Our lesson concerns a very serious moral problem that has devastating repercussions upon society, the economy and the spiritual welfare of many people. It is a problem that threatens to erode civilization and respect for the Word of God. We are told that one of six children born in our nation are illegitimate. In some ethic groups the rate is over fifty per cent.
An illegitimate child is a child born of a woman, the father of which is not the husband of the woman, therefore, the child does not bear the father’s name. It is a child born out of wedlock. The child is born as the result of sinful sexual conduct.
The extent of this problem has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years due to the so-called “new morality,” which has given license to any and every kind of sexual relationship without limit. Thousands upon thousands of children are being born to unwed parents. Homes are operated for unwed mothers, government expenditure has increased for both the care of the mother as well as the children. Many of these mothers are teenagers, if not most of them. This does not take into account the thousands upon thousands of unborn children who are murdered each year by some form of abortion, legal and illegal. The figures are staggering because of their enormity and grow upward year by year.
Nor does this take into account the lowered morals of those who conceive the child out of wedlock but who are married before the child is born. Marriage does not place a robe of sanctity around illicit sexual relationships that occur before marriage. The child born of pre-marital sex is not counted, however, as an illegitimate child even though the child was illegitimately conceived.
There is no way to be accurate regarding the extent of the fornication and adultery that evidently runs rampant in society. The shame and disgrace of conceiving a child out of wedlock, bearing a child out of wedlock, being sexually immoral, has been removed to a great extent because of the acceptance by society of sin, the defiance of the will of God, the lack of consistency among religious people between word and deed, the general decay of morality across the board. The sin regarding illegitimate children is not a sin of the children. It is actually a misnomer to declare the child illegitimate as if the child was in some way evil.
The child is as innocent of sin as any other child. The man and woman who produce the child are the ones who are illegitimate and immoral. The extent and influence of their sin resounds far beyond the birth of the sinless child.
No Double Standard
Sin is no more chargeable to the woman than to the man, or vice versa. Even though the world has often had a double standard in such matters, there never was a double standard with God. The shame of the double standard has been largely removed in recent years because now more and more people do not consider it shameful to violate God’s laws of morality anymore. While women may bear more of the problems caused by a child born out of wedlock, this due to the physical production of the child, giving birth, caring for the child, and finding ways to support the child, the guilt of sin is as damnable to one as the other. Many men have been led to believe that if the woman with whom they commit fornication should conceive that the problem is altogether her problem. But both have contributed to the damnation of the soul of each other.
We hear a lot of talk today on the subject of abortion that the woman should be given the right over her own body. Nobody disputes that. What some deranged minds cannot understand is that she has exercised the control over her body when she gave herself to illicit relationships. Once a child has been conceived there is more than just her body that must be considered. She had control over her body and she ignored the sin and responsibility that inescapably accompanies this conduct.
The problem of illegitimacy, illicit sex, is not confined to any one social or economic level of people. It is a moral infection that has invaded the rich, poor, educated, uneducated, black, white, and every group, including church-going people. Many are aroused over the social problem and the health problems, but not so much because of the offenses against morality. They are aroused because of the increasing tax burden this willful defiance of God has produced. The costs are rising and the burden is appalling. But the Christian is concerned because of his hatred of sin and love for souls. It is this moral and spiritual failure and breakdown that grieves the heart of the child of God far more than any other related consequences.
It is true, however, that this scar of sin occurs far less among those who have been taught morality, who know they are not merely animals that have evolved, who realize they are responsible before God and man for their behavior, and who retain some self-respect and personal dignity. Anyone who does not have respect for the value of Bible study, religious training, moral teaching, Christian principles and human dignity simply does not understand the only remedy and solution to this increasing blight among humankind.
Once it is known that a child has been conceived out of wedlock there are great problems to those involved. The first impulse is to chastise and rebuke those who sin. But it is really too late for preaching. If preaching is to be done it must be the condemnation of sin and the plea for repentance that seeks forgiveness. But what has been done cannot be undone. There is no way that minimizes the enormity of the sin, however.
Parents weep many tears wondering, “Where did we go wrong?” regarding their children who get so involved. Very likely it is not what was done wrong, but what was not done at all. It is frightening to know that over half of those under twenty years of age are receiving no kind of moral training from anybody anywhere. The neglect of proper guidance and teaching is a tragedy. Providing biological information and “birth control” devices does not resolve the problem. The problem is the lack of morality and respect for God. When moral teaching is neglected by parents, or ignored by youths, what else can be expected except the results of sin and the just recompense of reward? It is a spiritual tragedy of the worst sort.
What all must come to realize is that illicit sexual relationships are demonstrations of disregard for God. It is a gross disrespect for His authority. It is sin. Many who know the truth ignore the truth. Mere knowledge of God’s will is not enough, even though essential. There must be the determination to comply with His will. With this “do-your-own-thing” attitude that is so prevalent today, and being promoted on every hand, illegitimate children are inevitably some of the consequences.
Illicit sexual activity is sometimes provoked by the lack of security in the home. With the enormous divorce rate, single parent homes, mothers working outside the home and children cared for by others, the security level for many children is at rock bottom. They seek companionship and acceptance. When parents are so busy they cannot take care of their children, seeking acceptance for themselves from almost any quarter, their children act similarly and find themselves in sin.
Boys have deceived girls into suggesting that sex is a proof of “love.” It is the very opposite when the sex proposed is between two who are not married. Nobody who really loves another will ask that they damn the soul to prove anything. You do not prove love through sin. You prove love by refusing to sin.
Weak fathers, dominant mothers, children even with plenty of money but a scarcity of morals, creates insecurity and feelings of not being wanted. To feel wanted many have dissipated their bodies in fornication. Empty houses, loose supervision, worldly ambitions, peer pressure and the neglect of God in the home is at the root of the whole sordid and hideous scene. The craving for pleasure, material things, attractiveness and getting ahead have ruined the lives and eternity of millions.
Can We Blame These?
Some have blamed society, finances, education and other factors that likely have contributed somewhat to illicit conduct. But there are many who are poor, who live in deprived areas, who have not had every educational opportunity, but who have been taught truth, and who are not among the immoral.
There will ever be the natural curiosity among the young about the opposite sex. Parents have failed to teach children regarding the body. As a result, many today are clamoring for the schools to do the job, often by teachers who are so stupid as to think that sex can be properly presented in a vacuum of moral teaching. True, too many children get their “facts of life” from the back alley, restrooms, locker rooms, dirty jokes and filthy conversation. But this only aggravates the problem.
The disrespect for God’s laws regarding marriage, the sacredness of marriage, the permanency of marriage, faithfulness in marriage, the laws of God as to who is and is not marriageable, all have paved the way for the moral breakdown that brings children into the world with father and mother not married to each other. Some are led to think that all sexual activity is evil rather than a beautiful, God-given expression reserved for those who are married to each other.
Even in the church there are those who have left God’s law about marriage and divorce, granting divorces for any cause, granting the right to marry to almost anybody, no discipline in the church toward those who defy God’s teaching. They have surrendered to the ways of the world and are trying to accommodate sin and convert God to fit sinful mankind. We should not think that God will hold such false brethren guiltless of their false doctrines and wicked practices which they promote.
The only real solution to the problem is to prevent illicit sexual conduct. Once one has sinned we must strive for the conversion of the heart, repentance and restoration through forgiveness. But why should so many have to suffer the agony of sin, the disgrace of bearing a child out of marriage, the regret and pain that shall forever follow? Why must there be the flow of grief that sin brings? God has given us the way to go. Why should we not walk His way?
There must be a recognition that fornication is sin. Galatians 5:19-21 is a list of “works of the flesh” which if practiced prevents entrance into the kingdom of God. The first two sins are adultery and fornication. Ephesians 5:3 teaches that fornication is not even to be named among saints. Colossians 3:5 mentions fornication that is to be mortified or put to death. “Abstain from fornication” is the instruction of First Thessalonians 4:3. First Corinthians 6:18, “Flee fornication.”
Among the works of the flesh is also lasciviousness. This is that which inclines toward lewd and immoral thoughts and actions. Therefore, there should be teaching against the modern dances, pornographic literature, running with the “fast crowd,” late hours, and other such things that provoke the loss of control of passions. The skimpy attire and immodest clothes many wear in order to be fashionable have tempted the very sinfulness that results in children being born out of wedlock. Petting, beach parties, filling the mind with the sex-oriented movies and television programs all contribute to the breakdown of moral restraint and obedience to God.
Sin can be forgiven. But the scars of sin plague the one who commits sin throughout the rest of life. This is surely so evident with the sin of illicit sex that results in conception of a new life. Regret is a difficult matter to overcome. “Be not deceived, God is not mocked. For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). Efforts to cover the fornication and birth of children conceived out of wedlock do not succeed. Giving the child for adoption seldom really solves the problem. At best, it only shifts it elsewhere. Marriage can partially cover conception out of wedlock as far as giving the child a name. But only the blood of Jesus Christ can cleanse the souls stained in fornication.
We must provide for the oncoming generations a sense of purity, decency, morality, responsibility, security, proper companionship, care and genuine Christian love. We cannot rely upon the unwanted conceptions, the possibility of disease and other such factors to motivate people to morality. We must teach them the love of God and respect for His ways. Only then can there be a significant dent made in the distress and shame of what is called the problem of illegitimate children.
1. What is usually meant by “illegitimate children?”
2. Is there a double standard in morality?
3. Who sins when a child is born out of wedlock?
4. How can this moral blight be corrected?
5. On whom does the blame rest in such cases?
6. Can immorality be forgiven?