Seventh-day Adventists Believe...

Marriage was divinely established in Eden and affirmed by

Jesus to be a lifelong union between a man and a woman in

loving companionship. For the Christian a marriage

commitment is to God as well as to the spouse, and should be

entered into only between partners who share a common faith.

Mutual love, honor, respect, and responsibility are the

fabric of this relationship, which is to reflect the love,

sanctity, closeness, and permanence of the relationship

between Christ and His church. Regarding divorce, Jesus

taught that the person who divorces a spouse, except for

fornication, and marries another, commits adultery. Although

some family relationships may fall short of the ideal,

marriage partners who fully commit themselves to each other

in Christ may achieve loving unity through the guidance of

the Spirit and the nurture of the church. God blesses the

family and intends that its members shall assist each other

toward complete maturity. Parents are to bring up their

children to love and obey the Lord. By their example and

their words they are to teach them that Christ is a loving

disciplinarian, ever tender and caring, who wants them to

become members of His body, the family of God. Increasing

family closeness is one of the earmarks of the final gospel

message.--Fundamental Beliefs, 22.



The home is a primary setting for the restoration of the

image of God in men and women. Within the family, father,

mother, and children can express themselves fully, meeting

each other's needs for belonging, love, and intimacy. Here

identity is established and feelings of personal worth are

developed. The home is also the place where, by God's grace,

the principles of real Christianity are put into practice,

and its values transmitted from one generation to the next.

The family can be a place of great happiness. It can also

be the scene of terrible hurt. Harmonious family life

demonstrates the principles of Christianity truly lived out,

revealing the character of God. Unfortunately, the

manifestation of these characteristics is altogether too

rare in modern homes. Instead, many families demonstrate the

thoughts and intents of the selfish human heart--quarreling,

rebelliousness, rivalry, anger, impropriety, and even

cruelty. Yet these characteristics were not part of God's

original plan. Jesus said, "From the beginning it was not

so" (Matt. 19:8).

From the Beginning

The Sabbath and marriage are two of God's original gifts

to the human family. They were intended to provide the joys

of rest and belonging regardless of time, place, and

culture. The establishment of these two institutions

culminated God's creation of this earth. They were His

finale, the best of the exceedingly good gifts He gave

humanity at Creation. In establishing the Sabbath, God gave

human beings a time of rest and renewal, a time for

fellowship with Him. In forming the first family, He

established the basic social unity for humanity, giving them

a sense of belonging and providing them with an opportunity

to develop as well-rounded persons in service to God and


Male and Female in the Image of God

Genesis 1:26,27 describes God's creation of the human

beings who were to inhabit this earth: "Then God said, `Let

Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.'...So

God created man in His own image; in the image of God

created he him; male and female created he them." The term

man is used here (in both the Hebrew and the English) in the

generic sense, as it is more than 500 times elsewhere in

the Old Testament. This term includes both male and female.

The text makes clear that it was not a case of the male

being created in the image of God and the female in the

image of the man.(*1) On the contrary, both were made in the

image of God.

Just as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are God, male and

female together are to make up "man." And like the Godhead,

though they are to be one, they are not the same in

function. They are equal in being, in worth, but not

identical in person (cf. John 10:30; 1 Cor. 11:3). Their

physiques are complementary, their functions cooperative.

Both genders are good (Gen. 1:31), and so are their

different roles. The family and the home are built upon the

fact of sexual differentiation. God could have propagated

life on earth without creating male and female, as is

demonstrated in the asexual reproduction of some forms of

animal life. But God made "two individuals, identical in

general form and characteristics, but each containing within

itself something lacking in the other and complementary to

the other."(*2) A world made up exclusively of members of

either sex would not be complete. True fulfillment can come

only in a society that involves both male and female.

Equality is no question here, for both are essential.

During his first day, Adam, the firstborn and so the

head of the human race,(*3) sensed his uniqueness--there was

no other like him. "But for Adam there was not found a

helper comparable to him" (Gen. 2:20). God was sensitive to

this lack, for He said, "`It is not good that man should be

alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him'"

(Gen. 2:18).

The Hebrew word neged, translated "comparable" here, is a

noun related to the preposition that means to stand "before,

in front of, opposite, corresponding to" someone or

something. In this case the person who was to stand in front

of Adam was to complement him, corresponding to him as his

counterpart. So God "caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam,"

and taking "one of his ribs" (Gen. 2:21), shaped his


Upon awakening, Adam instantly recognized the close and

intimate relationship that this specific act of creation

made possible. He exclaimed, "`At last, here is one of my

own kind--bone taken from my bone, and flesh from my flesh.

"Woman" is her name because she was taken out of man'"

(Gen. 2:23, TEV; cf. 1 Cor. 11:8).


From the diversity of male and female God brought order,

oneness. That first Friday He performed the first marriage,

joining these two, the epitome of His image, to make them

one. And marriage has been the foundation of the family, the

foundation of society itself, ever since.

Scripture describes marriage as a decisive act of both

detachment and attachment: One shall "leave his father and

his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall

be one flesh" (Gen. 2:24, KJV).

1. Leaving.

Vital to the marriage relationship is a leaving behind of

the former primary relationships. The marriage relationship

is to supersede that of the parent and child. In this sense,

"leaving" one's relationship with one's parents allows one

to "cleave" to another. Without this process, there is no

firm foundation for marriage.

2. Cleaving.

The Hebrew term translated "cleave" comes from a word

that means "to stick to, to fasten, to join, to hold onto."

As a noun it can even be used for brazing and soldering

(Isa. 41:7). The closeness and strength of this bond

illustrates the nature of the bond of marriage. Any attempt

to break up this union would injure individuals bound this

closely together. That this human bond is a close one is

also emphasized by the fact that the same verb is used to

convey the bond between God and His people: "Him shalt thou

serve, and to him shalt thou cleave, and swear by his name"

(Deut. 10:20, KJV).

3. Covenanting.

In Scripture this pledge, this promise by which married

couples are bound together, is spoken of as a "covenant,"

the term used for the most solemn and binding agreement

known in God's Word (Mal. 2:14; Prov. 2:16,17). The

relationship between husband and wife is to be patterned

after God's everlasting covenant with His people, the church

(Eph. 5:21-33). Their commitment to each other is to take on

the faithfulness and endurance that characterize God's

covenant (Ps. 89:34; Lam. 3:23).

God and the couple's family, friends, and community

witness the covenant that they make with each other. That

covenant is ratified in heaven. "`What God has joined

together, let not man separate'" (Matt. 19:6). The Christian

couple understand that in marrying, they have covenanted to

be faithful to each other for as long as they both live.(*5)

4. Becoming one flesh.

The leaving and covenanting to cleave results in a union

that is a mystery. Here is a oneness in the full sense--the

married couple walk together, stand together, and share a

deep intimacy. At the outset this oneness refers to the

physical union of marriage. But beyond that, it also refers

to the intimate bond of mind and emotions that undergirds

this physical side of the relationship.

a. Walking together.

Of His relationship with His people, God asks, "Can two

walk together, except they be agreed?" (Amos 3:3, KJV). That

query is appropriate also of those who would become one

flesh. God instructed the Israelites not to intermarry with

the neighboring nations, "`for they will turn your sons away

from following Me, to serve other gods'" (Deut. 7:4; cf.

Joshua 23:11-13). When the Israelites ignored these

instructions, they met with disastrous consequences

(Judges 14-16; 1 Kings 11:1-10; Ezra 9:10).

Paul reiterated this principle in broad terms: "Do not be

unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what

fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what

communion has light with darkness? And what accord has

Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an

unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with

idols? For you are the temple of the living God"

(2 Cor. 6:14-16; cf. vs. 17,18).

Clearly, Scripture intends that believers should marry

only other believers. But the principle extends even beyond

this. True oneness demands an agreement as to beliefs and

practices. Differences in religious experience lead to

differences in lifestyle that can create deep tensions and

rifts in the marriage. To achieve the oneness Scripture

speaks of, then, people should marry others within their own


b. Standing together.

To become one flesh, two people must become completely

loyal to each other. When one marries, one risks everything

and accepts everything that comes with one's mate. Those who

marry proclaim their willingness to share their mates'

accountability, to stand with their mates against anything.

Marriage requires an active, pursuing love that will not

give up.

"Two persons share everything they have, not only their

bodies, not only their material possessions, but also their

thinking and their feeling, their joy and their suffering,

their hopes and their fears, their successes and their

failures. `To become one flesh' means that two persons

become completely one with body, soul, and spirit, and yet

there remain two different persons."(*7)

c. Intimacy.

Becoming one flesh involves sexual union: "Adam knew Eve

his wife, and she conceived" (Gen. 4:1). In their drive to

be joined together, a drive that men and women have felt

since the days of Adam and Eve, each couple reenacts the

first love story. The act of sexual intimacy is the nearest

thing to a physical union possible for them; it represents

the closeness the couple can know emotionally and

spiritually as well. Christian married love should be

characterized by warmth, joy, and delight (Prov. 5:18,19).

"Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled"

(Heb. 13:4). "The Scriptures tell us clearly that the joyous

sexual expression of love between husband and wife is God's

plan. It is, as the writer of Hebrews emphasizes, undefiled,

not sinful, not soiled. It is a place of great honor in

marriage--the holy of holies where husband and wife meet

privately to celebrate their love for each other. It is a

time meant to be both holy and intensely enjoyable."(*8)

5. Biblical love.

Marital love is an unconditional, affectionate, and

intimate devotion to each other that encourages mutual

growth in the image of God in all aspects of the person:

physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. Different

types of love operate in marriage; it has its romantic,

passionate times; its highly sentimental times; its

comfortable times; its companionable and sense-of-belonging

times. But it is the agape love described in the New

Testament--the selfless, all-for-other love--that comprises

the foundation of true, lasting marital love.

Jesus manifested the highest form of this kind of love

when, accepting both the guilt and the consequences for our

sins, He went to the cross. "Having loved His own who were

in the world, He loved them to the end" (John 13:1, NASB).

He loved us in spite of the end to which our sins brought

Him. This was and is the unconditional agape love of Jesus


Describing this love, Paul said: "Love suffers long and

is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is

not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its

own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in

iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things,

believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails" (1 Cor. 13:4-8).

Commenting on this passage, Ed Wheat wrote: "Agape love

is plugged into an eternal power source and it can go on

operating when every other kind of love fails....It loves,

no matter what. No matter how unlovable the other person is,

agape can keep on flowing. Agape is as unconditional as

God's love for us. It is a mental attitude based on a

deliberate choice of the will."(*9)

6. Individual spiritual responsibility.

Though marriage partners have made a covenant commitment

to each other, they must each individually bear the

responsibility for the choices that they make (2 Cor. 5:10).

Taking such responsibility means that they will never blame

the other person for what they themselves have done. They

must also accept the responsibility for their own spiritual

growth; no one can rely upon another's spiritual strength.

Yet, on the other hand, each one's relationship with God can

serve as a source of strength and encouragement to the


The Effects of the Fall Upon Marriage

The distortion of humanity's reflection of God's image

that sin brought had its effect upon marriage as certainly

as it did on any other area of human experience.

Self-interest intruded where perfect love and unity once

reigned. Selfishness is the primary motivator of all those

not compelled by the love of Christ. Running counter to all

of the principles of surrender, servanthood, and giving that

the gospel represents, it is the common denominator of all

Christian failure.

By their disobedience Adam and Eve contravened the

purpose of their creation. Before they sinned, they had

lived in full openness before God. After, instead of

joyfully coming to Him, they fearfully hid from Him,

attempting to conceal the truth about themselves and denying

their responsibility for their actions. Pervaded with a deep

sense of guilt that their rationalizations could not erase,

they could not meet the eye of God and the holy angels.

Since then this evasion and self-justifying denial has been

the common pattern of human relationships with God.

The fear that drove them to concealment distorted not

only Adam's and Eve's relation to God, but also to each

other. When God questioned them, they both sought to protect

themselves at the expense of another. Their accusations give

evidence of the serious breakdown that had occurred in the

loving relationship God had established at Creation.

After sin God told the woman, "`Your desire shall be for

your husband, and he shall rule over you'" (Gen. 3:16). He

intended this principle, which did not change the basic

equality of the man and woman, to benefit both that first

couple and married couples thereafter.(*10) Unfortunately

this principle became distorted. Since that time dominance

through power, manipulation, and destruction of

individuality has characterized marriage through the ages.

Self-centeredness has left acceptance and appreciation of

one another in short supply.

The essence of Christianity is living in the self-denying

harmony that characterized marriage before the Fall, which

destroyed this harmony. The affections of husband and wife

are to contribute to each other's happiness. Each is to

cultivate the happiness of the other. They are to blend as

one, yet neither of them is to lose his or her

individuality, which belongs to God.(*11)

Deviations From God's Ideal


The practice of one mate's maintaining several spouses

runs contrary to the oneness and union that God established

with the first marriage in Eden. In polygamy there is no

forsaking of all others. Although Scripture describes plural

marriages as a cultural reality in the time of the

patriarchs, its description clearly shows that those

marriages did not attain the divine ideal. The various

sub-units within those marriages became involved in power

struggles, bitter resentments, and alienation (see Gen. 16;

cf. 29:16-30:24, et al.), using the children as emotional

weapons to injure other members of the family.

Monogamous marriage provides couples with a sense of

belonging that strengthens their intimacy and bonding. They

realize that their relationship is unique and that no one

else can share what they do. The monogamous relationship

reflects most clearly the relationship between Christ and

His church and between the individual and God.(*12)

Fornication and Adultery

Current thinking and practice make light of lasting

commitments in which both spouses are sexually faithful to

each other until death. But Scripture regards any sexual

relations outside of marriage as sin. The seventh

commandment remains in effect and unchanged: "Thou shalt not

commit adultery" (Ex. 20:14, KJV). No qualifiers or

disqualifiers are mentioned here. This commandment is a

principle that jealously guards the marriage relationship.

The full import of the Biblical view of fornication and

adultery stands in direct contrast to today's tolerance of

such activities by "consenting adults." Many passages in

both the Old and the New Testament condemn such practices

(Lev. 20:10-12; Prov. 6:24-32; 7:6-27; 1 Cor. 6:9,13,18;

Gal. 5:19; Eph. 5:3; 1 Thess. 4:3; etc.).

Such liaisons can have far-reaching and long-lasting

effects. They defraud the legitimate sexual partner, and may

harm him or her physically, emotionally, financially,

legally, and socially. They hurt the extended family, and if

children are involved, they particularly injure them. These

liaisons may result in the transmission of venereal diseases

and the birth of illegitimate babies. Then, too, the cloud

of lies and dishonesty that hovers over such affairs so

destroys trust that it may never be restored. Even aside

from the Biblical injunctions against these forms of

immorality, the train of unfortunate consequences that

result should provide ample warning against engaging in


Impurity of Thought

Sin is not merely the outward act; rather, it is also a

matter of the heart that reaches deeply into the thought

patterns. If the springs are polluted, the rivers are not

likely to be clean. Jesus saw that the inner reservoir of

the mind motivated human behavior, "for out of the heart

come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft,

false witness, slander" (Matt. 15:19, RSV). In this vein He

traced the act of unfaithfulness to the thoughts and

emotions: "`You have heard that it was said to those of old,

"You shall not commit adultery," But I say to you that

whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already

committed adultery with her in his heart'" (Matt. 5:27,28).

An entire industry has developed to capitalize upon the

perversion of the imagination. The sensual films and books

it produces have no place in the Christian life. They not

only encourage illicit relationships, they also reduce men

and women to mere sexual objects, thus distorting the true

meaning of sexuality and obscuring the image of God.

Christians are called upon to think pure thoughts and live

pure lives because they are preparing to live in a pure

society throughout all eternity.


Some parents cross the boundary that demarcates the

healthy expression of affection to their children, becoming

physically and emotionally intimate with them. Often this

results when the normal husband-wife relationship has been

neglected and one of the children has been chosen to pay the

role of the spouse. This blurring of boundaries may also

occur between siblings and extended family members.

Incest was forbidden in the Old Testament (Lev. 18:6-29;

Deut. 27:20-23) and condemned in the New (1 Cor. 5:1-5).

This kind of abuse damages the child's developing sexuality

and creates in him or her an unwarranted burden of shame and

guilt that he or she may bring into marriage later in life.

When parents transgress those boundaries, they damage the

child's developing sense of trust--so vital to faith in God.


A statement Jesus made sums up the Biblical teaching on

divorce: "`What God has joined together, let not man

separate'" (Matt. 19:6; Mark 10:7-9). Marriage is sacred

because God has consecrated it. Ultimately it is God who

joins the husband and wife, not mere human words or the

sexual act. So it is He who has sealed their union. The

Christian understanding of divorce and remarriage, then,

must be based on scriptural grounds.

Jesus' statement makes clear the basic scriptural

principle that undergirds a Christian understanding of

divorce: God intended marriage to be indissoluble. When the

Pharisees asked Him whether marital incompatibility was

reason enough for divorce, He affirmed the Eden model of

marriage as a permanent union. When they pressed Him further

about Moses' laws of divorce, He answered, "`Moses, because

of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce

your wives, but from the beginning it was not so'" (Matt.

19:8). He went on to stipulate that the only legitimate

reason for divorce was sexual infidelity (Matt. 5:32; 19:9).

His response to the Pharisees makes it clear that Jesus

had a far deeper understanding of fidelity than they did.

From what He said, and from the principles regarding

marriage in both the Old and New Testaments, it can be

affirmed that God intends those who marry to reflect the

image of God in a permanent union.

Even the unfaithfulness of one's spouse does not

necessarily mean that the marriage must end in divorce. The

way of the cross encourages deep repentance and forgiveness,

the putting away of the roots of bitterness. Even in the

case of adultery, through forgiveness and the reconciling

power of God, the injured spouse should seek to maintain

God's original purpose in Creation. "Biblically speaking,

adultery need be no more destructive to your marriage than

any other sin....When you are ready to forgive and let go of

your negative attitudes, God will be more than ready to heal

you and renew your love for each other."(*13)

While the divine ideal for marriage is that of a loving

and permanent union that continues until the death of one

partner, at times a legal separation becomes necessary

because of offenses such as physical abuse to spouse or

child. "In some civil jurisdictions such a separation can be

secured only by divorce, which under these circumstances

would not be condemned. But such a separation or divorce, in

which `unfaithfulness to the marriage vow' is not involved,

does not give either one the scriptural right to remarry,

unless in the meantime the other party has remarried,

committed adultery or fornication, or been removed by


Because marriage is a divine institution, the church has

a unique and solemn responsibility both to prevent divorce

and, should divorce occur, to heal as far as possible the

wounds it causes.


God created male and female to differ from and yet to

complement each other. And when He did so, He oriented their

sexual feelings toward those of the opposite sex. The

differentiation and connectedness that characterize people

are manifested in the attraction that draws the two sexes to

each other in order to form a whole relationship.

In some cases, sin has affected even this basic

orientation, bringing about a phenomenon that has been

termed inversion. In such cases, the natural orientation

toward the opposite sex appears inverted, producing a basic

sexual orientation toward people of the same gender.

Scripture condemns homosexual practices in strongly

negative terms (Gen. 19:4-10; cf. Jude 7,8; Lev. 18:22;

20:13; Rom. 1:26-28; 1 Tim. 1:8-10). Practices of this type

produce a serious distortion of the image of God in men and


Because "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of

God" (Rom. 3:23, KJV), Christians will deal redemptively

with those who are afflicted by this disorder. They will

reflect the attitude Christ took toward the woman taken in

adultery: "Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more"

(John 8:11, KJV). Not only those with homosexual tendencies,

but all persons who are trapped in behaviors or

relationships that cause anxiety, shame, and guilt need the

sympathetic ear of a trained and experienced Christian

counselor. No behavior is beyond the reach of God's healing


The Family

After God created Adam and Eve, He gave them dominion

over the world (Gen. 1:26; 2:15). They made up the first

family, the first church, and marked the beginning of

society. Thus society was built upon marriage and the

family. Because they were the only human inhabitants of the

earth, God commanded them "`Be fruitful and multiply; fill

the earth and subdue it'" (Gen. 1:28).

As world population statistics indicate, an unpopulated

earth no longer cries out to be filled and subdued. But

those married Christian couples who decide to bring children

into the world still have the obligation of rearing their

children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Before a

married couple sets out upon that course, they should

consider God's ideal for the family.


1. The father.

Scripture has given the husband and father the

responsibility of being head and priest of the household

(Col. 3:18-21; 1 Peter 3:1-8). He becomes a type of Christ,

the head of the church. "For the husband is head of the

wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the

Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject

to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in

everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also

loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might

sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the

word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church,

not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it

should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to

love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his

wife loves himself" (Eph. 5:23-28).

As Christ leads the church, husband and wife "both should

be yielding, but the Word of God gives preference to the

judgment of the husband" where it is not a matter of

conscience.(*16) At the same time he has the responsibility

to treat her individuality with utmost respect.

As Christ demonstrated a gentle rulership that went to

the cross in servanthood, so the husband is to lead

sacrificially. "Christ's rule is one of wisdom and love, and

when husbands fulfill their obligations to their wives, they

will use their authority with the same tenderness as Christ

uses toward the church. When the Spirit of Christ controls

the husband, the wife's subjection will only result in rest

and benefit, for he will require from her only that which

will result in good, and in the same way that Christ

requires submission from the church....Let those who stand

as husbands study the words of Christ, not to find out how

complete must be the subjection of the wife, but how he may

have the mind of Christ, and become purified, refined, and

fit to be the lord of his household."(*17)

As priest of the family, like Abraham, the father will

gather his family about at the beginning of the day and

commit them to the Lord's care. In the evening he will lead

them into praising Him and thanking Him for the blessings

bestowed. This family worship will be the tie that

binds--the time that gives God priority in the family.(*18)

The wise father spends time with his children. A child

may learn many lessons from the father, such as respect and

love for their mother, love for God, the importance of

prayer, love for other people, the way to work, modesty,

love for nature and the things God has made. But if the

father is never home, the child is deprived of this

privilege and joy.

2. The mother.

Motherhood is the closest thing on earth to being in

partnership with God. "The king upon this throne has no

higher work than has the mother. The mother is queen of her

household. She has in her power the molding of her

children's characters, that they may be fitted for the

higher, immortal life. An angel could not ask for a higher

mission; for in doing this work she is doing service for

God....Let her realize the worth of her work and put on the

whole armor of God, that she may resist the temptation to

conform to the world's standard. Her work is for time and

for eternity."(*19)

Somebody in the family must bear the ultimate

responsibility for the character of the children. Child

training cannot be haphazard or delegated to others, for no

one feels quite the same about a child as do its parents.

God created the mother with the ability to carry the child

within her own body, to suckle the child, and to nurture and

love it. Except for the extenuating circumstances of severe

financial burdens or of being a single parent,(*20) if she

will accept it, a mother has the unique privilege of

remaining with her children all day; she can enjoy working

with the Creator in shaping their characters for eternity.

"Someone in a relationship needs to consider the family

as a career....Taking on the career of being a mother and

wife is a fabulously rare lifework in the twentieth century,

and a very challenging job. A wasted effort? A thankless

job? An undignified slave? No, a most exciting possibility

of turning the tide, of saving the species, of affecting

history, of doing something that will be felt and heard in

ever-widening circles."(*21)

In Old Testament times a person's name conveyed a short

statement about the person who bore it. Eve received her

name after the Fall (Gen. 3:20). Because she was to become

the mother of all human beings, her name (Hebrew chawwah)

was derived from the word for "living" (Hebrew chay). It

reflects the extraordinary position of honor that she

occupies in the history of the human race.

Just as procreation was not the sole and exclusive right

of either Adam or Eve, so neither was parenthood. The latter

was also to be a shared responsibility. And so it should be

now, not only in the bearing of children but also in the

rearing of them. Each parent has certain responsibilities,

and they are to be carried out as to the Lord. "Lo, children

are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is

his reward" (Ps. 127:3, KJV).


1. A priority.

Other than their commitments to the Lord and their

spouses, parents have no higher responsibility than to the

children that they have brought into the world. They must

put their children's interests before their own advancement

and comfort; the children did not choose to come into the

world, and they must be given the best possible start in

life. Since prenatal influences vitally affect one's

spiritual, mental, and physical health, making the child's

welfare a priority should begin even before birth.(*22)

2. Love.

A parent's love should be unconditional and sacrificial.

Even though it may never be completely reciprocated,

children must have it to have a good self-image and

emotional health throughout life. Children who have to win

love or who feel rejected and unimportant will try to obtain

their parents' love through undesirable behaviors that

become ingrained and habitual.(*23)

Children who are secure in their parents' love will reach

out to others. They can be taught to give as well as to

receive and that there is a reason for existence beyond

self. As children develop, they can learn to glorify God.

3. Commitment.

Christian parents are to dedicate their children to God's

service at the earliest possible moment of life. Seventh-day

Adventist congregations provide for such a dedication with a

simple ceremony in which, before the congregation, parents

present their children to God in prayer, much as Joseph and

Mary presented the infant Jesus to the Lord in the Temple

(Luke 2:22-39). In this manner the child begins life as a

part of an extended spiritual family. Members of the

congregation participate in the social and spiritual

development of the young one as a child of God and a member

of the body of Christ.

In this service the parents also dedicate themselves to

educate the child in the way of the Lord so that the image

of God will be formed in the child. To reach this goal,

parents will bring their children to Sabbath school and

church regularly so that the little ones become a part of

the body of Christ early in life. Then, as the child reaches

school age, the parents and church will make every effort to

enable him or her to have the Christian education that will

nurture that child's love for the Lord even further.

4. Constancy.

The spiritual teaching the parents do is an ongoing

process that enters into every phase of the child's life.

"`You shall teach them [the Lord's commands] diligently to

your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your

house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when

you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and

they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall

write them on the doorposts of your house and on your

gates'" (Deut. 6:7-9; 11:18 ff).

The child is influenced by the whole atmosphere of the

home. The parents cannot convey spirituality through family

worship alone. It must come through their continual trusting

in Jesus; it must be manifested in their lifestyles,

clothing, and even home decorations. Knowing God as a loving

parent is vital to the child's Christian growth.

5. Learning obedience.

"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is

old he will not depart from it" (Prov. 22:6). What does this

training entail? Discipline implies far more than

punishment. Punishment usually deals with the past, whereas

discipline looks to the future. Discipline is a discipling

process in which a young one is apprenticed to the parent

for training, guidance, and example. It means teaching

important principles such as loyalty, truth, equity,

consistency, patience, order, mercy, generosity, and work.

When children learn early to obey their parents

implicitly, authority poses no problem to them in life. But

the type of obedience learned is important also. True

obedience comes not simply because it is required, but

because it springs from within. The secret of this kind of

obedience lies in the new birth.

"The man who attempts to keep the commandments of God

from a sense of obligation merely--because he is required to

do so--will never enter into the joy of obedience. He does

not obey....True obedience is the outworking of a principle

within. It springs from the love of righteousness, the love

of the law of God. The essence of all righteousness is

loyalty to our Redeemer. This will lead us to do right

because it is right--because rightdoing is pleasing to


6. Socialization and language development.

It is within the family that children are socialized as

members of the human race, with all the responsibilities and

privileges that entails. Socialization is the process by

which children learn the basic skills with which to function

in society. Language with all its nuances of communication

is one of the first skills the child learns. The language

used in the home needs careful monitoring, then, so that it

reveals God's character. The child should hear frequent

joyous and spontaneous expressions of affection among family

members, and praise to God.

7. Gender identity.

It is in the home, through wholesome interaction with the

males and females that make up the entire family system,

that children learn to function as male or female within

society. Adults need to teach them the beauty of their

developing sexuality through correct and appropriate

information. It is also their responsibility to safeguard

the children from sexual abuse.

8. Learning values.

A basic socializing function of the home is to provide

for the assimilation of the values espoused by the family.

The family's values and religious concepts do not always

coincide. Parents may claim to adhere to certain religious

principles, but the values that they model before the child

may not be in accordance with those principles. It is

important that parents be consistent.

The Extended Family

Marriage, as God designed it, is exclusive; family is

not. In a highly mobile society one rarely finds extended

families--grandparents, siblings, and cousins--all living in

close proximity. The church family can help those far from

or without kin find a true sense of worth and belonging.

Here, too, single parents can find a comfortable place in

which to rear their children with love and tender

cherishing. And the church may supply appropriate role

models that may be lacking in the home.

Through learning to love the old people in the

congregation, children can learn respect. And those who are

old can experience the satisfaction of having a little one

to love and enjoy. "Now also when I am old and gray-headed,

O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to

this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come"

(Ps. 7l:18).

God gives special consideration to the elderly, saying,

"The silverhaired head is a crown of glory, if it is found

in the way of righteousness" (Prov. 16:31), and "Even to

your old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry

you! I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and

will deliver you" (Isa. 46:4).

In the church, singles may find a special place to be

loved and cherished and to share their love and energies as

well. Through its ministry they can come to sense God's care

for them: "`Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;

therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you'"

(Jer. 31:3).

It is part of "pure religion" to give special care to

those in need (James 1:27; Ex. 22:22; Deut. 24:17; 26:12;

Prov. 23:10; Isa. 1:17). The church family has a special

opportunity to provide a haven, a shelter, a place of

belonging to those who do not have a family; it may surround

and include each member in the special unity that Christ

said would be the mark of Christianity itself

(John 17:20-23).

The Turning

Since the family is the very soul of the church and

society, the Christian family itself will be the instrument

of winning and holding its members for the Lord. The very

last verses of the Old Testament are a prophecy of what will

take place before the Lord returns: "Behold, I will send you

Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and

dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the

fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to

their fathers" (Mal. 4:5, 6). While many forces today

attempt to pull the members from the family, God's call is

to a reuniting, a resolidifying, a turning and restoration.

And those families that respond to His call will have a

strength that will reveal real Christianity. The churches

made up of those families will grow; their young people will

not leave; they will portray to the world a clear picture of



1. Cf. White, Education, p. 20.

2. A.W. Spalding, Makers of the Home (Mountain View, CA:

Pacific Press, 1928), p. 58.

3. That Adam was responsible for the planet is evident in

that God held him accountable for sin even though he was not

the first to transgress (Gen. 3:9ff). The New Testament,

also, as it compares the two "Adams," holds the first Adam

liable for the entrance of sin and death (Rom. 5:12ff; 1

Cor. 15:22; cf. White, Great Controversy, p. 647).

4. "God Himself gave Adam a companion. He provided `an help

meet for him'--a helper corresponding to him--one who was

fitted to be his companion, and who could be one with him in

love and sympathy. Eve was created from a rib taken from the

side of Adam, signifying that she was not to control him as

the head, nor to be trampled under his feet as an inferior,

but to stand by his side as an equal, to be loved and

protected by him" (White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 46).

5. For more on the covenantal aspects of marriage, see

"Marriage as Covenant" in Covenant and Marriage: Partnership

and Commitment (Leader's Notebook) (Nashville: Family

Ministry Department, Sunday School Board of the Southern

Baptist Convention, 1987), pp. 51-60.

6. See SDA Church Manual, pp. 150,151; F.M. Wilcox,

"Marrying Unbelievers," Review and Herald, July 2, 1914, pp.

9,10; G.B. Thompson, "Marrying Unbelievers: `Can Two Walk

Together, Except They Be Agreed?'" Review and Herald, July

31, 1941, pp. 2, 12-14; F.M. Wilcox, "The Marriage

Relationship, Following the Divine Order," Review and

Herald, May 4, 1944, pp. 1-4; White, Testimonies, vol. 4,

pp. 503-508.

7. Walter Trobisch, I Married You (New York, N.Y.: Harper

and Row, 1971), p. 18.

8. Ed Wheat, Love Life for Every Married Couple (Grand

Rapids: Zondervan, 1980), p. 72.

9. Ibid, p. 62.

10.White, Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 58,59.

11.E.g., see White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 361; White,

Messages to Young People (Nashville: Southern Pub. Assn.,

1930), p. 451.

12.See also White, Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 145,208,

337,338; White, Spiritual Gifts, vol. 3, pp. 104,105; vol.

4a, p. 86.

13.Wheat, Love Life for Every Married Couple, p. 202. See

also "The Divorce Court or the Cross," in Roy Hession,

Forgotten Factors...An Aid to Deeper Repentance of the

Forgotten Factors of Sexual Misbehavior (Fort Washington,

PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1976); Wheat, "How to Save

Your Marriage Alone," in Love Life; and Gary Chapman, Hope

for the Separated: Wounded Marriages Can Be Healed (Chicago:

Moody Press, 1982).

14.SDA Church Manual, p. 175.

15.See Hession, Forgotten Factors. In helping transgressors

to repent and find forgiveness in a loving God, this

excellent volume carefully delineates the deeper issues of

sexual immorality.

16.White, Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 307. She also wrote, "We

women must remember that God has placed us subject to the

husband. He is the head and our judgment and views and

reasonings must agree with his if possible. If not, the

preference in God's Word is given to the husband where it is

not a matter of conscience. We must yield to the head" (E.G.

White letter 5, 1861).

17.E.G. White manuscript 17, 1891. See also Larry

Christenson, The Christian Family (Mineapolis, MN: Bethany

Fellowship, 1970).

18.For ideas on how to have a dynamic family worship, see

John and Millie Youngberg, Heart Tuning: A Guide to Better

Family Worship (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1985);

Christenson, The Christian Family, pp. 157-197.

19.White, Adventist Home, pp. 231,232.

20.Parents who must place a child under another's care

should choose someone who holds similar values to theirs so

that there can be full cooperation in rearing the child in

the love and "admonition of the Lord." The parents should

also carefully observe the other children with whom their

child would be associated. Do they want their child to be

like those children? Children learn so much so quickly and

so indelibly, all aspects of child care need to be

conscientiously explored.

21.Edith Schaefer, What Is a Family? (Old Tappan, N.J.:

Fleming H. Revell Co., 1975), p. 47.

22.See White, Desire of Ages, p. 512; White, The Adventist

Home, pp. 255-259.

23.See Gary Smalley and John Trent, The Blessing

(Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986). The authors

carefully depict how parents' bestowal or withholding of

unconditional love is the key to the emotional and

psychological wellness of the developing child.

24.White, Christ's Object Lessons, p. 97.