Living Godly: Rules and Relationships

Posted by Alan on November 2, 2007 | Subscribe
in Faith
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A lady friend (I’ll call her pay someone to do your assignment Mary) visited my wife and me with a distressing problem. A number of years ago, her husband had left her for another woman, whom he married. Mary would still like to be married and to have children. Her father is a missionary, a theologian who knows his Bible. He has told her that, as a divorced woman, she must remain alone. I’d like to explore the basis for his judgment, for the principle on which it is based applies to many aspects of living the Christian life.

And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.
I Corinthians 7:10,11

The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.
I Corinthians 7:39

These two Scriptures are the most often quoted to declare that God does not allow a divorced Christian to remarry. There are those who think that I should end this essay right here. This is God’s Word. He is holy and just. He’s allowed no wiggle room. We will either obey or disobey, and if we choose to disobey, we subject ourselves to the wrath of the Almighty.

This would be a valid way to read the Scriptures if the Word that God has given us were like the holy books of other religions. Here are the rules. You must submit. (Islam means “Submission”, so I am told.)

Evangelical Christianity posits that there is more to our faith than the Law of Moses followed by even more laws to interpret and apply the first Ten Commandments. Historically, the church has been governed by those who have not only done this, but who have imposed other laws that have nothing to do with the Commandments that God gave us. Actually, this problem is one that was inherited from Judaism. Our Lord Jesus excoriated the religious leaders of His day by quoting a prophet from centuries earlier:

“Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'” Mark 7:6-7

It seems that the practice of worshiping God by writing our own rules may be as old as mankind itself. Jesus has made it clear that He wants our hearts. He wants a relationship with us: not just an official statement that a relationship exists, but a real, ongoing relationship like the relationships we have with our other loved ones. The rules He has given are for the facilitation of our relationship with Him first, then with our relationships with each other. He wants a loving relationship with us.

Jesus introduced the idea that God is our Father as individuals. Prior to His advent, God was thought of as the Father of the nation of Israel or the Father of the human race. The concept was that of progenitor. It is the Christian gospel that says that He is our Dad (Abba) and wants to relate to us as His children.

Rules are necessary to facilitate making the profession of love a practical thing. We tell our kids not to do certain things because we love them and don’t want them hurt. The rules that God has given in His Word should be viewed from that context.

Now, let’s look at I Corinthians 7 again: “Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.” “The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth:” God, the Father of both the husband and the wife (for both are believers in this context) knows that the security of the marriage bond is vitally important to the well-being of His kids. Therefore, the preservation of the marriage is important to God, too. He knows that we are sinners and tend to “solve” our problems by running away from them. What He is telling the wife is that she should work at being reconciled to her husband. She should not jump into another relationship because the “baggage” from her first marriage will likely cause trouble in the second.

The shoe fits on the other foot as well. Husband, if you can’t make peace with your wife, why should you think that you can be a good husband to another woman? Chances are that you aren’t even thinking about being a good husband, but are thinking more in terms of getting your own needs met.

Notice that the rules expressed in this chapter of Scripture are not comprehensive. On the surface, they don’t even apply to Mary. She didn’t depart from her husband. Her husband “departed from” her and married someone else. The Scripture doesn’t say what her legal obligation is under such circumstances. In fact, if Mary’s husband was an unbeliever, the 15th verse of this chapter states that she is “not under bondage”, that she could remarry. But that would require that discernment be made as to whether or not he was a Christian. IMHO, he certainly acted like an unbeliever, for he didn’t obey God’s Word, but I can’t say for sure.

The safest ground for me, an outsider to their relationship, is to be as restrictive as possible and tell Mary that she cannot remarry. But, is my goal to be theologically safe myself or to help Mary to have as close a relationship with God as she can and to speak to her heart from the heart of her Father, God? Certainly, she won’t be sinning by not remarrying. Could Mary have engaged in behavior that “made” her husband seek love in the arms of another? The sense of justice in Western Christian civilization does not hold one person responsible for the wrong doing of another. If Mary was difficult to live with, which her husband may have thought provided him with an excuse for unfaithfulness, should she be penalized by being made to feel that God doesn’t want her to have a husband and family?

What does God want with her and for her? Yes, it matters, for her Heavenly Father loves her.

It seems that the reason for God to say what He did through the apostle was to state that He regards the preservation of the marriage bond as important to Him, not for His sake, but for our sakes. The fact that Mary’s ex-husband is married to another woman precludes any reconciliation between him and Mary. It ain’t gonna happen. There is no reason within the context of what is written for Mary to not be married again. It is possible that Mary is carrying emotional “baggage” that would threaten the integrity of another marriage, but that’s another article that I plan to address, but not tonight.

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