It seems God continues to have different plans for this blog than I do. I had an idea for a post today, and it was going to continue to talk about the foundational nature of the truth “God is love” to our lives, our relationships, and our marriages.
Yet, once again, God said, “No, not yet” and then led me down another path. This time, it came in the form of a challenging set of questions from one of my readers.
It was a comment this person made in response to my post from this past Monday, entitled, “It Was Not This Way At The Beginning”. I am going to publish his comment here to ease the review process for each of you reading this post. If you haven’t read the post from Monday, I would encourage you to do so, in order to have a good frame of reference for my response to his comment.
Here is the comment made by the person posting under the name “Eloquorius”:
Praise God that He extended His grace to both of you and that your marriage was saved. This is an issue over which great minds of the church have wrestled for 2000 years.
You seem to be taking a “no divorce for Christian, ever, it’s not Godly” stance (if I read you right) when you say: “It’s not His plan for your life, no matter what you think, no matter how angry or hurt you FEEL, and no matter how justified you are by the “fornication” of your spouse, legally speaking.”
I don’t know how extensively you’ve studied the dozen of Scriptures directly and indirectly relating to divorce, so I’ll ask: What do you make of God divorcing His wife in Jer. 3:8? Care to share how divorce is never God’s will?
Also, I’m curious how you handle Ezra chapters 9-10 where God confronts His people about unlawful intermarriage with non-believers. In those chapters the repent of their unlawful unions by divorcing the wives they should not have married. In other words, they didn’t repent OF divorce, but THROUGH divorce, with severe threats to any inter-married man who would not sever his unlawful marriage. This is not to argue that Christians can or should do the same (Paul says in 1 Cor. 7 that unbelief alone is not cause to divorce) but only to demonstrate that with Scriptural proof that not only did God allow for divorce in some cases, He commanded it on a mass scale in one incident.
So clearly what I’m trying to get at is 1.) God allows divorce, 2.) God carried out a divorce, 3.) God commanded divorce on a mass scale at one point. Thus it would seem impossible to derive from Scripture that God always opposes divorce as sin. Surely God has not sinned, nor commanded it.
First of all, I’d like to thank him for his questions and comments. They truly were a blessing to me, as they encouraged and motivated me to dig deeper into the Word. They provided an opportunity I wouldn’t have taken otherwise, I don’t believe.
Secondly, I would like to reiterate what you may or may not have already read under “The Purpose” tab of this website. In paraphrase, I am not a Biblical scholar, I have not been to Seminary, I have no formal training in psychology, Christian therapy/counseling, or marriage, and I am often wrong about things, especially spiritual things. On top of that, I’m a flawed individual, still seeking maturity and growth in my walk with Christ and before God. I often find myself wanting to be right, rather than seeking truth. This is merely my flawed self rearing its ugly head, but the bottom line is that I want truth more than anything. So, I encourage people to challenge me if they feel led to do so, especially if they present their ideas humbly and in a loving manner, with Christ as our example. I feel Eloquorius did just that, so I thank him for that.
With that said, I felt compelled today to respond to his comment, mainly because I had planned to expand further on Monday’s post anyway at some point, and I figured bouncing off of his comment now was a perfect springboard.
To begin, let me make a blanket statement that I hope will be true in all I ever write on this site: I will attempt to only perpetuate a message based on the gospel of grace and forgiveness found only in Christ Jesus. That’s it. My entire purpose is to see that message furthered, primarily using the institution of marriage as a vehicle. I believe grace, love, and forgiveness is what Christ taught and lived in everything He did, and that it is our command and calling to seek these things in all of our earthly interactions with people, especially marriage.
The sole purpose of my Monday post was to share how God revealed that very thing to me by way of sharing more of my story and testimony. The message was about seeking and finding the restorative power of God in the grace, love, and forgiveness given to us through Christ’s death on the cross. It was not about divorce, and it was not about divorce being right or wrong.
I was very careful, I thought, to not state that I thought divorce was necessarily sinful, neither as a blanket statement all the time, nor in individual, isolated cases. Now, I may have given that impression unintentionally. If so, I humbly ask for forgiveness from anybody who took it that way.
Also, if you read my disclaimer at the bottom of my Monday post, I believe I clearly stated that my words were not intended as a condemnation or judgment of those who had gone through a divorce. They were intended merely to share my story and what God revealed to me for MY marriage and MY situation. I also stated in my post that my wife and I both would have been legally justified in getting divorced, due to God’s provision for “fornication” or “marital unfaithfulness” or “sexual immorality” (depending on your translation). By “justified,” I meant that had I chosen divorce, I would not have been in a state of sin because of that. I would have simply been divorced, rather than married. Legally, she and I both could have chosen that path and not been sinful in doing so, or at least that is the way I understand Christ’s words in Matthew 19.
So, let me go on the record right now, I do not think divorce is sinful, in and of itself, nor do I think or believe all people who get a divorce or have gotten a divorce have committed sin. I do believe that some divorce is sinful, and I do believe that some people who have gotten divorce have and are committing sin. With this said, I do try my best to not judge the sin life of others. I’m not always successful at remaining non-judgmental in this area. Again, this speaks to my flawed nature, my humanness. In areas that can often be gray in nature, I simply cannot know the heart of a person. I also cannot know the relationship a person has with God, nor can I know all the circumstances of anybody’s marital relationship. I simply cannot make these judgments or assessments because I cannot see into the heart of a man (or woman). I try not to play judge too often, at least not intentionally.
I can tell you this though, I know for a fact that divorce is highly, highly unfortunate from a spiritual perspective and always has reverberating repercussions in God’s Kingdom and inside the body of Christ, and I believe with all my heart that the large, large majority of divorces could be saved and restored. Not surprisingly, in the very chapter I referenced in my Monday post (Matthew 19), Christ Himself tells us, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (v 26) In addition, Scripture also tells us, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 2:18-19)
I cannot deny that we, as believers in Christ, have been given the ministry of reconciliation through our being reconciled to God through Christ. This ministry isn’t just one of bringing unbelievers to the foot of the cross. It is also in all of our earthly relationships. On top of that, we have not only been given a ministry of reconciliation, but also a message of reconciliation. It is this message that I am attempting to bring to this site. At the same time as seeking to serve this ministry of reconciliation, we also know that with God all things are possible. In regards to marriage and divorce, I cannot take this any other way than to believe that no matter how broken a marital relationship may seem, God can reconcile it through our ministry of reconciliation, using Christ’s sacrifice, grace, love, and forgiveness as examples. My marital relationship seemed broken beyond repair. God saw otherwise, thankfully!
The message in this and what my Monday post was really all about was Christ and what He did for us. The message isn’t, “Get a divorce and you will be wrong.” No, I don’t and never will preach a message of fire and brimstone. I will forever, I hope and pray, teach a message of love, grace, forgiveness, mercy, and hope. And, why? How? Through Christ only.
Please notice in my Monday post, I clearly, clearly stated that the reconciliation and restoration my wife and I experienced was God-given. Any power or ability I had to forgive her and extend her grace was God-given. The “Sean” in me wanted to run, wanted to lash out, wanted to be angry, wanted to do anything else but seek restoration. My choice to stop our divorce wasn’t really a “Sean-led” desire. It was simply obedience to what I believe God revealed to me in that situation.
And, you know what? I believe that same calling is sitting out there being spoken to people all over the world, and most aren’t hearing it because their HEARTS ARE HARD!
Yes, divorce is permissible, thus not sinful, in a lot of cases. I have no problem admitting this, but like Paul said to the church in Corinth, “‘Everything is permissible’—but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible’—but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.” (1 Corinthians 10:23-24)
So, I don’t really have a problem admitting and agreeing that some divorces are completely justifiable by the law, and as such, would not fall under the category of “sin.” What I do have a problem with though how quickly we, as a culture (including inside the Kingdom), seem to see divorce as an escape hatch to a tough situation. We have a ministry of reconciliation, not a ministry of separation, division, and divorce.
Does this mean I believe all people who have gotten divorced haven’t put forth an extreme effort to save their marriage? No, of course not, but I do know that some people, a lot of people in fact, see a little trouble that either they have caused or their spouse has caused, and they head for the hills, running as fast as they can, all under the umbrella and protection found in Mosaic law. It saddens me, and in a non-judgmental way, it sickens me. It sickens me because I have witnessed and experienced the restorative power of God first-hand, and I want so badly for them to experience it too.
This ministry and message has been given to us by God through Christ and His death on the cross. This should be a burden we all feel in all relationships we have on this earth, regardless of importance. It doesn’t matter if it’s a relationship as intimate as a marriage or one as important as with a family member or one as small and distant as a brief relationship with a cashier at the grocery store. We are called to carry out this ministry of reconciliation with people all over the world, in all situations, big or small. It’s something we live with daily, or should.
And, yes, I think this speaks directly to the institution of marriage. I understand completely the impact of the Mosaic provision for divorce, and I understand completely that Christ is confirming that with His words in Matthew 19, but in my mind, the one little phrase “except for marital unfaithfulness” does not and could not ever trump the rest of the passage. Nor could that one phrase ever overshadow the entire message Christ taught and lived during His time here on earth. He taught mercy, grace, love, and forgiveness in all He did. Everything. You see those things embodied in Christ in all situations and circumstances. It’s rather beautiful really.
My message is not about divorce, Eloquorius. It’s about restoration. It’s about reconciliation. It’s about mercy, love, grace, and forgiveness. And, it’s about finding all of these things in God through Christ. It’s not even about staying married for the sake of staying married. It’s about beginning anew in Christ in your marriage upon true restoration by God.
Yes, we have all fallen short of the glory of God, and I admit completely and honestly right now that I’ve been a big ole screw-up plenty of times in my marriage, especially since my wife and I reconciled. Sometimes it seems I do more of that than anything. But, you know what, even in all my screw-ups, my heart has never left God, and I have never once since then thought I made a mistake by following God’s message to me to not get a divorce.
As for the passages in Ezra and Jeremiah, I must admit I was mostly unfamiliar with them. I had read them in the past, but I had to read them again to remember even what they were about.
In a sincere attempt to not sound flippant or dismissive to Old Covenant tenets, I will say this: I believe the wording in Jeremiah 3:8 is totally and completely symbolic in nature. To me it is speaking to God’s having selected Israel as His chosen people, their subsequent disobedience and unbelief, and the resulting discipline at His hand. Also, I haven’t done enough study of the original text to know what the Greek and/or Hebrew state, but I strongly suspect the word “divorce” that is used in the NIV is merely translational in nature. I don’t suspect the original text uses the same word that would equate to what we know of as divorce today. I may be wrong about this, and I don’t plan to do the study necessary to know for sure, but that’s my suspicion. I would also say that it speaks to the spiritual divorce we have from God until united with Him through His Son. Again though, this is symbolic in nature, and I don’t believe it speaks directly to marital divorce as we know it in today’s times.
As for the chapters in Ezra that you referenced, I’m not really sure what to say except that I believe this was an isolated case in which God chose to discipline an entire nation for willful disobedience. I liken this story to that of the flood or that of Sodom and Gomorrah. God chose to wipe out entire bodies of people, en masse, due to their direct disobedience to His commands and decrees. Basically, He killed. Does this mean that our killing people would be justified? Not only that, but all three of these historic events fell outside the New Covenant confirmed by Christ. Simply put, they are just different.
Also, I would say that someone using the passages in Ezra to say God is okay with divorce is very loosely (too loosely for my tastes) picking and choosing Scripture to justify something they want to do. I’m not really sure how we, in the New Covenant, can take the story of a group of people inter-marrying, especially under the Old Covenant, and being commanded, collectively, to put away their wives and correlate that to our marriages in Christ. I just don’t see it. Maybe I’m being blinded by arrogance or by what I experienced ten years ago. I leave the door open to that possibility, and I invite God to reveal the truth to me about these passages. I truly invite Him to do so, but I just don’t see how the message Christ taught every single day of His ministry doesn’t override anything that we see in Ezra.
We, Eloquorius, are in Christ. (Actually, I have no idea what your spiritual background is, but this website is designed for believers, speaking to believers, so if you aren’t, then I apologize for writing as if you are.) We have the Holy Spirit in us, unlike the crazies in the book of Ezra. We have God in us through the Spirit. We have been saved by the grace of Christ. We have been forgiven. We have been loved by Christ in such a way that we as husbands and wives are called to love and serve each other as Christ loved us.
Our relationship with Christ is our example for marriage. Christ loved the church and showed us this love by sacrificing all He had—His deity while here on earth, His place in heaven, His position at the right hand of God, etc.—for us. Yes, He re-obtained all of that in His ascension, but that type of sacrifice and submission and love is what we are called to do here on earth, especially in our marriages. We are called to love our spouses as Christ loved the church, as He loved us.
Marriage is, in fact, the only earthly relationship in which our spiritual relationship with Christ is used as a comparison. This means something. This is significant. And, it goes so far beyond simply being justified legally by Mosaic law, which was provided because of the HARD nature of our hearts.
That’s what’s so amazing about this provision. It was provided by Moses because of us and our flawed nature. It wasn’t provided by God because that’s what He desired for us. No, it was provided because He knew how weak we were. I interpret that, loosely I admit, to mean that God knew how most people wouldn’t fight the fight to extend true grace to a spouse who had harmed them by way of “fornication.” This is fascinating to me, and honestly, it’s downright scary.
I don’t like the idea that God knew I’d be so weak-minded and weak in my walk with Christ that He allowed for a provision to go against His original plan. Some might actually like this idea because it gives them a license to go against the struggle of seeking God for the power to forgive. Personally, I don’t because it’s a rather indicting statement on my true nature.
I think I’m getting a little off-track here, so I will wrap this post/response up.
Eloquorius, I again thank you for your comments and questions. I appreciate your approach, and I hope my response was even half as loving and humble as your original comment. If not, I apologize.
In summary, please just know that the motivation behind my entire message and purpose for this site is perpetuating the gospel of grace, love, and forgiveness. At the same time, I try my hardest to resist the evil temptation to judge the hearts of others. In the area of marriage/divorce, there is no way possible for me to know whether any divorce was sinful. I suspect some are and some aren’t. I’ll leave it at that.
Lastly, I will say again that the entire purpose of my Monday post was to hopefully make people who were possibly in the process of divorce, thinking about divorce, or felt there was no hope in their marriage realize that there is always hope. With God, all things are possible. I was literally less than 48 hours from behind divorced, so I know, with zero doubt, the restorative power God can give you. My statement wasn’t about divorce but about the ministry of reconciliation we are called to have with the world, and specifically our spouses. If one marriage can be saved because of God’s revelation through my words, then perfect, I’ve accomplished part of my goal, which is merely to reach people for Christ!
I hope all this makes sense and is received in the manner in which it was intended.
Eloquorius, thank you, and God bless!