Monday, November 30, 2015

Would You Fellowship With Those Who Believe In The Permanence Of Marriage?

When I first came to the knowledge that the Lord Jesus Christ defines marriage permanence, I must admit I was not prepared to understand the scope of this revelation. In many ways, I am still unprepared to understand the immense division which separates those who believe scripture points to marriage permanence, and those who do not. For a great part of my adulthood, I believed that divorce and remarriage were acceptable since a great majority of the congregations taught that it was “ok” to divorce and remarry for certain instances.Must one be cautious with the division of this topic and how this divide relates to fellowship and the acceptance of opposing views?

I believe there are four separate stances on marriage,divorce, and remarriage, and I have dealt with these differences here. What I have not dealt with is what to do about the division that these stances create. I am familiar with Romans 14 and accepting those who are new in the faith, and that we should remain unified on such minor contentions, yet I am convinced that marriage definition is not a minor contention. Thus, I must question how to handle this contention when it appears in all likelihood that marriage permanence seems to be a minority contention among those of the faith.

Of the four stances, marriage permanence calls all remarriages (A remarriage is an unlawful marriage to another while one has a living covenant spouse from divorce) adulterous relationships which must be repented of. This equates to calling all who remain in remarriages as those who remain in the sin of adultery. This is understanding that a believer must not fellowship with an unrepentant sinner. Thus, I believe that I cannot and will not fellowship with anyone who believes he or she can remain in adultery and not call their remarriage adultery. Is this correct?

Unfortunately, there are very few churches or gatherings of believers who stand for the permanence of marriage, thus I have personally not fellowshipped with a body of Christ for nearly two years. I have attended churches on Sunday, and have gathered for corporate worship, but I have not fellowshipped with any of these churches since they all believe that “remarriage” is acceptable in certain circumstances.    

Then I hear the preacher on the radio or the blog pots on the internet that tells me that a Christian should not forgo the gathering of saints and that one is not truly in Christ if they do not fellowship with others. They often use Hebrews 10:25 to make their point. Yet, I would argue that “church membership” and the caste system of "clergy vs laity" is not even remotely related to the body of Christ. I guess Paul and the other disciples were not true Christians if they were in prison, unable to fellowship with other saints?  

Please understand that I believe it is very important to fellowship and break bread with each other. I believe it is essential to gather together to exhort, encourage, and confess our sins to one another. I am not anti-fellowship. I am anti-churchianity, and that is what I am trying to convey here. On a personal level, I believe that I am in a sort of prison based on what I believe about my own experiences with churchianity, and what I now believe about marriage. When I first came to Christ, I was new in my faith and reading of the Bible. I could not get enough of this book that was once gathering dust, and was now a daily occurrence for me. I was hungry for the word of God, and during my first few years I became very active in the congregation where I came to know the Lord.

It was during these times that I began to notice discrepancies in the actions of the leadership as these pertain to the word of God. I would not say that I overgrew my faith at this church, but rather came to discern the “vision” of the leadership of this church. What I began to see was a growing understanding of the early church and the deviations from this early church were evident in the church of which I was a member. What was even more enlightening was my membership preceded my understanding of the Gospel and my new life in Christ. 

I only came to the Lord “after” the traumatic experience of believing my eighteen years of marriage was coming to an end and not during my first few years in membership. I was a passive member before this experience, and I was an active member after this experience. What is significant with this is that rarely was the Gospel presented in what I would call this “purpose-driven church”, thus it became clear to me that the vision of the leadership was not in rightly handling the word of God, but to ensure its own survival. 

This Purpose Driven church system works to the advantage of any one man. Thus, a Senior Pastor can all but control who will lead the various teams (ministries) under his guidance. He also incorporates a “vision” and anyone not focused on this vison of the “ordained” Senior Pastor is considered an opposition of God. Once you change and control the leadership to your specifications, it is easy to manipulate and control the vision. Often the leadership will “use” new believers as candidates for positions in the various church teams. This was my case for sure. I was a new believer and I had a testimony that would strengthen and give credence to the system. The leadership “handpicked" me because I was new in my faith and I was more impressionable in my vulnerability. However, once I started to mature in my faith and read the word of God through the promptings of the Holy Spirit, I started to see the deception. 

What became clear over the following years was this church of which I was a member was slowly pushing for me to fade out. I eventually asked for a private meeting with the Senior Pastor, and after asking specific questions, and hearing the answers to these questions, it became clear that this congregation was "his" congregation, and not the Lord Jesus Christ's church. After this meeting, I began to notice that I was passed over in key moments in every ministry team that included the Senior Pastor. 

 I knew my days were numbered. This was due to my own convictions of marriage and my constant questioning of church practices, in particular, the practices of the church leadership and their inability to rightly handle the word of God. The latter was my sole reason for leaving, and my resignation letter was accepted without a single leader or member begging me to stay. It was a very sad time for me. What was I to do, remain passive when I felt there was real issues that needed answering? I truly care for the people in this congregation, and I felt it was my duty to exhort the leadership. I know that they took this as being divisive because I was not adhering to the "vision".

Pastors love to use Hebrews 13:17, but always seem to pass over 1 Peter 5:2,3. There is a fine line of "lording over" and "preaching sound doctrine" (Titus 1:9) My choices were to remain and be a voice of truth, which would be viewed as dissension by the leadership, or leave I chose the later...
There is much more to be told on this, as there were other clear problems that concerned others, and I was not the only one to leave at this time.

It is important to note that during my time in this congregation I became very active in a divorce recovery ministry (DivorceCare-more on this here) and made it clear to everyone that I would never pursue divorce, believing that God would restore what I thought to be a lawful marriage. I believed, and I made it very clear to all the brothers and sisters close to me that I would remain single the rest of my life, or until the marriage was reconciled. I explained to her, and her adulterous lover that they were in sin and they both must repent. I truly believe today that God can restore any prodigal spouse if we remain in Him.

I did not realize the significance of this conviction until after I resigned my membership and left this congregation for good.  It became apparent that my testimony for marriage permanence rubbed many the wrong way, and that this was understandable since many heavy "tithers" in this congregation were divorced and remarried. I believe that my testimony of marriage permanence, as far as I understood at the time, was another factor in the subtle ways they sought to remove me from the congregation.Yet, there was one last veil over my eyes that had to be removed. It was my realization that I was not in a lawful “In the Lord”, marriage to begin with, but a “remarriage”, an unlawful marriage.

Even though I was no longer a member at this church, I still kept in contact with many of the brothers and sisters. Things changed drastically when I told them that I was never married, and that scripture has convinced me that my marriage was not a marriage in the Lord and that I was in an adulterous union. One by one, they began to “unfriend” me on social media. This “unfriending elevated when I began to write on marriage permanence and exposing remarriage adultery.  

About this time I approached one of the leaders and told him my complete testimony and told him to read my blog for marriage permanence. I also asked him if I could present my testimony to the congregation, and said that my previous attempts to contact the Senior Pastor were ignored. His response was that I was “hardhearted” and he refused to read a book I offered for him to read. (Dan Jennings book Except for Fornication) I was deeply hurt by his remarks, but I understood his position and how this position was foundational to his vocation and him keeping his job. I have since broke ties with anyone from that church.

Perhaps the deepest hurt and misunderstanding came from those in the men’s group. Their response to my testimony was that I should “remarry” if what I believe about marriage is true. What they failed to understand or rather, choose to ignore, is the implications of what this means to the many they all know and fellowship with. As stated, there are many in this congregation who are in remarriages, and at the time of my departure, two of the leaders were in adulterous remarriages. I was hoping for support from these brothers in the Lord in exposing the lies that evangelicals teach and believe on marriage, divorce and remarriage, instead the group was disbanded, and I believe it was directly from a result of my testimony and a desire to remove a dissenter from the group.  

I since have been away from this church for nearly four years. In the last four years I have warned many in that church to repent. It is in the last two years that I have come to see a much greater danger in the church that was ever present for many years. When I first laid eyes on another man’s wife, I never considered the road I was on. Now I know that I had no business even thinking that I could date a married woman let alone believe I could marry one. 

When we stand before the Lord, what will He say of us? I think about this often. Have I loved others like He loved me? Did I give up all I have to serve Him? Did I represent Him or was I in it for myself?

A few months ago I was in discussion with a man who remarried after a divorce. He is a Christian and he believes that remarriage is acceptable in “certain” circumstances. We exchanged several messages and it was obvious that he had his view, and I had mine. We were not on the same page with marriage. 

We were both determined that our view of scripture was the right view. Yet, he wrote something that was nothing more than a classic “ad hominem” response. After reading my testimony he wrote this

“As I read your story, I wondered if you may have come to your overly strict view of divorce and remarriage due to your own circumstances?”

This question is a direct assault to my person and has nothing to do with him defending his remarrying after divorce. Otherwise, I could respond…  

"As I read your excuses on why you remarried, I wonder if your shallow view on marriage, divorce and remarriage is due to your own circumstances?”

We all have circumstances that decide our actions, yet our actions will have dire consequences if  these actions do not align with the truth of God’s word.  God gives us His word for what He believes is best to make us into the image of His Son. In this word is the transforming power of the Gospel. The Gospel is all we need. If we believe that there is another way to reconciling to the Father, then we have to believe in another god, another Jesus and another Gospel. This must also be true with marriage. We would like to think that marriage is God’s intention for us, rather than marriage being as that no man may put asunder.

I must believe that marriage is of extreme importance to God. If it is of lesser importance then what I believe it to be, I had no right to leave fellowship with the divorced and remarried Christians. But if marriage is as I believe God says it is, do I have an obligation to speak up about this blindness that has infiltrated the church, and am I not obligated to remain in fellowship with people who remain in, and embrace their sin?

I must say that there are many who remain in their covenant of marriage despite the actions of their adulterous spouse, despite the actions of pastors and leaders who embrace divorce and remarriage, and despite an evangelical world (Bloggers, authors, ministries, mega-ministries and publications) that embraces divorce and remarriage. I have compassion for these “standers”, and I pray for the restoration of the souls of their prodigal spouses. I understand their pain and I understand their loneliness. My case is similar, but not so similar. 

I am a man who believed marrying a divorced woman was a marriage because some pastor said so. I was in this adulterous union for 18 years, believing this union was not adulterous. I have a child from this union. I was then “divorced” from this union believing this union was lawful. I believed for almost five years that I would remain faithful to the vow I made in this union, only to come to realize that it was altogether unlawful from the beginning. I have experienced all three levels of marriage truth, and it has left me on the outside of almost every evangelical circle imaginable.

How do you explain to a pastor that you are “divorced” from an unlawful marriage? I have. 
How do you explain to your child that his parents were never married? I have. 
How do you explain to those who fellowshipped for a good part of five years that their “remarriage” is adultery, and to repent from this adultery is to divorce from this remarriage? I have. 
How do you tell your family that your marriage was unlawful? I have. 
How do I tell a divorced woman that I was not really married, and that my divorce was a divorce from remarriage adultery, and that I would never consider dating her? I have. 
How do you then tell this woman that should she remarry, she would be committing adultery against her husband? I have.  
How do you tell a man that you are terribly sorry for dating his wife while she was not yet divorced, and then remarrying his wife? I have.
Will you warn someone if what they believe is false? I have.

I wish I never had to write this blog, but I must write this blog. I must tell people the truth because if I do not, I will be responsible for not telling them the truth. Whether you agree or disagree with what I firmly believe scripture says about marriage, divorce and remarriage is is a very important decision. Also, what will you say to a person that disagrees with what you believe.? Will you correct them?  

Answer these questions:

Would you accept me in your fellowship if you disagree with my position that all unrepentant adulterers (All combinations of remarriages after a divorce of a living covenant spouse) remain under the wrath of God?

Based on your answer, the next question is this:

Should I consider you a brother or sister in the Lord if you believe that a believer can remain in this remarriage and not call this adultery?

Based on my past experiences, it would be very hard for a divorced and remarried person to “like” me, let alone fellowship with me. The compassion I have for their souls does not sit well with their own contentment to remain in their sin. It is best that I am ‘unfriended” and ignored, as in “out of sight, out of mind”. Yet, this does wear on my soul…

On the other hand, I am called to rebuke, warn, exhort with long-suffering, but never am I called to fellowship with unrepentant sinners. I am called to deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (1 Cor 5) Knowing when “enough is enough” is to know that we cannot save anyone. At some point I must stop “blogging” for marriage permanence and leave it in the Lord’s hands…some would wish this was the day.

In conclusion, I cannot sometimes understand why it has all come to this. Why was this put in my lap? Then again, why did I not listen to God and His word after reading Luke 16:18, instead of listening to a pastor who said, "I will marry you, but you must promise to never divorce."  

Yet, God’s word does say that a man will reap what he sows. The consequences of my sin do not go away, they just magnify my need for a Savior and truly show His mercy and grace. I understand that God does His best work through those who humble themselves before Him. This is the ministry that I was appointed. I can say that I have experienced the many possibilities surrounding marriage, divorce and remarriage, and I have cried more times in the last nine years than I did in the first forty-two years of my life. I was prepared for this knowing that this life is but a vapor compared to eternity.

All I ever ask is that you consider this eternal view of scripture as it pertains to marriage and consider the many who remain in covenant, loving their spouses, trusting in the Lord, and remaining in Him even when the whole world will not. If you believe that we are extreme with believing the permanence of marriage, just remember that Christ was very extreme when He gave all He had to free you from both sin and death. If this remaining in covenant is a representation of the Gospel, what does this have to say about divorce? 

Finally, If you truly agree that marriage is one man and one woman for life, what are you doing about it?

In Christ’s love,


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