This is the second in this series around the thoughts of how cultural bias influences the truth of The Bible. Remember that we all tend to read our personal cultural bias into the understanding and application of The Truth of The Bible. It is a struggle to set aside personal and cultural biases for the sake of The Holy Writ. Let me share with you again where I come from. I am:
- A disciple of Jesus
- A pastor
- I am divorced
- I have remarried
I am, with the help of the Holy Spirit, setting aside my personal and cultural biases for the sake of first, understanding The Truth of The Bible and second, a true application of that Truth from The Bible.
And as promised from the first post, I am addressing the issue and question of divorced pastors. More specifically is this question: “Is a pastor disqualified from future service if he or she is divorced?” Well, let’s just see what we find in The Bible. Today I am breaking away from my own cultural bias by not using the New Living Translation© nor The Message©, which are my personal favorites. Instead, I will use the King James Version© because this is the translation that many use to justify their church cultural bias.
1 Timothy 3:1-7
1 This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; 4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) 6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. (emphasis mine)
5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: 6 If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. 7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; 8 But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; 9 Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. (emphasis mine)
OK, no beating around the bush. Let’s cut to the chase. The church cultural bias of many is that if a person has been divorced or remarried after they divorce (some Tribes allow it so long as they don’t remarry) they cannot become a pastor/ preacher/ elder/ deacon. And if they become divorced while serving in these offices then they are disqualified from any future service. This cultural bias comes from that one phrase in the King James Version© the husband of one wife.
The application of this phrase is that they cannot, must not ever be divorced. However, this application is not consistent with the interpretation of this passage. When Jesus used the word “divorce”, the Greek phrase was apolyō autos gynē. It means “put away his wife” or in legal terms–divorce. This is NOT the same wording in either 1 Timothy nor Titus. The Greek phrase from 1 Timothy 3:2 AND Titus 1:6 is anēr mia gynē, which means guess what? “The husband of one wife”! Instead of meaning “They cannot have been divorced, why can’t it mean “They cannot be a polygamist?” Why can’t it mean, “They cannot have a spouse and someone on the side”? The phrase anēr mia gynē literally means “one-woman man“. Furthermore it is written in the PRESENT TENSE, not the PAST TENSE. The application is for the current condition of the person in question, not their past.
Now, someone reading this may be thinking, “Well, what does the Greek language have to do with all this?” Many years ago I offended an older “saint” when he challenged my use of modern translations. He told me, “Look preacher, I only read the original Bible and I think you should, too!” I replied, “Well, I am impressed with you, truly impressed.” A bit disarmed, thinking I was paying him a high honor, asked, “What do you mean?” And I replied, “I had no idea you could read and understand Hebrew and Greek. This is most impressive.” His reply was, “I’m not talking about Hebrew and Greek, I’m talking about the King James Version.” His was offended when I said, “The original Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek.” To his dying day, I do not think he believed me.
Those who insist that divorce disqualifies anyone from church leadership has applied an application that is inconsistent with the original Truth. I have noticed that some do give allowances, in fact, the only allowances they claim that The Bible approves of: adultery or abandonment by the other spouse. Even this is a misapplication of The Truth of The Bible. If someone has been divorced, it is a sin, for any reasons according to God’s Intended Design. Those 2 exception clauses were added by men, Moses and Paul. But when we confess our sins, any sin, God forgives us and we are no longer called that by God. (You can see the previous post here.)
Church Cultural Bias often excludes those who, like myself, have been divorced and remarried because of the wrong application of The Truth of The Bible. If someone currently possesses those qualifications of leadership share with Timothy and Titus by Paul, then they are qualified to hold those positions and offices regardless of the fact they may have been through divorce. If God wipes the slate clean, then why can’t people?
Post Script: I am not asking, nor expecting, anyone to agree with my applications of The Truths found in The Bible. I only ask you to consider the possibility, even remote possibility, that you are making a misapplication of Spiritual Truths by bringing into your applications your own biases. I know sometimes I am guilty of this…
9 thoughts on “Cultural Bias–The Bible And Divorced Pastors”
So much can be said in one powerful question: “If God wipes the slate clean, then why can’t people?” Excellent!!! Thank you so much!!
I thoroughly enjoyed this piece. I too have been divorced, and I had almost a decade of brokenness. With that said, God restored my life, and I have been remarried for six years now. In 2013, God began opening doors for me in ministry. I have been very open with others that the Lord can restore the broken, and position them in ministry if he so chooses. I was certain that the doors of Christian service were forever closed; Jesus had different plans for me. I do not minimize divorce; it is absolutely horrible, and yes it’s a sin… But… the lord Jesus not only forgives our past sins, he can give us a new and holy life. I am so very grateful for that.
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Amen Jason! He always offers us broken people a new and holy life (in your own words!)!
Agreed. You are wise grasshoppah. Truth forever on the scaffold…
I suppose the conditions of divorce help define these passages. If the divorce occurred because the man was unfaithful (having more than one woman at a time) would mean a disqualified man. He has committed adultery and cannot be trusted with the Bride of Christ either. If 2Cor. 5:17 comes into play (a new creature since Christ as Savior) perhaps a divorce before salvation does not apply to the man since he is “new.” If being a “one woman man” means never having more than one woman even before marriage, few men could hold the office. I believe the best thing a minister who has been unfaithful can do for the Church & the testimony of Christ is step down. The ministry is never about him, but about Christ. If he really is trusting God & loves Him he will find another occupation.
An elder must have a good reputation within & outside of the Church. Adultery, though common in the world, is something that people do not forget. Generals and political leaders are asked to step down because of it. Only people who are crooked get away with it because of clout and shrewd lawyers. God will forgive any sin repented of but the scars remain. Murder is forgiven by God, but the penalty that follows in human judicial systems require that man serve time or even lose his life.
Included in the passages are other items that should disqualify an Elder / Deacon. Brawling, lying, having a house out of order (how could a man who is unfaithful claim he has his house in order?), drunkenness, greedy…etc. What disturbs me more than a divorcee holding a church office is a drunk, a cheat, a liar, a fighter… can also hold office and they are seldom held accountable. But if he commits adultery the ecclesiastical world explodes. How does God see this?
Understand, I am not saying you should step down. I do not know the circumstances of your divorce. I just believe the bigger picture is preserving the holiness of the Bride of Christ. If we must give an account of being blameless (“unable to be arrested” Gk) then the church must take a stronger stance than the one it does now; for not just adulterers, but liars, beaters, cheaters, drunks, & extortioners should not hold an office either.
Certainly we all sin, but must strive to avoid it at any cost. There is a difference between a man who lies all the time and a man who catches himself lying and repents. Adultery is the outcome of a per-meditated series of sin encounters that wind up in disaster. Often that disaster is called “divorce.” James 1:14-16: “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.” In the case of adultery death enters the relationship that God joined together. Divorce is the funeral.
I do not believe that we should ever brush off the time-tested practice of church discipline called “disqualification” for cultural change. Our culture is changing because it is becoming godless not godly. After all: we have to be qualified to enter the ministry, and therefore we are aware that certain things can remove us from the office of elder. The lot is cast into the lap of church leadership, but God decides the outcome. Prov 16:33 “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.”
We must keep working on the difficult questions, but we must never excuse our actions from judgment. This is something left up to God. We are His. On the final day we will learn much. Thankfully, God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes.
Your post has also made me think about my own calling to the pastorate. I know there were times I lost my temper; times I was not telling all the truth; times when my home was not exactly what it should be. Let us prayerfully consider what God has given for us to do, not because it is deserved, but by His grace.
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You speak well. If a pastor commits adultery, then yes, discipline is in order. But the passage from Titus is not about divorce, though it is interpreted that way. Holiness is at the core of our walk with Jesus.
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I’m enjoying this series, Pastor Randy. I’ve always believed that passage applied to polygamy. Believe it or not, I never realized how much divorce shaming went on in the church. I’ve now had two pastors who were divorced and it was really eye opening to watch what they went through. The good news is that they’re still pastors, and they actually went on to leave their own tribe and start a new church.
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Amazing how that some see God’s grace is enough for anyone’s sins, except for pastors…thanks for the encouragement!
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