The messiness of human relationships…the final installment.

i want to end this discussion of divorce by responding to a few questions that came as a result of my last post on the hardness of heart and the definition of divorce.

you can read that post…and the comments…right here.

going back and re-reading what i wrote the other day was hard.   words are so inadequate sometimes,  when trying to express something from the heart…especially in a short space.

i am no expert on divorce or relationships.   frankly,  i’m not an expert on much of anything.   but because of my position,  people often look to me for help in those areas.   sometimes,  they even look for my understanding and support of their decisions.   i don’t blame them.   i do the same thing when my back is against the wall.

divorce in the lives of people i know and care about,  is one of the toughest issues i have to deal with…because i feel the need to communicate both sides:  law and grace.   compassion and obedience.   understanding and the demands of discipleship.   unconditional acceptance and the righteousness of a holy god.

at the same time.   not the easiest thing i get to do!

anyway…here are some good questions…and my attempt to answer them:

“If those aren’t “valid” reasons to Jesus then what does that mean?”

the sum total of what jesus says about divorce would fill a thimble.   to me,  it’s not what he says that is so striking.   it’s what he doesn’t say.   i can come up with about a hundred  “what ifs…?”  and  “what abouts…?”  regarding divorce.   he answers none of them expressly.   dang.

since he is so silent on the things i think are sooo important,  i’ve concluded that his purpose in making his statements about divorce are not about giving  “laws”  or  “valid reasons”.   rather,  i think what he is communicating is something greater…something higher.   living a life of radical devotion to a kingdom that transcends the messes we find ourselves in.

to me,  jesus just doesn’t appear to be in the business of validating people’s  “reasons”  for divorce.   that’s seems inconsistent with his character and his teaching.   if a person has concluded that divorce is their only course of action,  they have made their “valid reasons”.    one should not look to the words of jesus to find justification for divorce.   i know that seems a little harsh,  but i think jesus was trying to stop people from thinking like the pharisees…who were always trying to create more law where it didn’t exist.

“What is the cost for someone who decided it was a vaild reason for them?”

it seems to me the cost would vary from situation to situation.   this is just my opinion  (which pretty much matters only to my wife and my mom,  if she were still alive…),  but i think we ought to be talking more about the potential “payback”,  rather than the “cost”.    other than in cases of extreme abuse,  i will always believe there is a greater upside to staying with our promises and trusting god at his word,  than there is in taking matters into our own hands.

that doesn’t mean that every divorce will end in disaster…that every child will be emotionally scarred beyond recognition…that your faith will be shipwrecked…or that financial ruin will strangle you for the rest of your life.   sometimes that doesn’t happen.   sometimes it does.   is god big enough to redeem the situation?   yes.   i just wish people wouldn’t roll those dice…when they don’t have to.

“If a true divorce doesn’t happen until the initiator starts another relationship, I guess I want to know the definition of relationship. Is it an emotional relationship? A sexual relationship?”

i don’t think i was clear enough on this in my previous post.   sorry.

i should have stated it more succinctly.   a true and complete divorce,  in the eyes of god,  has not happened until someone has remarried.   until that happens,  there is always time for reconciliation.   even if one is “legally” divorced.   the problem is the farther one goes down the trail of divorce,  the harder it becomes to reverse the damage…both emotionally and legally.   this is especially true if one “opens the door”  to the possibility of a new relationship.   once permission to start looking is given  (even while we are still married),  it’s a quick,  slippery slope to the end.

“Is someone who has gone through the legality of a divorce supposed to live without the intimacy of a relationship for the rest of their life?  How could a person repent of this if they were going to stay in relationship with another?”

again…just my opinion:   if a person is legally divorced,  their partner is free and clear to remarry.   the one who initiated the divorce is,  likewise,  free to remarry.   the question is simply whether they remain open to god having the power to change their hearts.   if they believe god is big enough to change their hearts about their former partner,  they should believe in a god big enough to fill the need for intimacy,  also.

repentance for the divorce,  after entering into another marriage,  seems impossible to me.   true repentance for the divorce could only happen if you returned to your original partner…which you can’t do without compounding the problem by doing the same thing to your new partner.   make sense?   on the other hand,  repentance for the sin of unbelief and not trusting god at his word is something we can do anywhere and anytime.

“Is divorce without valid reasons indeed the unforgivable sin?”

nope.   not in my opinion.   all sin is forgivable.   we need to take another look at the line in the bible that mentions the unforgivable sin.   it seems to me that it has caused a ton of grief…without us knowing what jesus was really talking about.   to me,  the only unforgivable sin is the one you don’t believe god has the power to forgive.   and that interpretation might even be a little iffy…

hope this has helped.


2 thoughts on “The messiness of human relationships…the final installment.

  1. Very good post today sir! Can’t say that I necessarily enjoyed reading some of this stuff over the past week but I can say that it was educational and challenging. That’s far better than entertainment.

  2. I’m still struggling with what it means to repent of a hard heart that led to a broken marriage – and really mean it. I guess my heart is still too hard and the prayer needs to be to soften my heart? I think you need to go back to teaching about murder, anger and lust. Those topics are easier for me to handle 🙂

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