I’d like to tell you a conversation my wife had recently with a pastor. The pastor asked my wife when they bumped into each other in passing, “How are your parents doing?”
“Well, you know, they’re going through a divorce.”
“Oh, yeah, yeah I know,” the reply shot back. “But is everything taken care of?”
“Not really…” my wife continued.
The pastor was gone.
My wife was floored by the lack of compassion toward everything she was going through, but perhaps more so by the callousness toward divorce, as though it were merely a hurdle to jump through for two lives to move on.
She later remarked to a friend when mulling over the situation that she couldn’t think of a single message she’d ever heard in church on divorce. Plenty on marriage. None on divorce. The friend, who grew up in the church, was silent in response.
And it hit me hard enough that I felt I should tell you.
Because, you see, now that I think about it I can’t remember one sermon I’ve heard on divorce either. Is it possible we’ve grown so accustomed to it in the church that we skip over that little hiccup in the Word? That it’s so prevalent in society that we simply avoid it not to risk offending half the congregation?
Now, I don’t believe you would ever respond to someone like my wife so callously experienced. But I’m writing to you because when I think about it in our current society, I believe there’s a distinct possibility you might be tempted to the more dangerous extreme of remaining silent on the matter. And I want to encourage you to please teach on divorce.
We as a church desperately need it. Oh, by the way, did I forget to mention one detail? My wife, whose parents are in the middle of a divorce, is a pastor’s kid.
God, we need teaching on divorce.
Because all I ever hear anywhere are excuses on the subject*. “We’ve grown apart.”
Rationalizations. “It’ll be better off for both of us if we’re not together.”
Deflections. “She never could give up control.” “He won’t change.”
(*I am not implying these statements are from my wife’s situation, but common ones I’ve heard.)
Sadly, even enabling and passivity from those in ministry. “Is everything taken of?”
Is everything taken care of? Yes, my life is in shambles, I question my own husband in the emotional moments, the entire world I grew up loving and the family that made me feel safe and loved, including the ministry and faithful friends with whom I hoped to develop life-long relationships, is being brutally shaken and falling apart. But yes, care is being taken. Great care. With everything.
Or maybe it isn’t.
With all the excuses, rationalizations, deflections, enabling, and passivity, the one thing I haven’t heard is gut-wrenching, God-fearing truth.
So will you please tell the church what God says about divorce? Because you are the ones who need to care, if anyone. You’re the ones who God entrusted to take care of everything, and please God, if you don’t, who will?
God hates divorce.
And he makes all things new.
But he only does it in our lives with the things that are given to him in faith. It takes an inkling of us saying “okay, God” to his “I AM THAT I AM” when we ask for his healing and favor. He can do ALL THINGS, and we can go through ALL THINGS through Christ who gives us strength, even the bitterness of having to accept and forgive a person who’s done ALL THINGS wrong to us. And it starts with believing that it can be made new again. Because it can.
God was cheated on by a wife who lusted after dongs the size of horses, for gosh sakes, and he took her back anyway. Oh, and she is me and you, by the way. Pastors, small group leaders, worship leaders, men who show up and lead their families, guys who sit in pews and then blog to the world, and pastor’s kids whose whole worlds have been turned upside down in a moment.
God made it work with that crap. Us. And he actually made it beautiful. In fact, screw that, he made it pure and spotless. A pure and spotless Bride like a pure and spotless Lamb that was slain, but has begun his reign.
My Jesus, the one of the gut-wrenching, God-fearing truth — the Bible — has begun his reign. Since Sunday, if I recall exactly.
And that means each of our marriages can too. My biblical exegesis is a little hazy on this; perhaps one of you can refresh me. But when Christ gave us authority to be sons and daughters of God he gave us authority over death and sin, and that means what is killing and poisoning our marriages.
God brought a dead man to life. I know he can bring a dead marriage back.
All it takes is “okay, God.” No, not all. It takes more.
It takes someone to tell them.
To tell them the reason he says,
Behold I make all things new. (Revelation 21.5)
It’s because he will be working ’til the Day of his return to restore that marriage, because *ahem* my theology working overtime here — it was the sex act that covenanted the marriage between two people and no piece of paper can break it. In heaven’s eyes, only a sex act can start or break a marriage.
A covenant act.
A covenant that represents the marriage of Christ to his Bride, God to us frail humans, healing to brokeness, becoming perfect together. That means any covenant with two people who are willing to come together can become perfect with him in the middle.
And it means there is no breaking it without fury. Righteous anger. And blatant disobedience. Not “irreconcilable differences,” but blatant disobedience. Which in itself is a form of hatred toward the Father and his Son Jesus.
Will you tell them? That it’s a choice. Will you tell them the truth?
Because someone needs to. And no one listens to a poor pastor’s kid with a broken heart anymore or a guy who writes about her loss on the internet. They just brusquely respond and move on. A lot of people have problems in this world kid. Yours may work out. Now, if you’ll excuse me…
Well, they won’t work out, for this girl or any other, until someone gets up in front of them and lovingly for those who’ve already chosen the wrong path and can’t turn around (remarriage), and harshly for those who are in the middle of willfully walking down it, and exhortingly for those who still have a chance to go back and honor God and make all things new, tells them the truth about divorce.
‘Cause so few know the truth. That God says the ONLY biblical reason for divorce is infidelity.
And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” (Matthew 19.9)
Will you tell them? When I’ve heard so many Christians, even pastors, refer to “emotional abandonment” as a biblical rationale for divorce, and it is NOT in the Bible, nor is there even a verse it could be based on?
“Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” Jesus answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and the two shall become one flesh?” (Matthew 19.3-4)
Will you tell them? Will you fight for marriages in the church? Will you protect us with the life-saving, active, powerful sword of the Word of God? So we can be healed?
Because my strength is all spent here holding and encouraging a former pastor’s kid who needs to believe things will be alright with the world. That things will be alright with the church. In a situation that makes it really hard to see that. And it won’t be alright unless you tell them.
But Christ will make it alright — that my pastor and church leader friends — that is the truth. Christ overcame. And we, his Bride, the saints — his beauty — “overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony.”
But how can we overcome by the word of our testimony if we don’t know it? If we know nothing other than “things are better off this way”? How can we overcome by the word of our testimony, my pastor friends, if we can’t quite remember what it is? And if you don’t tell us?
How can the word change us if you don’t make it as real a part of our story as the pain will be if we deny it?
Make it a shining testimony of God’s glory forever. Right up there with his blood.
My pastor and church leader friends, don’t be afraid of what will happen if you tell the hard truth to the church. Never be afraid of what happens if you tell people, in love yet with authority and reverence, the Word of God.
‘Cause all they can do at that point is hate God or follow him.
But be deathly afraid of what will happen if you do not. If they don’t know what to follow. That is something to fear.
“For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.” (Malachi 2.16)
Because the thing that I don’t see in this matter of divorce is fear. Fear of God. We should fear and love him so much we cannot think of disobeying him. Do we as a church?
Do you fear him enough to preach it? We need to hear it, pastors. The wife in my arms, who is starting to slowly fall in love with the church again, who is starting to listen to preachers on TV again, and who looks to our marriage now for what she doesn’t see elsewhere, she needs to hear it.
And I do.
Thank you for listening to God, far more than my poor power to add or detract from it. And thank you for telling us what you hear when we enter through your doors.
The world is waiting for the truth. But please don’t forget the church is too.
Proudly one of your kids,