Friday, April 08, 2011

Now is the Time for the Church to Deal with the Ravages Caused by Divorce

As mentioned on this blog before, the New Testament indicates two circumstances under which divorce is legitimate:
  • When one of the partners has been engaged in an adulterous relationship
  • When one of the partners has spiritually abandoned the other
Otherwise, marriage, the covenant into which one woman and one man enter with God and one another for life is to be inviolable. In fact, the marriage partnership and the commitments of husbands and wives to the marriages are to be so strong, that even if either of the twin tragedies mentioned above happen, God will help the couple who "come to themselves" and prayerfully commit themselves to re-establishing the bonds of lifetime marriage.

For too long, we in mainline denominations and others in the evangelical wings of the Church have either winked at or simply accepted divorce. In doing so, we abandon a major teaching of Jesus and of the Bible about the utter sanctity of marriage. Our lukewarm discussion of the issue has given divorce a legitimacy which the Founder of the Church, Jesus Christ Himself, hasn't given authorized.

Our divergence from the will of God also undercuts our credibility when we tell couples that premarital sexual intimacy and homosexuality are also contrary to God's will as revealed in both Old and New Testaments.

But marriage and the tragic consequences of divorce are the issue that someone named David French deals with in this article, called Social Justice Begins at Home. A sampling:

For more than three decades, the American Christian Church has participated fully and completely in the institution of no-fault divorce. Sacred bonds formed before God -- bonds that take two to form and two to live -- can be severed at the whim of one. Even worse, they're often severed even when Christian spouses are living fully immersed in the church culture. I've been in "accountability groups" that offer more empathy than accountability. I've seen counselors become puppet-masters for their emotionally vulnerable clients, marching them out of marriages the counselor subjectively views as dysfunctional. And I've read fashionable Christian bestsellers that offer such sweeping indictments of "judgment" in the church that they blur the distinction between judgment and mere reading comprehension.

After all, it was God who said He hates divorce. It's His word that limits divorce to very narrow and explicit circumstances.

And yet, sadly, when Christians make this point (even lovingly and with full acknowledgment of our fallen natures), when they merely echo God's condemnation of a practice that we know -- beyond a shadow of a doubt -- takes a fearful toll on children's lives, they often face pure vitriol in response.

We're told to mind our own business, that we don't understand the complexities of the situation, that we can't possibly want the husband or wife to face the "hell" of life with their spouse.

But aren't we otherwise very eager to proclaim truth when lives are being destroyed? Does anyone doubt the evils of drug addiction despite the complexities of its origin? Don't we intervene dramatically to save friends who are alcoholics or addicts? We certainly and rightly condemn racism, knowing its horrific toll on our culture and on the individual human heart. But aren't the roots of racism also complex? Is it really the case that within every racist is the beating heart of pure evil?
I know nothing about David French except that my Presbyterian blogging colleague, John Schroeder, recommended French's piece. I recommend it too.

We all know that there are tragic circumstances under which divorce may be the only option for a spouse who no longer has a partner who will fulfill the marriage vows. Social inequalities and lack of opportunities befall the spouses and children of divorce.

Divorce should be counseled or pursued only with fear and trembling. And, during and after the process, even the violated party must come to terms with what sins they may have brought to the marriage that contributed to its demise. Real repentance and renewal must happen.

Long before marriages reach the point of divorce though, we in the Church need to offer help, from lay and clergy ranks alike, that will make divorce rare and something committed Christian spouses will work to avoid with every fiber of their beings!

The fact is that the God we know in Jesus Christ does not like divorce. He hates divorce, in fact. He likes the marriage of one man to one woman for life. Pray that God will help us to discover this important truth and why the security and well-being of children are among many very good reasons for married couples who have children to find the God-given and guts to make their marriages work.

No comments: