This is the first in a series of posts about how cultural biases influence the truth of The Bible. As I accepted this challenge from the Holy Spirit, I realize, especially on today’s topic, that I am influenced by certain biases based on who I am. Today’s subject is DIVORCE (and try to imagine Tammy Wynette singing “D-I-V-O-R-C-E“). My personal culture is challenging me and I confess it is a struggle. For I am:
- A disciple of Jesus
- A pastor
- I am divorced
- I have remarried
On those last 2 bullet points, I will address in the next post. But for now, let’s just focus on the single issue of divorce and The Bible. Let’s look at the oldest known manuscript from the New Testament which is Mark 10:2-12
2 Some Pharisees came and tried to trap him with this question: “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife?” 3 Jesus answered them with a question: “What did Moses say in the law about divorce?” 4 “Well, he permitted it,” they replied. “He said a man can give his wife a written notice of divorce and send her away.”
5 But Jesus responded, “He wrote this commandment only as a concession to your hard hearts. 6 But ‘God made them male and female’from the beginning of creation. 7 ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, 8 and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, 9 let no one split apart what God has joined together.”
10 Later, when he was alone with his disciples in the house, they brought up the subject again. 11 He told them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery against her. 12 And if a woman divorces her husband and marries someone else, she commits adultery.”
To understand what The Bible says about divorce, you need to understand what God says about marriage. We see this in Genesis 2:24–“This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” Even Jesus quotes this in Mark 10:6-9. Marriage is a life long commitment of a man and a woman.
So, what about divorce? There are 2 camps on this issue. One camp says that since the death of Jesus, this “law” has been abolished. God is all about the love now and the “law” doesn’t apply. Sound familiar? Isn’t it easy to justify our views! Yet Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-19–17 “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved.” So much for this cultural bias.
The other camp says that if divorce happens, neither should remarry, otherwise they are guilty of adultery. Adultery is a violation of the boundaries God provided for His gift of sexual intimacy. I will address the issue of sexuality later, but for now, let’s understand that the only expression of sexual intimacy that God approves of and blesses is that between husband (man) and wife (woman).
I admit that at times I am not the brightest light bulb in the box, but it is very clear that God, and thus The Bible, does not approve of divorce. Now remember my own cultural bias–I am divorced and have remarried.
So let’s set the facts:
- Divorce is a sin
- Remarrying results in adultery, which is also a sin
I believe that the biases around divorce are not about the Principle, rather it is in the Application of this Truth. I think most of us would agree the divorce violates God’s Intended Design. So how do we apply this, I’ll call it “Truth Principle”, to the lives, like myself, who are found in the muck and mire of divorce? I might as well use myself as our case study.
First, I violated God’s Intended Design, thus I had sinned. How do I apply this Truth Principle to my life? Well, what should any of us do when we have sinned? I brought this sin of divorce to the place I had always brought my sin: to the foot of The Cross. It wasn’t easy. The part that wasn’t easy at first was believing He would actually forgive me and give me a fresh start. After all, I was a “pastor” and would He even want me any longer because of my sin? I was broken and a mess.
I was ready to pull a “Jonah” and walk away from His calling. With a handful of people, God used them to let me know that I was forgiven. But now there were 2 deeper issues for me: “Could I forgiving myself? And what does God do with me now?” There were those who were beating me up over the divorce and I don’t know why. I was doing a real good job of beating myself up. Right after the divorce my best friend at night was Jack, Jack Daniels that is. But God stayed faithful to me and in this process He taught me this: “Look bonehead, if I can forgive you, and I have, then it’s OK to forgive yourself. Jesus already took your guilt and condemnation. You’re carrying around false guilt and false condemnation. STOP IT, ALREADY! I’ve got work for you to do!”
The Spirit then reminded me of these passages:
Psalm 103:12 (NLT)
He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.
Isaiah 43:25 (NLT)
“I—yes, I alone—will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again.”
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
1 John 1:9 (NLT)
But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.
The Principle Truth of the Bible says that I am forgiven, my sins are forgotten by God, I have a brand new life and that He has cleansed my sin from me. But the cultural bias says that because I have remarried, I am now guilty of adultery BECAUSE I am divorced. But am I now guilty of adultery? Cultural Bias says “YES” But the Principle Truth of The Bible says “NOT AT ALL” because God has forgiven and forgotten my sin. Had I not brought my sin to The Cross, then most definitely I would be guilty of adultery.
Here’s the application of this Principle Truth of The Bible. God no longer sees me with the label of “divorced” even though the Cultural Bias calls me more than divorced, it calls me a “Divorced Pastor”. Tell me this: if someone was guilty of stealing but repented and confessed to God and trusted by faith in the redeeming work of Jesus on The Cross, do you still call that person “Thief”? If their sin was gossiping and they turned away and were forgiven by God, do you still call them “Gossiper”? If she was a prostitute and she came to Jesus and turned away from her old life would you still call her “Whore”? (I suspect someone reading this is more upset by the word “whore” than the fact they put labels on people that God refuses to put on them.)
Cultural Bias treats divorce different from every other sin because it puts the moniker over the person for the rest of their lives, even though God doesn’t. I know that to some this may sound like self-justification for my own sin. But here’s the truth: I have walked through this dark night of the soul. I was allowing cultural bias define me rather that the Principle Truths of God’s Word. And I have approached this subject with great struggle and with even greater humility. I am NOT one of those who loves to show off my scars. I would rather keep them hidden. But if my scars helps one person to be set free from this cultural bias and rip off that horrible name put on them by cultural bias, then God has used my scars for His Glory, and I’m OK with that.
If you are divorced, first and foremost GO TO THE CROSS! Allow that most precious blood pour over you and hear The Father say, “It’s gone and forgotten! You are a brand new person!” Now you are free to live your life by God’s Design. I have learned much from my sin and apply those lessons every day. God brought a wonderful gift into my life when I was in the dark night of my soul. Her name is Debbie. Debbie lavished God’s Grace on me and though I was reluctant (I mean VERY reluctant) to fall in love with her, I did. I see her as one of God’s wonderful gifts and try (not always successfully) to treat her the way any of God’s gifts need to be treated. With respect, honor, gratitude and joy.