Thursday, October 11, 2012

Divorce and Grace

Tonight I'm teaching the teenagers at Shepherd's Staff again.  And I'm teaching them solo again.  But I think the topic is good.

The text is Mark 10:1-12, Jesus's teaching on divorce.

To treat this topic, I consulted my ethics textbook, written by John Frame.  He emphasizes that although God hates divorce, he allows it because of "hardness of heart."  In this sinful world, some people will get married and will prevent each other from truly having peace until they divorce.  Like war and capital punishment, divorce is a messy consequence of living in a sinful world.  However, Frame notes that divorce always represents a failure to achieve God's ideal.  It is never something to celebrate.

In Jesus's time, the Pharisees thought that since God allowed divorce, that they could divorce their wives for anything, even if they just burnt their dinner last night.  Jesus had to drill them about divorce being such a serious matter.  Marriage unites a man and woman to one flesh.  If they divorce, then that one flesh is severed and will not heal.  Therefore, if a man divorces his wife, and either of them remarry, they become one flesh with their later spouses while they are still one flesh with their original spouses.  This causes four people to commit adultery. 

So, I know people who are divorced.  I know people who are remarried.  I know situations like that with children involved, and it is not pretty.  Are they currently in sin, or can this be mitigated somehow? 

In Matthew 5:32, Jesus declares that only adultery is grounds for divorce.  If a man has an affair, or if a woman has an affair, then the victim spouse has legitimate grounds to divorce.  They do not have to divorce, but they are allowed.  However, in Matthew 5:27-30, Jesus uses the word porneia when referring to sexual sin.  This not only includes adultery, but also fornication, pornography, and anything that a person can do alone.  Since those are substitutes for normal marital sex, they do are adultery.  Yes, even if it's fornication and neither of you are married.  It's adultery if you are only engaged and not completely married.

So, whether intercourse is involved or not, pretty much everyone except Jesus has committed adultery even if just in the mind.  Even if they have not, everyone has committed some sin, so yes, you are sinners and need God's grace.

Paul introduces other issues concerning divorce in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16.  What if two unbelievers get married and one comes to know Jesus and the other doesn't?  Should they divorce?  Paul says that the believing spouse should not initiate divorce.  If they can live together and are willing to stay married, then they should stay married.  This also applies if two believers marry, and then one stops going to church.  The only thing you should not do is intentionally marry someone that you know does not go to church.  Not even if he's a theist who reads the Bible.  He has to go to church.

In reality sometimes, people will have affairs, and some spouse will be the victim of divorce against his or her will.  Frame says, "The deserted spouse is the passive victim of the unrighteous termination of marriage."  Should that person suffer the rest of her life and never remarry because her husband left and refused to reconcile?  No.  That person should legally file for divorce so that she can remarry and move on with life.  So desertion and abandonment are also biblical grounds for divorce.

So the question is, how do you prevent divorce?  You do so before you marry.  Makes sure that person is a believer who goes to Church.  There is no salvation outside the visible Church body.

If there is something that bothers you about the other person, consider if it is something you can live with.  Marriage will actually make that worse.  Does he poke you or tease you?  It may be funny now, but later, it could turn to abuse.

Do not have sex before you are married.  Especially, do not live together before marriage.  When you finally get married, it will ruin your sex life because you did not follow God's command.

Also, realize that Mr. or Ms. Right does not exist, only someone you can live with, warts and all. 

Make sure you have a good friendship.  Get to know each other, likes, dislikes, favorite things, music, etc.  That will last.  A romantic attraction will come and go, but a friendship will last.

Also, do not jump into a situation without seriously thinking it through and receiving counseling.  This is the rest of your life we're talking about.  Even if you really have found the one, discuss differences and quirks and how you will live with them and discuss them in peace.

And also remember that you are worse than you think, but God's grace is greater than you can imagine.

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