“While we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. … [W]hile we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Those verses (Romans 5:6, 8) are important for understanding salvation but also social change. We don’t expect people to become Christians just by going through a certain set of rituals. The Bible tells us that we are weak. We don’t change until God changes us.
We should keep in mind this biblical truth as we contemplate The State of Our Unions, a new report from the Institute for American Values and the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project. The team of scholars who produced the report, released yesterday, recommend that Washington eliminate marriage penalties and disincentives for the poor, for unwed mothers, and for older Americans; triple the child tax credit to shore up the economic foundations of family life in Middle America; and increase job apprenticeship programs.
Those proposals and others are fine. So are attempts to engage Hollywood to help shape positive American attitudes toward marriage and parenting. But they don’t get to the root causes. The last verse of the Old Testament, Malachi 4:6, does get there: We need to pray for God to “turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”
While we are yet sinners, parents part and families fail. We need small, helpful measures. We need even more the large measure that a great God has taken for our good. Without that, the small measures will not suffice.