Tag Archives: divorce

Christ, the Church, and Marriage

I have a beautiful muscat grape vine. Last week I pruned it. Then I felt bad, since Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. Maybe in my pruning the vine I misrepresented the permanence of the Covenant of grace. Jesus will never cut us off, will he?

Last night, before I went to bed, I locked my front door. That made me feel bad, since Jesus is the door, that maybe I misrepresented the kingdom of heaven, by locking people out of my house.

I guess that when I turned off my lights at night, I could possibly be communicating that I walk in darkness and not in the light. I should probably keep them on.

And I could go on, except now it is getting silly.

In case you wondered, these ridiculous examples show how important it is to interpret pictures and parables correctly.

Take, for example, our mystic union with Christ. It is so intense, so diverse and so deep that scripture uses picture after picture after picture to describe it.

He is the vine; we are the branches. He is the Good Shepherd, we are the sheep. He is the head; we are the body.

And this one: He is the husband; we are the bride.

And that brings me to my point. Ephesians 5 is about the union of one flesh that takes place in a marriage. The husband and the wife, through mutual love and submission, are to become more and more as one flesh – like Christ and the church.

And we have to be very careful about imagery. Don’t take it further than is intended. The common interpretation of Ephesians 5:22ff is this: Marriage is a picture of Christ and the church. Since Christ will never abandon his church, divorce is forbidden under all circumstances.

Hogwash. This is the same as saying that since Christ will never abandon his church, we also must never prune our vines. It’s silly on the face of it.

I have also heard that since Paul says that the husband is like Christ, he is to sanctify the wife with the word, and act as her prophet priest and king.

Piffle. It doesn’t say that at all.

The Husband isn’t Christ; Ephesians 5:22ff teaches only this: the husband is to love sacrificially like Christ did. This doesn’t say that the wife is not to be like Christ, nor does it say that the husband is a king, or a prophet or a priest in the home – like Christ. It merely says that the husband is to love sacrificially, like Christ loved the church.

The wife is to submit, which is beautifully explained by Barbara Roberts here. It doesn’t say she is made in the image of man, or that she is eternally subordinate, or that the husband is her savior, umbrella of protection, or any other nonsense. It simply says submit, like the church submits to Christ. She also is a Christian, and a partaker of Jesus’ anointing. She is also a human being, made in God’s image. She is a covenant creature, responsible to God alone. She also is given the Holy Spirit. But when she marries, she is to strive to be one flesh with her husband, like Christ and the church. That’s all that Ephesians 5 is teaching.

When you say that, it is best to then stop with the analogies, lest you make the husband a god and the wife an idolater.

This passage says nothing about whether divorce is permitted, whether marriage is to be a “living picture of the gospel” or anything else of that sort. It is simply an analogy that Paul uses pastorally to teach, first of all, about mystic union with Christ, and second, about husbands and wives.

It is true that God created a world so that he could reveal himself to men. He created lambs and fire and gold and bulls and trees so that when he spoke to us, we would know something about what he is talking about. So also with marriage. He gave us marriage so that when he speaks to us of love, tenderness, intimacy and union, we would know something of what he is talking about.

But we also must understand that we cannot ever know God exhaustively. Ultimately, his name is “wonderful”, that is, to be wondered at, not exhausted. He is “I Am that I Am”, self-referential. To bring more into the nature of God than scripture gives us warrant is to ultimately become an idolater.

So let’s be careful with our marriage counsel.  A husband and wife are not a living picture of the gospel any more than any Christian, whether married or single. Ephesians 5 says nothing about divorce or eternal covenants. It implies a LOT about abuse. If the husband abuses his wife, then he blasphemes the name of Christ, but that’s another blog for another time.

Let’s be Christians in all of our actions. This means that all of us- married, single, men, women, children- should strive to become more and more like Jesus. And at the same time, let’s cast aside all the nonsense in the marriage books that go so far beyond what the scripture actually says that they are beginning to sound like caricatures of themselves.

There’s a lot more in the book of Ephesians than Ephesians 5:22. I would recommend that you read the whole book in one sitting, and then read it again. Look at the whole message and see who Jesus is. That’s the point of it.

Advertisements

13 Comments

Filed under Church, Divorce, Marriage

Things that God Hates

Here’s an incomplete list of things that God hates:

Reviling.

Drunkenness

Taking his name in vain.

Idolatry

Brawling

Oppression

Hatred

Oppression

Abuse.

Being delivered from that? God loves that. In fact, he sent his Son to die that we might be delivered from the kingdom of the devil, both the bondage in our own hearts as well as the bondage inflicted upon us from others.

Again, “God hates divorce” is nowhere in the Bible.

Another thought on that:

Capital punishment and other criminal penalties are also not part of God’s perfect plan of creation. But to say then that they are forbidden by God and hated by God is a stretch of rather sketchy exegesis. They are necessary because we live in a world of treachery and oppression.

So also divorce. Sure, God didn’t create the world with divorce as a part of his perfect plan of creation. But that isn’t the world we live in now.

“Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses wrote that.”

As long as men’s hearts are still full of evil – reviling, drunkenness, brawling, idolatry – divorce is still necessary, just like capital punishment will still be necessary as long as there are murderers.

Leave a comment

Filed under Abuse, Divorce, Marriage

The Secret Things of God

The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deu 29:29 KJV)

Making decisions is a daunting process. There is much that goes into a decision, especially one that will change a life.

Take, for example, a decision to separate or divorce a spouse. This decision is terrifying enough, but it is often muddled by poor counsel. As Christian counselors and pastors, we must ensure that our counsel is based firmly upon scripture, and not the opinions or biases of men.

Whole books have been written on appropriate grounds for divorce, but the purpose of this post is to address just one area where we often go wrong.

We must remember that we cannot make decisions based upon what we hope God will do in the future. This belongs to the secret things of God. God has revealed to us what he wants us to know so that we can make right decisions that are honoring to him, but he has reserved the future for his hand alone.

To put this practically, suppose a wife reports – again –  to the elders that her husband refuses to keep his marriage vows. Perhaps he is violent, abusive or engaged in fornication. Perhaps he is a drunkard or a reviler. Let’s assume that these facts are not in dispute. Everyone knows that this is what the wife has been enduring  for years.

When she reports that she is filing for divorce, the answer of her elders is often something like this: “God can change hearts. Stay in the marriage. What will you do if he repents? What if he changes?”

It seems to me that this puts an unendurable burden on the heart of the wife (or husband, as the case may be). The church is asking her to make a life-altering decision based upon what God may or may not do in the future. But how can we ask our sheep to sin in this regard?

The devil took Jesus to the temple and told him to throw himself down, for God promised that he would not allow his foot to be moved. In other words, the devil told Jesus to make a decision based upon requiring God to act in a certain way. But Jesus called this testing God, which is forbidden in the law.

Let’s apply this to our example. The way that things stand now, she has grounds for divorce. Assume, again, that this is not disputed. But she is still counseled to remain in the marriage “in case he repents”. But repentence is a gift of God. Only God can change a heart. So now we are asking this woman to make a life-altering decision, or even put her life in danger, based upon what we hope God will do in the future.

But our text in Deuteronomy forbids doing just that. We cannot make our decision based upon the “secret things of God”. We are required only to make wise decisions based upon what we know today.

As of right now, is your husband a reviler, drunkard, abuser, fornicator? As of right now, is the marriage broken? As of right now, has he pulled asunder what God has joined together?

We can only make these decisions based upon what is revealed to us. To pry into the future is forbidden by God and is only a short step away from soothsaying and fortune-telling.

It is cruel and ungodly to force a spouse to stay in perpetual limbo because God may or may not act in the future, especially when Jesus himself said that God gave us divorce because of the hardness of men’s hearts. Because men’s hearts are still hard, divorce is still sometimes an option.

To ask what the offended spouse would do if there was repentance is neither helpful nor biblical. I could ask what I would do if I won the lottery or became rich and famous, but to base your life and obedience upon a fantasy is not honoring to God. Let’s not fall into the heresy of Creflo Dollar’s prosperity gospel in our counsel to hurting men and women.

CAN God bring repentance? Of course he can. That isn’t the question. Can God fill your bank account with gold? Of course he can.

Why is one fantasy wrong while the another is right? Would it be foolish to buy a new car or a new house based upon hoping that God can fill our bank account with gold? Of course it is. Then why would we counsel a spouse to stay in a broken marriage based upon hoping that God will grant repentance?  All we can do is make the best decisions that we can based upon what we know NOW. Is the man a fool addicted to his folly? Of COURSE God can change his heart, but that isn’t the point.

Wisdom would dictate that throwing yourself off of the temple would be suicide. It would have been a denial of God. Wisdom also dictates that fools return to their folly. This is the norm, just as falling from the temple results in death.

As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly. (Pro 26:11 KJV)

This is what fools do and will continue to do apart from God’s free and unmerited grace. God can, of course, intervene. He often does, or we would all be lost. We call upon men and women to repent and believe and pray for God’s intervention in their headlong rush to hell. We urge, we exhort, we confront. But when it comes to decisions – whether we are judges deciding on a sentence, church courts deciding on discipline, or spouses deciding on divorce –  we must act in wisdom, not in fantasy.

Only God can soften a heart, and we pray that he will. But we have to make our decisions based upon what God has revealed to us, not through crystal-ball gazing or empty hopes.

5 Comments

Filed under Divorce, Wisdom

Our Desperate Need for Wisdom

King Solomon was famous over the world for his wisdom. The Bible gives us an account to show us how Solomon’s wisdom truly was divinely given.  I would like for you to read it carefully:

16 Then came there two women, that were harlots, unto the king, and stood before him.
17 And the one woman said, O my lord, I and this woman dwell in one house; and I was delivered of a child with her in the house.
18 And it came to pass the third day after that I was delivered, that this woman was delivered also: and we were together; there was no stranger with us in the house, save we two in the house.
19 And this woman’s child died in the night; because she overlaid it.
20 And she arose at midnight, and took my son from beside me, while thine handmaid slept, and laid it in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom.
21 And when I rose in the morning to give my child suck, behold, it was dead: but when I had considered it in the morning, behold, it was not my son, which I did bear.
22 And the other woman said, Nay; but the living is my son, and the dead is thy son. And this said, No; but the dead is thy son, and the living is my son. Thus they spake before the king.
23 Then said the king, The one saith, This is my son that liveth, and thy son is the dead: and the other saith, Nay; but thy son is the dead, and my son is the living.
24 And the king said, Bring me a sword. And they brought a sword before the king.
25 And the king said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.
26 Then spake the woman whose the living child was unto the king, for her bowels yearned upon her son, and she said, O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it. But the other said, Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it.
27 Then the king answered and said, Give her the living child, and in no wise slay it: she is the mother thereof.
28 And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged; and they feared the king: for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do judgment.
(1Ki 3:16-28 KJV)

At first glance, this seems an odd choice to display how Solomon’s wisdom far surpassed the wisdom of his peers. As a child reading the account, it mostly confused me. How did this display such great wisdom? Surely there were other accounts of Solomon’s judgments that were astounding, magnificent and awe-inspiring! What was so special about this one?

My childish mind had only a superficial and rather foolish view of human nature. I did not understand it. It still puzzles me, for the most part, but I think that I am beginning to get a handle on what was so astounding in Solomon’s judgment here.

When these two women presented themselves before Solomon, they both looked and sounded very sincere. Both were sinners (they were harlots). Both had the show of great grief. But they told a different story.

Woman A – we’ll call her Prima – tells Solomon that she woke up and her baby was dead. She knew that the dead baby wasn’t hers and claims that the other woman (we’ll call her Secunda) rolled onto her own baby during the night and then exchanged her dead baby for Prima’s living baby.

Secunda responds that Prima is lying. She claims that Prima rolled onto her own baby and killed it and now is trying to get Solomon to take Secunda’s baby away.

At issue is the living baby. Whose baby is it?

How is Solomon supposed to sort that one out? There were no DNA tests to prove it either way, and he was supposed to make a judgment. All he had to use was wisdom. He had to understand human nature, and especially fallen human nature.

A foolish judge would try to determine who was lying by the “looked me right in the eye” test. The one that seemed the most sincere would very clearly be the one telling the truth, according to this test. But this is utter madness. Even the devil can fool the wisest of men on those grounds. In order to use the “sincerity” test, you would have to deny the existence of pure wickedness, wolves, and oppressive sons of Belial. But all scripture testifies to the existence and prevalence of these kinds of people. In fact, right after the fall, God spoke of the seed of the serpent who would seek to destroy the seed of the woman. To ignore that is utter madness and folly, combined with extreme arrogance. Almost every book of the New Testament warn us that these people will be right in the middle of our congregations and we must mark them and have nothing to do with them.

A foolish judge might actually say, “Who cares? they’re both harlots anyway. Why are you bothering me?” But a wise judge knows that he has been given his task by God himself, and is required by God to judge righteously, without “respect of persons.”

If Prima’s story is correct, then Secunda is not a normal woman. She is a child of the devil, thoroughly corrupt – a liar and a murderer with no conscience. Think about it. She killed her own child during the night (according the Prima’s story) and then exchanged her own dead baby for the living one of her friend. She has no natural affection – babies were simply commodities to be used. You normal mothers out there, if you accidently killed your baby in the night, would you mourn and weep and cry out to God? Or would you simply get another baby and pretend like nothing happened?

A normal mother does not simply steal another baby and pretend it is her own. That would take a tremendous hardening of the heart.

If Prima’s story is correct, then Secunda also has no concern whatsoever about the grief she may be bringing to those whom she previously thought of as friends. Secunda is entitled to a baby, she is entitled to win, and if this causes tremendous grief to those around her, that’s not her concern.

In this day, we have a word for these kinds of people: They are sociopaths. If Prima is telling the truth, then Secunda is a sociopath.

On the other hand, if Secunda is telling the truth, then Prima is a sociopath, for the same reasons.

So Solomon may not know which one is telling the truth, but because of his God-given wisdom, he knows that one of them is the “seed of the serpent”, a liar and a murderer who will stop at nothing to establish her own control and sense of entitlement.

If that is the case, then the one who is the seed of the serpent is not REALLY concerned about the living baby; her primary concern will be to win at any cost. Her sense of entitlement – she is OWED a baby – will be far greater than any other need. How is one to determine this?

Solomon commands that the baby be divided into two. THAT’S the wisdom of Solomon that all of us must pray for, seek after and prize. To order this risky sentence, Solomon must know and understand certain things:

1. That there are people in this world whose sense of entitlement is so great that they will destroy everything in order to have power over others, to win at any cost.

2. That either Secunda or Prima was one of those women. They were not “making mistakes”; they were not misunderstood; consumed with grief; out of their minds with problems. One of them was a sociopath who would stop at nothing to win.

THAT is wisdom. It can only come from God. It is extremely rare, even in churches.

When the Prima cried out, “NO! Spare the baby. Let her take it rather than kill it!” Solomon had his answer. Prima was more concerned about life than about winning. She was more concerned about the welfare of her child than about even her own grief. She would rather lose everything than have this little child lose his life.

How we need wise judges. How rare they are!

By now, you have probably heard of the case in Michigan. A judge sentences three children to juvenile detention for refusing to have lunch with their father. They and their mother claim that the father is abusive. The father claims that the mother is alienating the children from him. His attorney says,

“It is unfortunate that the children are in shelter care due to the actions of their mother….She has continued to endorse the children’s behavior that she successfully instilled in them, effectively alienating them from their father. The court took severe action to attempt to remedy a heart-wrenching situation, solely created by the mother.”

I wish that the judge had just a small amount of the wisdom of Solomon. Who is telling the truth? Let me ask it this way, “Who is willing to destroy the children rather than lose the case?”

The father would rather see his children abused and neglected in Juvenile Hall than lose his battle of entitlement over his ex-wife. He’s a sociopath and should be removed from society.

When the Judge ordered the kids to be remanded to Juvenile Hall, a righteous father would have cried out, “NO, JUDGE! Let her have them rather then sentence them to the death of innocence and childhood!”

It is a curse from God when He removes wisdom from the land. Mourn and howl with me, that such foolishness reigns in high places! Pray that God would be merciful and give us judges who can tell the difference between sheep and wolves. Pray that our churches would wake up and discern between good and evil!

Pray that the Lord will be merciful to us!

3 Comments

Filed under Abuse, Wisdom