A comment about my book on MDR.
One good friend of mine was told that my book on “Just As I Am: Married, Divorced and Remarried” just made it “too easy.” Since I really do not know what was meant by “too easy,” and neither did my friend, I may not know how to respond. But I can understand why this would be said especially when brethren have only been taught one view of the issue. All of us who believe the Bible are opposed to unlawful “divorce” and we all believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman for life. But the “ideal” does not always work. Furthermore, when some of us think of divorce we usually only consider someone leaving a “faithful mate” for someone else, which is always wrong. However, as we all well know, that is not always the reason for divorce in the real world. There are also those faithful mates who are simply abandoned or abused and left “divorced” through no fault of their own without anyone else being involved. Therefore, my response may be of interest to others on my email blog list. So I will ask, “Too easy to do what?”
1. Does my book make it “too easy” for MDR couples to “be forgiven?”
First, is it harder for the blood of Jesus to pay for MDR sins than for other sins? Does His death provide the atonement for all sins except for marital sins or sins against marriage? Doesn’t grace apply to those who have come to Jesus for forgiveness who have made marriage mistakes just as it does for everyone else and their sins? Why would teaching sinners to “come to Jesus” for forgiveness of “any” sin ever be referred to as making it “too easy?”
Second, this is my main reason for believing that the church has mistreated those divorced and remarried and/or in some cases is simply prejudiced against them. When the woman “caught” in the “act of adultery” (which of necessity involved violating a marital covenant), the Pharisees did not want her to be forgiven…they wanted her stoned! Simply forgiving her would most likely be making it “too easy” in their opinion (Jn. 8:4-11). If not stoned, she should at least be shunned. The Lord cannot just say, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more!”
(Perhaps they said something like I have heard concerning the divorced and remarried in the church: “Adultery involves the violation of a marriage covenant in some way (which she was guilty of doing). Sins against marriage are serious sins. Sins against marriage will lead to the breakdown of society and destroy family life. Adulterers sin against marriage! And all You say is, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.” That’s ‘too easy.’ We cannot understand mercy being extended to an ‘adulterer’ or those who have sinned against marriage. It’s just ‘too easy’…‘too easy!’ If you simply forgive them, You will be making it ‘too easy’ for others who want to do the same thing. At least, make them pay for their sin in some way. At least tell them that they cannot have sex anymore because they must remain single! Since they have committed adultery they have forfeited their right to be married!”)
This is the way the church sometimes comes across in our teaching and preaching concerning almost all those divorced and remarried—even those who are unjustly put away or deserted or abused and did not want to be divorced—but are still told to remain single…regardless!)
Third, and most importantly, even those guilty of marital sins come to Jesus because they need forgiveness and healing. Those who have hurt others (or those who have been hurt by others) in a failed marriage relationship and started over need help and healing when they come to Jesus for forgiveness and/or strength just like everyone else. They do not need “stones!” Those who have started over in a new marriage surely do not need to be told to “do it (divorce) again!” Jesus told this guilty woman to “go and sin no more.” In my judgment, this is exactly what He says today to those who have committed marital adultery against a mate and have come to Him for forgiveness. “Neither do I condemn you” for the sin of divorcing and remarrying, so “go and do not sin by divorcing again!” I know that that may sound “too easy” for some, but that does not change the Lord’s message of mercy in the least. Simple forgiveness for such a serious sin takes a special sacrifice…and that sacrifice has been made!
2. Does my book make it “too easy” to divorce?
First, it was not written to married people who want to divorce! I make that clear more than once—especially at the beginning of the book. I point out that pardon for marital sins is not the same as permission to commit marital sins. Furthermore, the title of the book specifies who to whom it was written. The title is not “Just as I would like to be,” but “Just as I Am: Married, Divorced and Remarried.”
Second, it is specifically “dedicated” to those involved in divorce and remarriage…not to married people who want to divorce. In fact, I encourage those who are having marital problems not to read the book, but rather to seek marital counseling. The main objective of the book is to prevent divorce and abuse of the marriage covenant and reassure those involved in MDR that they can be forgiven without divorcing the faithful mates they are married to—even if it is a second or subsequent marriage.
Third, Jesus Himself made it “easy (?)” to divorce a fornicator who refuses to repent and even those who hold the “only exception” view acknowledge this. In these cases involving fornication, are they making it “too easy” for the “innocent victim” to divorce and remarry or are they simply recognizing that Jesus authorizes (gives the right to) one to divorce a mate who has breached the marriage covenant in this way? Note: I know that married couples should try to work it out and avoid divorce even in these cases of “sexual unfaithfulness” if possible—even if it involves more than one instance of fornication—and I teach that very thing! I believe that couples can/should work through it and I believe that it can done in some (maybe most) cases with the Lord’s help. But that is not always possible! And in those cases where the innocent victim divorces an unfaithful partner and marries another if it sounds “too easy”…so be it! And most all leaders in the Church agree with this. Are they making it “too easy?”
3. Does my book make it “too easy” for an “innocent victim” who has been “abandoned” or “deserted” by an unbelieving mate to simply let him depart? Paul said, “If the unbelieving depart, let him depart…” (1 Cor. 7:15). I admit that that does actually sound “easy” enough…but I did not cause that to be written, God did. Do we believe that HE just makes it “too easy?” A faithful mate who is abandoned by a mate who has breached the covenant by deserting him/her will have a hard enough time without us adding to the problem. I personally think is it “too easy” for us to sit on the sideline and tell those innocent victims who are “deserted” to stay single. I believe that part of the real problem is that we have made it “too easy” on those of us who demand “celibacy” of those not “gifted to be celibate” (1 Cor. 7:5-7) to bind our views on forgiven people who are already struggling and in many cases have already been hurt enough!
4. Does my book make it “too easy” for the wife of a “violent abusive husband” (who, in some cases, is afraid for her life and the life of her children) to get out of that abusive relationship and find someone who will be faithful to her in a marriage covenant? I know personally of one husband who murdered his pregnant wife. According to some, she could not have divorced him for his “violent abuse” and even if she did she must remain single for the rest of her life all because she married an abusive man and did not know it until it was too late. The violent husband who murdered her can get remarried, but had she divorced him for his violence, she would have had to remain single according to some. I do not believe that that can possibly be true. We all know of cases where something similar to this has happened and is happening as I write these words. I do not believe that the Bible teaches us to put up with marital abuse and never has. I personally believe it is “too easy” for us to sit on the sideline and tell those who were/are in an abusive marriage that they must stay in that “abusive marriage” and be “abused,” or else “stay single” for the rest of their lives. I believe that part of the real problem is that we have made it “too easy” for those of us who demand “celibacy” of those not “gifted to be celibate” to bind these unscriptural and unmerciful traditional views on other Christians!
5. Does my book make it “too easy” for divorced and remarried people to stay married?
I certainly hope so! If not, I wasted a lot of time! I hope they find it “easy” to stay married and remain faithful to the covenant they are in and that they made to each other in their present marriage relationship (whether first, second or subsequent). I hope that after reading my book they will find it “easy” to accept God’s forgiveness and move forward in their lives and neglect the advice of those in the church who tell them to divorce the faithful mates they are married to and thus destroy their families and leave their children with divorced parents. I hope they find it “easy” to be faithful to the vows they have made to the mate they are married to. People need to stop divorcing faithful mates, period! God hates it and always has (Mal. 2:16). This is what my book is about and if that makes it “too easy” to stay married…then I believe that that is a good thing! The truth is that we have made it “too hard” on those MDR couples who want to come to Jesus for forgiveness by adding our human opinions and manmade traditions to the “gospel.” We have evidently found it “easy” to “bind heavy burdens, hard to bear” on others (Matt. 23:4) and failed to recognize that we have “neglected” the matter of “justice and mercy and faith” ourselves (Matt. 23:23) when it comes to dealing with others.
Those who believe in “destroying marriages and breaking up established families” obviously must be true to their convictions if that is what they truly believe. If they can sleep at night with a good conscience knowing they have refused to baptize those who seek forgiveness but refuse to divorce; or if they can have a clear conscience after seeking to break up established families; or if they can simply “avoid” teaching those caught up in these cases then that is between them and God. That is their business. But it is not for me! (By the way, if anyone does not want to teach them about Jesus and baptize them…send them to me! I will! Gladly! And so will many (perhaps most) others among us!)
One other positive note: Some (perhaps many) brethren secretly practice (or at least want to practice) what I preach…but they will not/cannot (for whatever reason) preach what we practice! And that too is up to them and I am happy when leaders refuse to break up established families…regardless of the motive. The church has made a lot of progress along these lines and for that I am thankful. But again, we all must live with the decisions we make—good or bad, sensible or senseless, consistent or inconsistent! Personally, I find it “too hard” to break up established families and if that seems “too easy” for others…so be it!
God bless us every one as we seek to serve Him based on our degree of faith and level of understanding at any given point in our spiritual journey on this or any other subject!
Thank God for Jesus! (2 Cor. 9:15).