Sunday, November 02, 2014

Why we're losing...

...and will continue to lose until something radically changes.
Recently, Ellen and I were at a support group we attend, and were glad to see a member we hadn't seen for a couple of years. However, we were surprised to see him with a woman we didn't know, who he introduced as his bride. The last time he'd attended the group, it had been with his wife – who was another woman. We'd both had some hints that something had changed in their relationship, but were not expecting to see him show up claiming a different woman as his wife.
To make things worse, this support group is based out of a Christian church.
Even worse, the group's purpose is to support and strengthen Christian marriage.
Even worse, the man in question was a pastor.
Think about this for a minute.
Even knowing nothing about the circumstances behind the couple's separation (which we don't), having no idea whose “fault” things were (even if that made any difference), we have a man who claims to not only know the Word of God but to teach it to others acting as if Jesus never spoke these words:
“Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one'? So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” He said to them, “For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery; and he who marries a divorced woman, commits adultery.” (Matt 19:4-9)
Even if we charitably assume that the pastor's marriage had enough difficulties to make it intolerable, that still does not explain the “remarriage”. The couple could have separated for the sake of peace, but still respected Jesus' words by not “remarrying”. I don't know what's going on with the wife, but the husband should have known better, especially if he was taking Jesus' words seriously.
Sadly, this situation is all to common in our culture, and puts us all in a place of perplexitas, to use Aquinas' term: a situation with no easy, charitable solution. How should one handle a couple in a “second marriage”, especially under these circumstances? Ask them not to attend out of respect for the integrity of God's word, thus cutting them off from a possible channel of grace? (Not to mention risk being accused of what is to our culture a mortal sin, i.e. being “judgmental”?) Or tolerate their presence at the risk of eroding the authority of God's word? And what will be the long-term effect of this life decision on that man's own integrity and authority? How clearly and firmly is he going to preach on the matter of the Biblical view of marriage with his “second wife” sitting right there in the pew?
When the ancient Israelites started straying into idolatry, they didn't jettison Yahweh – they just let other practices and beliefs creep in to sit alongside their practice of Torah. In fact, I've heard that the warning portion of the First Commandment (“You shall have no other gods before me”) carries the inflection of “in my presence” - or, to use the modern idiom, “in my face”. The meaning is that to honor other gods in Yahweh's presence is to flaunt them before Him. One gets the impression that this double-worship, this state of divided heart, is more detestable to the Lord than outright rejection. This is certainly the sense of Elijah's rebuke: “And Elijah came near to all the people, and said, 'How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.'” (1 Kings 18:21) Yet this is precisely what we have come to accommodate in the Church today, even from leaders: lip service to the Word of God and its authority, yet appealing to the gods of the world when God's Word is too stringent or demanding.
That very week, a group of pastors in the area protested strongly against amending our state's anti-discrimination statute to include “discrimination” against LGBT parties.) Sympathetic as I am to the ideal, it's a rearguard action. We've long since ceded the critical grounds of the battle, with mealy-mouthed accommodation of divorce and remarriage, fornication, abortion, and contraception. Now we have our backs to the gate, fighting to hold the final corner from being taken. Ultimately it's a losing battle, unless and until we obey Jesus' commands in a way that costs us. As long as we pay lip service to obeying Jesus but take short-cuts by way of the paths of other gods when obedience becomes too costly, we will be driven back.
We shouldn't have our backs to the wall. We should be routing the enemy from the field, not just to vindicate our Lord but for the sake of all those poor victims out there who are being deceived into thinking that they can find happiness outside of God's plan for all humanity. They're the ones who are suffering most for our disobedience. Only when we obey all of Jesus' words will we be victorious, and be able to witness with our own lives that even costly obedience is worth every ounce of sacrifice, because it is the only path to freedom and true happiness.

Until then, we will lose.


CTq said...

Say a person is being abused by their spouse. Horrible, debasing abuse which leaves the body broken and the spirit shattered.

Say the abuser will never change.

Say the victim finally takes the chance to leave, finally accepts that the abuser will not change and to survive and thrive, they must leave.

Say a few years later, this person finds a new spouse. A godly, compassionate person.

It sounds like you're saying the person should have stayed in the marriage where fists rather than words were the primary means of communication. And you sound incredibly judgmental. What if this pastor said about you "Roger and Ellen obviously don't care at all what the bible says about being good stewards of money. If they had done what the bible said WORD FOR WORD, they would have much more money and wouldn't have lives limited by lack of financial means."

Doesn't that sound cruel and horrid? Because it is.

While divorce and remarriage is obviously not ideal, we don't know the circumstances surrounding the death of this union.

Statistically, it's a near certainty that at least ONE of your children will end up divorced. Would you say these same words to your own child who was remarrying?

I have been a "fan" of the Thomas family for years. But this entry just made me sad.

PrinceOfTheWest said...

CTq, you're doing nothing more than recapitulating the tired, disproven arguments that have been used to rationalize easy divorce since the "sexual revolution", when people started assuming that the happiness of adults was more important than the happiness of children. Like those who use the hard cases ("rape and incest!") to justify unrestricted abortion on demand, you use the physically abusive relationship to try to argue for unrestricted no-fault divorce.

What a shame you weren't around to advise Jesus when He was speaking to the teachers of the Law in Matthew 19. You could have straightened Jesus around on how "incredibly judgmental" He was, and how He needed to stop being "cruel and horrid". Because abuse was around in those times, too - yet Jesus still said what He did.

None of us can be wiser than Jesus. None of us can be more compassionate than Jesus. None of us can be more loving than Jesus. But one thing Jesus does better than any of us is keep the good of everyone in focus. He doesn't say that anyone has to stick around an abusive relationship, but He does say that true marriage is forever. If you think that sounds "incredibly judgmental", take it up with Him.

But as it turns out, He's right. I've seen the "abusive" argument bent around until people say, "I don't love you any more, so my staying around would simply be self-abuse, so I'm leaving to marry this other person." Because we sinful humans have an almost infinite capacity to lie to ourselves, to pretend that we understand compassion better than God Himself. We need God's wisdom to tell us what love really is, because our own preferences and feelings cannot be trusted.

Don't feel sad for me. Feel sad for the victims of your philosophy of marriage, so eloquently honored by Professor Anthony Esolen. They're the ones who are really losing:

CTq said...

I don't pretend to understand anything. That's why I'm asking. For all your chest thumpery and bloviating, I don't actually see that you provided any legitimately pursuable, valid solutions for someone in such a situation- a way they can honor your "rules" while still preserving their own lives.

I'm frankly startled by your brutishness. I really thought an intellectual like you could handle yourself with more eloquence and at least human decency. It seems to me that the people who cry foul on how America treats the unborn are all too quick to treat the already-here very poorly. Do anything to get that baby born, be it into a drug addled, poverty stricken household. But once the doctor slaps its posterior, by God that kid better pull himself up by his own boot(ie) straps and get a JAY OH BEE. This is the stereotype you are perpetuating. Someone who cares only about rules and nothing about people. And yes, I WILL be sad about it, because I thought so much better of you. To think I wished my own father was more like you once upon a time. I now shake my head at my own naivety.

You really do not need to reply. I'm too disenchanted to possibly read any more of your formulaic insults which answer nothing and serve zero purpose except to belittle and demean.

PrinceOfTheWest said...

Oh, but one response deserves another!

You aren’t really arguing with me here – you’re arguing with Jesus. I’m just the messenger, He’s the message. Any complaints you have about chest thumping and bloviating, you’ll have to lay at His feet. After all, the teachers of the Law handed Him a golden opportunity: the Law of Moses permitted divorce, and they posed Him a question about when and where it might be permitted. He could have said something like, “Well, permanence is the ideal, but if there’s abuse involved, and you later encounter a godly, compassionate person, then divorce and remarriage is all right.”

But He didn’t.

What He said was, “…So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder…I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery; and he who marries a divorced woman, commits adultery.”

What I’m trying to avoid here is being what Christians are so often scorned for being: a hypocrite. And it’s true that selective obedience, picking and choosing which of Jesus’ instructions we apply, is bad, so I’m avoiding it. I’m just trying to follow Him in simple obedience. Of course, that involves obeying all Jesus’ commands, so when He says to love my wife as I love myself, and as Christ loves the Church (Ephesians 5) not to be harsh with her (Colossians 3), and to treat her with respect (1 Peter 3), all that is part of the Marriage Instructions. But the basis of Jesus’ instructions are that marriage is permanent, exclusive, and fertile.

I’m sorry you don’t like the message, and that you choose to abuse the messenger rather than dealing with the Message Himself, and that I’ve disappointed you. But you’re not the one I’m going to have to answer to at the end of my life – Jesus is. I’m going to be held accountable for how faithfully I passed along the message, not whether I made blog commenters happy. I don’t like being insulted any more than the next guy, but I was warned this would happen, so it’s okay.

scoobydoopoop said...

"whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery"

Does this mean a man is permitted to divorce his wife if she is unchaste? And if so, is he allowed to remarry? Because it seems as if Jesus left a loophole.

عبده العمراوى said...

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