Things are looking up with my new assistant Kim. She is techno savvy and hopefully will help me streamline things so I don’t keep dropping the balls that are in the air. Thanks for your prayers.
I hope you got a chance to listen to the RBC Webinar on Destructive Marriages that I did with Chris Moles last Wednesday. He’s a pastor in West Virginia and works with abusive men. We made a great team and I think his perspective and experience in working with abusive men can be a huge help to the church leadership. We’re exploring working on something more together and I would appreciate your prayers on this. Here’s the link if you’d like to listen to it:
While there I got a copy of RBC ministries booklet on God’s Protection of Women: When Abuse is Worse than Divorce. This is a great short overview of scripture showing that God is for the oppressed, God protects and values women and God doesn’t value the sanctity of marriage more than the safety and sanity of the individuals in it. To get your copy go to www.rbc.org Because RBC Ministries has excellent credibility in the church (they publish Our Daily Bread), most pastors would likely value this little booklet as a help to them in dealing with your marital situation.
I want to ask you a question. If I gave you a million dollars how would you feel? What would be different about your life as a result of my generosity? (Stop and answer these questions before you read on).
I’ve been studying through Ephesians recently and I am overwhelmed with God’s generosity and lavish love towards us. He blessed us with every spiritual blessing (1:3). He chose us to be in him before the creation of the world and made us blameless in his sight. (1:4). He adopted us into his family (1:5). We have redemption, forgiveness, and the riches of God’s grace, which he LAVISHED upon us (1:8). He made known to us the mystery of his will (1:9). And, this is only the beginning of God’s goodness and love and generosity towards us. But do you feel it? Is your countenance different because of what God has done for you? Does your life reflect this awareness, or do you live more often like an abandoned orphan?
Your spouse may not cherish you but I want you to know, deep down inside your heart, that you are cherished, loved, valued, and precious to God. Can you start to live like a loved, valued, cherished and precious person today?
Today’s question comes from a response to last week’s blog on Sarah and 1 Peter’s comments about her submission to her husband Abraham.
Today’s Question: Thank you for your answer on this issue and I concur 100 percent. Can I ask this question….What about the vow we all say before God…’for better for worse’? Do we have to stay in the marriage when it is ‘for worse’? Is that breaking our vows before God?
Answer: The traditional marriage vows that people typically recite in the United States are not taken directly from the Scriptures but from the Book of Common Prayer which was first published in 1662.
That does not mean that these vows do not contain scriptural elements, but for starters let’s look briefly at Gods view of marriage.
We know that marriage was first established by God (Genesis 2:18-25) and is a picture of Christ and the church. Marriage is meant to be life-long and a permanent commitment. We also know that divorce was not God’s best, but because of sin, occurred (Deuteronomy 24:1; Mark 10:5-10).
When asked which commandment was the most important, Jesus answered, “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” (Mark 12:30,31).
To love someone biblically means that we are to seek another person’s well-being, even when it is difficult and may cost us. Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Christ calls us to likewise love our enemies and to do good to those to mistreat us (Matthew 5:44). The good we’ve defined in earlier blogs as a moral good, not a being nice kind of good.
Therefore, how do we practically live that out that command when we are in a relationship with someone who repeatedly lies to us, mistreats us, tries to control us, or abuses us?
Too often those struggling in destructive marriages receive counsel from Christian people helpers (counselors, pastors, and lay leaders) that God commands them to maintain a warm and friendly relationship with their spouse (including having sexual intimacy), for better or worse, meaning even when he or she is repeatedly destructive toward us we are bound by those vows.
But is that counsel biblical? Are we ever biblically permitted to end a relationship or distance ourselves from someone because of their unchanged, repeatedly sinful behavior?
Too often, we have misunderstood the biblical command of unconditional love as meaning unconditional relationship. There is a subtle but important distinction.
God love for humankind is unconditional but he does not offer anyone unconditional relationship. He tells us that our sin separates us from him and that without repentance we have no fellowship with him (1 John 1:6). Our sin does not separate us from God’s love (Romans 5:8) but it does separate us from his presence (Isaiah 59:1-2).
Jesus distanced himself from certain religious leaders because he didn’t trust them. He loved them (John 3:16), but he knew what was in their heart (John 2:24). Throughout much of the Old Testament, God withdraws his presence from his people because of unrepentant sin.
God calls people to a covenant relationship that is like a marriage. He not only wants us to enjoy his love, he wants us to love him back (Deuteronomy 6:5). He not only promises us his faithfulness, he requires that we be faithful in return (Deuteronomy 4:23-24). The book of Hosea is a picture of God’s love for his unfaithful spouse (Israel). He longs for her, but his relationship with her will remain broken until she is willing to change (repent).
In this sinful world there is no perfect person and in every relationship there is some brokenness and suffering. That’s why Jesus tells us that when someone sins against us we are to go and talk to that person so that we can be reconciled. However, he also adds, if they refuse to hear you after you have repeatedly tried to get them to listen, he says, “Treat them as you would a pagan and a tax collector” (Matthew 18:15-17).
Jesus says, if there is no repentance, the relationship you once had changes. Pagans and tax collectors were not trusted, nor were they friends, although a good Jew would help a pagan or tax collector who was in need, fulfilling the biblical mandate to love one’s enemy.
One person can try to make a bad relationship better all by herself by not repaying evil for evil, which may eliminate some strife and dissention, but one person cannot turn a bad relationship into a good relationship all by herself. It is an unfair and heavy burden we have often unknowingly placed on people because we want to be biblical.
When we promise to marry someone for better or worse, I don’t think anyone promises unconditional relationship. I don’t think a man or woman promises to honor and cherish a spouse even if he beats you, cheats on you, lies to you and treats you like garbage. Watch this YouTube video to see the craziness of this kind of thinking
What we do promise in those sacred vows is that in good times and bad, whether we struggle with life, health, economics, and children, we will work it out TOGETHER. When one person breaks that promise to work it out, true reconciliation is not possible.
Yes, we are indeed called to be imitators of Christ and live a life of love (Ephesians 5:1), but let’s not put a yoke on someone to do something that God himself doesn’t do. God is good to the saint and unrepentant sinner alike, but he does not have relationship with both.
When someone repeatedly sins against us and is not repentant and willing to change, it’s not possible to have a healthy or safe relationship.
Being in close fellowship with someone is not a right, even if both people are Christians. It is a sacred privilege. The apostle Paul advises us to distance ourselves from people who are continually destructive, especially if their behaviors or attitudes are sinful and unacceptable, both to us and to God (1 Corinthians 5:9-11; 2 Thessalonians 3:6,14-15).
Loving a person unconditionally may indeed require sacrifice and suffering but we suffer and sacrifice for another person’s good, not to allow them to continue to sin against us. That is foolishness, not biblical love. Too many individuals have been wrongly instructed that biblical love means they must be nice and suffer quietly, even as they are being mistreated and abused.
But as C.S. Lewis wisely wrote, “Love is more stern and splendid than mere kindness.”