brothers, I would have probably drifted into a deep depression that I may or may not have recovered from. There is hope for families that are not whole.

 

What we can do

            Because of these things, here is the challenge on our lives as individuals and as a church: We must do everything we can to support healthy families and hurting families. The more we support parents, no matter their circumstances, the better the future looks for children and teenagers in this world.

The challenge for families is similar. We strive to have the healthiest family possible because we love our children and want them to experience the best life possible. No matter what our families look like now, we strive to be as healthy as we can be from this point forward. The question then becomes, how do we live as a healthy family? Christianity Works gives 3 simple steps to facilitate family health. The solution is not having more money, more things, nicer things, or a big house.

Here are the three steps:[6]

  1. Eat together
    1. Families that eat together around the dinner table with no distractions tend to build better relationships with one-another. Better relationships means better family health. The more dinners each week together, the better.
  2. Play together
    1. We actually have a valid reason to have more recreational time! It’s just important for us to play together as families. Have movie nights at home. Go outside and play with your kids. Spend less time at work. Making less money is worth it to have a healthy family.
    2. Carve out fun, family time in your busy schedule.
  3. Pray together
    1. This runs much deeper than just a prayer time. It has to do with the practicing of beliefs.
    2. Families that participate in their local church together are healthier. This is not just during the main service. It is commitment, volunteerism, and true participation.
    3. Families that are involved in a local church together, that pray together at home and that study Scripture together at home are generally healthier than families that don’t.
    4. Religion, specifically a whole family’s involvement in a local church under the lordship of Jesus Christ, is important to the health of a family.
      1. I cannot over stress this fact.
      2. A family that prays together, stays together.

 

We have healthy families, then, when we strive to spend as much time together as we can, and when we participate genuinely in our local church. If we don’t do these two things, our families are more likely to suffer, depression is more likely to be prominent in all members of our family, drug and alcohol abuse is more likely, and we are more likely to see our children develop harmful romantic relationships as they grow up. We desperately need to dedicate as much time as possible to our families and participate in the life of the church as a family. The future truly does depend on it.

 

What we are doing to help

            Eastside Baptist Church is going to help you to fight for your family and for your children’s future! Since the greatest need is for families to spend time together in prayer and in God’s word and participating in a local church, we are offering a holistic approach and giving families and individuals all of the resources needed to accomplish this. We have a family worship packet currently available to download at eastsidesallisaw.com or available for you to pick up at Eastside Baptist Church in Sallisaw, OK. This packet gives a reading guide and discussion questions for each weekday. It will guide you and/or your family through Scripture. As a family or as an individual, your responsibility, then, is simply to reserve a time each day to read and go through the discussion questions with your family.

This will help cultivate a healthy family by helping you to spend time as a family each day, helping you spend time in prayer together as a family each day, and helping you to study Scripture together as a family each day.

This is not all we are doing. The sermons on Sunday morning will parallel what you read and discuss at home, adding a deeper level of family involvement and family connection and strengthening the family bond even more!

This is still not all we are doing! On Wednesday nights during youth service, the youth lesson parallels discussion in the home and it geared specifically toward middle and high schoolers. Parents are always in the know about what their children are learning, and this deepens the family bond even more and helps to cultivate better discussion at home.

This is still not all we are doing! We are available 24/7 for family support. When children have questions about Scripture that you can’t answer, all you have to do is shoot us an email and we will get back to you with an answer and you can answer that question for your children.

We are fighting for families in our community! We want to invite all families, no matter what they look like, to join us as we fight for them! We are in this for God and for people, not for our own gain.

My plea with you is this: Please, please, please fight for your family. Please strive to be a healthy family in a way that matters. The future of our families, our communities, our country, and our world in this age truly does depend on it. This way, we can genuinely pursue Jesus Christ as families and help our children to experience a meaningful relationship with Him on this earth. The good news for us when we make mistakes regarding our families, is that salvation and redemption is ultimately found in Christ and not in the home. Children in unhealthy families are still saved and used by Christ in mighty ways. If you are a child or teenager in a home that is dysfunctional, know that Christ loves you and we are always here for you; no matter what.

[1] http://familyfacts.org/briefs/6/benefits-of-family-for-children-and-adults

[2] http://www.childtrends.org/indicators/sexually-active-teens/

[3] http://www.livescience.com/52197-religion-mental-health-brain.html

[4] http://www.apa.org/topics/divorce/

[5] Midrash Zuṭṭa, ed. Buber, 55

[6] http://christianityworks.com/cw/episode/3-ways-to-stop-your-family-from-falling-apart/

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