Thursday, October 23, 2008

Marriage FAQs

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!


Anonymous said...

Last Sunday morning my family and I sat in the back row during third service. The music started and three young ladies filed in and sat with us. I noticed that they weren’t too excited to make eye contact or return our greeting – no big deal.

I sat closest to them and also noted that they were extremely fidgety and somewhat disruptive – at least in our close proximity. They laughed, rolled their eyes, and scoffed at almost every point you made. When you expounded on the truth that Marriage is given by God as a crucible for life-transformation, you said that our partners are used like a giant chisel in the hand of God to transform our lives. Then you said something like, “look at your partner and say...” – at that point two of the young ladies stared at one another (making it obvious that they were partners). All three of them laughed.

Without a doubt they were with a group that was distributing ‘vote no on prop 8’ flyers on windshields that morning. Did you get one?

I prayed for them during the service and desired to talk with them after. However, they left before the service ended. But they did hear the entire sermon! I wonder why they THOUGHT they were there?

My family and I thank God for your faithfulness in bringing the full counsel of God – even when it’s not easy. It was obvious these young ladies were offended. But they were offended at the message, not the messenger. As always, you delivered the hard truths of God with compassion and pleading. Keep it up brother!

May King Jesus receive all the honor, glory, and praise through the seeds that was sown.


Anonymous said...

I really apriciated what you had to say this Sunday, I think the only thing I might take issue with from your blog post is how to protect a victim of abuse from their spouse. In a "no fault" state like California legal separation is only an option if both parties agree and if the abuser doesn't the only way to protect children and the finances of a victim spouse would be divorce with the understanding that their should still be an effort to reconcile should the abuser repent. Which brings up the question - is it ever o.k. to remarry after a divorce?

Tim Weaver said...

Some additional thoughts on polygamy:

1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:6 state that church leaders must be the husband of ONE wife. To me that makes it clear that this is what God wants for his kids.

Also, God didn't make wives for Adam, he made one. Christ has a bride, not brides.

Tim said...


I'm a pastor and not that familiar with the ins and outs of the legal system. If there is, in the end, no way to protect assets and children, then perhaps your idea of a "provisional" divorce is the only recourse.

My own experience tells me that folks sometimes use "abuse" as an excuse for a quick divorce. I am trying to suggest as alternative midpoint strategic and short-term separation . . . . a Gospel-centered approach that still seeks to honor the marriage covenant.

On the issue of divorce and remarriage, I preached on this topic back in the Matthew series (chapter 5). I have a pretty open view on this matter. If repentance and attempts at reconciliation have taken place, I feel that divorced parties are free to remarry. I believe that this is an area where God's grace and forgiveness covers the multitude of our past sins. I know there there different viewpoints on this issue, but that's where I stand today.

On the front end, we want to fight for struggling marriages to do everything we can to avoid the ravages of divorce. When divorce happens, we want to strive to bring both divorced parties to the point of repentance and reconciliation. Where possible we want to seek restoration of marriages even after divorce. Where not possible because one party has remarried, we want to bless divorced folks if they so desire to enter in to the covenant of marriage, hopefully this time for a lifetime.

Again check out that Matthew 5 message on the website.

Pastor Tim