One pastor I'm familiar with does a brief Q & A session after every message he preaches. I love that idea and would be willing to give it a go, if we had the time on a Sunday morning. In fact, I'm thinking about trying it just after the 11:00 AM hour. I would love the opportunity to interact with folks immediately after they've heard the message.
I think it's awesome when questions arise. It means folks are interactively listening. It means folks are thinking enough to have questions arise in their hearts. I want nothing more than this!
Until we try it, I'll continue to use email, growth groups and here at life together to address questions. . . . .
Here's a crack at some questions that have bubbled up in response to last week's message, "The Gospel & Your Marriage, Part 1":
1. What about polygamy? If marriage is between one man and one woman is so important, then why isn't there a clear prohibition of polygamy in the Scriptures?
Answer: I have wondered this myself and I don't know the answer. What I do know is this: every time we see polygamy in the Bible it's a disaster. 4 examples come immediately to mind: Abraham with Sarah and Hagar, Jacob with Rachel and Leah, Elkanah with Penninah and Hannah, and Solomon with his abundance of wives who lead his heart away from the Lord.
I wish that God would have said more explicitly, "only one wife," but for some reason he did not. However both Genesis 2 and Ephesians 5 make clear that God's intentional design is one man and one woman. It's not 3 or 4 or 5 that become one flesh, but 2. The mysterious "one flesh union" conceptually limits marriage between one man and one woman, effectively excluding polygamy.
It's the best I can do on that one. . .
2. What about unsafe or abusive marriage situations? When you talk about "glorifying God by staying in a miserable marriage" are you suggesting that wives stay in abusive or unsafe marriages?
Answer: No, I'm not. Clearly, abusive or unsafe marriages constitute unique circumstances. The best thing a wife can do in such situations is physically remove herself and her children from that abusive or unsafe setting. But that doesn't mean immediately file for divorce. I believe a Gospel-centered approach allows for separation in some circumstances but also leaves room and time for God to work. Stay committed to the marriage, wait, trust the Lord, but don't put yourself in harm's way.
When I speak of a "miserable marriage," I am speaking of the great many marriages that one spouse or both spouses would describe as miserable, but not abusive or unsafe. When we stay in an unhappy marriage, we affirm the truth that marriage is bigger than us. Our perseverance demonstrates a trust in God and it reflects the Gospel where God perseveres for the sake of unfaithful sinners.
3. What about single parent families? You said that both moms and dads are needed to give kids what they need, but what about single parent families?
Answer: As I stated, I believe the Bible teaches that God gives marriage to give kids what they need. This is his design and intention through marriage. Obviously, we are living in a broken world where such is not always the case. In single parent families, I believe that God comes along in a special way and fills in some of those gaps created by an absent parent. That's what all those orphan and widow passages, like Psalm 68, are telling us. I believe the church has a BIG role to play in helping to fill those gaps.
I want to say both: Marriage is God's normal, intended way of meeting the needs of children AND when a parent is missing, God will meet the needs created by the missing parent in other ways and often through the church.
I don't want to back away from the bible's teaching on marriage just because there are single parent families in our church. We want to be straightforward about what the Bible teaches about marriage and, at the same time, over the top in our care and concern for single parents and their kids. In some cases, we are doing a good job of this and in some ways you may not be aware of. In many cases, we can do a much better job of meeting the needs of single parent families.
4. What about singles? If marriage is a "crucible for life transformation", how does God transform the life of singles?
Answer: My pastoral experience tells me that singleness is a gift. It's a gift given to glorify God. Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 7 that a single person is unencumbered by the responsibilities of marriage and family and, therefore, more free to serve the Lord. Most, but not all, singles that I have the opportunity to interact with often speak of an ongoing desire to get married. If God removes the desire to get married, that's a gift. My experience tells me that God is able to give persevering grace even when that desire to get married is never removed.
I tried to state my conviction in the message: For those whom God calls to marriage, marriage becomes a crucible for life transformation (sanctification). For those he does not call to marriage, God is going to get it done another way. . . even through the struggle of that singleness and the abiding desire to get married.
It doesn't matter: both being married and being single afford us many and ongoing opportunities to trust the Lord and to change. As John Piper might say, "Don't waste your singleness. Don't waste your marriage." God wants to use both.
How about your questions? If you listened, post a comment and fire off a question. If you haven't listened, but have some questions about this topic, listen first, then ask your questions. I'm committed to tackling questions on this important topic!