Friday, December 12, 2014

Divorce Is Not Sanctioned By The Church

The evangelical church makes the claim that marriage is God’s design and that marriage is not up for reinterpretation, restructure, or redefinition. The claim is that marriage is an untouchable covenant that originates with God and thus this union makes the case for the very existence of God. I for one would never disagree with this as marriage is so unique that it of itself makes a great case for the existence of a Creator.

If we use presuppositions that claim the existence of God, marriage is right at the forefront of this discussion. Even the Lord Jesus Christ makes the claim that marriage is from the beginning, thus marriage definition cannot be altered by the likes of man. Yet, we see all throughout the pages of the Bible that God allowed marriage redefinition through polygamy, divorce and remarriage, but never did He approve these definitions of marriage.
To make a case that God approves of polygamy, divorce, and remarriage today, one must twist the scriptures to believe this to be true. The New Covenant did away with marriage redefinition as the body of Christ displays marriage as God intended from the beginning. (Matthew 19:4-6; Mark 10:6-9) 

One man and one woman for life.  

When you think of traditional marriage, there is this assumption that marriage is a product of human society. Here in the west, traditional marriage involves vows. In these vows, a man and woman pledge to enter into this sanctified union for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, in good times and bad times, till death do they part. Marriage is generally recognized as a lifetime commitment. 

What is the importance of marriage to God? That is what we must decide whenever we discuss marriage from a theological point of view. If we can recognize and admit that God stands in covenant with each and every vow, then it is imperative we understand how this sacred union applies to every culture and society.

In the west, the marriage is a contract recognized by the governments. Two people must apply for a marriage license in order to be recognized by the government as a husband and wife. The marriage license if signed by an official licensed member of the government. Pastors and clergy are licensed to officiate a marriage. The various denominations recognize marriage as a sacred union and often there is great celebration because this union is thought to be so much more than just a government sanctioned union. 

The irony of this is that when a person feels that his or her marriage has not lived up to their standard, there is an option to divorce. The divorce laws are readily available to the assist a person to dissolve a marriage. If this is a mutual agreement by both parties of divorce, this can be a painless and rather inexpensive process. If this is not the desire of one of the parties, divorce can be very costly in more ways than one. Divorce litigation can be down right ugly. 

The irony comes in with the thought that the church that approves of, and officiates the union, becomes a non-entity in the divorce. Sure, a clergyman may be called upon to help save the marriage, but rarely are they called upon to officiate the divorce. The majority of the evangelical church frowns on divorce and will tell you it is best to save the marriage. Yet, when infidelity is the issue, often the best decision is for the “innocent” party to abandon the marriage.

What is ironic is that many states have adultery laws in place to take care of this problem. The fact is that these laws are all but forgotten or ignored. If these laws were enforced, how many people would think twice about infidelity? Also, why does not the church use these laws in the case of infidelity? Yes, church discipline (Matthew 18:15-17) is the first option, but when this does not work, when was the last time you saw a church seek to persecute the adulterer or adulteress who scoffs at church discipline?

Then there is the whole process of divorce. If the church is so adamant about the definition of marriage, why then do they not sanction the laws of divorce? When was the last time a couple went to the pastor to initiate a divorce? Think about this…if marriage is so important to the church, why is divorce suddenly a sole entity of the state? Where is the body of saints when a brother or sister says he or she is getting divorced? Instead of fighting for the marriage as a body, the evangelical church runs and hides…not wanting to get involved as if it is not the problem of the church…

Divorce is usually thought to be an isolated experience between the husband and wife of divorce. This is a lie. Divorce is right up there with a list of things that destroy a society. Divorce is worse than death because there is no closure. Children often feel the effects the rest of their lives. Instead of the church gathering around a struggling couple, all too often the body of Christ does not want to be involved. The only exception is the pastor. He must get involved because it is his job. It is believed that he is the only one “taught” to deal with these issues. Often these men have no support from the laity to deal with troubled marriages. 

Then there is the daily Christian family family/marriage shows that offer 24 hour support. These ministries will claim to do this in the name of Jesus, but out of the corner of their mouths they will not claim to have a solid biblical foundation on when is the “right” time to divorce. What they do is offer support to save the marriage, but ultimately, if the situation if just right, they will not frown on divorce. My question to these ministries is if all “remarriages” are adultery, are these ministries also helping to save adultery???

The problems come when a divorce happens and it is not according to the contrived loopholes of scripture these ministries adhere to. Divorce that is “unbiblical” is quickly forgotten once the person of unbiblical divorce gets remarried. In fact, very few churches become accountable to who is "legitimately" married, and who is not. This is because very few churches are accountable or have knowledge of the “reasons for divorce.” 

Remarriage is the cure all to solve the problem of having to deal with the tough issues of marriage. It seems that the easy way out is to get “married” as quickly as possible. Then there is the matter of “fornication co-habitation.” Today in the church, getting in another relationship as soon as possible after divorce is the best option. It is a lot easier to forget the divorce and ignore the “unbiblical” aspects of this decision then to tackle the problems head on. 

The evangelical church today believes that sex before marriage and co-habitation before marriage is “ok”. Sure, it is not a marriage, but it isn’t the terrible pain of having to live in singleness and being ignored because you are a “divorced person.” The church caters to the family and the married, and the extent of the single ministry never exceeds the age of 30. If you are divorced, the thought is to get “remarried” as soon as possible because there is very limited ministries of longevity for the single divorced person. If you are “remarried”, you can at least “fit in” again…. 

If your church has a divorce program, it is probably the widely popular DivorceCare program. I had the privilege of experiencing this ministry, first as a participant, then as a facilitator. In the short five years I was involved with DivorceCare I can tell you that my “stance” was the minority among the many divorced and separated people that came through this ministry. At the time, I believed that I would remain in my marriage and that I would not sign a divorce paper because I believed that marriage is till death. Period. 

At first, this was the subject of many talk among the other participants, and was a big talk among the other brothers and sisters at my church. In fact, my testimony was a big deal for the first two years after my conversion. Here was a man who would remain in covenant and that divorce was not an option. This was a man who believed that God was sufficient in both relationship and eventual marriage restoration. 

At first this was a new thing, a fresh idea that a man would wait in covenant despite the fact his wife left for another man. Then the questions came…

“Don’t you want to get remarried?”

“Isn’t there verses in the bible that say you can divorce?”

“Are you going to remain single all your life if she doesn’t come back?” 

No, no, and yes. 

Most of those who heard my testimony in DivorceCare could not, and did not want to understand. That was until a woman told the group that her pastor would not “remarry” her because she was still in “covenant” with her husband even though he ran off and remarried in some other church. I believed this. Scripture pointed to this time and time again. Remarriage was a product of something God hates…divorce. 

Once it was clear that I had a permanence view of marriage, it became clear that I was more alone in “church” than ever before. This testimony convicted the many in my church who were divorced and remarried. At the time I could not understand the loneliness of church, until I went public for the permanence of marriage. It was no surprise that my “remarried” Facebook friends were my friends no more and many of these still remain in my former church.  

This brings us to the point that divorce is not of the Gospel, not of the church, and not of God. The evangelical church can pretend to ignore that divorce is a hardhearted decision, but the evangelical church must admit that divorce is not sanctioned by the church. Divorce is man’s design to “redefine” marriage and the church had accepted this without as much as a whimper. If this is the case, then the church has all but handed the definition of marriage over to the government.  

The rise of same-sex marriage is the enemy’s next card to destroy marriage. Divorce is widely accepted and encouraged by nearly every evangelical church. Remarriage adultery is widely accepted and encouraged by nearly every evangelical church. Co-habitation fornication is widely accepted and encouraged by nearly every evangelical church. In ten years, will same-sex homosexuality be widely accepted by nearly every evangelical church?  
Divorce is not sanctioned by the church, divorce is sanctioned by the world. The church is to reject the world, not embrace the world. The ball is in the evangelical church court. Either same-sex marriage will end when the evangelical church takes back the definition of marriage by repenting of ever believing divorce ends marriage covenant. If we do not once again hate divorce as God hates divorce, it may already be too late. 

In conclusion, we need to turn to the Gospel. The Lord Jesus Christ and His love for His church is equivalent to the love of a husband for His wife. The church needs to take marriage very seriously just as we take sin, grace, repentance and forgiveness seriously. The world will do what the world does…divorce and remarry. Marriage must be a solid representation of the Gospel among the church. We need to call divorce what it is…a decision that will not be tolerated among the body of Christ because the heart of divorce has nothing to do with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Eph 5:31-32 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

In Christ’s love,

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