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It will likely come as no great surprise (for any Christian paying attention) that God’s plan for families is being threatened on virtually every front. In its most basic form, God’s plan does not require children. Children enhance and expand families; their arrival does not create them. God’s family plan began in the perfection of Eden when He created Eve from Adam’s rib and then gave her to Adam as his wife. In doing so, God not only established and defined marriage (one man and one woman joined together as “one flesh” for life), but also created the first family. The arrival of Cain, Abel, Seth, and all their siblings just expanded that first, original family. Like everything else God created, that first family He labeled “very good.”

Satan won a not-insignificant victory when he persuaded even Christian couples to begin speaking of “starting a family” by having children. Families begin with husband and wife. Sometimes they end there; other times God expands them. A husband and wife who are not blessed with children are no less a family than those that are.

Why is this important? Because families, by God’s design, start with the union of a man and a woman, joined in and under Christ, and bound by a lifelong, one-flesh commitment. We know that this is God’s plan because He has told us that He hates both divorce and sexual activity outside of marriage. Children were intended by God to be raised by a loving, committed father and mother. The wisdom of God’s plan is self-evident, both theologically and empirically. As the One Who designed both men and women, God knows that He uniquely equipped both to fulfill their own special roles in the family. God in His Word established that truth by clearly defining the roles of husbands and wives. God’s wisdom is also observable in that throughout the course of human history, the husband-and-wife nuclear family unit has provided basic stability to every civilization, without exception, especially when children are added. Children need both a father and a mother—because of the special gifts and abilities that God has given to each.

The wisdom of God’s plan is also validated by simply observing the alternatives. 23% of all children in the US are being raised in single-parent homes, a number dramatically higher than any other country, according to a 2019 Pew Research study. Other studies have found the percentage in the US to be even higher. Multiple studies have shown that children of single-parent families are more likely to commit crimes, use drugs, grow up in poverty, and drop out of school. God’s design was both wise and loving . Same-sex couples represent a dramatic departure from God’s plan for families. Perhaps not surprisingly, activists have so intimidated research firms that not a single meaningful study has been conducted to date to gauge the effects of same-sex households on child development and behavior.

Many Christians are forced into single-parent child rearing through no fault of their own. Many also raise wonderful, well-adjusted children despite the extraordinarily difficult circumstances they often face. These are exceptional cases that demonstrate God’s grace. They in no way disprove God’s rule or alter His plan. God has clearly marked the boundaries of the loving path that He fully intends for us to walk. Although God in His mercy has brought many unbelieving spouses to faith through the witness of a Christian spouse, a far greater number tell of great heartache and frustration. Our loving God sought to spare believers from such misery by establishing a family plan that begins with the selection of a spouse who shares one’s Christian faith. It continues with daily immersion in the Word of God, mutual support and counsel, and Christian education—especially for tender, developing lambs. This is God’s will, His loving plan for His children. Those planning families would be wise to ask themselves why they would seek any other path.

Michael Roehl is pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Bismarck, North Dakota.