Monday, February 27, 2006

what God has joined together

Yesterday we looked at Matthew 19:1-12 together. . . one of the BIG marriage/divorce passages in the Scriptures. (Audio Posted Here!)

Those tough texts just keep coming. Jesus definitely rachets it up here in the second half of Matthew. I've received many encouraging emails on this Monday morning. It's evident that people are hungry to hear God's Word.

But I feel tension in a message like yesterday's for these reasons:

  • because of the wide spectrum of folks present on a Sunday morning. . . married, single, divorced, bereaved, young, etc. It's a continual challenge to speak to such a broad audience.
  • because of the breadth and depth of the subject. It's impossible to teach exhaustively on this topic in 40 minutes (I'm shooting for 35!). Yet, we're trying to get through Matthew! I can't do mini-series on every topic that comes up. It's simply impossible to address every scenario.
  • because of my desire to be true to the Biblical text and rightly divide it, yet at the same time be pastoral, gentle and apply the grace of the Gospel to hurting people and hard-hearted people.

Anyway, all of this is part of my "back-end" experience. The Lord knows!

I received one email that asked a question that I knew would be asked and that I wish I would've had time to address in the message. Here's a snippet...

Hi Pastor Tim,

I've really been enjoying the Matthew Series, even if it has been going my entire college career! :o) I just had a few questions about the sermon on marriage and divorce. Does the bible say anything about physical abuse, or what are your opinions? Is it biblical for a woman who is being physically abused, to divorce her husband? I have an aunt who is kind of using this argument to stay in the relationship. I was just wondering about your thoughts on it. Great sermon, even for us youngens!

And my response...
The case of physical abuse is such a sad situation. A woman should not stay in a setting where she is being physically abused or is in harm's way. However, she need not rush to divorce either. My counsel to a woman in that situation would be to separate from her husband until he sought professional help for his physical aggression and repented for his sin toward the Lord and toward her. This may push him to divorce her. If so, based on I Corinthians 7:15, then she is free. On the other hand, this may be part of what God uses to soften his heart toward her. Along the way, the woman should keep her own heart soft toward the Lord and toward her husband. Its possible that this situation might persist for years, in which case I would encourage a legal separation, so that the abused wife is financially protected and can go about the other dimensions of her life.

I know a woman in our church who has taken just such an approach and the Lord used it in a mighty way to bring reconciliation and healing to her marriage. I think this approach has application in a wide variety of other situations as well.

I hope that's helpful. I don't have it all figured out, but I think this approach is in line with and a good application of the Scriptures.
This is real life. We want to be true to the Scriptures and wise in our application of them. It's hardly ever easy. Hope this is helpful for others dealing with similar situations.

Any thoughts?


Jeannett Gibson said...

It WAS a tough subject, but I commend you for taking it head on, and dealing with the entirety of the Bible. So many churches try to side step the "tough stuff" and not wanting to offend, they pretend like it doesn't exist, or at the very least, tell their parishoners to go look it up somewhere else. Our society is so concerned with tolerance and being sensitive to a fault. Sometimes the truth hurts, but ultimately, "the truth will set you free" (pardon the cliche).

I especially applaud your prayer asking God to put you aside, and just use His words to speak using you as a tool. Too many times, personal agendas get mixed up in the "interpretation" of the Gospel. It is times like these that only strenghten my commitment to make Grace my church family and drive the 30 miles from Santa Maria!

In reference to the physical abuse, my father is/was abusive to at least his first two wives (haven't met the third, so don't know how that's going), and as an observer of these relationships, it's a very strange dynamic on both sides. While no woman truly wants to be abused, there's a certain "thing" that keeps her there...and it's a dysfunctional thing...not just a softness of heart you were describing. Can't put my finger on a word for it (especially while trying to not open a can of worms on the blog), but there's something that almost facilitates his behavior. In either case, it's not the marriage relationship that is REALLY being served, but some other personal reasons altogether. Sad. I will pray extra hard this week for those women in our community that may be experiencing this type of abuse...

Tim Weaver said...

Abuse (spousal and child) is a topic that we touched on a bit in our growth group. I think that you present a good logical Biblical approach. It puts the burden on the one in the wrong to take steps to make things right and have reconciliation if they are willing to let the Lord address and work through the issues in their life. I have heard other people saying that in this type of case the husband is not and has not shown that he wants to act as a Christian so you treat him like a non-believer and divorce on grounds that he is not a believer, but I don't think that the Word supports that as a valid reason for divorce. 1 Cor 7 says to not leave the non-believing spouse.

I appreciated the strong stance in the preaching (as it is in the Word). Divorce is only a last resort and only for a couple of situations. It is not the plan and it is always a result of at least one heart that is not willing to be softened toward the Lord and their spouse. The way I think about it is, if God is in Christ reconciling the world to Himself and we are part of those being reconciled to Him then issues should be able to be worked through. Not saying it might not take a lot of work, time, humility, pain, and help from others, but is there anything that is too hard for the Lord?

Josh Mock said...

Very well put. I'm sorry that I missed hearing the sermon yesterday.

It's unfortunate to think that a lot of divorce happens because, well, there's a lot of divorce. It's so commonplace now that I think couples resort to it far too quickly because they know it's an option. It's a snowball effect that has all but brainwashed us into thinking that it's what you're supposed to do when anything goes wrong in a marriage.

Joe Pollon said...

It is my experience that too many people, even the religious, enter into relationships and marriage with dangerous ideas and in unwise ways. Popular culture teaches us to ask, “What is in this for me?” And when the answer reaches the “not enough” threshold, the obvious solution is divorce. I believe the Bible teaches us to look at our lives and ask, “Am I doing all I can in fulfilling my obligations?”

If we spend much more time teaching our young (and not-so-young) people that the ecstatic promise of marriage is reached only when BOTH spouses are prepared to give all of themselves for the other, maybe before the decision to marry they will ask, “Am I willing to fulfill my obligations for this person?” and just as importantly, “Has this person DEMONSTRATED a willingness to do the same for me?”

In the abuse situation, this may sound like blaming the victim. I don’t mean to. Sometimes people change in unexpected and unpredictable ways. However, I would speculate that most abusers show signs early in the relationship. We need to teach young people how to recognize the signs and not disregard them. G-d gave everyone the ability of discernment, I am sure he wants us to use it carefully in our marriage decision.

GT said...

Did a search on marriage reconciliation. Mine is an unusual story of God's grace and mercy. Was married to a man studying to be a pastor. He was what could be defined as abusive and neglectful and told me if I wanted to leave, just leave! So I did,with a 20 month old daughter and 1 week old son. I saw no remorse from him and very little attempt to reconcile and soon divorced him. 16 years went by. I grew more angry and more hardened in my heart toward God, my ex-husband and everyone. Developed huge physical problems from the anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, etc. Eventually had to go in-patient to a detox facility because of medications that doctors had prescribed for me that became addictive. Through the process of all the humiliation, God taught me that I am nothing, that I had no right to be unforgiving, resentful, bitter, etc. The big thing was that God started softening my heart towards my ex-husband. All these years (16) my ex stayed in the area, didn't remarry and neither did I. Finally, I realized that God had given me the gift of the ability to forgive my ex. WOW! What a peace. So now I was scared that I wouldn't do what God wanted me to do. Started reading I Corinthians 7. ...If a wife leave her husband, let her be reconciled, or else remain unmarried... I had read that passage all my life, but God had it jump at me! Make a long story short, I remarried my ex two years ago. God is good. Is everything wonderful now? We grieve for the years wasted. Our children (now 18 and 20) are very bitter-they have taken on the bitterness I manifested all these years. I wonder if we could be of help to anyone struggling with their marriage? Sometimes we feel that we were such a failure, why would anyone listen to us. But we have a burden. As one person put it, so many people are divorcing and it is so easy to divorce Appreciate feedback.

Joe Pollon said...

“Therefore what G-d has joined together, let man not separate.”

I listened to Sunday’s message and the focus seemed to be on the latter half of this sentence and the limitations on divorce. (I know that you were time limited and divorce was the topic raised by the Pharisees.) However, is Jesus saying that ALL marriages are creations of G-d? If so, does this not leave a battered spouse saying that G-d is responsible for putting me here and He won’t let me leave?

Though I couldn’t cite the verses, I am sure there are biblical conditions under which to enter a marriage. If one didn’t marry under these, is the couple joined by G-d?

Suzette Lyons said...

I Chorinthians 7:12-18 discusses marriage and divorce in the case where one spouse is an unbeliever. In verse 17 and 18 Paul addresses the fact that the Chorintians were very likely not beleivers when they married. Paul says basically that they should remain in the place in life that God assigned them at the time God called them. God recognized the Chorinthians marriages (without conditions) as His will for them. I think he does the same for marriages in our society.

Marriage is a covenant before God. The two become one flesh when they consumate their union wether the ceremony was held in a church or at the court house. If they have children there is a physical representation of this union. God holds the covenant created in marriage - the one flesh relationship as very sacred.

Before we come to Christ (and even after) we can make all kinds of poor decisions. God will use our poor decisions, others sin and all of our circumstances to accomplish His will in our lives. We can not blame God for our or other peoples wrong actions. In every circumstance I think we need to ask ourselves how our wrong decisions (sin) may have contributed to our terrible situation and take responsibility for them (repent and turn to God). Also if there are things we can do to make the situation better and obey God we need to explore all of those opptions and not just give up. Seperating is allowed and Tim gave a great example of how that could bring a God honoring resolution to a terrible situation.

Brian Wong said...

Nice job, Pastor Tim. I have a feeling this sermon won't be applicable to me for at least a few years, but it was good to hear you address the issue on Sunday.

I think Joe makes a good point about God joining two people together. However, I'm not sure that it's possible to cite specific instances or biblical conditions for marriage. Honestly, such things are pretty cultural. My Christianity professor brought up the point that it is only within recent (how recent, I'm not sure) history that people have begun to marry out of love/like for a person. Historically speaking, marriage was more of a financial/economic decision than a romantic one. This is especially evident in the Old Testament with the Patriarchs. The men might have had the opportunity to choose, but Genesis does not seem to give any indication that the women had any say in whom they married.

Tim Weaver said...

Brian, I disagree that this doesn't apply to you. This sermon is very applicable to those who are yet to marry. It shows the gravity of marriage. If your mind set is 'divorce is not an option' before you are going into dating/courting it should change the way that you date. It should make you very purposeful in choosing their mate. Before you are even dating you should spend the time to think about the qualities that your spouse needs to have in order to be your compliment. You can eliminate a ton of possibilities (and heart aches) before you event start dating by just thinking about these things. While you are spending time with that potential someone, make sure you do all that you can to know everything (being reasonable) about them. One of love's great desires is to know and be known more intimately. What do they think about kids, child rearing, how the home runs, time with extended family, spending/saving/giving money, time in the Word, devotions, prayer, service/ministry aspirations inside and outside the church? Talk to their friends. Talk with pastors and people that they are serving the Lord with. Ask hard questions. Watch how they treat other people. That may reflect how you will be treated on a bad day. Josh Harris' book 'Boy Meets Girl' has a lot of good thoughts on this.

Joe is right. If we do our homework before marriage we can eliminate a lot of the hurdles that we put in our own way in marriage. I also think that Tim was Biblically accurate when he said that divorce is always a result of hardness of heart on at least one person's part. Thanks for being bold and saying it.

gt, thanks for sharing your life with us. Take heart in the fact that the same God that taught your heart to forgive can teach your children, too.