Saturday, August 29, 2015

Exposing DivorceCare: Session Eleven and Twelve: Forgiveness and Reconcilation

Eph 5:11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

This is part eleven of a series of posts exposing the popular divorce recovery ministry of DivorceCare.

DivorceCare claims to be a Christ-centered support ministry established for people who have experienced or who about to experience divorce. They claim that their goal is to help find help for the hurts of divorce, discover hope for the future, and experience God’s blessing. The founder of DivorceCare, Steve Grissom, is a product of divorce and remarriage. He started DivorceCare based on his experience of divorce and the experience of healing from this divorce to remarry. He claims it was God’s calling to start this ministry.

It is the eleventh hour, and DivorceCare (DC) turns the corner and wants to talk about forgiveness and reconciliation. I thought it was best to combine these two sessions since they are pivotal in exposing the lies of DC. In the first ten video sessions, the viewer has experienced the pains of divorce in sessions one through five, they get what they believe is sound biblical advice in session six, and then seven through ten, DC  offers advice on new relationships, finances, children and sexuality. We need to keep in mind that all this advice is based on the viewer believing that a divorce ends a one-flesh covenant bond of marriage. 

Eph 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

There are many stories of forgiveness and reconciliation in the Bible. Not the least of these is the front to back story in the Bible of God’s forgiveness and reconciling us to the Father through the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the ultimate story of God’s love for us. While we were yet sinners, God made a way of reconciling us to Him. Forgiveness and reconciliation are key components of the foundation which is love.

There are other stories of forgiveness and reconciliation in the Bible, and these stories are a reflection of God’s forgiveness. The story of Joseph in the book of Genesis is a very interesting story. (Genesis 37-50) Joseph’s brothers conspired to have him murdered, instead they sold him into Eygpt. Joseph is accused of adultery by Potiphar’s wife, he is thrown into prison but is ultimately redeemed by God’s grace. The story ends with the very influential Joseph forgiving his brothers and restoring his relationship with them. 

Equally interesting is the story of Job in the book of Job. Job had everything and loved God with all his heart. Yet, in one day he lost everything but his life. Eventually, God restored Job, but more importantly, God restored Job to a greater understanding of who He was. Perhaps the most interesting and most relevant to marriage and the idea of forgiveness, is the story of Hosea and his marriage to a prostitute, Gomer. 

Hosea never gave up on his wife, and divorce was never an option. Hosea never relinquished his love for his wife even after she committed one sin after another. Often this story is a picture of Christ’s love for us. The Lord Jesus Christ remains faithful even when we stray. He can never change. The writer of Hebrews says it perfectly: Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.

If God hates divorce, how does forgiveness and reconciliation apply to divorce? How does “divorce” fit into the picture if we read these stories of betrayal and deceit that end in forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration? How is forgiveness and reconciliation applicable in divorce and believing that divorce ends a marriage, but not applicable to remain in the marriage covenant?

These are real questions I asked myself when attending these DC sessions. I had to make a conclusion that if God hates divorce, what part did forgiveness play if the marriage was not reconcilable? Then I questioned if forgiveness was applicable to “divorce”, why would it not be applicable to remaining in marriage? 

DC, like the evangelical church, will tell you that it is best to forgive and reconcile the marriage then it is to divorce. They believe that marriage is an “idea” and God’s “intention”, but they also believe “certain” situations offer the “innocent” spouse to deny forgiveness and obtain a divorce decree. We know that sin is the cause of divorce. Therefore, God’s word offers plenty advice on how to deal with sin so that repentance of that sin brings about reconciliation.   

DC starts the Forgiveness session workbook with the sentence: FORGIVENESS IS THE KEY TO HEALING. We need to ask ourselves. Did God send His only begotten Son to “Heal” us, or was there much more to this? I really do believe that DC is trying to equate forgiveness with the power of the Gospel. However, they first have to deal with the idea that marriage is the center of that healing, and a divorce is not. Divorce is totally contrary to the Gospel, and trying to explain forgiveness while believing a divorce can end a marriage is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

DC goes on to explain the consequences of unforgiveness. Ironically, most dictionaries do not recognize the word “unforgiveness”. The correct term is bitterness. The list DC gives for “bitterness” is it is an emotional prison, and bitterness has physical effects that hurts relationships. These are very accurate descriptions and once again, DC has a firm grip on defining the effects of divorce, they just error into believing that God approves of divorce as an option of marriage.

DC goes on to explain that what forgiveness is not: Forgiveness does not minimize the hurt or offense, and forgiveness does not mean you have to trust the other person. DC correctly make an equation that forgiveness is not reconciliation, HOWEVER, reconciliation is impossible without forgiveness. What DC fails to compare is that forgiveness and reconciliation is not applicable if a person does not repent of sin. Loving someone is not tolerating their sin, and love will point out the sin of someone. Forgiveness comes when the person repents of the sin they have committed against us. We can forgive someone on the basis that we know that the "ignorance" of their actions are contrary to God, but never are we to tolerate their actions if those actions are contrary to God.

DC tries to equate forgiveness within the confines of divorce, as if God does not hate divorce. If you love someone, as Christ loves us, you will not divorce them no matter what they have done to you. Read Hosea again. The understanding is that a divorce, or believing a divorce ends a marriage, has the power to release a person from having to reconcile. If forgiveness is applied AFTER a divorce, the only way to reconcile is if both spouses remain UNMARRIED. DC will try to make us believe in the twelfth session that reconciliation is possible AFTER divorce. 

In this twelfth session, DC makes a strong plea that reconciliation is not restoration.
 Here is there outline in the workbook and DC makes these grand assumptions:

  • ·       A couple can reconcile without restoring the marriage
  • ·       The degree of reconciliation depends on the commitment of both people to the process
  • ·       What should be in place before you consider restoring your marriage or taking back your ex.

The "idea" (there is that word again) is that a marriage can be restored after a divorce must first come after assuming that a marriage can end in divorce in the first place. The thought of restoring your marriage without forgiveness and reconciliation is impossible. The same is true for the Gospel. The Lord Jesus Christ loved us enough to die on the cross, but unless we are willing to accept our sins, and believe that he was the propitiation for those sins, then our faith is meaningless. We have to repent of sin and believe that the Lord Jesus Christ washes us from sin and declares us righteous before the Father. 

If we believe a marriage ends in divorce, what obligation do we have to reconcile to the person we are divorced from? The only reason would be for our own benefit if it has to do with dealing with children of marriage. But this is really only tolerance to a degree...Civility in dealing with a spouse when it comes to children is important, but if there is no children involved, what makes you think we would have to reconcile after divorce, let alone be civil to an ex? I have often believed that divorce is the same as mentally murdering the other spouse and burying an empty casket. There is no obligation to believe they are ever alive once you divorce them...

Reconciliation is useless without resulting in restoration. Imagine if God reconciled us to Himself, but we had no way of restoring that relationship. In other words, you are reconciled, but you still cannot be restored to enter in His presence. If marriage is not important and holy to God, why get married, or even marriage was important if one could simply leave marriage by the actions of the other spouse?

When I read the words of the Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew’s (19:4-6) and Mark’s (10:6-9) account, it is clear to me that marriage is until death, and if you or your spouse is hardhearted, wishing to divorce, remaining unmarried is the only option. The “idea” is that divorce does not give the options to remarry and leave apart from your spouse, the “idea” is that forgiveness, repentance, reconciliation, and restoration is the only option you have to deal with whatever sin has entered the marriage.

The Lord Jesus Christ deals with this church discipline in Matthew’s account. I have dealt with how the church SHOULD handle divorce here.  To say a couple can reconcile without restoring is taking marriage and handing it over to anyone other than God. DC and the evangelical pastors do this masterfully. They will perform a “remarriage” after divorce, bless a “remarriage” after a divorce, and participate in a “remarriage” after divorce on a Saturday, and come Sunday they will talk about how all things are possible with God on Sunday…insert exception clause…except for restoring a marriage. 

This is hypocrisy and it is evident in the recent capitulation on same-sex marriage. The same men and women who capitulated on divorce and remarriage are the same ones embracing homosexuality. This licentiousness of “remarriage” is not a foundation of a spirit-led believer, it is the heart of a person who needs gratification of the flesh. Remarriage gratifies the innermost areas of the heart because it originates from the very hardheartedness of divorce. I often wonder if DC is already planning to prepare sessions for divorce and remarriage from same-sex marriage. 

In conclusion, DC offers a false message that is incompatible to the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Forgiveness and reconciliation will always lead to restoration. What DC promotes in forgiveness and reconciliation is impossible, incompatible, inconceivable, and illogical in divorce, but what God offers is that forgiveness and reconciliation is a prerequisite with marriage.  If marriage was anything other than a one-flesh covenant that can only end in death, then we could understand that DC was promoting the idea that marriage is for our happiness and not our holiness. 

The Gospel is for those who embrace God’s love for us…while we were yet sinners. Marriage is not unlike the Gospel. When we vow in marriage, we give up all rights to be single again. We have placed our lives into the hands of the Creator. He is the designer and co-covenator of marriage, and when our spouse does the unthinkable, only will our faith in Christ be the strength to sustain us and help us to remain faithful till the very end. He would not want it any other way. 

Marriage is never going to be easy, there will be tribulation. God wired us specifically as men and women that we would require His grace to love and respect each other, which is totally against our makeup. A man will struggle to love his wife like Christ loves the church, and a woman will struggle to submit to her husband in all things. But that is where the Lord comes in. Love and submission is our only hope. We can truly represent the Gospel by how we view, define, display and live marriage. We only have to admit that apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, we are nothing.

 Romans 5:1-10Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.  For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.  For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

Exposing DivorceCare-Moving On, Growing Closer to God

In Christ’s love,


1 comment:

Carol Vaclavicek said...

This is a fabulous challenge to all of us, Neil. Good job!