Posts Tagged ‘Christian divorce’

He and his wife had been close family friends.  He was a well-respected preacher for one of the better congregations in town.  Then he became one of my heroes when he and his family moved to a foreign country and became missionaries.  His reports were what helped kindle the fire for missions in my own heart.

It’s an all too familiar story.  I don’t know the details, but he was caught up in adultery, his wife and children left him, he lost his support, returned to the States pretty broken–a minister who had lost his way, his family, his work, his life.  You’ve seen this too.

Years later, I was visiting with him and his second wife.  He had found a humanitarian organization that would support him to work in a small village in a third world country, so he, now late in years, was leaving the States, having sold insurance to make a living for a couple of decades, finally able to use his marvelous gifts in a special way for God again. He will work anonymously there and probably die there—he and his second wife.  I’m thankful for his redemption—and mine.

The one time that we visited just before he left, he made a special point to say, “Mark, I want you to know that although we love each other, both of us realize that our sins against God and our mates were terrible. The cost of what we lost and the damage to others which we inflicted can only be forgiven, never repaid. “

It’s not law that we need to stop the tidal wave of divorce; it’s not judgment!  It’s Truth!  Speaking the truth in love is what will set us free!

If you are divorced, please do not hear my plea as judgment; rather, join me in saying that Sin causes divorce.  And God hates Sin! And the consequences of Sin are pain, destruction, even death without the Grace of God.

If you were sinned against, then you know better than anyone why God hates Divorce.

If you sinned against your spouse, then you know better than anyone how destructive guilt and shame are and why God hates Divorce.

Tell the truth in love, if you want to teach your children and mine to hate Divorce.

Tell your friends who are thinking about divorce the honest truth. Talk to them about Sin, not happiness. Unmask the lies they are telling themselves. Describe the loss and destruction—the collateral damage to their children, their friends, their church.

No matter what we do, there will be spouses who must escape from abusive relationships, dangerous relationships, who are abandoned or betrayed.  Divorce is part of our broken world that we all are enduring until the Lord comes again and makes everything right.

But I do believe we Christians can be a part of that redemptive process now by teaching our children and teens and young singles and young couples and marrieds and parents and classics that God hates divorce!

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The terrific pain and trauma surrounding any divorce should be enough to convince everyone that it is not what God wants for anyone!  The only proper response when we meet those who are scarred and damaged by divorce is to weep with those who weep! I’m truly sorry for the suffering, also for the anger, for the guilt, and for the deep sense of loss that you may have suffered with as well.

Divorce is not a fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control—these are the fruit of the Spirit of God in us!

Sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, envy, drunkenness…and the like, this sounds more like Divorce, doesn’t it! Paul says that these are acts of our sinful nature. Divorce definitely belongs on that side of the ledger.

No wonder God hates Divorce! Can we agree that if God hates Divorce that we should also hate Divorce?  Can we teach our children to hate Divorce? Can we teach our churches to hate Divorce?

Can we show enough love to divorced people that they know they are loved by us and by God even if God and we hate Divorce?

So what should the spouse do who is battered, or abused, or betrayed, or humiliated, who is disrespected?  Is divorce an option? 

Much I don’t know, but here is what I do know from God’s Word. Let’s look first at Jesus’ words in the Gospels (Matthew 5:31-32; 19:1-12, Mark 10:1-12,  Luke 16:18)

  1. When asked about Divorce, Jesus said that the plan from the beginning of time was that what God has joined together, no man should separate!
  2. Jesus acknowledges that God allowed divorce because of the sinfulness of God’s people, even though it was not what He wanted for His people.
  3. Jesus says that to divorce your spouse to marry another is adultery.
  4. Jesus allows divorce in the case of adultery.  (Other translations of porneia include unchastity, sexual unfaithfulness, fornication, sexual immorality, even incest.)

So Jesus hates Divorce, but allows for it. 

The Apostle Paul mentions another exception: if a person becomes a Christian, but the spouse does not , if the unbelieving spouse leaves, the other is not bound. (1 Corinthians 7:15). I know that we have argued about this verse, but usually it is over the question of remarriage, not over divorce.  Paul says clearly that the believing spouse is not bound!  The divorce here, it should be noted, is instigated by the unbeliever, not the believer. That is important!  God hates Divorce!

I need to mention also that God Himself divorced Israel. Read Jeremiah 3 and Isaiah 50. He divorced Israel for adultery (Jeremiah 3:8) and for her sins and transgressions (Isaiah 50:1). In both cases, He longs for reconciliation, but there is no doubt that He has divorced her!

God hates Divorce—but He Himself has been through divorce. No wonder He hates it!

I really didn’t want to start with Divorce. I wanted to start with Marriage, but so many of us Christians are already divorced that I needed to let you know where I was coming from—and that I’m not advocating a return to law. The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath!

I would have much preferred to start with Marriage because Marriage is made for us! The place to stop Divorce is in marriages full of life in the Spirit, in marriages where the Spirit bears fruit. 

We will talk about Marriage next.

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I was walking this morning in our neighborhood and noticed an unfamiliar car just stopped in the middle of the street. Suddenly it started backing up—quite a distance—until it reached the next intersection.  As it turned down the street it backed up to, I wondered what was going on with that driver to make such a risky maneuver—until I turned the corner and saw that one of the main exit streets from our neighborhood was closed due to construction.  STREET CLOSED!

What would happen if the road to divorce was just CLOSED? I mean NO OPTION! IMPOSSIBLE!  CLOSED! What would happen in our churches if we preached that God hates divorce?  What if our view of marriage were so sacred that we believed and practiced “what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Matthew 19:3-12)? I feel the need to stop in the middle of the street and just back up. What if Divorce St. was absolutely closed?

Just this summer two couples from church in our circle of acquaintances have broken up, one after thirty years and the other after about fifteen.  Both have been faithful in attendance, active in church programs, teachers, in small groups, generous contributors—I mean, what more could you expect?

In one case the spouse just announces the end of the marriage—to the total shock and surprise of the other!  In the other case the two are still talking at least.  These are Christians, these are people who have been spiritual leaders. And, sadly, these people are not different from a large number of people in all of our churches.  Something is seriously wrong!

In 2008, Barna Group published results of their latest surveys on Marriage and Divorce and came to the following conclusions:

  • “There no longer seems to be much of a stigma attached to divorce; it is now seen as an unavoidable rite of passage,” the researcher indicated. “Interviews with young adults suggest that they want their initial marriage to last, but are not particularly optimistic about that possibility. There is also evidence that many young people are moving toward embracing the idea of serial marriage, in which a person gets married two or three times, seeking a different partner for each phase of their adult life.”
  •  “Government statistics and a wealth of other research data have shown that co-habitation increases the likelihood of divorce, yet cohabiting is growing in popularity. Studies showing the importance and value of preparing for marriage seem to fall on deaf ears. America has become an experimental, experience-driven culture. Rather than learn from objective information and teaching based on that information, people prefer to follow their instincts and let the chips fall where they may. Given that tendency, we can expect America to retain the highest divorce rate among all developed nations of the world.”  http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/15-familykids/42-new-marriage-and-divorce-statistics-released

One out of three marriages ends in divorce.  This Barna survey found that there was no statistical difference between “born again/Evangelical” Christians and the general population. One-third of the people at church have been through a divorce—or will! One out of three of your teenagers at church, one out of three of your children or grandchildren!  I hate to even write those words!

Here are some of the questions I think we have to address.  I’ll ask them today and then try to respond to them in future posts.

  1. Is marriage something we do or is it something God does?
  2. Have we obscured or skewed the purpose of marriage? Does anyone really know what the purpose of marriage is?
  3. What are the values necessary for marriage?
  4. How can these values be transmitted to our children?
  5. What would it take to get to a 0% divorce rate among Christians?

I hope you will jump in the deep end  and think with me about these very serious questions.  And may our praying and thinking lead to something that renews our commitment to marriage.

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