Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Cause of Death: Divorce

"For the entire Law has been obeyed when you have kept the single precept, which says, 'You are to love your fellow man equally with yourself.' But if you are perpetually snarling and snapping at one another, beware lest you are destroyed by one another." - Galatians 5:14-15

It is Sunday morning at First Church and Sister Emily sits in her car in the parking lot debating whether she should try to go inside or turn back to her own home.  She has already spent most of the morning in deep internal conflict.  On the one hand she understands the Biblical command that Christians must not neglect to assemble together.  On the other hand is a pale circle around one finger serving as a reminder of what has been lost.  Two years of courtship, five years of marriage, three months of turmoil and fifteen minutes before a judge last Friday added up to the dreadful and shadowy specter of abandonment, lost love and divorce.

It wasn't her choice.  When she walked down the aisle of First Church a few years earlier with the love of her life at her side she believed that it would last forever.  There was nothing to indicate that, after only a few short years, her life would be torn apart by lies, deception and infidelity.  Now she was left alone to pick up the pieces of a shattered life while trying to comprehend how there could possibly be a tolerable future ahead.  Days passed like weeks and nights like eternities.  The silence in her home was deafening and often drove her to despondency.

She sits gripping the steering wheel staring at the front door of the Church wondering what it would be like to go inside.  The Pastor had told her that she must do everything possible to reconcile the marriage.  Had she?  Other Saints in the Church had told her she just needed to pray more and believe enough that her husband would come back.  Had she?  Nothing like this had ever happened to a family in First Church before.  All she could hear was the distant echo of laughter shared with her former husband, the words "till death do you part" and a sermon from Malachi 2:16 punctuating the point that God absolutely hates divorce.  Does that mean God hates the divorcee as well?

Her deep contemplation is interrupted by the sudden sound of music radiating from within the House of Worship.  It was a familiar song.  She had sung the solo before many times in the past when she was part of the worship team.  "If I'm going in," she thought, "I'll need to go now."  And so she did.

Walking through the doorway, she noticed the glances of a few stragglers who were shuffling back and forth trying to get to their Sunday School rooms or into the main Sanctuary.  Perhaps she was just being overly sensitive.  Brushing aside a few thoughts, she walked into the Sanctuary and debated.  Should she walk up to the seat she had occupied faithfully since she was a little girl coming to Church with her parents and where, up until a few months earlier, she had sat with her now ex-husband?  Or should she just try to shuffle into an empty spot at the back of the Sanctuary and try to go unnoticed?  Should she take a chance at normalcy or resign herself to the back pew?

She decides to try to return to normal.  She walks forward, begins to work her way to her normal seat when she begins to catch the eyes of those around her.  And here, out of necessity, is where we must leave Sister Emily's story.

The New Testament gives two very clear statements in regard to the subject of divorce.  And while much commentary has been and will be written on the subject, please indulge a few more lines of exposition in this regard.  The first is found in the teachings of Christ in Matthew 5:32 where He decries the accepted practice of divorce for any purpose and introduces a righteous judgment allowing divorce for the cause of sexual immorality.  The Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul would give further instruction on the matter in 1 Corinthians 7:15 giving liberty to the believing spouse if the unbeliever decides to abandon the marriage.

Divorce is not the unpardonable sin.  In fact, if we truly believe the Scriptures for what they say, divorce is not necessarily a sin at all.  It is true that God hates divorce (see Malachi 2:16) and that is only logical.  Anyone who has been through divorce hates divorce.  Imagine how horrible God must have felt to have had to look at His own people and say, "I'm divorcing you because of your immorality."  But that's exactly what the Almighty God did in Jeremiah 3:8.  God hates divorce because it represents the violation of a solemn vow by one or both parties.  God especially hates it from the standpoint of an innocent party.  Reading Jeremiah 3 gives you a very good picture of how the innocent party feels when they are betrayed.  So we can say with absolute certainty that God hates divorce just as any other innocent divorcee hates it.

For some the issue is remarriage after divorce.  However the Bible, if we truly believe the Scriptures for what they say, give no prohibition against remarriage except in certain circumstances.  For example, Christ in Matthew 5 disqualifies the sexually immoral party from remarrying as well as the party who divorces his/her spouse without Biblically justified cause.  He does not, however, disqualify the innocent party.  This is reiterated by the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:27-28 who says, reflecting back on the justified causes for a Christian to divorce, that an individual who has been loosed from a spouse has not sinned if they marry.  It would be hypocritical and unrighteous of God to take any other view since He, as an innocent party, took for Himself another bride (the Church - see 2 Corinthians 11:2, Ephesians 5:22-33).  "What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid" (Romans 9:14 KJV).

The Apostle Paul especially took great pains to expound upon the subject of Christian liberty and personal convictions.  This was of a necessity because of the nature of his work and calling.  Paul, as Apostle to the Gentiles, was confronted with a demographic which was largely ignorant of the Old Covenant Law.  The conflict between the Gentile Church and the Jewish Church was great and their relationship often turbulent.  Although the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15 had already determined the Gentiles were not to be held to keeping the Mosaic Law, there were still ethnic Jews within the Church which held personal convictions that they tried to force upon other Christians.

The entire 14th chapter of Romans is devoted to the issue.  Therein we see the Holy Spirit condemning those who would impose their personal convictions upon another Christian which does not hold the same conviction.  God makes it clear that the Christian is to have faith in what they do and keep that faith to themselves.  If their personal conviction is violated, they are violating their own conscience and therefore sinning.  However, if their Brother does not hold the same personal conviction, nothing has been violated and the Brother is not guilty of sin.

We recognize that some may have a personal conviction on the subject of Christians and divorce.  But these should take notice of the authoritative, inspired and written Word of God and understand that their personal conviction is not applicable to the rest of the Body of Christ.  To condemn the justifiably divorced on the grounds of personal conviction which contradicts the established precedent of the Word of God is absolutely wrong in the eyes of God and must be entirely avoided.  Do Christians have the right to impose personal convictions upon other Christians?  The Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul says no.  We must then agree with God and His Apostle.

There are occasions when a Christian divorcee makes themselves a martyr.  For example, a Christian divorcee who is convinced their divorce was justified according to the authority of the Word of God may begin to feel compelled to act as a crusader on the subject of divorce.  Too often this crusade ends with no one having a change of heart and the divorcee developing a hard and bitter spirit.  In that case, the issue is not murder; it is suicide.  Those who have been impacted by divorce and are themselves Christian divorcees who are innocent parties based on Biblical authority need not feel compelled to defend themselves.  An innocent party needs no defense when confronted by a prosecutor without evidence.

Unfortunately there are also times when a Christian divorcee is the victim of cold-blooded murder.  They are rejected, refused and rebuffed.  Other Christians look down on them, especially those who have never had to contend with the collapse of a marriage or the infidelity of a spouse.  They do not understand and, in some cases, refuse to understand the Biblical doctrine in this regard.  Sadly enough, there are also those who understand and embrace Biblical truth in the matter but who feel a sense of self-righteous superiority since they have not had to walk the same path as the Christian divorcee.  Too often the Christian divorcee is driven away from the fellowship of other Christians because of this display of intolerance.  They are devoured, as the Apostle Paul warned the Galatians against, by their own Brethren.

This horrible calumny must end!  It is reprehensible, irresponsible and incredibly anti-Christian.  The way this reflects upon the Church and her Head is the antithesis of the nature of God.  Rather, the Church must stand with the Christian divorcee and provide the atmosphere in which the individual can be healed.  Divorce is, in many ways, worse than the death of a loved one.  At least when a loved one dies there is a grave to visit symbolizing happy memories that cannot be altered.  With a divorce, the happy memories are overshadowed by the realization that the other party is continuing to live another life away from you.  There is no grave and, therefore, there exists a lack of reassuring closure.  Should it not be the duty of the Church to come under the faithful innocent party, carry their burden and thereby fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2)?

So let us imagine that you are a member of First Church and Sister Emily passes you in the foyer.  What do you do?  Her divorce was finalized only two days before.  Are you embarrassed of her?  Are you ashamed to be called her friend - her Brother or Sister?  Will you quickly dart out of the way to avoid contact?  Or will you embrace her?  Will you uplift her?  Will you remind her that God understand what she is going through because He has been there too?  Will you help her move forward?  Will you recognize that she is still a Christian, still valuable in the Kingdom of God, still of use to the Master and still important in your life and to the local Church body?

Will your feelings change in 8 months when she and Brother Charles begin sitting next to each other occasionally at the restaurant after church?  What about in a year when they begin to develop a very close friendship?  How will you look at her (and him for that matter) after 18 months when their friendship has developed into a relationship?  What about after 2 years when she's walking down the aisle in a long white dress with Brother Charles waiting at the front of the Sanctuary to meet his glowing bride?

How you should react is simple:  Stand on Biblical authority, raise your hands to heaven and say, "God hated how this started, but look what He has done to make it right!  Blessed be the name of the Lord!"  Rejoice that, out of a situation God hated, He and Sister Emily have ultimately won the victory.

But can you do it?  Can WE do it?  We can if we would.  What is more, we must.  People walk away from God for some of the most trivial reasons.  Any Christian who survives the horror of divorce while maintaining their love for Christ and a desire to continue in His Body as a productive and faithful member is not a sinner.  They are a hero. Print this post

1 comment:

Phillip Helms said...

Thank you for this inspired and anointed word.

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