Divorce is a difficult issue for any pastor to deal with. Thank God, the marriage of my wife and me has lasted 43 years. We never considered divorce — murder maybe — but not divorce.
Recently I told the piano player at church, “If you weren’t already married, I’d marry you.” She replied, “We already are, dear.” We must maintain a high standard for marriage for many good reasons; yet we should show mercy to those individuals or couples who’ve experienced divorce. “God sets the solitary in families …” Ps 68.6
What got me to thinking on this was the idea of covenant. I had preached about our new covenant in the blood of Christ - a glorious doctrine. Of course, marriage is also a covenant. A covenant is more than a contract. It is the strongest agreement known to man. There is nothing beyond it. To become “one flesh” implies a covenant union.
In the Bible (a book of covenants) God told Abraham that his covenant was between the Lord and him and that Abraham must keep the terms of the covenant. There are two parties to a covenant and also “if — then” conditions. Likewise in a marriage covenant, it takes two people to make a marriage succeed, but only takes one person to sabotage it.
The biggest reason divorce occurs is found in one word: sin. When people sin, they trespass; go out of bounds; act selfishly, and are stupid. I’m sure General Petraeus who resigned as head of the CIA now wishes he’d never sinned by cheating on his wife.
One issue with divorce (besides the emotional baggage the children feel and the financial burden the mother carries if she becomes the single parent) is considering the issue of remarriage. Is it right? Is it wise? Many churches hold different positions on this, both for leaders or for members, and they can’t all be correct.
In the beginning, God stated: “It is not good for man to be alone.” Few of us have the gift or calling of celibacy. So God recommends we humans should marry since it is good for us. In another place the Lord says, “I hate divorce.” Divorce harms families. Yet splits happen due to hard hearts, immaturity or sin. But our Creator made some allowances for divorce. It surely is a moral, legal, theological, and social conundrum, isn’t it?
While the Bible’s basis for honoring marriage is clear, divorce stirs strong feelings among religious folks. Some groups pre-judge divorcees as if they were second-class citizens. I’m not for easy divorce but nor am I for alienating 50 percent of Americans. So I’ve adopted these main ideas:
• Divorce is not the unpardonable sin.
• Everyone should stay married to the same person if humanly possible, and God’s grace can help us.
• If the sinning spouse departs, the innocent spouse is no longer bound.
• Even if remarrying, “Do not be unequally yoked ...”
• Marriage is only for grownups — emotionally mature, responsible adults.
• God is a matchmaker – so wait for his best!
As a pastor who cares about people, I’ll accept all the divorced people in town. Why? They need God’s love and they’re not likely to be Pharisees. It is only those who’ve never felt the pain of divorce who harshly judge others who have endured it.
Ron Wood is pastor of Trinity Assembly of God, on Chandler Road at State Boulevard in Meridian. Website: www.trinitymeridian.com. Phone: 601-483-8189.