Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Marriage Preparation Instruction #8

Some Pharisees came to Jesus and tried to trick him. They asked, 'Is it right for a man to divorce his wife for any reason he chooses?'

Jesus answered, 'Surely you have read in the Scriptures: When God made the world, 'he made them male and female.' And God said, 'So a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two will become one body.' So there are not two, but one. God has joined the two together, so no one should separate them."

The Pharisees asked, 'Why then did Moses give a command for a man to divorce his wife by giving her divorce papers?'

Jesus answered, 'Moses allowed you to divorce your wives because you refused to accept God's teaching, but divorce was not allowed in the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman is guilty of adultery. The only reason for a man to divorce his wife is if his wife has sexual relations with another man.'”---Matthew 19:3-9 (NCV)

So, you wake tomorrow morning to a news headline that reads, “Death Penalty to All Who File for Divorce...Effective Immediately”. Now, how many of you would still be in a rush to the altar? It may sound extreme, but let's take a moment to review how God, a God who IS love (I John 4:16), sees divorce:

God made husbands and wives to become one body and one spirit for his purpose—so they would have children who are true to God. So be careful, and do not break your promise to the wife you married when you were young. The Lord God of Israel says, 'I hate divorce. And I hate people who do cruel things as easily as they put on clothes,' says the Lord All-Powerful. So be careful. And do not break your trust.”---Malachi 2:15-16 (NCV)

The God of love...no, the God who IS love, HATES divorce. That means that he detests it...he has an extreme aversion to it...he is hostile towards it. Now, just so we're all clear, let me remind you of the other things that he hates:

These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.”---Proverbs 6:16-19 (NKJV)

OK...he hates people who shed innocent blood. He hates troublemakers. He hates liars. Oh, and he hates divorce. I remember interviewing a couple of 25+ years (at the time) and asking them what made them survive the hard times. The husband said, “Well, for one thing, I know that God hates divorce. He never said what the consequence would be for those who do it...and I don't want to find out.”

Now, remember, he hates liars and murderers. Now check this:

Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.”---Revelation 22:14-15 (NKJV)

Those left outside of heaven's gates are those who do what he hates. Is there grace and mercy for those who have killed someone or lived the life of a habitual liar? The Bible that I reads says so; that if we repent (Revelation 2:5) and go to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16), we can receive the mercy that we need. But, as I look at the divorce rate (both in and out of the Church), I can't help to wonder why so many people are so quick to file based on “Irreconcilable Differences” (and really, what is that?!?), but wouldn't dare shoot someone in the street? It would appear that God looks at both acts the same way, and so it causes me to ponder if it's more about our fear of man's consequences rather than the Creator; if we don't murder only because we could go to prison for it and not because it's morally reprehensible. Really. Shouldn't the fact that God, again a God who is love, hating an act---any act---be enough to make us not want to do it? One would think so...as Christ-followers, we should hope so, but again, the divorce rate shows that many of us don't have the reverential fear that we should...unfortunately. (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

Now, for those on their second and third attempts at getting this marriage thing “right”, I'm sure I've ruffled some feathers. No, I don't know your specific situation and to be honest with you, it's none of my business. I do know that a lot of “motives” in murder trials don't fly and so I'm not sure how many “divorce excuses/justifications” God, our ultimate judge, is pleased with, either. I do know he's pretty clear about what the consequences of divorce should be:

Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.”---Luke 16:16 (NKJV)

Now I give this command for the married people. (The command is not from me; it is from the Lord.) A wife should not leave her husband. But if she does leave, she must not marry again, or she should make up with her husband. Also the husband should not divorce his wife.”---I Corinthians 7:10-11 (NCV)

The husband who is not a believer is made holy through his believing wife. And the wife who is not a believer is made holy through her believing husband. If this were not true, your children would not be clean, but now your children are holy. But if those who are not believers decide to leave, let them leave. When this happens, the Christian man or woman is free. But God called us to live in peace. Wife, you don't know; maybe you will save your husband. And husband, you don't know; maybe you will save your wife.”---I Corinthians 7:14-16 (NCV)

A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.”---I Corinthians 7:39 (NKJV)

I would love to take a poll on how many weeks of premarital counseling is spent focusing on these verses. I wonder how many people really know that, despite how the world may treat this institution (I Corinthians 3:19), that God takes it very seriously. Like the Seventh-Day Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11), it really doesn't matter how many people do it correctly or not. God does not change and what he does, including the laws that he puts into place, lasts forever. (Ecclesiastes 3:14) NOTHING IS TO BE ADDED OR TAKEN FROM IT...including our opinions, the changes in culture, man's traditions...NOTHING.

Now, if I were writing this to the married folks, it would take on an entirely different spin because they are already in it...but to the single people, I will share what I am led (Luke 12:12) to say. There are three points in the lead scripture that I want to focus on. And, this is probably the only message that will not have a section for “Men” and a section for “Women”. WE ALL NEED TO BE ON ONE ACCORD WITH THIS ONE.

  1. Marriage (and the consummation of it) makes you ONE with another person. Marriage was instituted in the Garden (Genesis 2:24) and it was Christ himself who reminded us of this while he was on the earth; CHRIST...the person we claim to model our lives after. For the longest time, I used to wonder why the NKJV of Malachi 2:16 said that God hates divorce because, “...it covers one’s garment with violence.” But have you ever read about the process it takes to separate Siamese twins? Have you ever glued two pieces of paper together and then tried to pull them apart? Both can be violent, painful and messy situations. When things are joined that closely together, to take them apart...it's just not that simple. And, in those two cases, we are still speaking of two things stuck together. The Bible doesn't say that a married couple are like one thing...it says that the ARE one. Whenever people ask my view on the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit), I tell them that my perspective is like they are ice, water and steam: Different forms of the same thing. I believe that marriage is meant to be a visual representation of such a union. You may see two different people in the physical realm, but spiritually, they are so in sync that you really cannot tell one from the other. When that kind of “oneness” takes place, you can best believe that to separate it, there is violence, indeed. In mathematics, if you take one from one, what does that leave? Hmm... That brings me to point two.

  2. God joins so that no man can separate. It doesn't say “no man” unless you are the husband or wife. It says NO MAN, period. But you see, here's the deeper part. When something is joined together, it means, “to put or bring together so as to make continuous or form a unit”. Again, the Bible says that God is love, right? So let's, for a moment, replace the word, “God” with “love”: What LOVE has joined together, let no man separate. When you read up on the Love Chapter (I Corinthians 13:4-8), the very last thing it says about love is that, in some translations, it never FAILS and in others, it never ENDS. When love joins two things together, there is not supposed to be an ending. Songs of Solomon 8:6 says that love is as strong as death. Romans 13:10 (NKJV) states, “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” And, we are encouraged in I John 4:7 (NKJV), “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God...” Just like God, love is powerful thing. And on this earth, I believe, because it was the first relationship introduced to us in the Word (Genesis 2:18-25), the greatest representation of God's love SHOULD BE marriage. It's not hard to get out of because God wants his children to be miserable. It's hard to get out of because how do you get “out of God”? How do you get “out of” who he is and what he's done? God intended for marriage to last forever...just as he intends for love to lasts forever because he is forever. There is no end from the beginning with God. (Revelation 1:8) It is my belief that he sees marriage, once he joins two together, in a very similar fashion. How quick we are to quote that “...tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword” (Romans 8:35) nor “...death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing” can separate us from the love of God. (Romans 8:38-39). Oh, but let your husband or wife clown on you, and you're out the door! NOTHING is to separate us from the love of God. God's Word also says that NOTHING should separate a man and his wife as well. You can't have faith in one thing and not in another. If a famine can't keep you from believing that God loves you, then some trials in your marriage shouldn't keep you from the love that God placed between you and your spouse, either. The light bulb moment for me: I make a mockery of God's love should I marry and then choose to divorce. I present love in a way that is not authentically divine. That, in no way, pleases him.

  3. Divorce is God's permissive, not perfect will. In Matthew 19:8, after being questioned by the Pharisees about why divorce was allowed, in the New Century Version, Christ's response was, “Moses allowed you to divorce your wives because you refused to accept God's teaching, but divorce was not allowed in the beginning.” The New King James Version? “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” The Amplified:Because of the hardness (stubbornness and perversity) of your hearts Moses permitted you to dismiss and repudiate and divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been so [ordained].” Is it just me or does it appear that divorces are for stubborn, selfish, disobedient, perverted and prideful people? Attributes that God's children are not supposed to have....attributes that, Romans 1:28-32 (NKJV) says, “...who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death.” (Don't shoot the messenger!) Now, does God forgive? Certainly. I am a living and breathing testament of that. BUT, if you ask a lot of divorced couples why they ended their marriage, many will refer to something (or a series of things) that their partner did/didn't do. Well, you see, another thing that makes me nervous about divorce is that since forgiving is an act of “pardoning”, “absolving” or “releasing resentment against”, doesn't it seem that divorce is ultimately an act of NON-FORGIVENESS...and when it comes to our relationship with God and the forgiveness that we need from him DAILY, isn't it somewhat conditional? “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37) Of all of the relationships in the world, even the one where a child is born of his/her mother's womb, only ONE relationship speaks to ONENESS, and that is marriage. Divorce is not supposed to be seen as an option. In God's frustration with our disobedience, it was made it available...and really under one condition (although I do believe that abuse is synonymous with “covering someone with violence), which is ADULTERY. Now, let me just pause here for one moment and stress that, although sex has become an act that many of us take way too casually (and even now, God is taking note of it---Hebrews 13:4), do you realize how much he reverences it? SEX WITH SOMEONE OTHER THAN YOUR SPOUSE IS HIS ONLY “OUT” IN A MARRIAGE. Something that he intended for NO MAN to separate, adultery is an act he finds so disgusting, that he will allow (although I still think he hates divorce regardless of the circumstances) the breaking of a union because of it. Think about that singles, next time you try and lay down with someone under the guise of “casual sex”. Ain't nothing casual about it.

What is it that the minister usually says during the wedding vows? Marriage isn't something that should be entered into lightly...but soberly? HE/SHE IS RIGHT! You may “love” him or her all day, but if you're not prepared to do “forever” with them, then you are not prepared for marriage. God doesn't say divorce him when he doesn't come home on time (for weeks on end). It doesn't say divorce her after bouncing the 15th check (this month). It doesn't say, get a divorce if the sex ain't what it used to be. The Word says that what God has joined, NO MAN is to separate....including the two people who God joined in the first place!

I don't think that is meant to “scare” us, but it is meant for us to consider marriage way beyond the wedding...beyond the honeymoon...beyond the first five years and newborn child...beyond the cancer scares, in-law deaths and loss of jobs. If you can't see entering into it for the LONG HAUL, then you shouldn't see yourself getting married. It's just that simple.

Talk about making your “call and election sure”. If there were ever a time to do so, especially if you are currently engaged, it would be now. Remember, marriage isn't about reflecting your love, so much as growing in God's....and God's love lasts far longer than our mood swings and sex drives.

God's love lasts...forever. Just as marriage was created to do.

©Shellie R. Warren/2009

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