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The Crisis of Divorce Pt. 1

Divorce is a pressing national problem. No one needs to be told how serious it is, not only in this country, but worldwide. In many communities, in fact, divorces are more frequent than marriages. The crisis is affecting all of us. U.S.A. Today writes of the following incidents that took place in a child guidance clinic:
  • "Four-year-old Joshua grabs a toy house, then picks up three paper dolls—mom, dad, and child. He smashes the house hard on top of them. 'The whole family is crushed,' Joshua says softly, his big green eyes looking sober and sad.
  • More action comes quickly at the San Fernando Valley Child Guidance Clinic in Los Angeles. Plastic 'parent' snakes slither off, leaving their babies behind to starve, or so the preschoolers say. Mom dolls burn to death and daddy puppets are thrown into the trash because, it's claimed, they've 'killed' their kids.
However bizarre their fantasies, Joshua and his playmates are normal, for kids with divorcing parents. When couples in the United States divorce, they've been married an average of six years. One child in four lives through a divorce before age 7, and that number is likely to reach 1 in 3 the 1990s, demographers report."

The divorce rate has risen 700 percent in this century, and continues to rise. There is now one divorce for every 1.8 marriages. One interesting survey revealed that there is currently a higher percentage of divorce among Christians than among those who don't call themselves Christians, with the highest rates among Baptists, Charismatics, and members of independent churches. Over one million children a year are involved in divorce cases, and 13 million under the age of 18 now have one or both parents missing.

Divorce, then, is a pressing concern for the church. Obviously, we as Christians need to know how we can be more effective in ministering to the many ensnared in this circumstance, as well as how we can prevent others—including ourselves—from getting caught up in the same trap. For the most part, the church has not adequately dealt with divorce. Most likely it is difficult because so many people are hurt or touched by divorce, and it's almost impossible to say anything that doesn't inflict further pain, or cause some people to react in anger.

It is also difficult for a pastor to address, because of the diversity of circumstances present in any congregation. How can every question be answered and every circumstance be dealt with? Divorce is too important a subject, however—both to our culture and our church—to allow such risks to keep us from addressing it as thoroughly and lovingly as we can.

Where do we go for help? The best source of information on the subject is God's Word, but tragically, many have not bothered to read it. Many have gotten their understanding of divorce and remarriage by osmosis; from others who haven't read the Bible, either. Interestingly, when we do finally read the Bible, we find it says a whole lot less than we assumed. The Bible doesn't give us a long drawn-out presentation of the subject; in fact, it is fairly concise and to the point.

For this reason, many people, like the Pharisees, have added to what Scripture says and errored in one of two extremes.

 

  1. Some have taken a liberal stance and said, "Divorce and remarriage is absolutely no problem, don't worry about it. If your marriage is not working, then toss it and get someone who meets your needs!"
  2. Others have been so terribly narrow that divorced people have found no welcome or place of ministry in their Christian community.

This is a tragic failure on the part of the church and must be remedied, because our world is desperately in need of a healing place where it can find some answers. People need to see models of love, acceptance and forgiveness in the church, as well as models of godly and successful families.

Even individuals outside the church are asking the question, "What do we do to answer this pressing personal problem of divorce?" For those who don't have the gift of singleness, there is an inner longing for a valid and lasting marriage and family. Society, however, seems to be saying, "[You] can't have a meaningful and lifelong marriage, because [you] and [the] culture are unpredictable. Social scientists are declaring the most we can expect is a few years of happiness and compatibility before a husband and wife will grow apart."

Thankfully, Scripture holds the opposite of this pessimism. These lessons will not be acceptable to everyone. While not intended to be controversial, they will challenge some of the opinions of those inside and outside the church. We will not, of course, attempt to deal with every possible circumstance. In order to focus on all the marriage situations needing solutions, we would need to write a very long book—or series of books!

These two sessions will simply give us the foundation of what the Bible says. We'll learn how to have fulfilling marriages and prevent divorce.

 

Divorce is pressing us to the ultimate solution

It is essential to keep divorce in perspective; it's only representative of many problems that press us to ultimate solutions in Jesus Christ. When we come to Jesus, we bring the shambles of our former lives. We come to Him not cleaned up, but in need of cleansing and help. If we came only when we had our acts together, we wouldn't need Him. If we could straighten up our own lives, why would we come at all?

Don't listen to Satan say, "You must clean up your life before you come to Christ and become a Christian." He knows we can't do that. "Just as I am without one plea," is the way to approach Jesus. Hurting, with messed-up lives and habits out of control, we come.

The exciting thing is, Jesus intersects us on our garbage heap and says, "I can help you... the smell of your sin doesn't turn me off. I can give you joy for your mourning. I can give you a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness. I can turn your ashes into beauty. I can take you where you are and make something out of you... if you will come to Me and obey Me." At some point, everyone must answer that call of Jesus in one way or another. He knows you and loves you as you are, so come to Him and He'll help you apply this teaching and the rest of Scripture to your particular situation.

A good way to introduce the subject of divorce and remarriage is by taking a preliminary look at two passages in the New Testament.

 

  • Matthew 5:31-32. In the midst of Christ's Sermon on the Mount, we find the first mention of divorce and remarriage. He introduces us briefly to the subject on which He will elaborate later—Matthew 5:31-32. "It has been said, 'Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.' But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to commit adultery, and anyone who marries a woman so divorced commits adultery."

    The question. Why would Jesus bring up the subject of divorce at this point in His teaching? John MacArthur gives us the answer to this question:

    The Pharisees believed that they could be righteous by their own works. But, since they couldn't keep God's standard, they invented their own standard and called it God's. God had a very high view of marriage and a clear command regarding marriage and divorce. Since they couldn't live by that standard, they dragged God down to their level, invented their own code of ethics and misinterpreted the Bible to fit their own view. They twisted Deuteronomy 24:1-4 into teaching that one should be able to get a divorce whenever the whim or will arose—John MacArthur, Biblical Light on Divorce and Remarriage, Word of Grace, Panorama City, CA.

    The context. In this whole section of the sermon, then, starting with verse 20, Jesus gives six illustrations of how our righteousness must surpass that of the Scribes and Pharisees. That's why He lists what Moses' Law or the traditions of the Pharisees stated, and then reveals what true righteousness involves. MacArthur continues,

    In order to lay the people bare and naked as sinners before God, Jesus tells them that their interpretations of God's truth are all biased, opinionated, twisted and perverted. He then tells them that He is going to set the record straight! (Also, see chapter 5:21-22,27-28, 31-32,33-34)—John MacArthur, Ibid, p. 16.

    Matthew 5:31-32 is really a condensed version of Jesus' full teaching, so let's preview a more complete teaching on this subject in the same book.

     

  • Matthew 19:3-9. We should just stop and read the passage now, and then we will return to it later.
    Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?"
    "Haven't you read?" he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?' So they are no longer two, but one. Thefefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.'"
    "Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?"
    Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery."

     

With an introduction of those two passages in mind, let's take a more complete look at the subject of divorce and remarriage throughout Scripture. We'll take a very simple approach to the subject, studying the teachings of the Old Testament on divorce and remarriage; the teachings of the New Testament on divorce and remarriage, with a redefinition of the Old Testament concept; and the teaching applied today, to our church.

 


The Old Testament Teaching on Divorce and Remarriage

Deuteronomy 24:1-4 is the key passage and the basis for the question asked Jesus in Matthew 19.
If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the Lord. Do not bring sin upon the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance—Deut. 24:1-4.

Let's talk about the background of the passage. During this time, the cultural status of women was nonexistent. They were dealt with as property, and men would basically buy their wives, the transaction handled between the woman's father and the man. (See Deut. 22:29.) What Moses does here is elevate the station of women, so they are dealt with in a decent manner. He counteracts a culture that allowed women to be cast out, dismissed from the house, with just a word from the husband. Extra-biblical sources record, in fact, that women could be put out of the house for burning the supper. The ending of the marriage was basically at the husband's whim, and the wife had no recourse or rights.

Moses upgrades the relationship between a man and woman by these statements, causing a drastic change in how the woman is treated. These regulations called for two things:

 

  1. First, the transaction had to be written down. There was to be a certificate of divorce, which meant divorce could no longer be brought about by a word from the husband. This meant the man had to think about what he was doing! He had to go to the priest or rabbi and get a document of divorce, fill it out and get two witnesses—who knew both the husband and the wife—to sign it. He then took his wife and the document to the priests.
  2. Second, it was restricting. The woman could not remarry this husband if she married someone else. This was considered a deterrent to quick divorce.

Here's a sample document of divorce.

 

"On the ______day of the week _____day of the month_____ in the year _____, I _____________________________ who am also called the son of ____________ ____________________ of the city of _______________________ by the river of ____________________________ do hereby consent with my own will, being under no restraint, and I do hereby release, send away, and put aside thee, my wife _________________________ who is also called the daughter of _____________ ____________ who are this day in the city of ____________________________ by the river of _____________________ who has been my wife in time past; and thus I do release thee, and send thee away and put thee aside that thou mayest have permission and control over thyself to go to be married to any man that thou mayest desire; and that no man shall hinder thee from this day forward, and thou art permitted to any man, and this shall be unto thee from me a bill of dismissal, a document of release, and a letter of freedom, according to the law of Moses and Israel."

____________________ the son of __________________Witness____________________ the son of __________________Witness

When the document was signed by both witnesses, the rabbi told the woman to remove her rings and spread out her hands to receive the divorce bill which her husband placed in her hands saying, "This is thy bill of divorce, and thou art divorced from me by it, and thou art permitted to any man." The woman then closed her hands and handed it to the rabbi who read it the second time and pronounced excommunication upon anyone who would attempt to invalidate it. The woman was then given the document to keep.

This certificate of divorce produced three very important results:

  1. It was a testimonial to the woman of her freedom from the marital obligation to the husband who divorced her. This kept her from being accused of forsaking her husband and family.
  2. It protected a woman's reputation by preventing her from being called a prostitute.
  3. It was also evidence to a new husband of the woman's legal freedom to remarry.

    Divorce was given not only for the purpose of separation, but also for allowing remarriage. Before you jump to a conclusion about what this means to you or someone you know, continue to study the subject. Our initial point here is, if the grounds for divorce were met, then it not only meant divorce, but also opened up the potential for remarriage in the Lord.

Deuteronomy 24, mentions one qualification for divorce—v. 1a "If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her..." What does that mean? It is vague enough that it gave rise to a considerable amount of debate among the Jews. In Jesus' day, there were two main schools of thought among the rabbis who sought to interpret these words in Deuteronomy. Both schools of thought exist even today. The key question is, "What does this indecency include?"

The school of Hillel was the liberal interpretation, and for them indecency meant anything which displeased the husband. For instance:

  • If the wife made bad coffee or toast
  • If she didn't keep the house clean
  • If she got argumentative, or did anything the husband might find repulsive
  • If she displeased the husband
This teaching said, "She's your wife, so if any of these things apply, chuck her. If you see someone better looking, get rid of your wife and go for the good-looking one."

Note: The Sadducees represented the liberal faction of the Jews and interpreted the Law on the basis of their liberal position. These people did not believe in the supernatural (e.g., angels, miracles, resurrection of the dead).

The school of Shammai, another great Hebrew rabbi, taught that divorce was to be strictly limited. Only under certain rigidly defined conditions could it even be granted. ("It doesn't matter about the toast, you stay with your wife.") He believed and taught that the "indecency" was restricted to sexual immorality. This was the conservative position. The problem with this position is that, according to Deut. 22:22, the punishment for adultery was not divorce, but death. This was the issue of the woman caught in adultery in John 8.

Note: The Pharisees were the conservative and legalistic faction, interpreting the law as narrowly as possible. They would even add to the law those requirements they thought would express their narrow view.

As Israel was split between these two schools of thought, the church today is essentially polarized between these two extremes. Is it something rather insignificant, to be taken lightly and to be granted because of incompatibility alone; or is it something very serious, to be granted only under extremely limited conditions?

This key Old Testament passage in Deuteronomy 24 needed to be clarified, then, not only for the Pharisees and Sadducees but for us as well. In the New Testament we see Jesus' interpretation of Deuteronomy 24.

 

The New Testament Teaching on Divorce and Remarriage

Jesus' teaching is found in Matthew 19:3-9. Let's read through these verses and seek to apply each of them.

"Some Pharisees came to Him to test Him..."—v. 3a
Definition of test: 'To make trial of, to tempt.' Curiosity and honest desire for the truth were not motivating them. This question was designed to put Jesus in the middle of a controversy, where no matter what He said He would agitate or hurt someone... either the Sadducees or the Pharisees.

"They asked, 'Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?'" —v. 3b. Another question comes to mind, too. Why didn't they talk about the woman? Remember, the woman had no rights, so the only way she could get a divorce was to force her husband to divorce her by being ornery and difficult. The issue is always looked at from the husband's point of view.

The purpose of the Pharisees' question was, "Who do you agree with, Jesus—Hillel, or Shammai?" Jesus was being asked to interpret the Mosaic Law for them. As you read Christ's response, remember this wasn't just another rabbi giving an opinion. This was the Creator of the universe talking. What He said, settles the controversy. He is the One who made man and woman. (See John 1:1-3,14.)

v. 4—"Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female'..." Jesus starts back at the beginning and begins to build a concept of marriage from the Creator's viewpoint. A right theology of marriage is essential before we even begin to answer the question of divorce. He gives us His fourfold theology of marriage: principles we must understand before we even deal with the concept of divorce and remarriage.

Principle #1: Marriage is a unique relationship between two people of unique quality and character. Implied in this principle is the equality, the value, and the creative nature of the persons, and the unique perspectives of the male and female emotional profiles. Marriage is a man and a woman of unique quality and character, both made in the image of God, coming together in a covenant relationship before God.
  • [See quote by Ray Stedman in the Appendix.] Verses 5-6a add to what this means. "...and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' So, they are no longer two, but one." Let's look at a couple of these phrases and see some more principles on marriage.

    "Leaving father and mother" doesn't happen just by moving out of a parent's home. This is not a geographical departure, it is spiritual. It is clinging to another person, placing your marriage partner in a place of priority and being devoted to him/her. A new family unit is established as you move from the former family relationship. That doesn't mean we despise our parents; we are to be in a continuous position of honor. We must, however, leave them.

  • Principle #2: Our marriage partner is to be our priority over children and work.

     

    "This relationship takes priority over all others. Closer than the ties of blood... closer than any children who follow. People are to become husbands and wives before they become fathers and mothers. This indicates a priority relationship." Ray Stedman

    The words "...be united to his wife..." reveal the nature of the marriage bond. It has the idea of being glued to something; God glues two people together, into an indivisible union.

  • Principle #3: Marriage is not a temporary but a permanent and exclusive relationship—to one person, for life.
  • Principle #4: Marriage is the merging together of two individuals into one person. "...the two become one flesh, they are no longer two, but one." The mathematical equation alluded to here works only in marriage. God's marriage mathematics is 1+1=1: one man, plus one woman, equals one person. Marriage is designed to be the perfect welding of two people into one.

    MacArthur writes, "It is the commitment of two wills, the blending of two minds, the mutual expression of two sets of God-given emotions; so that the two become one"—Ibid, p. 17. And Stedman writes, "What then is the purpose in marriage? It is to become one, as Jesus said. This is what marriages are for, what they are all about. Two people, who are disparate, distinct, and different individuals, with different personalities, different gifts, blending their lives so together that through the process of the years they become one flesh—that is what marriage is"—Caution: God at Work! Discovery Publishing.

    This statement was a death blow to the male superiority of that culture, because Jesus was talking about women not as property, but as needed equals. This would certainly help women's status because the men were trading them in, like used chariots, for newer models. Jesus was saying to them, "I made you not to own yourselves, but to need your wives..." He was pointing out that they needed the uniqueness of a woman to be complete in marriage. They would have to have a special gift or enablement from God not to need a mate—1 Cor. 7:7; Matt. 19:11-12.

    Jesus was not saying a person is incomplete if unmarried. He himself and the apostle Paul are two examples of singles having not only completeness, but more opportunity in ministry. He was saying, however, that for those called to marriage, it takes both male and female to be one and complete—e.g., to form one significant person. Husbands and wives must understand this, to see their mates as equal to them—as a significant being essential to their own personhood, or they will not live with them with sensitivity and intelligence.

    Men and women also needed to see that they no longer operated as individuals apart from their mates. They were now one. Think for a moment how different we should act if in fact we are made one with another. In a sense, to get a divorce is to dismember yourself!

     

    "Would you amputate for a splinter? When husbands and wives understand God's definition of marriage, they realize that divorce is like a man cutting off his leg because he has a splinter in it. Instead of trying somehow to get the splinter out, he amputates the whole leg. Husbands and wives who realize that God has permanently joined them into a single entity, aren't so foolish as to hurt the other, because they know they are hurting themselves. Instead of dumping your partner, why don't you deal with the issue that's causing the problem?"

     

     

    The conclusion of the Law

    v. 6b —...therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate.

    The word "separate" is the word translated "divorce" in 1 Corinthians 7. The point is that divorce fights against what God has put together. In all marriages, God joins the two people together. Marriage is God's invention, and He never intended for divorce. The commitment we make, then, as believers when we get married is, "until death separates us." God's original plan is for a lifelong commitment to one person, so if both husband and wife are believers in Christ, we should have no grounds for divorce. Divorce is not optional in the kingdom of God.

    I know that raises a lot of questions. For instance, "I'm a believer, but my husband's not," or, "I was married six times before I became a Christian; what do I do now?" "My husband turned his back on God and ran away with another woman; what do I do?"

    We are laying down basic principles now, and we'll get to some of the specific questions later. The point is, though, as believers we don't go into a marriage with the thought, "If it doesn't work out, I can always get a divorce!" There is only one reason for two believers to get a divorce, and even this can be covered by grace and the forgiveness of Christ. Sure, as believers your marriage can be stretched and pulled and stressed, but you have a whole storehouse of God's resources to enable you to stay in your marriage, and make a beautiful thing out of it.

    In the world of an unbeliever, there is no lasting solution to the hurt. People are torn and hurt by painful experiences, and words that are not healed by a box of candy and a rose. In the kingdom of God, the wounds can be healed. He can give healing to the brokenhearted and restore us to our first love. (See Appendix, for Stanley A. Ellisen's response.)

    Sometimes in counseling, we have to get the individuals healed and whole before we even look at the marriage again. Often, the parties have to forget for awhile what divides them and concentrate on personal healing. Then amazingly, as the two parts of that marriage are healed, God can restore love and devotion and even magnify the love beyond what we imagined!

    For example:

    Wife—"You know, I've really been a lousy, uncaring wife. I haven't respected and honored my husband for years. Do you suppose God will forgive me?"

    Husband—"Do you mean I'm supposed to be a servant to my wife? I didn't know that. I'm even supposed to tell her I love her? Well, I said that to her 26 years ago, and it still goes... I can see that it's important. Do you mean being head of the house means I'm not Lord King Kong?"

    Would you like to try again? Jesus can glue together the worst messes if you make Him Lord of your life. You don't need a divorce if you have Jesus and let him heal you. It was He who said, "...therefore, what God has joined together, let no man separate."

    Jesus' response to their question frustrated the Pharisees and caused them to ask another. "Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?"

    Was Moses' instruction a command? Jesus pointed out here the motive of the Law. "Jesus replied, 'Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard.'" He clarified and interpreted the Law, revealing to us something that the Law itself does not tell us. Only God Himself could give us this insight. Moses permitted divorce because of hardness of heart. He didn't command it; the people were already bent on divorce because of their hard hearts. They had unrepentant and calloused hearts, so Moses permitted them to divorce their wives but regulated it to lessen the trauma.

     

  • Principle#5: When relationships break down, the law has to be added.

    This was not what God wanted, but hardness of heart breaks every relationship, including the one we have with God. That's why Jesus came, to provide a solution to the dilemma of broken relationships with Himself and others. Stedman comments on Israel's condition:

     

    What is a hardened heart? Well, what would the opposite be? A heart that is softened, mellowed, gentle and open. There are many occurrences in the Scriptures of the phrase, "hardness of heart." We are warned again and again against hardening our hearts.

    There is the story in the Old Testament of when Moses was sent to Pharaoh and told to deliver the message of God: "Let my people go." When Pharaoh heard that word, he hardened his heart. What does that mean? That he determined to handle it his own way. He determined to respond to the natural inclination of his flesh, to do what he felt like doing in the situation, to handle it himself and to ignore God. This is hardening of the heart. When you determine that you are going to handle something yourself and not pay any attention to what God reveals about it, you are hardening your heart. This is what was going on in the marriages in Israel.—Caution: God at Work!, Discovery Publishing Company, Palo Alto, CA, 1975.

    At the end of verse 8, Jesus gave us another view that only the Son of God could have, saying, "But it was not this way from the beginning." He was telling them, "The Father and I never intended it to be this way. We intended you to come together and be one, but you missed my original intention for marriage."

    No matter the circumstances in any divorce, the same thing is true today—divorce is always the result of one or both parties having a hard heart, one that will not respond to God. What's the answer? Think again about what Stedman says:

     

    What should a husband do when he finds something in his wife that he does not like? According to the further revelation of the New Testament in this regard, a husband ought to understand why his wife is like this. This is the word of Peter to husbands: "Husbands, dwell with your wives according to knowledge: Give affection to them, honor them, share yourself with them, understand them, restore them, love them." This is what a husband ought to do. This is what a marriage is for—to provide opportunity to work out the problem areas, the difficulties, the offensive occasions which arise. But Moses granted divorce, Jesus said, in order to make clear the hardening of hearts that was going on—Stedman, Ibid.

     

This first session has made it clear that hardness of heart is the root of all relationship dysfunction, as well as every other sin. Hardness of heart keeps us from opening ourselves to the seed of God's Word (Luke 8:5,11-12) and to the light of God's wisdom and conviction. Beware of hardness of heart!

A question to each of us—married, divorced or never married—is, "How is my heart? Am I determined to go my own way and do my own thing regardless of what God says?" Most people don't intend to be hard-hearted, but they become so because of a series of decisions and attitudes that eventually harden their hearts. After continually turning their backs to what God says and His conviction, their consciences become seared and hearts hardened.

Divorce, then, is only one of the by-products of this condition. The list of sin and pain for the hard hearted is endless.

Jesus desires to come to you who have never received Him and give you a new heart. He desires to take away your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Married or not, you have an invitation to come and exchange your heart (Ezekiel 11:19).

If you are a believer, God desires to soften your heart again, too. A heart is always soft when it recognizes its inability to handle a situation, when it relies upon the wisdom and power of God. What will keep your heart tender, mellow, malleable, and reasonable is the recognition deep inside that you don't have what it takes (Matt. 5:3). When you have a reliance upon the wisdom and love of God and are obedient to Him, you will have a heart that is tender and soft.

Even if you were a victim of divorce, check out your heart. Ask yourself, "Did I contribute even in a small measure to my divorce because of hardness of heart?" I don't believe anyone is ever totally innocent in relationship dysfunction and, in particular, divorce. That is not a condemnation, just a statement of fact. We are all sinners. Unless we somehow got to this planet other than by birth, we are caught in the sin sickness of all mankind. Even if you are the victim of someone else's excesses and sins, let no bitterness, anger, or revenge rob you of a completely right heart before God.

 


Appendix

Recognize God's Resources in Times of Marital Stress

by Stanley A. Ellisen

...In spite of our best intentions, however, times of stress inevitably arise. The "rose garden" is apt to lose its petals and sweet aroma at times, and only the thorns seem to stand out. What is a believing couple to make of this? Does this suggest that they may have been out of God's will in choosing each other and now are being chastised? Did they make a "bum choice" after all and henceforth are doomed to incompatible living?

At such times it should first be recognized that their being married to each other was and is the perfect will of God. That will should never be questioned. Even if they were out of God's will when getting married, it is always God's will that they remain married once they are. Their problem is not the wrong choice in the past, but the failure to lay hold of God's resources in the present. No couple is entirely compatible to begin with, so let's forget the incompatibility bit. Grappling with incompatibilities is part of the challenge God has given for spiritual living. Whatever the problem or difference, the Lord has the resources available to turn human incompatibilities into divine compatibilities. Laying hold of that divine resource and aid will enhance the relationship, building a stronger bond of three cords.

In seeking to utilize this resource, each of the partners should recognize their God-given responsibilities to each other. These we have called self-evaluation and spouse-evaluation. Self-evaluation must come first on the part of the concerned partner. This self-appraisal is designed to evoke a similar self-evaluation on the part of the other partner, if we make the application in sincerity. The showing of love, concern, patience, helpfulness, submission, cheerfulness, and other relational virtues has a way of reproducing the same in others. With such an attitude, spouse-evaluation also becomes more objective, being done in a different spirit. Thus self-evaluation becomes the soil for productive spouse-evaluation, which in turn results in personality growth for both partners.

In this pursuit, however, it should be recognized that a response in the other person does not always occur automatically in the sense that you just push the right "spiritual button." People are not automatons. No two people have the same degree of spiritual or personal maturity and no two respond exactly the same way. Growth of any kind is a gradual and progressive process. However, the divine resources are available to bring about the proper responses at the right time. Those spiritual resources are the Word of God, an example of godly living, and prayer. To utilize these resources is to move the hand of God who is capable of handling any situation. He especially delights to work with these kinds of problems, for the home or family is His favorite area of operation. He will move heaven and earth if necessary to resolve the marital differences and will, in the process, impart His own nature into the marriage partners' personalities. But He needs someone to invite Him to come in with the "tools of His trade." With those tools of the Word and prayer He can reconcile or renovate any marital situation.

Ellisen, Stanley A., Divorce and Remarriage in the Church, Zondervan Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1980, pp. 94-95.


From Ray Stedman

"From the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.'" He made them to be distinct and different sexes. This was no afterthought. The whole creative process, beginning with the very first day of creation, was aimed at that one great fact. God intended to have a race of humans that was divided into two recognizable sexes—male and female. And everything He did, from the first verse of Genesis right on through that whole creative sequence until man appeared on the scene, was aimed at that one great event. This is how important it was to God. He made them male and female, made them biologically and psychologically different one from the other. This is what He wanted.

Man is a three-fold creature, consisting of body, soul, and spirit. In body, men and women are different—visibly and notably, even notoriously different. In the soul, the psyche, they are different as well. This is what the modern feminist movement is denying. It is telling us, in effect, that men and women are no different psychologically. And it is even implying that biologically there is no difference either, that it is only in the matter of child-bearing that there is any difference. This is one of the main weaknesses of this movement. It has corrected a number of abuses, but it is also creating a tremendous number of problems, while propounding absurd solutions to these problems.

The demand for equality in sports is a case in point. Some leaders in sports are now telling us that if what the feminist movement seems to be insisting upon is actually carried out, it will mean the absolute end to commercial sports as we know them in this country. This is an attempt to disregard the biological differences between men and women, which is absurd. The so-called "right" of abortion is an example of the end of this kind of thinking. The proponents claim that a woman has a right to end the life of a baby which started in her womb simply because she does not choose to go on, does not want her body "used" for that purpose. That whole syndrome is a result of this kind of twisted thinking about humanity—ignoring the fact that God made them male and female, and that psychologically and biologically men and women are different, and are intended to be. The abolition of what we once called "chivalry," i.e., the courteous attentions men gave to women, the little recognitions of their need for protection and shelter and help in various ways, which has lent so much of beauty and color to life—all of this is being denied and attempted to be demolished by the women's rights movement. It is all a recognition of the failure to understand this basic fact that Jesus declares. I would suggest that you read George Gilder's fine book, Sexual Suicide, if you want to see where this loss of the distinctions between the sexes is taking us, and what harm it is doing already to our society and to all that God has in mind for humanity.

Well, the point Jesus makes is that God has done it. He has made the distinctions, they are different, they do not react the same.

But spiritually men and women are identical. There is no difference. And therein lies their equality before God. It is absolutely true that they are equal persons before God and man.

But that is only in the spirit. Psychologically and biologically they are different. When we understand that difference, we can say, with the French, "Vive la difference!" Thank God for it! They do not contribute the same things to life, and are not intended to. Men think differently than women; men feel differently than women.

That is why they band together in clubs and unions, whereas women do not. That is why men are concerned primarily with work, while women are more concerned with people and relationships. Each responds instinctively in these ways. Men can be more cold and hard and offensively objective than women can—usually. This is why they do not answer questions in the same way. Ask a woman a question, and usually she will answer according to something she has read into what you asked—either good or bad. I remember a friend of mine speaking publicly once on the difference between men and women. He said, "Women take things more personally than men do." A woman came up to him at the close of the meeting, and said angrily, "I just want you to know that's not true! I didn't take that personally at all!" Well, there are differences, and our Lord stresses this fact. God made them male and female. This is what He likes, and this is what makes for richness in humanity.

Stedman, Ray C., Caution: God at Work!, Discovery Pub. Co., Palo Alto, CA, 1975.