Friday, March 30, 2012

The Bible on Divorce & Remarriage - Three

What is the proper basis of marriage?

It is important to remember that our existence is not about us. We are not the center of the universe. We did not create the universe. We do not give meaning to the universe. We are not the measure of all things.

Man was created and we have come into existence at the pleasure of God and for His purposes. In Him we live and move and have our being. God is the Creator and the ultimate purpose for everything.

(Romans 11:36) For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. 
Jesus is God in flesh and is to be the focus of everything in our lives.
(Colossians 1:15–19 NKJV) 15 ¶ He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.
17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.
18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.
19 ¶ For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 
Everything we do should be done for the glory of God - that He might be exalted for Who He is and What He has done and What He will do...
(1 Corinthians 10:31 NKJV) ¶ Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
(Colossians 3:17 NKJV) And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. 
The glory of God should be the basis of everything we do - and certainly the basis of our marriages and our behavior in our marriages.

Why should you get married? Why should you stay married? Why should you be a good husband or wife? Why should you keep the vows you made before God? Why should you refrain from sin and pursue righteousness? Why should you cope with difficulties and remain faithful? Why should you avoid sexual immorality?

The short answer is, "For the glory of God."

In the ancient world marriages were often arranged for financial gain (dowery & bride price) or political alliances (families and nations). Many saw the purpose of marriage as a means to having children who would help in the family business and care for their parents in their old age. Barrenness was the worst thing that could happen to someone.

In the modern world marriages are often seen as a partnership for mutual pleasure. Physical attraction, sexual satisfaction, personality, companionship, and affection are all considered as sufficient bases for marriage. Romantic love is usually related to these motivations.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with these goals for marriage, but they cannot be the basis for marriage, or the marriage will be at the mercy of these things. Affections change. Health declines. Personalities change.

But the biblical basis for marriage is still the glory of God. The biblical marriage honors God and points to God and God's kind of gracious love. The husband loves his wife like Christ loved the Church and gave himself for her... (Ephesians 5:25). The wife follows her husband's lead like the Church follows the leadership of Christ (Ephesians 5:22).

The proper basis for marriage (grounds for marriage) is important because it is fundamental to the question of divorce and remarriage. If a person gets married to have children, but then finds his spouse cannot have children, that may seem like grounds for divorce and remarriage. But in God's view this is not an adequate ground for divorce and remarriage because having children is not the right reason for marriage anyway. If a person gets married on the basis of sexual attraction, but then finds that he is bored with his spouse and finds another woman more stimulating he may think he has grounds for divorce and remarriage. But he doesn't.

The proper basis for marriage and our faithfulness to our marriages is the glory of God. The marriage vows are explicit - "For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health until we are parted by death." In every circumstance and season of life, marriage is for the glory of God. The core commitment of marriage is properly our mutual commitment to Christ Jesus. 

We are committed to our marriages because we are first of all committed to Christ. Any betrayal of our marriage is a betrayal of Christ. By being a good husband or wife we bring glory to God in Christ.

Do all to the glory of God.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Bible on Divorce & Remarriage - Two

A discussion of divorce and remarriage must begin with the biblical significance of marriage. If marriage is highly valued, then divorce will be rare. If marriage is devalued, then divorce will be common.

A quick scan of internet sites reveals the following: In any given year there are about 50 divorces for every 100 marriages in America. The divorce rate is between 40% and 50% for first marriages, between 60%-67% for second marriages and 73%-74% for third marriages. Meanwhile, many couples choose not to marry at all, creating a vast tangle of relationships and legal interventions over child custody and support. For one reason or another, in America about 26% of children under 21 live in single parent homes.

So what does the Bible say about marriage?

1) Marriage was established by God by creation (Genesis 1:27-28). God made man. God made woman from man. God brought them together as husband and wife (Genesis 2:21-22). The Bible's commentary on these events says, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24 NKJV).

2) Marriage in God's design involved perfect unity between the man and woman. Adam identified the woman as "bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh" (Genesis 2:23). This statement of solidarity is echoed in (Ephesians 5:28–29 NKJV) "So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church." 

In this design there was no idea of the possibility of divorce. As Jesus said, "So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate”(Matthew 19:6 NKJV). Regarding divorce, Jesus said, “...from the beginning it was not so."(Matthew 19:8 NKJV)

3) The gender conflict that is evident in every culture involves a struggle for domination or control. This was not part of the design, but became a reality when the original man and woman chose to rebel against God. They were immediately alienated from each other and blaming each other (Genesis 3:12). While their original relationship was cooperative unity, the curse on the earth after sin brought friction, sorrow and competition. (Genesis 3:16 NKJV) To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.” 

4) The sinful hearts of man led to all kinds of selfishness and conflict. God included legal provisions for divorce in the Old Testament Law - not as a prescription of something good, but as a provision to deal with the wickedness of man. (Matthew 19:7–8 NKJV) They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.

This is true of much of the law. There are laws about property disputes, inheritance rights, injuries from fights, seduction, rape, murder and manslaughter. None of these suggests that the circumstances are good. They only provide a way to resolve the conflicts that result from sin.

5) God consistently and unequivocally says that He hates divorce. (Malachi 2:16 NIV)  “I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,” says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith. (Matthew 19:6 NKJV) So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Marriage is designed by God to last a lifetime. But we sinful humans fall far short of God's ideal - even if we are never divorced.

For the next post: What is the proper basis for marriage?

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Bible on Divorce & Remarriage

I am writing on this subject with some reluctance.

The standard Fundamentalist teaching used to be that there could never be legitimate remarriage after divorce until the spouse you divorced had died. I grew up in Fundamentalism when this view was just beginning to be challenged and I remember that the challengers were considered "liberals."

In those days we had the comfort of a high contrast, black and white, straightforward, easy to understand truth. Marriage is forever. Divorce is wrong. Remarriage after divorce compounds the wrong, removes the disincentives and starts us down the slippery slope toward debauchery. The train wreck of modern immorality in America might tempt people to think the old view was correct. Surely someone opened pandora's box and released waves of immorality in America that people in the 1950's would have blushed to imagine.

In my view the exponential growth in divorce over the past fifty years is the RESULT of ungodliness and immorality, not the CAUSE of them.

Back in the old days we could hold our simplistic views on divorce and remarriage with few qualms - after all - hardly anybody we knew was divorced. But in modern times almost every family and every church is touched by divorce. Now, more than ever, we need to know, "What is the Bible Truth about divorce and remarriage?" What do the Scriptures say?

Reluctant or not, I will begin to unpack this in the days ahead.

The Things You See

Last week on Tuesday morning I looked east on 2nd Street and saw this beautiful sunrise!  It was amazing.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Amazing Worlds of Books

This is an excellent short film that communicates much of what I have loved about books. Watch it when you have 15 minutes to spend...

Books affect your life and broaden your horizons and change your thinking.

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Funny Thing Happened...

A funny thing happened on my way to church...

Seriously! I was about to run out the door to church for my regular Saturday evening preparations when Lola said, "What is that sound?"

Me: "What sound?"
Lola: "It sounds like dripping. Come here and listen!"

Sure enough! LOTS of dripping. It turns out that the old drain pipes under the kitchen sink rusted to the point where they fell off. Everything under the sink was soaked and the water ran down through the floor into the laundry room.

It was a mess. It took two hours and three trips to the hardware store. (The cute narrow doors in the front of sink cabinet are not so attractive when you have your arm in past your elbow and you discover you are stuck!)

I got to church very late. I got home very late. When I got home I flooded things again because I ran a sink full of water down the drain - but found the drain was plugged below my repairs! It was a circus!!!

Oh, well. It is a good reminder that we don't know what is going to happen to disrupt our plans. By God's grace I handled this a bit more calmly than I might have done at one time. It is good to grow in grace. It is necessary to be tested from time to time.

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Rough Day!

Poor Tiny! Today, at long last, I had the time and energy to groom him.

He was a mess! His nails, his ears, his hair were all too long. The hair was matted on his legs. He was dirty. He smelled bad.

He was in such bad shape that I thought about taking him to a groomer, but figured they would want $100 for all the work he needed. Besides that, I was ashamed that I let him get so bad! (Poor baby...)

So... we began at about 2:30 and finished up at 4:30. A scissor trim of his coat. Close clipping on his face and feed and undercarriage. Working with a de-matting tool and using the scissors some more. That took an hour and at the end he looked like he had been attacked by the moths.

Then he went into the tub. Lathered and scrubbed and lathered and rinsed. Gradually the rinse water ran clear again - instead of looking like he had been used as a paint roller. Another half hour had passed.

Then the towel drying. Then the blow drying and working over him with a brush and comb. Then scissors again to get rid of still more mats. Then the clippers again to even things out on his back. Then scissors to even out the hair his legs. Then combing and clipping and trimming his ears. The final half hour was over.

We were both tired of it all by this time.

That evening we were in the family room with a friend. It was only 8:30 but Tiny was ready for bed! So he turned his back on us, stuck his face in the crack between the pillow and the bolster and he went to sleep.

Poor, tired baby... He had a rough day.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


It is a beautiful Spring morning! The temperatures are mild, the wind is brisk, the sun is trying to get through the clouds.

As I drove to work today through my neighborhood, I saw two people on the sidewalk, waiting at an intersection. As I approached from behind them I thought, "It looks like a mother and daughter." The "daughter" was slightly ahead. I saw the "mom" step closer to the "daughter's" shoulder. Their posture was erect as if they were looking off down the street. Two cars were waiting at the intersection - what was going on?

When I finally came to them, I saw the long white cane in the girl's hand. She has some visual impairment and the "mom" is really an instructor. They were making good use of the nice weather to practice navigation skills. They must have hit a snag there at the corner. As I watched in my rearview mirror the two cars proceeded through as the girl and her teacher continued to wait.

This scene that I viewed for only a few minutes struck me right in the heart!

On the one hand, I admire the girl for working to overcome her disability. I don't know her or the level of her vision, but to learn to navigate the neighborhood with a cane is difficult and potentially dangerous. In her I see courage and a spirit I admire.

On the other hand, I admire the work of the instructor. Teaching this kind of skill is special. She must have developed a good trusting relationship with her student. She must be firm, encouraging and yet patient while her student gradually gains confidence.

Finally, in this scene I am reminded again of how blessed I am to be free from such daunting problems in my own life. It is too easy for me to take things like my vision, hearing and physical wholeness for granted. It is good to be reminded that these are not a birthright. They are a blessing that I should use for God's glory.