Paul Thompson blogs at “The Bridge.”
When did divorce and remarriage become so accepted among Christians? I’m not going to attempt to even answer that question, but more the question of how do we return to the “ancient ways” that promise rest?
I get that grace is big. It’s bigger than I am likely able to comprehend. It’s not that divorce can’t be forgiven, it can and is forgivable. It’s not that a marriage to another spouse while your original spouse is still living can’t be forgiven, it can and is forgivable.
Before you read anything else I have to say reread the previous paragraph and then read on.
This is mostly a post to those considering marriage. If you are single and thinking about marriage, think about this with seriousness. If you are currently married and thinking about looking for a way out, think about this with a sober mind devoted to displaying the glory of God. If you are currently divorced and thinking about remarriage to another person, put the lamp of Scripture on and follow this true path.
It is likely that our culture (and modern church) has painted you an ideal about what marriage is or should be for you. It’s likely your desire for happiness has been influenced by what this world argues for; your defense of deserving happiness.
I don’t think there is any denial that God has designed us for pleasure. His word gives evidence of an order in life that leads humanity on the path of delight. The big problem for us is how we go about pursuing that fulfillment.
I will attempt to be brief. I realize that brevity may cause discomfort, disgust, and anger because some things will go mentioned and specific scenarios will go unmentioned. Please feel free to comment or contact me for further clarification if this happens, and surely reread the second paragraph.
It’s not that marital sins are bigger than other sins. Divorce and remarriage are not unforgivable. But why has the church become so silent on the matter? We surely would not let a known thief who has not confessed his past ways as offensive to God to remain in ‘good standing’ fellowship with the local church. We would not allow a known, practicing, idolater to have leadership among the household of God.
So why does the divorce and remarriage matter seem to get a free pass?
I think, based on my observation of the logic of our fallen culture, it’s because most can’t imagine that God wouldn’t want them to be happy. They know that God has designed them for joy and pleasure so why not in this marriage matter.
I don’t speak for the church I pastor, but I do have a duty to speak to the church I pastor on this matter and all matters that Scripture speaks toward.
I’m sure that your consideration of marriage is one that you have taken seriously. I’m sure that those who are in the path of divorce with family lawyers can testify to how the pain was more than they expected. I’m sure the reality of loneliness begins to crowd out all thoughts of possible happiness.
Listen, I don’t pretend to know this kind of pain and unhappiness first hand. But let me speak toward this matter from the lamp of Scripture, not the feeling of the day.
I’ll be brief with the thoughts and pray for extended help to those who read. I’ll take Psalm 1:1-2 as a start I’ll insert a few thoughts in (parenthesis). I recommend you read 1 Corinthians 7 on your own.
How blessed (this is speaking to that design of God that we are created to live with joy, happiness, pleasure, delight) is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, (there is a cleaver agenda by the enemy who wants to rob God’s people of finding delight in Him. Its agenda speaks to this idea that we somehow ‘deserve’ something higher than what we have, but intentionally directing that attention to something less than God. Don’t walk down this path, it can not deliver what it’s promising.)
Nor stand in the path of sinners, (Don’t give divorce the opportunity to take up residence in your thinking, it will quickly begin to alter truth in order to get its way.)
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! (The world will always be telling you that you deserve to be in a marriage that is better than the one you are in. Once you agree with it, it laughs at the gospel. Scoffing God as the world begins to buy the propaganda that God is an angry God who doesn’t want you to be happy.)
2 But his delight (see, there it is! God has designed you for joy, happiness, pleasure, delight… but don’t miss how we achieve this high level of delight.) is in the law of the Lord, (The law of the Lord? How can that bring delight? Do you believe that God is a sovereign creator? If yes, then yes our delight is in the law of the Lord. Who knows better than sovereign creator of what brings delight? The counsel of the wicked? surely no! the path of sinners? no way! The seat of scoffers? don’t embrace this selfish way!)
And in His law he meditates day and night. (What gives more direction to your life? Worldly counsel? ungodly paths? Seats of those who hate God? Rather; meditate on His law.) Psalms 1:1-2 (NASB)
This is good counsel for more than the matter of divorce and remarriage. Its good for all of life.
I’m far from a final position on this touchstone matter for so many in our culture. But the more I let the lamp of Scripture shine upon this matter, the clearer it gets.
If you are thinking about marriage; think upon it with sober seriousness. It is no lite matter.
If you are considering divorce; Ask God for help! Take joy in his loving act toward you when you were dead in your trespasses and be a gospel bearing lamp to your sin sick world and pursue that loved one who has “fallen out of love” with you. Pursue that spouse like a loving redeemer did you, relentlessly until He won you over.
If you are divorced; There is no better counsel I can give you than the lamp of Scripture. Study 1 Corinthians 7 with a lamp like a miner digging for precious metals and jewels in a dark cave. The lamp of Scripture will do its ordained work. Go to the tutor, the Holy Spirit, confirm what you think you are reading with the whole counsel of Scripture not the counsel of the wicked, the way of sinners, or the seat of the gospel scoffing world.
This is surely not an easy matter for many. Don’t be like those in Jeremiah 6:16-17 who refused to walk in the “good way” that promised rest for their souls. Don’t be like so many who will more quickly plug their ears than listen to the sound of truth.
Thus says the Lord, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ “And I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’ But they said, ‘We will not listen.’ (Jer 6:16-18 NASB)