Cultural Bias-The Bible And Divorce

 

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:

  1. A disciple of Jesus
  2. A pastor
  3. I am divorced
  4. 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

Some Pharisees came and tried to trap him with this question: “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife?”  Jesus answered them with a question: “What did Moses say in the law about divorce?”  “Well, he permitted it,” they replied. “He said a man can give his wife a written notice of divorce and send her away.”

But Jesus responded, “He wrote this commandment only as a concession to your hard hearts. But ‘God made them male and female’from the beginning of creation. ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, 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:

  1. Divorce is a sin
  2. 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.

wedding reception

12 thoughts on “Cultural Bias-The Bible And Divorce

  1. I think we are on this Earth to learn about God; our experiences, good and bad, are definitely a part of our educational process. I tend to look at the positive side and say this world — myself and you, though we fall short sometimes — is in the process of being re-made in the image of God. (It is not as though I am unable to see some imperfections here and there 🙂 ).

    Paul’s changing theology involving male / female relationships is interesting as well. In Corinthians he outlines males as God’s glory and females as man’s glory. Then in the 3rd chapter of Galatians his attitude is that in God eyes, male and female have no distinction, one from the other.

    Jesus was showing something different than Paul. God has always used the imagery of husband and wife as the texture of His relationship with people on Earth: the give-and-take, day-in-day-out exchange: that is continual, wholesome, committed. . . .brings forth fruit. . .

    God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, — is changing us, you, me, the whole world. Thank God he IS working on us!

    Jeff

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks, Brother Randy, for addressing this. “Divorced” threatens to be a moniker that you have emblazoned across your forehead for life in many situations. A church I once attended had a month devoted to different parts of family life, but left a lot of “single-person” families out in the cold. I know that divorce is NOT God’s plan. But His grace is enough even for us. Thank You, Jesus ♡

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well…off to a running start aren’t we? LOL. Both my wife and I are divorced and obviously remarried. I was not a believer at the time of my divorce and had no clue God cared about such a thing. My wife was a believer, and interestingly enough her husband had been “called to preach.” Quotations quite intentional. So, then the question arises of if I am as accountable as say, you, because I did not know. Well, yeah I am. Ignorance of the law does not exempt me from it. That’s what Jesus does, He forgives things we didn’t even know we messed up.

    I will confess to some ambivalence concerning pastors. Some make a good case that this violates the principles of being a good head of one’s family. Some disagree. I suppose, in the end, it is between a man and God concerning what he should do. I probably would say that at least temporarily it might be prudent to step aside. Like any other open sin, this one would have to be repented of openly and decisions made by local assemblies.

    Good treatment of this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Wally, and yes, I had to go through a “process” to ensure that I understood what happened, and that it wouldn’t happen again. I am thankful that I was surrounded by some people at the church I was serving who loved God so much, that they loved me, too.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Ah,well said! Kind of funny and tragic but an example of how crazy the “church” can get, the best man at our wedding is this really good Catholic guy. He totally believes marriage is for life and that divorce will threaten your very salvation. To protect himself from this “sin,” he and his girlfriend have now lived together for 35 years. They actually have kids and grandkids. He has found God’s legal loophole and managed to out smart the whole system! I’m being facetious, but that’s really how he sees it.

    I like to lean into the words, “in the beginning it was not so.” To me that suggests here’s the ideal, here’s what God designed, here’s paradise, and than here’s what a few thousand years of sin and a broken world have done. That’s not condemnation, it’s an explanation for why we fall so short of our original design and need a Savior in the first place.

    As to the churchian divorce shamers, especially regarding pastors, I’m always amazed at how we seem to forget the Apostle Paul was actually a murderer, among other things. We simply don’t have any pristine, sin free, biblical examples of people’s carrying God’s word to the world, except for Christ. Everyone else is an adulterer, a murderer, an epic failure at something. I would not trust a pastor who didn’t get that and didn’t see it in their own selves.

    I also think we churchians put too much emphasis on literal adultery and totally miss the point that we are an adulterous people as in cheating on God, straying from that covenant, engaging in idolatry.

    Thanks, Pastor Randy. I think I could talk your ear off about these things, but I’ll stop now. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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