“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother
and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
I have a message today that I believe is for a targeted audience, although I have no idea who that might be. I woke up with these thoughts in my mind. We’ll see where it leads us. Feel free to comment.
It’s no secret that I am divorced and planning to marry a divorced woman. I’ve been over all the scripture regarding marriage and divorce, back and forth, so that I might understand and live within God’s will. Some say that I was legalistic about the topic. I understand where they are coming from, but I don’t know that I necessarily agree. Bottom line is that each of us is to do everything within our power to keep the marriage covenant. Why? Because it is a relationship established by God between two people who are made in his image.
There was one thing I didn’t understand. I thought that marriage was irrevocable and cancellable only by death or adultery. Furthermore, the bible has strict requirements about accusing someone – you need two or more witnesses – so unless you catch someone in the act or they admit it, adultery is hard to prove. Furthermore, divorce prevents you from re-marrying, if you desire to obey God. What I didn’t understand is that a covenant is a matter of the heart, and someone can break their agreement with you without your permission. It only takes one to break a covenant. How can you be in one when the other person doesn’t want to? The fact that someone won’t move out doesn’t keep a covenant alive if their heart is elsewhere.
How do you know if your heart has cancelled a covenant? Scripture is really the only place to go. 1 Corinthians 13 is a great place to see what love looks like. Even before that, we have Chapter 7 which includes a discussion on sexual intimacy. From my experience in relationship counseling, it is clear that a woman has less and less desire for sexual relations the more her other needs are unmet. Looking at the positive side, when a woman’s needs are met, she will likely desire sex. Now, there could be an issue outside of the husband’s behavior that causes problems. This will need to be addressed as well. Men are often a little different than women. Many, but not all, don’t seem to have any problem being sexually intimate in any circumstance. That only reveals a disconnect between the heart and glands.
Anyway, given the fact that divorce is just as common in the church as outside the church, we have a problem that is right before our eyes. Are we to sit back and watch the marriages of our friends and loved ones deteriorate and fail in front of us? Do we have an obligation, as a church, to rid this great sin from our midst? I would say that we indeed do. What do we do? Have the pastor available for counseling? Keep in mind, his own marriage could very well be secretly and gravely ill. Do we offer classes or have marriage encounter weekends? How much can we possibly do, anyway? Marriage is a private affair, isn’t it?
Or is it? Unless two people are working together to build a strong marriage, one or the other – or both – is destroying it. That’s sin. Flat-out sin. In this, we have clear instructions from Jesus himself.
Matthew 18:15-20 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.
The whole purpose of this is to reconcile a hard heart to God and, thus, to the one s/he has harmed. Apart from that, the person is to be cast out and treated like an evangelistic prospect, just like any unbeliever. This is pretty serious stuff.
This is the very topic that got me thrown out of a church. I brought all this up to the church, asking if we were prepared to do what Jesus requires. In my mind, if the church drives an unrepentant, hard-hearted person away, that’s an official cancellation of the marriage covenant. That also means that the remaining spouse will be separated from that person, likely resulting in significant financial hardship, at least temporarily, that the church must absorb. Are we, as a church, prepared to go to the mat, so-to-say, on this commandment? My former church isn’t. Does the example of the early church mean anything to us in this?
Acts 2:45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as they had need.
Am I being too hard-core about this? I don’t think so. What I see in church-as-usual is a keen desire to not get involved. Yes, we think divorce is bad, but we aren’t willing to get involved in others’ messy marriages let alone go public with troubles in our own. “Everything is just fine, thank you. Now please leave me alone.” Maybe if divorce hit the whole congregation in the pocketbook, we would be more diligent in getting involved earlier on. Just sayin’.
Is that the way church should be? Shouldn’t divorce be about the last thing that should happen in a church? We have our marching orders:
2 Corinthians 5:20 Therefore, we are ambassadors in Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
Do you think for a minute that doesn’t apply to marriage? Folks, if we are surprised to hear that so-and-so are getting a divorce, we know nothing about them. How can we know nothing about our brother and sister? Seriously. If we are serious about healthy marriages, we need to look long and hard about what it means to be part of the body of Christ.
Father, whew. Make people uncomfortable. Turn up the heat. Amen.
Copyright © 2019 Scott Powers