Friday, April 30, 2010

Marriage Grace

This past Sunday, I finished preaching a sermon series called “Resurrecting Marriage: Learning Marriage CPR.” My dual goals when preaching are: to be faithful to what the Scripture text actually says, and, communicate relevantly with love and clarity. Some Scripture texts are very difficult to either accept or preach. Mark 10:2-12 is both hard to accept and hard to preach, especially vv. 10-12. My desire was to bring a word of grace to the strong words of vv. 10-12 without watering down what Jesus said. You can watch or listen to the messages here.

Some feel I wasn’t clear enough as to what do you do if you’re divorced (regardless of the reason) and remarried, in other words, “now what?” The way forward for those who are remarried is the same for those who are still in their current marriage: practice Marriage CPR.
Commit (in this new marriage) to God’s Vision for that marriage,
Pay Attention to Your Heart and
Relate with Christlike Love

Keep doing those three steps (as explained in each of the 3 sermons). Especially the last letter/point, “R,” Relate with Christlike love, is how you relate in order to move forward: Love with Christ’s love, which is Compassionate, Forgiving, Initiating, and Sacrificial. But keep doing “C” and “P” too (paying attention to your heart and stay committed to God’s vision for your [new] marriage.)

Some may ask, “If you’re remarried, and are faithful to your spouse, are you therefore “living” in adultery? No. There’s a difference between “living in adultery” and “committing adultery.” If you’re legally divorced, or your spouse is deceased, and then you remarry and are faithful to that spouse, you are not “living in adultery.” Living in adultery is either:
a. living in an ongoing pattern of marriage-divorce-remarriage-divorce-remarriage-divorce-remarriage, etc. or
b. living with/having sex with another person who is not your spouse.

So, if you’re remarried, the past is past, receive God’s grace and move on; you have made a new covenant before God (your new marriage vows), now go back to the “CPR” and
Commit (in this new marriage) to God’s Vision for that marriage,
Pay Attention to Your Heart and
Relate with Christlike Love.

You don’t undo one wrong with another one. It is not God’s will for you to divorce your current spouse to remarry your first (or former) one. Remember, we’ve got to stop treating this area of our lives different from other areas: every single one of us needs God’s grace whether we’ve been divorced or not and God’s grace is available for each of us regardless of our past. Thank God! Grace is the only way to move forward.
Some may ask: if our souls are “glued” together, and we get divorced, can we ever”be free” of that person in our new marriage; will we always be carrying around part of that person in our soul, even into our next relationship?

The answer is to look at divorce for what it is: a death. Divorce isn’t like a death, it is a death. The same question asked in the previous paragraph is asked of people grieving the loss of their spouse through that spouse dying. Can you totally forget the person? Probably not. Can you get past that death and get remarried and have a healthy relationship? Absolutely. Is it easy? No. The longer you were married, truthfully, the harder it will be to “get past” the former marriage. But by God’s grace, it is most definitely possible; and not only possible, again, because God is God of grace, it is what God desires for you.

This is why it is so absolutely critical that we grieve well the death (and/or divorce) of the first marriage; the grieving/healing process is critical for the viability of the new marriage. You need to take at the very least a full year to process/heal the death of that marriage and, depending on the situation, you may need 5 or more years. To the degree that you process well, grieve well and get healed up, your new marriage can be better than the first one, even if the first one was great.

With God’s grace, incredible vistas of fulfillment and joy are waiting to be experienced and explored. God’s grace is not a hack patch job. He is the God who heals the brokenhearted (Psalm 147:3). His grace is healing, restorative, re-creating, and unbelievably satisfying. But we must learn to receive and assimilate that grace into our lives - again, the exact same thing, everyone else must learn to do - regardless of our pasts.
For all of us, an incredible future of joy and fulfillment is available because of God’s grace. Let me give you 2 great verses to meditate on:
2 Corinthians 9:8: And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
2 Peter 3:18: Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

An area of confusion that some have mentioned to me is reconciling the Bible’s strong stance against divorce with the “exception passages” that seem to “allow” divorce. There is a tension there, but it’s the same tension present in the verses that call us to holiness while recognizing that sin happens and providing grace when it does.

God’s original plan never included divorce, but he recognizes that it happens. The key word is “recognize.” That doesn’t mean he “approves” it or “endorses” it. When we talk about the Bible “allowing” divorce or when we talk about “valid” biblical divorces, (e.g. Matt. 5:32, 1 Cor. 7, etc.) we are using language that recognizes that divorce does happen, but its not as if God is saying “I approve of/endorse divorce.” That puts words in God’s mouth he never intends to say. We must live with the tension that “recognize” and “allow” do not mean “approve” and “endorse.”

We must also recognize that the Bible never intends to answer the question “what are all the circumstances in which a divorce is allowed?” The Bible declares God’s original desire and then in different places recognizes circumstances where divorce might happen. Taking these exception occurrences and recognizing that the Bible doesn’t intend to speak comprehensively or exhaustively on the issue of each of the individual circumstances that lead to divorce, wise counsel calls us to examine each situation in the light of the Scriptures and seek the best path forward for that relationship. Combing the Bible to look for exceptions and loopholes is a distortion of the purpose of the Bible. Seeking wise counsel in light of Biblical truth honors God’s Word and the purpose for which it was given.

Because this is an area that is fraught with so many questions and issues, our Church Life Board (of which I am a part) has written a brief
position paper on Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage that I believe will be helpful. I urge you to read it carefully.

May God’s great grace be upon you and your family as you seek to live your life in a way that honors Him.

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff! Thank so much for taking the time do address this.