February 15, 2019
Lately on the blog, we have dialogued about the importance of healthy marriages and their profound impact on culture today. I propose that the restoration of family and marriages will change the world, define destinies, and alter the course of history. However, the unfortunate truth is that there are many Believers who have suffered the pain of broken marriages, ultimately ending in divorce.
So what do we say to our brothers and sisters who have experienced the heartbreaking end of a marriage?
The difficulty with speaking to the body of Christ on this subject is convincing divorced people that they are completely forgiven and blessed by God, without giving those in tough marriages permission to quit!
I’m concerned that in our zeal to keep marriages together—a good and noble thing to do—we have completely marginalized an entire people group, who, by the way, are often in immense pain!
We’ve marked divorced people as our modern day lepers and banished them from connection to the Church family. In some church circles, divorce is equal to the unpardonable sin. People who have been divorced are treated as if they have the plague: they can’t serve in the church and they are not trusted.
I’m not okay with exiling a third of the church to the ice castle of shame simply because they have failed in one area of life. It is our call and responsibility as the Body of Christ to redeem and restore into the fold anyone who has been through a divorce!
Please Don’t Misunderstand
The gospel is always redemptive because Jesus died to redeem mankind from all of our brokenness! Therefore whenever we apply the scriptures in a way that is unredemptive, creates hopelessness, or reduces a person’s destiny to their history, we have missed the point of the Gospel! This can pose copious challenges when the Church has the responsibility to love people in messy situations without championing choices that God is not in favor of.
I do not think divorce is “okay” and I’m not at all saying that if you’re in a hard marriage that you should give up! I love marriage and have been happily married for over 40 years. Please hear me! My son went through a divorce and it was one of the most painful experiences my family has ever been through. It was truly excruciating!
So I personally understand that when God says we shouldn’t get divorced, it’s because He wants to protect us from heartache. When God says “no” there’s always a reason. So let me be clear:
1. I am totally against divorce! Marriage is a covenant you make for life.
2. Marriage isn’t something you try out to see if you are compatible. You work at it every day because you made a covenant; you came into this relationship to lay down your life for one another.
3. Psychologists say that divorce is the second most stressful thing that you can experience in life, ranking just below the death of a child.
4. Getting divorced because you are not “happy” usually begins a descent into a pit so deep that it takes an act of God to recover from.
5. My son went through a divorce and it nearly destroyed him, his children, Kathy and me. I laid on my couch for 6 months depressed and unable to function. The stress caused my son to have MS-like symptoms for four years, and most importantly, it did untold damage to my grandkids. Thankfully, ten years later, we are all recovering. Praise Jesus!
6. When God says things like “NO,” or “DON’T,” it’s always because sin hurts people. God is not trying to control people or He wouldn’t have given us a free will or provided choices (like planting two trees in the garden).
So the idea that I would EVER do anything to promote divorce would be ridiculous and insulting. I have spent my life helping to save marriages, restore relationships, and empower people to live in covenant with joy and peace!
Now that you understand I’m a huge fan of marriage, we have to take a look at how we treat those who fail at it. We’ve ALL failed at one point in our lives, and yet God still uses and redeems us! In fact, nearly half of the Bible was written by murderers!
There Are No Easy Answers
Here is the challenge: there are millions of people in the United States alone who are divorced and remarried. In my first 3 years as a pastor at Bethel Church, I was one of our primary marriage counselors. I averaged 6 appointments a day, 3 days a week, for all those years. I began those years with dogmatic, black-and-white perspectives on many issues, but especially on marriage and divorce. The problem was that my simple, theological perspectives, were irrelevant to many of the complex situations that I found myself trying to resolve.
Let’s look at a practical example: Say John and Beth get divorced for unscriptural reasons. Years pass and John remarries and has two kids with Ann. Meanwhile, Beth remarries Tom, who is also divorced and his ex-spouse is remarried. Now Beth and Tom end up in my office with serious marriage problems and, oh, by the way, they have had two biological children since they have been married for a few years. What do forgiveness and repentance look like for them? How can they lay a foundation to start fresh?
Do I tell them…
1. You are both committing adultery so you need to ask God to forgive you. But you also have to understand that God won’t help you restore your relationship because you both have sinned against heaven, so you will live the rest of your lives without the blessing of Jesus on your relationship.
Or do I say…
2) The two of you must ask God to forgive you and bring forth fruit of repentance by divorcing each other. The only marriage God can bless is your first marriage, therefore you must convince your original spouse to divorce their spouses and reconcile with you. Then we will help you figure out how to integrate your two children into your families by sharing joint custody.
Or perhaps I tell them…
3) The two of you must make things right with God because you’re living in adultery. Therefore you need to get a divorce and share custody of your children.
Or maybe my fourth option is to say…
4) There is no Godly solution to your problem. No matter what the two of you do, you can never be blessed even though you’re forgiven. You both screwed up and you must live with it!
This is just one of the very common scenarios that I faced weekly as a counselor and pastor. If you think that this is rare then you haven’t done much counseling. Through this experience I learned that it’s easy to have dogmatic answers to problems that you don’t really have to face yourself! Unfortunately, the world is much more complex than what a single principle will solve.
Are We Telling People that Cohabiting is Better Than Marriage?
Let’s continue taking a look at how we approach divorce…
If we say you can’t remarry after divorce, do people who live together instead of getting married have an advantage?
If Steven lives together with four different people over 15 years, and then finally decides to settle down and marry, the church celebrates him and the fact that he finally “gets it”! He isn’t met with shame and judgment, but rather relief and celebration!
But why can’t we apply this same celebration to someone who tried really hard to do the right thing (get married instead of just living with someone), who failed (like we all do and have in life) and then wanted to do the right thing and do better the second time around and get married again? Do you see the double standard here?! When Christians can’t find a rule in the Bible that applies to a situation they often don’t know what to do! And yet a double standard is unjust and not an appropriate answer to this challenge!
So What’s the Answer?
Jesus has an answer for every situation! There’s no person, no relationship, no situation that is so bad or so complex that He cannot create a redemptive solution out of it that will ultimately lead to joy and peace for those who remain repentant and humble. The gospel is always redemptive because Jesus died to redeem mankind from all of our brokenness!
If we cannot find the answer to our challenges in black and white in the Bible, then we have to go back to our core values of who God is and start thinking from the heart of God! He’s a Redeemer who paid the ultimate price to make beauty from the ashes of our lives!
If you have ever been divorced, I bless you and say that you are forgiven! May mercy and grace flow into your life right now. I release you from anything you are holding onto from the past and encourage you to let go today. I apply the blood of Jesus to you, whether the sin was against you or whether you were the one who sinned, and say that you are now cleansed and made new. You’re not a leper! Divorce is not the unforgivable sin! And if God can use murderers to write the Bible, certainly He can forgive and recommission you!
If you are reading this and have never been divorced, I want to challenge you to repent from any judgment you’ve carried in your heart and ask God to help you gain HIS perspective on divorce. Let us be the kind of brothers and sisters who love, welcome, and champion our family into the freedom and redemption that Jesus paid for ALL OF US to have!
I know this is often a tricky subject to talk about and I don’t pretend to address the whole situation in one blog post, so I want to encourage you to check out my podcast called Life After Divorce. You can listen to it here, or in iTunes, Spotify, or Google Play.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
P.S. Did you hear? I just opened registration for my new FREE class. I wanted to be sure you don’t miss out on this opportunity…Are you ever stressed about not having enough? The truth is when you’re plagued by a poverty mindset, it seems that you’ll always live in the stress of not having what you need. I’ve experienced this myself, and the Lord has taught me what true Kingdom wealth is—something that grows from the inside out. I want to share with you what I’ve learned over the past years, so I created a FREE class around the subject of abundance and prosperity. In this FREE, three-day email class, I’ll shed light and clarity on the subjects of poverty, riches and wealth so that you can be activated into God’s heart for you to prosper! Registration is now open until February 17th so click here to reserve your seat!
Topics: All TopicsInspirationMarriage