Thursday, September 16, 2010

Marriage and Divorce

Marriages always start with the best of intentions.  I can not believe that anyone really marries with the anticipation of divorce (though I imagine in the world there are a few exceptions).  Unfortunately more often than not, problems arise and homes are broken.  Today I want to talk about divorce and what the Bible says about divorce.  The first thing I want to establish is how God feels about divorce.  The Word is clear:
"For the LORD God of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one's garment with violence," Says the LORD of hosts. "Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously."  Malachi 2:16 NKJV
God hates divorce.  That is a strong statement, but it is one we must always remember if considering divorce.  You are doing something God hates.  Marriage was established by God at Creation as the structure for human society.  It is how God has decided to populate our world and the means by which God has established to raise the next generation.  We also have to understand who establishes our current marriages.  We may choose our partner, a pastor may perform the ceremony, but the bond of marriage is established and created by God.
The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?" And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' "and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? "So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate." Matthew 19:3-6 NKJV
The Pharisees were obsessed with tripping Jesus up hoping beyond hope that they could catch him in an error.  The irony is that through their attempts to discredit the message of Jesus, we have some of the greatest lessons in the Word.  Jesus answers the Pharisees in a way that is recorded for all time as a message to us.  In this case, the Pharisees asked Jesus about divorce.  Jesus taught that God established marriage at Creation, that marriage is not an institution of man at all, but was designed and implemented by God.  He also says that when a man and woman get married, they are joined as one flesh.  There is a deep spiritual and physical union created by God when two people are married.  This is not a bond that we ourselves formed at all.  We just consented to God creating that marvelous work of making 2 into 1.  The pastor just commemorated it.  God created it.  If anyone makes the decision to break the bonds of marriage, you are not merely breaking a worldly contract or an oath you took (though you are doing those as well), but you are deconstructing something created by God.  You are undoing God's work. 

Of course we all know that there are exceptions to the ban on divorce.  But do not mistake God allowing divorce for God desiring it.  God hates divorce and you are undoing God's work. Divorce, while allowed in certain circumstances, is never in the will of God.
They said to Him, "Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?" He said to them, "Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery." Matthew 19:8-9 NKJV
We get a good glimpse here into the heart of God.  God hates divorce and never intended for it to even exist, but, due to the hardness of our hearts, God has allowed it.  He tolerates it, but even then for only this specific reason.  God also closes any chance at a loophole and shares with us the consequences of divorce.  If someone leaves their husband or wife for another man or commits adultery and ends up divorced, it is not a complete divorce. At least not for the guilty party.  The innocent party is divorced and free to remarry, but as a consequence of the sin of the guilty party there are repercussions in this life.  The guilty party is still bound in marriage as Jesus teaches here.  If you leave your wife for another woman or if you leave your husband for another man, there is not enough divorce in the world to redeem that new "marriage".  It is illegitimate and you and your "spouse" are in perpetual adultery.  Single men and women, keep that in mind especially in today's world with so many divorcees running around even inside the church.  If that divorcee is not truly divorced in accordance with Scripture, then yo are committing adultery by being with that person  Sin does have consequences, and while you will not lose your salvation, you will lose your right under God to establish a new family on this earth. 

On a side note, this is why I get so offended that Amy Grant is considered an emissary for Christ and still respected as a Christian musician.  How can we continue to prop someone up as a minster of the Gospel and worshiper leader of God who is living openly in the sin of perpetual adultery?   Again, that is an aside, but it is the acceptance and excusing of sin in our midst as a Church that eats away at the body of Christ like a cancer. 

There is one other reason given in the Bible for divorce, and that reason is for the unbelieving spouse.  Even in this case, the Christian is not allowed to initiate the divorce.
But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace. 1 Corinthians 7:12-15 NKJV
This is not so much an acceptance of a divorce for divorce's sake, but a merciful God knowing that the new creation in Christ may very well be rejected from an as of yet unbelieving spouse.  The world rejects the things of God and the worldly spouse may reject the redeemed spouse.  I have seen it happen and it is tragic.   It is tragic for the family and for the believing spouse who wants nothing more than the one they love to come to that same faith.  Please make note, though, that the believer in this situation is never the one to initiate the divorce, but is only allowed to accept it if the unbeliever leaves and divorces.  Until and unless the unbeliever leaves, the believer is to live as a witness to Christ in their marriage.

Let's continue on in Matthew: 
His disciples said to Him, "If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry." But He said to them, "All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given: For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother's womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it."  Matthew 19:10-12 NKJV
So the disciples are saying how hard a message that was, that it is almost better not even to get married than face the permanence of marriage (how little things have changed).  Jesus, while full of grace, was not full of compromise.  He laid it out plainly for them.  He said that only those who are eunuchs are not called to be married.  By "eunuch" Jesus meant someone abstaining from marriage.  This, as Jesus says, is something given by God.  Paul had this gift and referred to it in his epistles.  There is a gift if singleness. 
For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that. But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion. 1 Corinthians 7:7-9 NKJV
Yes, singleness is a gift, but not a gift to be lazy but one to more dedicate yourself to the service to God.  If you do not have that gift or the desire to serve God with the freedom you have to do so, then you should get married. 

The message of marriage is a hard message.  It is uncompromising and permanent.  It needs to be because it is the means by which we bring up the next generation. Time and time again it is shown that children who grow up in a broken home fair worse then chose children who do not.  Children need both parents working together to raise them up in the ways of God.  Marriage is also a picture of the relationship between the church and Jesus, and so it is a a testament to the world of our relationship to God.  The relationship between the church and Jesus is permanent, and so should our marriages be. 

God may permit divorce, but God never desires it.  Even in the case of adultery, God desires grace and forgiveness on the part of the offended and repentance and restoration on the part of the offender.  God will provide the means of grace and repentance so long as both parties are willing to allow God to do that work in their hearts.  I guarantee that allowing God to restore that relationship will lead to a far greater relationship then seeking it somewhere else.  God wants every marriage to succeed and so He will provide the tools to make that happen.  Being in God's will is the best place to be. 

There is too much divorce in the world today.  Even pastors have left their wives for mistresses.  Even worship leaders have committed adultery.  I am sure we all know of someone who went through divorce and I am sure we have all seen the pain it causes in the children.  I have heard it justified in so many ways, such as "my spouse is not living up to his or her responsibilities", "I am not happy and God wants me to be happy", "God is leading me to do this", "I fell out of love", and more and worse.  None of those are valid reasons and all will lead to a condition of perpetual adultery.  God will never lead you to do something He Himself hates. God does want you to be happy, but that happiness will be found in His will, not in running from your obligations. 

I urge any of your considering divorce, even for Biblical reasons, to please seek God and work towards reconciliation. I have seen God restore relationships to becoming even better than they were before any problems came up.  I know God will bless you and will do that work in your hearts to restore that relationship.  I urge you, even if allowed, don't do something God hates and do not undo the work done by God in joining you as 1.  God sent His son to die to restore His relationship with the world.  He loves you that much, He loves your marriage that much, allow Him to do that work in you. 
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.  Colossians 3:12-15 NKJV

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