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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Sadness We Call "Divorce"

It doesn't take long. Just peruse the blogs on the list of Christian bloggers and you'll find more than one in the midst of a divorce. Keep looking. Others are being abused by their husbands. Some actually think that's okay. And, of course, if you don't limit yourself to that shortlist, almost everyone will likely know at least one person who is 1) a Christian 2) getting or contemplating or recently divorced.

It makes me sad. No, that's not accurate. It grieves me. Why are there so many who call themselves Christians with so little regard for what God says about marriage? Now, before anyone leaps on that question, it was intended to be quite general. Why are there so many men who call themselves Christians and abuse -- physically, emotionally, even spiritually -- their wives? Why are there so many men who call themselves Christians and refuse to even attempt to be the husbands Christ commands? Why are there so many women who call themselves Christians and refuse to be the wives clearly spelled out in the pages of the Bible? Why are there so many couples who consider themselves to be Christians who think nothing of divorce?
1 And it came about that when Jesus had finished these words, He departed from Galilee, and came into the region of Judea beyond the Jordan; 2 and great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them there.

3 And some Pharisees came to Him, testing Him, and saying, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause at all?" 4 And He answered and said, "Have you not read, that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said,' For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh'? 6 "Consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." 7 They said to Him, "Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?" 8 He said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart, Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. 9 "And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery." 10 The disciples said to Him, "If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry." 11 But He said to them, "Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 "For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother's womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it." (Matt 19:1-12)
There are those who argue that there is no biblical reason for divorce -- period, end of sentence, nothing more need be said. I think that they have some pretty good arguments. I fall short of "no biblical reason for divorce" for a couple of reasons, but I think it is indisputable that Scripture in general and Jesus in particular would view divorce as something that ought to be rare among His followers. Today, we wink at it and consider it normal, advisable, likely a good thing in many instances.

What was Jesus's "opinion"? The Pharisees tested Him by asking a simple question: Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause at all?" Historians will tell us that the question arises out of two schools of thought at the time. One side believed that a husband could only divorce his wife in extreme cases, while the other believed that if she burned his toast he could divorce her if he wished. But we aren't actually given the benefit of this background in the question. The question is, "Is there any cause allowed for a man to divorce his wife?"Jesus's first answer is not vague. "Have you not read, that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said,'For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh'? Consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." There is no ambivalence, no equivocation. "What God has joined together let no man separate." In other words, "Don't do it!"

Like today's Christians, the Pharisees don't buy that one. "Oh, yeah? Then why is there stuff about divorce in the Mosaic Law?" Jesus's response is again clear: "Because of your hardness of heart." Some have argued that Jesus is saying that Moses put that in there but God never intended it. To me that's problematic. What other laws did Moses insert that God never intended? And what can we conclude about inerrancy and infallibility if Moses was inserting laws willy-nilly in the name of God that God never intended and of which we have no indication? Maybe that whole "Don't eat pork" thing was Moses's idea, not God's? No, let's not go there. Jesus says that Moses inserted information on divorce because of Man's hard-heartedness. I can only conclude that he did so at God's behest.

Today those who call themselves Christians are flocking to divorce court at rates equal to or even exceeding that of non-Christians. As they do so, they flood past Christ who says, "Don't do it! If you do, you do so out of hardheartedness!" And they beam and say, "It's the best thing we can do." "He didn't give me what I wanted." "She wasn't the wife I expected her to be." "I lost too much of myself." "I wasn't free to do whatever I wanted." "Single is so much better; I can watch whatever I want to now." And all heaven weeps.

Marriage is a sacred institution. Paul calls it a mystery, the image of the relationship of Son to His followers (Eph. 5:32). And if you ask Moses, you'll find that God doesn't like it when images He has set up are disturbed. In Numbers 20 Moses was told to speak to the rock which he had struck earlier. In his anger at the people he struck it instead, ruining the picture God intended of a Savior who is struck for us and ever after provides living water when He is spoken to. For this "infraction", Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land. Yet Christians blaze past Christ into divorce court without blinking an eye and declare an end to a relationship that God put together and God uses as an image of His Son's relationship to the Church.

So it grieves me. I weep when I read how she's divorcing him because he wasn't nice to her or he didn't give her what she hoped for. I weep when I read that he's divorcing her because she wasn't what she should be. It grieves me when I see men who call themselves Christians refusing to love their wives, to surrender themselves sacrificially, and think that it is their right to be possessive, cruel, untrusting, and unloving ... and pass that on to their children. I cannot fathom the notion that the way he squeezes the toothpaste tube or hangs the toilet paper or fails to clean up properly after himself is grounds to hurl insult in the face of Christ who commanded, "What God has joined together let no man separate." It grieves me that people who call themselves Christians care so little for what Christ commanded, for what God says in His Word about how we should relate to one another in a marriage. Like James I say, "My brethren, these things ought not to be this way" (James 3:10).


Anonymous said...

I agree! AMEN! How sad it is. I know because of what I have been through with my husband, I have lost all desire to ever remarry. I see men who are truly wonderful husbands and I admire them for that, but I have not personally known that and I do not believe I ever will outside of Christ who is the Husband who never fails! May He be glorified. He is all I need.

Anonymous said...

Amen to both of you!

Where is this being preached from the pulpits of America? Are we so concerned about losing members that our pastors will not say what Jesus said?

And how do we as believers look a homosexual activist in the face and say, "Your marriage is not valid in the sight of God," when we ourselves have trashed the institution even more flagrantly than the rest of the world? (Don't get me wrong. I am more than willing to tell a homosexual that God is opposed to his/her so-called "marriage.")

A couple of weeks ago, I heard a radio preacher suggest that pastors just shut up about the whole divorce issue, because there are so many divorced people in the church. As a pastor, he said, you just have to deal with the fallout, not preach against it. It appears to me that with that attitude, we may as well "just deal with" lying, stealing, hatred, spousal/child abuse, and all other manner of sin.

Thanks for bringing this up. I believe it is an elephant in the American Christian living room that we had best start dealing with. And we need to find out how God, the creator of marriage, feels about it, not justify our behavior based on our own desires.

Compassionate Conservative said...

I agree... and there are a few pastors who are willing to speak the truth on this matter, my pastor being one of them... If you haven't read it, Check out a book called "The Scandal of the Evangelical Consciennce" ny a guy named Ronald J Sider. The topic of divorce is one of the things that He tackles in his book.

FzxGkJssFrk said...

As you could probably tell from my post before Christmas on this subject, I'm right there with ya, Stan.