Divorce and the church

As humans we have an irrational habit of inflating our own image and rationalizing our actions while denouncing the conduct of others. That seems to be why, even in our churches, we single out certain kinds of behaviour as particularly bad. Consider, for example, divorce.

Before I approach this touchy subject, let me remind ourselves of a sobering statistic. One hundred per cent of us are lawbreakers; that is, we are sinners. We have broken the moral laws of God. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” the image of God in which we were created. (Romans 3:23) We have fallen short of His standards. A sincere re-reading of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 will demonstrate this reality. Without exception, we all need redemption and transformation.

Christ came to earth to establish a redemptive community. It is called, the Church. Those whom by the Holy Spirit are imbued with faith in the redemptive death of Christ are ushered into the mystical body of Christ, the Church universal. All such become the object of God’s sanctifying work.

Redeemed addicts, for example, become the focus of God’s sanctifying work. Likewise, gossips, thieves, liars, adulterers, gluttons, murderers, idolaters, the promiscuous, deceivers, hypocrites, the greedy, and even abusers. The list is almost unlimited.

And yet in spite of being part of a redemptive community, those who are divorced Christians are often stigmatized. Many evangelical churches will not allow a divorced person to become a deacon, elder or pastor. But why? Divorce is not the unpardonable sin nor is it as clear-cut who is at fault as it would be in the case of a thief or a glutton. Divorce may be precipitated by the adultery or abuse of a spouse. No one but the cruel or foolish expect a person to stay in a relationship where they or their children live in danger and fear.

Some years ago, a gifted man in a church we know was forced to step down from his ministry after his wife abandoned him for another. While determining guilt or innocence is difficult in a two-sided relationship, in this case, his innocence was quite clear-cut. I’m still struggling to understand this church’s decision.

I’m not arguing for us to lower the marital standards of Jesus Christ. (I will consider in the next blog.) All God’s laws are good and written for our individual and social benefit. The free society where divorce is rare is, in most cases, a blessed society with fewer social ills than others.

The breakup of the nuclear family, has a very debilitating affect not only on those affected directly, but on society at large. Ever since “no-fault divorce” became legal, the rate of marital break-ups has sky-rocketed. In Canada 38% of marriages end in divorce. The average length of a marriage is 14 years. In the US it is estimated that 50% of marriages will eventually end in divorce. In both Canada and the US, 10% of households are led by a single parent.

Of course, lawlessness of any kind, sends hurtful shivers through society. But marital break-up adversely affects children and thrusts single parents into a crucible. Divorce makes problematic children’s education, a family’s health care, the earning capacity of the single parent, the mental health of the family as well as their spiritual development. “In the first 18 months following divorce, between 77 and 83 percent of mothers and their children live in poverty.”(https://info.legalzoom.com/effects-divorce-society-20105.html)

“Divorce breeds poverty, particularly for women and children. With fewer economic resources, most children of divorce experience disruptions—changes in child care, living arrangements and schools—that create turmoil in their lives. Long-term effects of poverty from divorce are most obvious in girls.” (Ibid)

Clearly, we must do everything in our power to encourage couples to believe in and work toward indissoluble marriages. We must discourage divorce.

BUT, as Christians we are to go out into all the world and make disciples of all people, all sinners. That includes those who are divorced. And instead of ostracizing those who are stigmatized by being in this particular state, we should offer them the love and support of Christians who have learned to forgive. There is no Christian grounds for stigmatizing forgiven sinners, including those who are divorced. So, let’s embrace them and their contributions to the Church.

But what about the teaching of Christ on divorce. It may seem severe. I’ll deal with that in the next blog.

(Let me know your thoughts on this subject. Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright ––)

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