Divorce compared to taking a life (killing)
The dissolution of a marriage and the taking of a human life are alike in many important ways. Neither is ideal, and neither would have been necessary or good had it not been for mankind’s fall from God’s grace. Nevertheless, both are allowances that God has provided in order to lessen or curtail the continual creep of sin and its grasp upon mankind. Consider the following chart:
Scenario Killing allowed Divorce allowed
Self-defense: when someone is trying to harm or kill another.
Self-defense: when a person physically beats their spouse or kids.
War: when an aggressive civilization attacks a peaceful civilization.
War: when a saint is tied to an unbeliever who engages in spiritual warfare.
High crimes: God commanded the death penalty for many crimes.
High Crimes: continually, unrepentantly breaking several covenant conditions.
One would expect to find people who think and believe that it is never right to take a life. Logically, killing people is a far more severe punishment than divorcing people (at least in the vast majority of cases), so it would make sense that more people would object to killing people. By and large, in non-Christian circles killing is more objectionable than divorcing. However, in most conservative Christian circles the exact opposite is true. These Christians have little or no problem with the idea of killing people for the reasons noted in the chart, and at the very same time they are very often profoundly against justifiable divorces. In fact, Americans across the board tend to call our soldiers who have served in wars heroic, and bear in mind that they have presumably killed foreign combatants. War heroes are by definition killers. Most also think of the little old lady or the young child who shoots and kills an armed intruder as heroic—especially if he was later discovered to have had a long rap sheet including many violent crimes. When was the last time a divorcee was hailed as heroic? Among conservative Christians, appropriate distinctions exist in the collective psyche between murdering an innocent person and the justifiable taking of a life, but no such distinctions exist for divorce. All divorces are considered unlawful. All divorcees are treated like unrepentant dogs. They are all subjected to shame and discredited as having proven to be people of low character who cannot be entrusted with Christian ministry. The prevalent attitude on divorce and divorcees can be likened to a people who treat their war heroes and their serial killers as if they were the same. Imagine the outcry if Barack Obama suggested Americans were to take this perspective. Yet this is the prevalent attitude directed at every divorced person.
Whenever the world has a more balanced perspective on a moral issue than does the church it is likely that believers, in relation to that issue, have fallen into the Pharisaical pattern of legalism/judgmentalism. It was the Pharisees who cleverly sought out ways to discredit God’s prophets and Christ’s disciples. Unchurched Americans currently recognize the need for some divorces. They also, by and large, have the wisdom to recognize when someone has been a cad and when someone involved in a marriage/divorce has been a saint. Yet many in the church cannot discern one from the other because of their animus or prejudice against divorce in general. The outcome of this in the church is that during a divorce process God’s children turn against their brothers in Christ in order to support the very godless men and women who have made the life of their regenerate spouse a living hell by choosing day after day and year after year to remain unrepentant. It is like a man who has been slowly poisoned to death for months by his godless wife. Finally suspecting her actions he calls his church to come to his aid at once. Two men from his church arrive and hold him down while his wife gives him the final and fatal dose. That is how it feels when a necessary ending, a justifiable divorce begins and God’s people attack the brother or sister involved.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of joy above Your fellows (Psalm 45:7).
Men of bloodshed hate the blameless, but the upright are concerned for his life…An unjust man is abominable to the righteous, and he who is upright in the way is abominable to the wicked (Proverbs 29:10 & 27).
Seven reasons exist for this regretful reality, but the reader should first be careful to take a few moments in order to fully grasp how odd it is that those who actually take life from somebody are given greater latitude and license by most believers than are those who remove themselves from the bad company of an unrepentant sinner to whom they were married. This is indeed lamentable.
Reason 1: God Simply Did Not Speak Fully on Divorce
First, consider the primary and foundational reason for this strange state of affairs: The Scriptures are considerably clearer on God’s commands in the case of putting to death certain classes of people than they are in His commands on divorce. Because God has not spoken extensively on divorce it is left to God’s children to decipher the biblical teaching on the subject. This inevitably leads to differences of opinion. Once a considerable segment of Christians determine that divorce is wrong, then they are often prone to dogmatically argue that the Scriptures are God’s revelation of His commands, and it is not man’s place to question what God has commanded (frequently neglecting to mention their interpretive role in difficult cases brought on by a lack of scriptural clarity). In other words, if God said it (and if they have determined its meaning), then it must be true regardless of the fact that other God fearing Christians differ based upon their own understanding of God’s word. Often, even when other trustworthy men of God understand God’s revelation on a topic differently these believers rarely seems to temper their dogma and enthusiasm for it—in fact it often ratchets it up a notch.
Conservative Christians agree that God is our highest authority, and the Scriptures are God breathed, so then the Scriptures supersede logic. However, are God and His Word illogical? By no means! Or do we, when our interpretation of a doctrine in Scripture is illogical, withdraw our cognitive exertions and throw up our hands saying, “I guess God did not want to be logical on this point!”? Of course not. However, this seems to be the stance of Permanence View Christians on this issue. Logically, killing people is more severe than divorcing people. The Permanence View Christians believe that Divorce is always wrong but do not believe that killing people is always wrong. Does this mean that God and His word are illogical? Of course not! God has not created this problem—it is man’s mess. It is the illogical view of some of God’s children to say that on the one hand people can be so evil that they must be killed while insisting on the other hand that those same evil people must NOT be divorced.
It is acknowledged that the Permanence View crowd would then argue that it is not the actions of evil people that God prohibits and deems worthy of discipline or even death, but the actions of God’s people. In other words, God holds Christians to His standard, not non-Christians. But let us look at the reason for God commanding death to evil people in the first place. God’s children are commanded to take whatever course is necessary to eliminate every hindrance to their walks with Him, including killing when appropriate, as we see in the Israelites’ conquest and settlement of the land of Canaan. God’s people were commanded to take over the cities of Canaan not by peacefully strolling into each town with convincing arguments and good politics, but by force—being told to “totally destroy” (Judges 1:17, NIV) the Canaanite cities upon which they were advancing. The Hebrew word used for destroy here means “the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord, often by totally destroying them” (NIV). “Irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord” connotes an irreversible event meant to completely remove any trace of what existed there before, especially in this case, the remnants of idolatry and paganism from the previous ungodly Canaanite occupants. This included killing every inhabitant in those cities mainly because they would be the main vehicles of idolatry to God’s people.
This is not something with which a holy people are to treat lightly, the threat of corruption and sin warrants decisive, harsh, gutsy action on the part of the believer in order to protect themselves from letting anything come between them and the Lord. Thus, if death and complete destruction is allowed and even commanded for God’s people in order to protect them from being pulled into sin by evil and idolatrous people around them, and death is a more severe consequence than a divorce, we must be allowed to divorce an unbeliever when they are a hindrance to our walk with God. Indeed if God expects us to do whatever it takes to stay close to Him, including the killing of other human beings, then it would be illogical for God to decree that anything less severe than death off limits if it could vanquish the evil influence from our midst. Divorce serves as a lessor irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord without the finality of killing them. Hence, divorce for the unequally yoked Christian connotes an irreversible event meant to completely remove any trace of what existed there before so that the Christian will not be drawn away from God into idolatry.
So why have so many godly saints drawn this illogical conclusion? The answer to that question is the entire purpose of this chapter. We will show seven causes responsible for the unbiblical conclusion that God forbids all marital divorce. The first cause, stated above, is that God has not spoken with the kind of clarity necessary to avoid disagreement on the subject. It must be said at this juncture that mature believers SHOULD be less affected by the following six causes, but the whole Christian culture through the centuries has opened all Christians up to the effects of these influences. They can be and are resisted by those more mature in their walk, but the influence they bring is always substantial.
The other six causes are: 2. divorce is a fringe issue, 3. the majority, we would argue unwittingly, fall under strong presuppositional forces to the Scriptural teaching on divorce, 4. a misplaced zeal in regards to marriage among the saints, 5. group think, 6. jealousy, and 7. judgmentalism. Some of these reasons are discussed at great length elsewhere in this work, but some explanation is necessary here. Note: these final six causes that influenced this unbiblical conclusion do not each stand separate from one another but are the very warp and woof of the divorce issue as it has evolved over the centuries. Said differently, these last six causes lend support to each other as they influence minds against using divorce as a tool for good—they do not have an influence over the seeker of truth separately but concurrently. Theologians cannot examine the topic of divorce under the influence of just one of these causes without being influenced by one or more of the others. The most spiritually mature are able to lesson some of the influence from these causes, but it is evident, regrettably so, that it is very difficult to do.
Let Us Consider These Major Influences upon the Seeker of Truth on the Topic of Unequally Yoked Divorce.
Second Cause: Divorce Is a Fringe Issue
Statistics claim that half of all marriages end in a divorce. That does not sound like a fringe issue, but it clearly is for most of God’s children. Divorce may touch most people one way or another through the broken marriage of a relative or friend, but for many it never really strikes too close to home. Single people need not concern themselves with it, married people who chose well need not concern themselves with it, and many more people who although they do not have great marriages nevertheless have good enough marriages so that their conscience is not pricked to work on their marriage enough to be in a position to contemplate whether the tool of divorce should be considered. Divorce is a fringe issue because it is not for example: God, the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, man, sin, grace, sovereignty, justification, sanctification, obedience, faith, hope, love, joy, the fruit of the Spirit, elders, evangelism, soteriology, eschatology, and so on. God and His word are so wonderful that men have much to study and meditate upon long before they come to the subject of divorce and remarriage. For most it is a tertiary issue at best.
In addition, it is a very complicated issue to study—those who have never tried might be surprised to see just how difficult it is to study the issue of divorce. The average mind does not possess the capacity to compile, consider and comprehend together all the facets of the divorce and remarriage doctrines. An individual would need to be highly motivated to break down all the factors involved and really grasp the concepts discussed in scripture on this subject all the while swimming against the tide of the Christian ethos on divorce. Taken together this means that most will not do their homework on this subject. The topic is simply too fringe for most believers to invest the time necessary to understand this complicated subject. This is the foundational culture that paves the way for the third cause that so many conservative Christians wrongly take a stand against their brethren who need God’s provision of divorce.
Third Cause: A Presuppositional Approach to the Scriptural Teaching on Divorce is Unavoidable
By the time God’s people get around to studying the issues involved in divorce and remarriage they have long since been predisposed to be against the whole idea. Generally speaking Christians are pretty happy and content in their anti-divorce leanings, but all too often they become smug and take a holier-than-thou attitude. Many Christians do, in fact, exhibit an offensive satisfaction with their own situation especially so as it relates to divorce. Imagine beginning a study on the subject of divorce and remarriage. What leaps to mind immediately? For many it is the short quote: “God hates divorce”. This quote from the Old Testament book of Malachi is discussed at great length elsewhere in this work, but it is clear what influence this quote would have on a student at the onset of their study. Two additional scriptural quotes from the nineteenth chapter of Matthew would likely be in ones mind at the onset of a study on divorce: “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate”, and “Whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
These short memorable quotes are only part of the anti divorce and remarriage mindset in Christianity. Everything about Christianity pushes its followers away from divorce—just as everything in Christianity pushes its followers away from killing people. God commanded Saul as well as other kings to kill every man, woman and child in the countries that the Israelites were clearing out so that they could possess the Promised Land. Why? Why kill everyone instead of just killing the soldiers? If the Israelites would have failed to kill everyone, then they would have been contaminated by the sinful cultures of the godless people they refused to kill. In the same way, if Christians fail to separate themselves from Godless spouses, then those spouses will contaminate their children, their relatives and their friends not to mention the contamination to them. This was the very reason that Ezra commanded the divorce of all the men who took foreign wives. See the chapter on Ezra in the section on Scriptural support for divorce and remarriage.
In a related fashion, to kill is to cause the death of another. Divorce, like death, is a separation brought upon man by sin. Both can be necessary and even good when man’s present state is considered. Of course separation is not ideal but neither is the world in which man lives. If Christians are not separated from one another by death, then they will never reach the greatest state for a man—to be with the Lord and clothed with a new heavenly body. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones” (Psalm 116:15). The same is true for divorce. If Christians are not separated from their unequally yoked spouses, then they would never reach one of the greatest states on earth, which is to have constant fellowship with a spouse—iron sharpening iron on a daily basis with the one person with whom we spend most of our time. Note: It is important that the reader understand that God must move each believer in their own conscience toward such a hard road. Divorce will be unbelievably hard and painful for most, but when it is entered into for the right reasons believers should at least have the support of their local church family. Presently they are often pushed out of their local church family when God has moved them toward separating from a godless spouse.
Fourth Cause: Misplaced Zeal for Marriage Over God Honoring Relationships
Many Christians feel that because they do not need a divorce that nobody should be able to get a divorce. Christians who have good, godly spouses still struggle with and in their marriages. So the mindset is, “if I can struggle through the rough spots of my marriage, then so can those who are opting for divorce—they are taking the easy way out.” Really? Are you under the impression that a divorce is easy? Does a major broken relationship sound easy? Would you like to lose everything you have been building for years? Does it sound easy to have to start all over again? Do you think going through a first year of marriage again is easy? Are you under the impression that loving and raising step-children is easy? Does having another mother-in-law sound even remotely easy? Take a moment to thank God right now for your believing spouse, then stop thinking that your unequally yoked brothers and sisters have the same problems that you have in your marriage.
People can be very cruel about things they do not understand. One of the reasons that we are not suppose to judge one another is because we cannot see the things hidden in the darkness and we do not know the motives of men’s hearts. True believers are led by the Holy Spirit and are commanded to follow their own conscience. Each believer alone knows the manifold details of their own life that are hidden to all other’s eyes except God’s. Since no one knows the things hidden in the darkness in another person’s life, no one should be the judge of another.
An equally yoked marriage is not the same as an unequally yoked marriage. God never intended his children to be in unequally yoked marriages. Some people become believers after their marriage and find themselves in an unequally yoked marriage (Paul’s intended audience for 1 Corinthians 7:12-14). More frequently, marriage often takes place between two young people, and young people are naturally inexperienced. Inexperienced people often make stupid mistakes and take sinful paths through life. Young believers in Christ are not immune to poor decision making.
Young believers in Christ, all too frequently, get married to somebody who fails to exhibit clear signs of being a growing Christian. The person claims to be a Christian. They were raised in a “Christian home”. So they must be a Christian. Right? Once a young Christian has “fallen in love” it is next to impossible to talk sense into them—because they are stupid. Some young Christians marry someone they are not even in love with because they had sexual relations with that person and they believe the two have already become one, and the only way to make right the sin(s) they have committed is to marry the person. STUPID! It may be an honorable thing they are trying to do but it is out of ignorance. God does not want His children to be in unequally yoked relationships.
How exactly do many Christians have a misplaced zeal? It is misplaced when their zeal is for the institution of marriage rather than for the God honoring relationships. When some Pharisees questioned Jesus as to why His disciples were picking the heads of grain on the Sabbath, “Jesus said to them, ‘The Sabbath came into being for the sake of man, and not man for the sake of the Sabbath’ (Mark 2:27). The same could be said for marriage. Marriage came into being for the sake of man, and not man for the sake of marriage. Marriage serves men primarily by making their relationships more honoring to God and secondly, more fulfilling for mankind. When a marriage cannot achieve those two objectives, then that marriage should be dissolved, so that the believing spouse3. can find a relationship that is capable of achieving those objectives. The marriage is not an end in itself. It is a means to an end. Once the institution (the means) ceases to move a couple toward the objective (the end) and it actually pushes them away from the objective, then the institution for that couple has become so broken that it needs to be dissolved. It needs be pointed out that the institution of marriage has not failed in such cases. The people involved have failed to use the institution as it was intended to be used. But when their failure cannot be rectified, then divorce should and must be allowed, even encouraged, as in Ezra’s day.
Many Christians think that because Christianity is the champion of marriage that divorce cannot be good or appropriate. When I was a young boy I remember my parents having a discussion. My mother thought that if she died my father could best honor their wonderful marriage by not remarrying because a second marriage would necessarily diminish the grandness of the first marriage. My dad countered by saying that if their marriage was so great, then his getting remarried would be a testament to the greatness of his first marriage. What my mother failed to realize was that people do not exist to serve the institution of marriage and make it great, but rather marriage exists to serve mankind and to make life more fulfilling. Had my mother died young and my father refused to remarry in order to honor my mother and their marriage, then my father would have lived the remainder of his years without the relationship that God intended for man even before sin entered into the world.
Marriage is about great, God-honoring relationships between men and women. When two Spirit-filled Christians marry they, by definition, are two people who experientially repent from sin on a daily basis. This means that they should never have to get a divorce. Whenever sin enters into the relationship if both are saved, then both have the capacity to repent effectively removing the sin from the relationship so that it can remain great and God honoring. When a Christian finds that they are married to a non-Christian (even when the non-Christian claims to be a Christian) the marriage cannot be nearly as great or as God-honoring. That being said, some unequally yoked marriages are better than others, but the reality is the same. One of the partners does not live for the glory of God, and this will always have a negative effect upon the relationship.
Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.” Therefore, “COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord. “AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN”; and I will welcome you. II Corinthians 7:14-17
Part of the misplaced zeal for the institution of marriage is seen in the sound advice regularly given to young Christians, which is “Do not even date an unbeliever so that you will not ‘fall in love’ and find yourself in an unequally yoked marriage.” Sound advice, but it has already been established that young people are very often stupid. Paul’s words to the Corinthian believers do not say, “Do not get bound together with unbelievers”; he said, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers”. For the misplaced zeal crowd, every stupid young Christian who foolishly married an unbeliever is all too easily thrown under the bus of worshipping the institution of marriage.
In a discussion with a man who held the permanence view of marriage and divorce he said, “Marriage is the second most important thing in the bible after the glory of Christ.” His meaning was not just intended as his personal viewpoint; he actually believed that of all the biblical doctrines marriage between a man and a woman was the second most significant. Sadly no elaboration was offered at the time, but this demonstrates the kind of zeal that exists for the institution that was intended to serve mankind. We presume this man was actually referring to the analogy of marriage as it relates to Christ as the groom and the Church as the bride. Certainly some argument can be made that the restoration of God’s fallen creation ranks very high in biblical doctrines, but it seems quite a leap to say that the institution of marriage apart from its analogous usage sits in this lofty place.
Fifth Cause: Group Think
The part of the Christian church (the actual body of Christ) that takes the bible seriously and holds it up as the ultimate standard of truth and as the highest earthly authority for believers is, regrettably, largely guilty of groupthink when it comes to the issue of divorce and remarriage.
Wikipedia on groupthink:
Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within groups of people. It is the mode of thinking that happens when the desire for harmony in a decision-making group overrides a realistic appraisal of alternatives. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative ideas or viewpoints. Antecedent factors such as group cohesiveness, structural faults, and situational context play into the likelihood of whether or not groupthink will impact the decision-making process.
The primary socially negative cost of groupthink is the loss of individual creativity, uniqueness, and independent thinking. As a social science model, groupthink has an enormous reach and influences literature in the fields of communications, political science, social psychology, management, organizational theory, and information technology.
The majority of the initial research on groupthink was performed by Irving Janis, a research psychologist from Yale University. His original definition of the term was, “A mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive ingroup, when the members’ strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action.”
Irving Janis’ main principle of groupthink states:
The more amiability and esprit de corps there is among the members of a policy-making ingroup, the greater the danger that independent critical thinking will be replaced by groupthink, which is likely to result in irrational and dehumanizing actions against outgroups.
By these definitions no group could be more susceptible to groupthink than the body of Christ. The Permanence View of marriage leaves no room for realistic appraisal of alternative views. God’s holy word does not need alternative viewpoints, but the understanding of His word does indeed often need open mindedness to be certain that God’s message has not been distorted or missed altogether. The danger of groupthink is very real.
Independent critical thinking should still be an ideal for believers; however, it seems that groupthink has put the church in a corporately sinful position of killing their wounded. When it comes to divorce the Permanence View leads the way on irrational thinking and dehumanizing actions against the divorced. At a time when a believer is most in need of the church’s support they are attacked and treated like an outsider.
We have suffered the losses both of a teenaged son to cancer and a marriage to an unbelieving spouse of over 25 years to divorce and be assured that they are comparable in terms of the pain that each event causes in one’s life. By and large, the church circles around the parent of a dying child, but they are the ones shooting the arrows at the brother or sister going through a divorce. This is not consistent with the spirit of Christian love and it must be addressed within the body of Christ.
On the subject of divorce and remarriage the body of Christ has experienced group pressures towards consensus that have lead to concurrence-seeking tendencies. The sinful reality is that conservative Christians have taken a more restrictive position on divorce and remarriage than has God’s Holy Scriptures. Often it has been said that it is better to err on the side of caution. The permanence view has done that and it has been very destructive in the lives of thousands if not millions of people. To err is to stray from the truth or to make a mistake. On this significant issue it is better not to err at all.
Sixth Cause: Jealousy
Webster’s definition of what it means to be jealous is so significant that it must be provided for the reader:
a: intolerant of rivalry or unfaithfulness
b: disposed to suspect rivalry or unfaithfulness
: hostile toward a rival or one believed to enjoy an advantage
: vigilant in guarding a possession <new colonies were jealous of their new independence
Simply unpacking these definitions is all that is necessary to show jealousy’s role in pushing Christians toward a stronger stance against divorce and remarriage than what is warranted in God’s word.
1a: intolerant of rivalry
Christians fear that the merry-go-round marriages of the Hollywood celebrities and the allowance of homosexual marriage have and will continue to cause injury to the institution of marriage itself. The fact is that these behaviors speak to the moral character of the people acting them out. The institution of marriage serves to highlight the depths of a societies decline in such instances, but marriage itself is not under attack.
Christians have confused a states license to wed with God’s institution of marriage. They are not the same. One unites a man and a woman into holy matrimony with God as their witness—no piece of paper is necessary for God’s union of a man and a woman. The other allows Americans over 1,000 potential benefits from the Federal, state and local governments. Americans have gotten into the habit of doing them both (usually together), but scripture does not command them both. The body of Christ should not discourage the separation of church and state because it always ends up poorly for God’s people when the state gets involved in the church.
Intolerant of Unfaithfulness
Everyone who goes through a divorce is labeled unfaithful even though many divorced individuals have been the picture of faithfulness in the midst of very difficult circumstances. Nevertheless, those who have never been in unequally yoked marriages consider all divorcees as unfaithful in some way, shape or form and they are intolerant of them to one degree or another. Divorced Christians feel very much like an oppressed group within conservative Christian circles because of the intolerant attitudes of the larger, more powerful group.
2: hostile toward one believed to enjoy an advantage
Most people experience enough bumps, bruises and dips in their marriage that they see a divorce and remarriage as an advantage that they do not have. The mindset here seems to be, would not all of us like to have another opportunity at finding the perfect mate? It is hoped that many of God’s children are thinking, “No, I am completely smitten with and thankful for the believing lover God has given me.” Nevertheless, many do see a second marriage as an advantage and an unfair one at that. The attitude of many seems to be, “I’m going to stick out my marriage until death do us part, and I will not be anything but hostile to you for failing to follow the same course.” Yet those equally yoked in marriage cannot know the difficulties of being bound together with an unbeliever.
3: vigilant in guarding a possession
Long marriages are celebrated and that is appropriate except that it seems a bit odd the way in which we laud those who have made it to their fortieth or fiftieth anniversary. It is as if we are saying, “Goodness gracious, how marvelous you must be to have stayed in an institution that is akin to a concentration camp for all those years for the sake of prudence—hurrah for you.” The reality should be that any person fortunate enough to be blessed for fifty years with the union of a person with whom they love and cherish more than anyone else should be extremely thankful to God for the blessing. They need not be lauded as if they have done something hard when the reality is that it was fifty years of pure joy.
This is kind of the point. It is the person who finally comes to the end of a long struggle with an unequally yoked partner that should be lauded for giving it everything they had for several years. Men and women who themselves have been transformed by the power of God’s Holy Spirit and who have been enduring unequally yoked marriages for years and have been praying for God to bring change, and fighting against the godless influence of their unsaved spouse, and working at returning good for evil on a daily basis—these are the godly characteristics of brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus who have come to the conclusion, after years of struggle, that God is answering their prayers and providing them a way out…a way out that is different from their hopes and dreams of God regenerating the heart of their unsaved spouse.
Those fortunate enough to have gotten marriage right the first time around should not be the ones taking shots at these beaten down children of God, rather they should be doing everything in their power to help them make the transition as Ezra did for these same types of people in his day. Oh what a blessing for all of God’s saints to see a beloved brother united to a beloved sister after years of difficult struggles with vessels of wrath prepared for destruction. Is the pain of these unholy unions not enough? Should these beloved ones of God be suffering at the hands of their own spiritual siblings? Must they face the ungodly judgment of their fellow heirs with Christ Jesus—the very judgment that has been forbidden by God in the Scriptures? Jealousy is indeed among the reasons that the conservative church is pushed in the direction of being more restrictive than even God’s Holy Scriptures when it comes to divorce and remarriage.
Seventh Cause: Judgmentalism
Two biblical commands, one against judging others and the other commanding the rebuke of fellow believers, come together in something of a paradox. It is the view of the Permanence View believers that any and all divorces are sins; therefore, they believe that they are obeying God by rebuking those getting a divorce. Scriptural qualifications for rebuking are: You must first be in Christ Jesus yourself, you must be mature in your knowledge of the scriptures and finally you must genuinely love those you are rebuking. Generally speaking those holding the Permanence View err on the second qualification. Declaring divorce a sin is unbiblical as Moses permitted it, Ezra encouraged it and God demonstrated it in divorcing Israel and Judah. Then, in legalistic fashion, they hold everybody else accountable to their “weeker brother” viewpoint.
In addition to the qualifications for rebuking the scriptures provide four precautions as rebuke is faithfully carried out. Those precautions are: Show all impartiality, have the scriptures alone be the standard of measurement, when in doubt give the benefit of the doubt and finally rebuke sins of omission as well as sins of commission. The Permanence Viewers fail to be impartial because they are so biased toward their own viewpoint, which is no divorce ever. It is always tempting to rebuke those who cross us or disagree with our views. It is tempting to use rebuke as a weapon to get our way. Rebuke must be used to edify a brother and never to tear him down. By its very nature the Permanence View completely tears down anyone who has gotten a divorce (What part of no divorce ever don’t you understand?). They completely destroy the reputation of anyone who dares to divorce, and they continue the attacks upon their reputation for decades after the divorce action. Virtually every other act that the Permanence View people deem sinful can be completely expunged from a person’s record over time, but not so for the divorcee.
Over thirty years ago a close friend who has spent his life as a missionary on the African continent said, “You can murder an innocent person and go to prison and upon the completion of your prison sentence you can become an elder (pastor) in the church with a crowd pleasing testimony, but if you ever get a divorce you will never be allowed to serve and you will be relegated to a second class Christian until the day you die.” If God’s clear statements in scripture supported this disarranged representation, then so be it. But the qualification passages in Titus and Timothy’s letters are neither clearly nor universally seen as disqualifying anyone who has been divorced. The position of the permanence view crowd is in violation of the second precaution for rebuke—the soul standard must be the scriptures. If the scriptures are not crystal clear, then do not add to them by coming up with your best guess as to what was intended. No personal interpretation should supplant the scriptures as the standard for everybody else. For this reason and many others judging one another is one of the worst and easiest sins into which we often fall prey.