The pregnancy was the result of one passionate indiscretion not of a covert lifestyle she and her boyfriend had adopted. Nevertheless, their plans for further education were suddenly jeopardized, and additional unanticipated consequences were beginning to unfold.
The parents were crushed by the news, but wise in their responses. There was no talk of spiriting the daughter out of town to have the baby in anonymity, no toying with the thought of an abortion, no counseling about a possible adoption. They judged that the relationship of the two young people had the marks of real love and they seemed to them a good match. For these reasons, everyone — parents and the couple — agreed to a private wedding in their home.
The news spread quickly to the youth group of the church and they were filled with empathy. They immediately began to talk among themselves about giving the whole of their church youth fund, a significant amount, to the couple. The impulse solidified quickly.
Upon learning of this, I spoke to the group’s leaders, saying theirs was not an appropriate response to the crisis. We don’t reward a serious moral lapse generously. At first the teens saw me as cold and lacking in compassion. Their anger was strong but restrained.
But this became a teaching moment. I explained that the couple’s conduct had grievously broken God’s law, brought grief to parents, and in major ways set a hurtful example to peers. I urged them to understand that their generous plan would create moral confusion.
It would be more appropriate, I explained, to pool their own personal resources and give a wedding gift such as they might give to others from their youth group who were getting married. Emotions cooled and my suggestion seemed to take.
That was many years ago. Things settled back quite quickly then because in that social environment there were more substantial moral norms to work from in making moral decisions. Today a Christian community is likely to find even within its own ranks a confusion of opinions regarding what would be right and what would be wrong in responding to the young couple’s moral lapse.
The couple themselves responded to their new situation courageously and with purpose and they went on to raise a family and live exemplary Christian lives. And the church community, compassionate in its general responses, settled quickly. It bore testimony to something deeper than mere sentimentality — to the redemptive love of a Christian group held together by moral unity.
The shift in society across intervening decades makes clear that moral clarity has become blurred even in the minds of many Christians. Fuzzy thinking about right and wrong replaces a clear settled commitment to seeking the righteousness of God.
In this environment of moral confusion, I pray for moral clarity in my own understanding as well as in the church around the world. I pray for it in the pulpits of the land, in church board decisions, in every Sunday school class, in Christian grade schools, in Christian colleges and universities everywhere. And perhaps most of all, I pray that in Christian families healthy consciences will be formed in the crucible of family living and family altars.
In a world filled with moral ambiguities and confusion, do you believe moral integrity is worth fighting for in family circles, within the church, and in society at large? If so, please join me in prayer for the strengthening of Christian consciences everywhere.