Marriage: There’s nothing like a good one and there’s nothing like a bad one
For those of us who have gone through it, divorce is like the unspoken third-rail in religion. We don’t often hear sermons on how great divorce is.
I know the Bible says, “Let no man put asunder what God hath joined together.” But what happens when someone does put it asunder?
Like it or not, our country has a 50% divorce rate. That’s nothing new. In the 30’s it was even higher than that. Truth is, divorce has been around longer than Christ. Mosaic law allows for divorce under certain conditions. Those conditions make up the question that the ‘teachers’ tried to trick Jesus with. In Mark 10 they asked Jesus if a divorce can be granted for any reason. Jesus replied, “Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this commandment.” Jesus goes on to explain that any man who puts his wife away causes her to sin as well as himself.
He’s also pretty clear about adultery. Jesus says if a man looks at a woman with lust that he’s already committed adultery and he should pluck his eye out. It’s argued that Jesus was using this as an illustration, not a commandment for self-mutilation, but I think he was saying the same thing about divorce. Sometimes relationships are a form of self-mutilation.
Here’s my problem with the sermons I’ve heard on divorce and the woefully inadequate counseling I received regarding divorce: Jesus is a teacher of peace, soft hearts, and above all love. The love of God first, and the love of others second.
In fact, in the chapter of Mark Jesus is tested again when asked which commandment is greatest. In Mark 12:28-31 Jesus responds:” Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” There are over 500 references in the Bible to love.
The Bible is a guide-book for life. People are imperfect. People fail. People turn away from God and love. Sometimes they turn to a darkness that you don’t want any part of. Adultery, drug addiction, illegal activities, abuse, child-abuse, neglect, and darker things. These things happen to ordinary people and that includes the children of God. And yet, the word of God doesn’t fail us (read on).
So when these things happen, what do you do? Stay? Endure the abuse? What will cause you to sin more? Staying with your spouse or leaving to find peace? I’ve never heard anyone say, “Gee I wish I’d stayed in that abusive relationship longer.”
When I faced my decision about divorce, I sought advice from what I considered to be religious leaders. The overwhelming answer I got was this: “It is a sin to divorce and you need to work it out.”
That’s the ideal answer, but we don’t live in an ideal world with ideal people. And even if we did, one person cannot make a marriage work when the other is determined to destroy it.
When I made my decision, I relied on the words of my Granny. After I told her some of the things that had happened within my marriage, she stood up, put her hands on her hips and said, “Jesus never told anybody to be a door-mat. He said to turn the other cheek, not lay down and let someone walk all over you . Even Jesus got outraged.”
My Grandmother, or Granny as I called her, was well-respected in our community and in our Church. She never missed a service. She was giving, loving, and she raised 12 children with a husband she described in private and out of earshot as ‘Lucifer’s Bastard’. She said to me, “I’m sure your Pa loved you. He will always be your Pa. But, when that man died, I felt nothing but relief. ”
After my divorce was over, and some of the Church members were less than welcoming to me, I relied on her words again. “Baby, don’t you ever hold your head down. You made it out of that mess alive. That’s something to be proud of. If anybody tells you different, you send them to me.”
The Bible is my guide-book, but my Granny is my counselor.Even after her death, her words live on in my heart. The abuse she suffered, I could never endure. My Grandmother knew that, even if I, or my pastor, didn’t. From her I learned that love without trust is like life without breath, and there are better options than waiting for a tormentor to die.
I like to think things have changed. Then I speak to people in abusive situations, and I find out that it hasn’t. Not long ago, another death happened at the hands of an abuser. When counseling someone in an abusive relationship, tell them to let common sense rule and consult the Bible, not the pastors. People die in these situations. Let’s love them enough to give them the support they seek to get out and save themselves. Life is too precious to live in misery and much too dangerous. The verse my Granny used to turn my head the right-way was this one:
BETTER A DRY CRUST WITH PEACE AND QUIET THAN A HOUSE FULL OF FEASTING WITH STRIFE – Proverbs 17:1
Most importantly, we’re told what to do in the Bible when we find a person has turned from God and the Word, and we shouldn’t advise people (women or men) to do otherwise because of “family values” that just aren’t there anymore:
Titus 3:10-11 ” Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition. 11 knowing that such a man is corrupt and sinful; he is self-condemned.”
1 Corinthians 15:33 “Do not be deceived. Bad company corrupts good character.”
And many, many more:
HE WHO BRINGS TROUBLE ON HIS FAMILY WILL INHERIT ONLY WIND -Proverbs 11:29
A HOT-TEMPERED MAN MUST PAY THE PENALTY; IF YOU RESCUE HIM, YOU WILL HAVE TO DO IT AGAIN – Proverbs 19:19
DO NOT SPEAK TO A FOOL, FOR HE WILL SCORN THE WISDOM OF YOUR WORD- Proverbs 23:9
He that justifies the wicked, and he that condemns the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD- Proverbs 17:15
God will judge those outside. “EXPEL THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOU” -1 Corinthians 5:13
BUT I AM NOW WRITING YOU THAT YOU MUST NOT ASSOCIATE WITH ANYONE WHO CALLS HIMSELF A BROTHER BUT IS SEXUALLY IMMORAL OR GREEDY, AN IDOLATER OR A SLANDERER, A DRUNKARD OR A SWINDLER. WITH SUCH A MAN DO NOT EVEN EAT – 1 Corinthians 5: 11
“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” – 1 Timothy 5:8