Thursday, March 10, 2016

Through the Eyes of the Stander...




I certainly do not speak for all standers, but I hope to shed some light on what a stander believes about marriage, divorce, remarriage, and the Lord Jesus Christ. To those unfamiliar with the word "stander", this term refers to any husband or wife who honors the vow he or she made before God by waiting on the Lord AND remaining in the Lord for the restoration of their spouse's salvation and in turn, the restoration of the covenant marriage.

I was a "stander" for a short while for my part in understanding my own unlawful marriage, but I know that I cannot accurately define the pain standers have felt in waiting for the return of a prodigal spouse. But as always, I hope and pray for the restoration of the souls of the many prodigals who have strayed from their vow. You standers are the reason I write. I would hope that those who read my posts see that I love the Lord, I love people, and I believe that His word points to marriage permanence on the basis that marriage is a representation of the Gospel. 
I wrote a similar post on the stander. In that post I tried to make a comparison of a"stander" compared to that of a "shirker". I have been thinking lately how others view the life of a stander, and considered what they think about a stander's testimony. In this post I wanted others to have a greater understanding of marriage, divorce, remarriage, and the Lord Jesus Christ through the eyes of a stander. Here is my offering:


How a stander views marriage...

In order to understand or comprehend how a stander can remain “standing” for a marriage, one must have an understanding of what a stander believes about covenant marriage. The stander understands that marriage is God's perfect plan for His creation, and that making a vow to enter marriage is never to be taken lightly. The stander believes that the covenant vow he or she made before God does not give him or her the right to believe that a marriage can end by the actions of the other spouse.

In essence, the one-flesh covenant vow he or she made to God also makes God a co-covenant partner of the marriage. The stander fully understands that breaking the vow of covenant is a sin and is an affront against God and His covenant. The stander also believes that God is for the marriage and would never believe that any marriage is lost. The covenant marriage vow is also until death. The stander’s vow included the words …till death do we part...and the stander will honor these words no matter the cost.

The stander understands that many professing Christians do not view marriage from this perspective. The stander understands that many a clergy would call this marriage view, “God’s idea” with loopholes attached, but the stander calls this “God’s command”, no excuses, no exceptions. The stander is aware that many clergy will sympathize with the stander's testimony, since it is an example of Christ's love for us...but many of these "shepherds" are reluctant to stand for the stander since this would jeopardize their profession. This is due to the fact that many clergy are financially supported by the many divorce and remarried sitting in the pews on Sunday morning.


 How the stander views the other spouse... 

The stander views the other spouse as one who has become disobedient to God. They believe that God would want them to pray for the other spouse since the other spouse has broken the covenant vow he or she made before God. (The recent movie "War Room" is the example of a stander praying for a prodigal spouse.) Breaking covenants is very serious, because every covenant God has made, He has kept. Thus, God expects us to keep every vow that He acknowledges, especially a vow that He is a part of. When a spouse breaks a marriage covenant vow, he or she cannot exit the marriage covenant, he or she can only come under God’s discipline and wrath.  

It is important to notice that a covenant marriage cannot be broken. Breaking a "vow" of marriage does not release a spouse from marriage, it releases the spouse from God’s protection. It is very similar to the prodigal son. (Luke 15:11-32) The spouse who breaks the marriage vow is saying that he or she wants to live apart from what God has created for his or her benefit. This is a bad place.
The vow breaker has fallen under the wrath of God’s judgment for the breaking of the vow. The only way a vow-breaking spouse can return to God ‘s favor is to repent of his or her sin that is responsible for breaking the vow. A stander understands this perfectly, and he or she will remain in the sufficiency of Christ to wait on the other spouse to repent. When this repentance takes fruit, there is forgiveness, reconciliation and then restoration.

Many believe that 1 Cor 7:15 is a verse that frees the standing spouse from remaining in the covenant. This is a false understanding, because the verse is specific to an “unbeliever” who is only sanctified if he or she remains with the one flesh covenant with the believing spouse. The "peace” that a believer receives from the abandoning unbelieving spouse is no longer yoked to the unbeliever (2 Cor 6:14), and that they too should not feel guilt for the decisions of a wayward spouse.

If you remember, Paul specifically tells an unbelieving spouse to not leave the marriage (1 Cor 7:12-14) because the unbelieving spouse is "sanctified" by remaining with the believing spouse. (This is a great example of two becoming one flesh.) The problem with remaining with an unbeliever most often creates turmoil for the unbelieving spouse, but 1 Peter 3:1-7 gives clear instruction of behavior that shines the light of Jesus so that the other spouse may be converted.   

A stander understands that an abandoning spouse is in the hands of God. The abandoning and/or sinful spouse lied to God when he or she did not keep the vow he or she made before Him. Thus, the stander will remain in the Lord and continue to be a witness to the covenant vow he or she made before the Lord. This stand for marriage permanence is very unpopular for most evangelicals. The evangelical believes "standing" is God’s “idea” and that marriage "should" be a committed relationship for life...For the stander, marriage is God’s “command” for one man and one woman for life. This "stand" honors what God has made from the beginning (Gen 2:24), and is a beautiful reflection of the Gospel (Eph 5:31-32).

In all basic terms, a stander will remain unmarried not just because he or she is commanded (1 Cor 7:10,11), but because he or she understands the purpose of the command. The command to remain unmarried or reconcile the marriage is first and foremost for the salvation of an unbeliever. The stander understands the brevity of the choice of the unbelieving spouse remaining in abandonment aka disobedience to leaving the marriage vow. That choice leads to an eternity without the Lord. The stander prays that the prodigal spouse would be saved…restoration of the marriage will fall into place when salvation of the lost spouse becomes a reality.

How a stander views divorce…

The stander understands that a one-flesh marriage covenant can only end in death, thus the "choice" to divorce only offers one or both "hardhearted" spouses from remaining together…till death do they part. Since the stander understands the term of the marriage covenant, he or she has rejected the "idea" of divorce the moment he or she vowed into marriage. The stander views divorce as something that is of the world, and the stander knows that no amount of civil paper can end what God hath joined in heaven. This is true even if the divorce was a unilateral decision by the other spouse.

The evangelical has a hard time considering the effects of unilateral divorce when one spouse remains in covenant. Unfortunately, most evangelical churches have conflicting stances on divorce and remarriage. I have addressed the four main stances here.

The stander will ONLY recognize the permanence view because this view alone depicts the love of Christ for His church. (Eph 5:31-32) The stander understands that remaining Christ is never forsaking the vow, no matter the actions of the other spouse. The stander also understands that God will take care of the other spouse if the stander complies with His word. 

The stander understands that divorce is common even among professing believers. The greatest obstacle for standers is witnessing to the many professing Christians who are divorced and remarried, believing that these “remarriages” are marriages in the Lord. To many, the stander is either shunned, or grossly misunderstood. Either way, the stander’s view of divorce is not what the world has in mind.

How a stander views "remarriage"...

If the stander totally rejects the thought of divorce or a divorce having the power to end a marriage covenant, the stander is fully aware of the definition of remarriage while the other spouse is alive. On eight separate occasions (Mt 5:32, 19:9; Mk 10:11,12; Lk 16:18; Ro 7:2,3; Heb 13:4), the Lord Jesus Christ calls ALL remarriages adulterous unions. To divorce and remarry another while your covenant spouse is alive is adultery against your spouse. The divorce cannot end the covenant, and a remarriage is an affront to God’s definition of marriage.

The stander is aware that remarriage keeps the other spouse and his or her adulterous partner in a continuous state of adultery. Scripture is very clear that adulterers will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-10) Repenting from adultery includes ending the union, never calling this union anything but a sinful union.

The stander understands that a prodigal spouse has the civil privilege to unilaterally divorce from the covenant, and these "laws of men" free the prodigal to remarry whenever, and whoever they may. The stander also recognizes that the prodigal can enter into the doors of another church and “remarry” another without their consent, let alone the consent of the Almighty. However, the stander is fully aware that these remarriage “vows” are hollow words in the ears of the Lord, and those clergy officiating remarriage vows are simply "sanctify" the sin of adultery. 

How a stander sees the Lord Jesus Christ...

The stander has a complete understanding of marriage covenant because of the relationship he or she has with the Lord Jesus Christ. The Ultimate Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ has given His all to free us from sin and death. This love cannot be measured in human understanding, because this love is from above. God loved us so much that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but will have everlasting life. The stander understands God's love is a reflection of marriage, and loving a spouse that does not deserve to be loved is exactly what God’s love is for us.

If we believe marriage is more for our happiness, and completeness, we really do not understand the purpose of marriage. Marriage is a very significant design to bring Him glory. A one-flesh couple is a reflection of  how Christ loves the church; a witness to the Gospel. The perfect order of God’s creation is one man and one woman for life. The husband who is willing to love his wife as Christ loves the church, has succeeded in glorifying the Lord. The wife who respects her husband, and is willing to submit to him because of her submission to the Lord Jesus Christ; she will be a witness to the Gospel. 

The stander understands that the pain of rejection of the spouse pales in comparison to rejecting or being rejected by the Lord Jesus Christ. I can tell you that there is incredible pain being rejected by a spouse who vowed to love you till death. But the stander understands the pain that he or she feels is the same pain of rejection the Father feels from those who reject Him. The Lord Jesus Christ was abandoned by every one of His disciples when He was tried, scourged, and crucified.

 In Christ, we have One who understands any pain we feel, and we can only be truly healed by His stripes alone. Sufficiency in Christ is all we need in this life, and the life to come. If we do not first have Christ as our first love, we can never understand what it is like to love our spouse. The stander understands that even should his or her spouse never return, he or she has an everlasting relationship with the Lover of their souls.

When Horatio Spafford lost his children in a boating accident, he penned these verses:

 "When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
 When sorrows like sea billows roll;
 Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
 It is well, it is well with my soul." 

Losing a spouse to divorce should have us clinging to the One who will never leave or forsake us.The One who loves our soul. If you are a stander, know that your witness to others cannot be mistaken. It is well with your soul. God bless all you standers, and thank you for being a witness of the love of Christ!


In conclusion, I hope you have a greater understanding of this eternal view of marriage covenant through the eyes of a stander. If you love the Lord Jesus Christ, you have to understand how a stander loves his or her prodigal spouse. I personally know standers who have prayed for their prodigal to come back to the Lord. The power of the Gospel saved a life, and then saved a marriage. I know of many who wait on the Lord despite their spouse remarrying another. I know of many who will remain in the covenant even until death. These men and women love the Lord and are unashamed of the Gospel. They are a living witness of the love of Christ by their willingness to stand for what God hath joined in Heaven. Will you?

Please understand that if you are ever convicted that your marriage is not a marriage in the Lord, please read the post Dear Convicted Believer and pray that the Lord leads you and guides you to remaining faithful and obedient to Him. I know the Holy Spirit is working repentance in the hearts of many in these very evil days. God loves you and is patient with you. His kindness leads to repentance. I pray too that this nation would fall on their knees and define and defend marriage as one man and one woman for life. It can start with you, and it can start with me. 

May the God of peace fill your souls with His eternal love, and may His mercy guide you to the fullness of grace through the Lord Jesus Christ.


In Christ's love, 

Neil

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