The advantages all children should have
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.’
(Genesis 1:26-27, NIV)
I have been reflecting on some amazing advantages I had in my childhood. I am so grateful for them.
The first advantage was that my parents were married when I was born. That means that they backed their love by a commitment, and it was recognised by wider society. This meant that right from the start I grew up in a home in which my parents were committed to each other, for better or for worse. There was a great security in that.
Then, when I was voiceless and vulnerable, my parents chose not to abort me. The thought would not have entered their heads - I understand that I was wanted! - but even if it had, in those days, abortion was illegal. I, and countless other ‘baby boomers’, are permanently grateful to have been born before the legalisation of abortion contributed to the end of the boom.
Another thing I’m grateful for is that I was brought up by a mum and a dad. I experienced close-up, in the way you only really can in a family, a man and a woman, in the wonderful pattern of equality with diversity which God has for marriage. (This wonderful advantage can, of course, also come to children adopted by a mother and a father.)
And then I’m grateful that mum and dad stayed together. Of course, there were ups and downs, but never the child-damaging divorce many of my friends’ parents had. Instead, I was able to witness what faithfulness means, close up. That is another advantage.
All these advantages came because I was brought up in a society which - though not containing huge numbers of Christians - still held to an inheritance of a Biblical basis for our laws.
I want to make clear that I say all this without any sense of smugness, superiority or pride. None of these were of my making. Put the other way, those who have not had these advantages should never
be blamed. Years ago, children born ‘out of wedlock’ bore a stigma which meant they were treated as if guilty for something which was not their fault. That is very wrong, and has done much to discredit the Biblical position. Emphatically, no-one who lacks these advantages is any less valuable than anyone else.
Nor am I saying that these are the only advantages which matter. Child poverty, for instance, is a terrible disadvantage.
But the Biblical pattern for sex, marriage and the preservation of life really is a great advantage for a child. God gave us His pattern out of love!
So I find myself asking: how can we work towards a society in which these advantages can be enjoyed by all children? Do we care for children enough to pray and work for that? Elements in our society resist the Biblical idea of marriage and the family, even calling those who advocate it narrow and bigoted. But as their ideas gain traction, children will be the losers. The conversations seem to revolve more around affirming the choices of consenting adults than the real needs of children, the unborn, the voiceless and the vulnerable.
To advocate the Biblical pattern for life and marriage is not just to push middle-class values. God’s Word is for all people. We are not talking about something money can buy - although the wedding industry has made marriage seem impossibly expensive for some, which is a real problem.
Quite rightly, as a society, we talk about the unfair economic advantage some children enjoy. But with the Biblical pattern for family we have a blind spot. Can’t we long, in all fairness, that all children also have the huge advantage of a Biblical pattern for their lives and their homes?
The starting-point will be realising that the social experiments of the last fifty years have got it wrong, and we need humbly to start listening to Jesus again.