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Turning the Bible Into Behavior

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Why on Earth Did God Invent Marriage?

Today it’s my pleasure to have marriage expert (and my dad) Paul Linzey as a guest blogger. After seeing several marriages fall apart in the last couple months, I approached Paul and asked him to guest-write on this topic, and he graciously agreed. So, without further ado, take it away!
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The first term in the Bible for couples is not husband, wife, spouse, partner, or mate. The first word for a married person is “Helper.”

 After each day of creation, God looked at what he made and said, “It’s good.” But after he made man, he looked and said, “Hmmm. Something’s not good here. He needs help” (Genesis 2:18).

It’s important for both husband and wife to keep in mind that their first and most important role in the marriage is to help. It’s also a good idea to understand what “help” means and what it doesn’t mean. Ambro ID-10044259For example, when God made a woman to be the man’s helper, it does NOT mean she is less important. It does NOT mean he is the main character and she is the assistant.

Throughout the Bible, God is called our helper. We see this in Exodus 18:4:

“My father’s God was my helper.”

And in Deuteronomy 33:29:

“The Lord is my shield and helper.”

Two of the many Psalms that refer to God as helper are Psalm 10:14:

“God, you are the helper to the fatherless,”

and Psalm 46:1:

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

In American culture, we tend to think of a helper as someone who’s less important. A good analogy would be a sidekick, a companion or colleague who is usually considered to be subordinate. The sidekick is not the hero, not the leading role. It’s a support character. But this is NOT what God had in mind when he created woman for man, and man for woman.

When helper is used in the Bible, it’s just the opposite. God is our helper, and he’s certainly not the sidekick. He’s the strong one. And this is the term used for the first woman. God has no intention of men thinking they are the more important person in the marriage. No hint that the woman is of lesser value.

Nenetus ID-100365439The point is that in marriage, a woman represents God to her husband. Similarly, a man represents God to his wife. Each of us needs help in many ways. God is our help, but he often uses people to be his hand extended, his love expressed, his agent to help in time of need.

We need to understand this not just in theory, but in practical ways, as well. For example, next time there’s an argument or a conflict, what would happen if the husband and wife said to themselves, “My lover is obviously upset about this. What can I do to help? What words can I choose that, instead of making things worse, will actually help make things better?”

Think for a minute about your spouse. What chore around the house does he or she hate? You could offer to do that. Does your partner have a huge project to get started on? Perhaps you could volunteer to assist, without trying to take over and be in charge.

My wife is a teacher, and has a ton of books – literally! When she had to move to a new office across campus, I volunteered to spend a day helping move her books, files, and other stuff. Then a few weeks later, I took an afternoon to help her rearrange the bookshelves.

A couple of weeks ago, I was yelling at my computer because it wasn’t behaving how it wasangry man supposed to. Have you ever yelled or talked to your computer? If so, or if you’ve already switched to Windows 10 or Office 16, you understand. In my desperation, my wife stepped in and asked if she could help.

YES! PLEASE!

She solved the problem and taught me a few things about the software.

The fact is, we all need help from time to time. What if when we’re on our way home from a tough day at work, we turned our thoughts towards home and started thinking about the minute we’ll walk through the door, how we can be a helper to the people living there. Can our words bring healing instead of pain? Can our actions invite peace instead of strife? Can our behavior encourage rather than tear down our partner and kids?

Life is hard in many ways – financially, emotionally, physically, relationally, career, parenting, and more. Life beats us up. We need someone to come alongside, put an arm around us, and be there for us. God invented marriage so we’d have a friend to help when the going gets tough.
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Paul LinzeyRetired from the Army chaplain corps, Paul Linzey is now focusing on writing, speaking, and mentoring. He’s a teaching pastor at Friendship Church in Lakeland, FL, and an adjunct professor in the College of Christian Ministry and Religion at Southeastern University, also in Lakeland, FL.

His training includes a Master of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA; Doctor of Ministry from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, He and his wife have spoken at marriage and parenting seminars and retreats for many years.

You can check out his website at PaulLinzey.com or find his author page on Facebook.

DVD Review: The Theory of Everything

theory of everythingMy wife and I recently watched “The Theory of Everything,” the biopic about famed physicist Stephen Hawking. Here’s the rundown:

  • Cast

The acting was superb. Eddie Redmayne doesn’t just portray Stephen Hawking – he BECOMES Hawking. The physical transformation in incredible to watch, and quick research will tell you that Redmayne studied and talked to many people who suffer with ALS. He also trained with a dance coach in order to learn how to better control his body so that his physical performance was accurate. I wouldn’t necessarily call the film a happy film, but the actors do an excellent job of drawing the audience into the struggles (and triumphs) of the characters.

  • Score

The musical score for the movie was excellent. I know most people reading reviews don’t really care about the music, but my wife and I both noticed it. It is the kind of music one would want as a stand-alone album.

But let’s get down to brass tacks – what people REALLY want to talk about when it comes to movies like this: the thematic elements.mathematics

  • Themes

The first, and most easily identifiable, theme, is the back and forth between Atheism and Theism. This theme was a point of contention within the Hawking marriage, Jane being a Christian with the Church of England and Stephen being an atheist. I won’t spend much time debating this theme myself – blog posts about atheism/theism never convince anyone on the opposite side to change positions. Clearly I believe in God, and I think Hawking is wrong.

The movie actually does a decent job of portraying the different viewpoints of Jane and Stephen without demonizing one or the other. One of my favorite scenes is when Jane is explaining how science views God differently depending on whether one is looking through the lens of relativity or quantum physics.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s not a Christian film, and the director clearly portrays Hawking’s bias against God, but the theme can make for interesting conversation and should prompt us all to think more deeply about the interplay of faith and science (yes, they CAN coexist).

The second theme I noticed was that of the suffering servant. Suffering Servant is a phrase I’ve come across only in biblical studies, but it seemed appropriate for this movie. At the beginning of Stephen’s diagnosis, his father tells Jane (who is not yet married to Stephen) that she doesn’t realize what she’s in for. It’s not a fight, because there’s no positive outcome. It will only be a brutal beating. She stays the course and decides to pursue a relationship with Stephen.

For 30 years she was married to him and helped care for him. The movie portrays the kind of toll being a caregiver can take on family. It’s hard on spouses who care for each other. It’s hard for parents who care for children. It’s hard for children who care for parents. It’s hard on ANYONE who provides full-time care for loved ones. Emotional and relational damage are all too common, and the movie shows such damage; damage to the point of the eventual divorce of Jane and Stephen. It should cause us to ask difficult questions about our level of care and commitment towards our loved ones – even when things get tough.

Once upon a time weddings used to use the phrase, “For Better or For Worse.” Being a full-time caregiver for a family member with special needs can definitely run the gamut of better to worse. In an age where it’s all too easy to put loved ones in homes and institutions, how far does our care, commitment, and yes, even love, take us?

The final theme I want to talk about is that of hope. At the end of the movie there’s a neat scene where Stephen is asked, since he doesn’t believe in God, what drives him to carry on day after day. In the scene, Eddie Radmayne suddenly shifts his feet, stands up from the wheelchair, and walks down some steps to pick up a pen dropped by a student. Cinematically it’s a neat way of showing the imagination of Hawking and leads us to his answer. What drives him day after day? Hope. As a physicist who believes in a world with no boundaries and endless possibilities, he says, “As long as there is life, there is hope.” Of course the audience stands and erupts in applause.

But life isn’t enough for hope, because when life ends, then what? Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:19 ~

 If we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone.

Those who believe in God know that hope is so much MORE than the idea of possibilities in this life. Hope goes beyond life into the great beyond. Hope is the anticipation we have that this life WILL end and that God will make all things right.

At the end of the day, The Theory of Everything is an excellent film that is worth watching. Talk about the themes with your family and friends. Don’t be afraid to ask the difficult questions raised by the film.

Enjoy the show!

 

 

 

Searching For Sunday: A Review of Rachel Held Evans’s Book

Rachel Held Evans I’ll admit it; I’ve got a love/hate relationship with Rachel Held Evans. Not that she knows it – we’ve never met. But I read her blog and her stuff on social media.

Some of the questions she has for and about how the church behaves are right on. I’ve wrestled with some of the same issues myself. At the same time, she gets a lot of it wrong, goes too far on some issues, and completely misses it on other issues. She has a tendency to get tunnel vision – she’s got her couple core issues that get played on repeat over, and over, and over, and…well, you get it.

Searching for Sunday
So when I heard she had a new book out about “loving, leaving, and finding the church,” I thought I’d give it a read. Before even reading it I’d seen liberals praising it and conservative lambasting it. So I read it for myself.

Ms. Evans divides her book into a prologue and 7 sections, following the sacraments of the Church: Baptism, Confession, Holy Orders, Communion, Confirmation, Anointing of the Sick, and Marriage. Since she wrote in this order, my review will take one section at a time in the same order. Here’s my take on it.

Prologue:

Ms. Evans begins laying the groundwork for the rest of the book, setting the stage for her own journey away from the evangelical church. As I expected, she starts right in by bringing up her pet peeves with evangelical faith: biblical interpretation, religious pluralism, sexuality (feminism and LGBTQ issues), racial reconciliation, and social justice. These issues come as no surprise, for they are the resounding gong of all of her work.

The problem for me comes a few pages into the prologue where she writes:

The truth is, I don’t even bother getting out of bed many Sunday mornings, especially on days when I’m not sure I believe in God or when there’s an interesting guest on Meet the Press.

She finishes the prologue with similar words:

It’s about why, even on days when I suspect all this talk of Jesus and resurrection and life everlasting is a bunch of bunk designed to coddle us through an essentially meaningless existence, I should still like to be buried with my feet facing the rising sun. Just in case.

This is the problem. The entire rest of the book isn’t coming from a place of faith. It’s coming from a place of un-faith (yes, I know that’s not a real word). I’m not against asking God questions – even difficult questions. I firmly believe that God is big enough to handle any questions we may have. But we’re not talking about mere questions here. We’re talking about lack of faith.

People like Ms. Evans like to use the example from the Gospels when a Jesus has a conversation with a man (see Mark 9):

Jesus: All things are possible to him who believes.
Man: Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!”

But this case is different. The man comes from a place of belief and is asking help to get the rest of the way. Ms. Evans admittedly approaches much of her life beginning with unbelief.

If you spend much time doubting the resurrection actually happened can you really consider yourself a Christian? Ms. Evans seems to like the IDEA of church when it works to serve people and the issues she cares about, but she doesn’t seem to like the faith that is the FOUNDATION of that church. While some of her criticisms may have validity, it is difficult for me to receive criticisms from someone who doubts in the resurrection or the existence of God.

I don’t judge her for her lack of faith. I don’t judge anyone who is a non-believer. But I think Ms. Evans is fooling herself to say she doubts the existence of God and the resurrection yet still makes a claim to be Christian. She seems to fit better in the category (I know she hates labels, but they help us make sense of the world) of agnostic.

My other problem with the prologue is that Ms. Evans claims:

My aim in employing these seven sacraments is not theological or ecclesiological, but rather literary.

Yet the book IS theological and ecclesiological. My problem is not that she claims not to but then does write on theology and ecclesiology (theology as applied to the nature and structure of the Christian Church) but that I think she gets some of the theology wrong. So here we go…

Baptism: Baptism

From the get-go I don’t think Ms. Evans has the right view of baptism. As she tells her own story she lists various baptism traditions that could have been had she not been born to an evangelical family. But among the list of baptismal traditions she mentions the Mormon tradition. It’s mixed right in there with evangelicals, Orthodox, Catholic, and Presbyterian.

But Mormonism is NOT a branch of Christianity. The fact that she includes Mormonism is another indicator that she falls under the agnostic column more than the Christian.

Mormonism notwithstanding, Ms. Evans and I disagree with the nature and significance of baptism. She writes:

In the ritual of baptism, our ancestors acted out the bizarre truth of the Christian identity: We are people who stand totally exposed before evil and death and declare then powerless against love.

While I agree that baptism is about identity, her language about love doesn’t sit right with me. Baptism ISN’T about declaring evil and death powerless against love. Baptism is about sin, repentance, death, and resurrection. John the Baptist was baptizing people before Jesus even came on the scene, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins (see Mark 1:4). In our baptism we are putting to death our old identity and emerging from the water with a new identity. Love beating evil and death is too generic, too “new age-y.”

Baptism says, “I have a new life as a follower of the risen Christ.”

Of course, nothing from Ms. Evans would be complete without vocal support of the LGBTQ community, so she includes a chapter dedicated to the baptism story of a gay young man. She concludes the section with the statement:

…baptism is done at the beginning of your faith journey, not the middle or the end. You don’t have to have everything together to be baptized.

She is absolutely right on this point. You DON’T have to have it together to be baptized. The problem with many who fall in the liberal camp is that they have no expectation of spiritual growth and development post-baptism. God accepts us the way we are. That doesn’t mean God is content we STAY the way we are.

Finally, Ms. Evans uses this section to blast evangelicals on a couple points. She presents her criticisms as though they are universally representative of evangelical churches, but they are not. I was raised in the Assemblies of God my entire life (though I am now non-denominational). Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) was never banned in my church or home. The King James Version was not the only allowed Bible. I was allowed to watch movies and television. I never once heard women’s breasts referred to as “stumbling blocks” (an expression Ms. Evans uses a couple of times). My church tradition ordains women (my own mother is ordained) and recognizes their place in ministry.

Since my evangelical story is vastly different from hers, I suggest Ms. Evans refine her definitions and terminology and stop leveling generic accusations that don’t hold water across the evangelical spectrum.

Confession: Confession

In the section on confession, Ms. Evans seems to be confessing her own story – why she really started turning away from the Christian Church. Part of her split is due to the role of women in the church. Her background is in a church where she felt relegated to baby showers and ladies’ teas when she wanted to be leading a Bible study or theological discussion. Not to beat a dead horse, but she levels accusations at evangelicalism that aren’t true across the board. My wife has led Bible studies and has NEVER constructed a diaper cake. But these peripheral issues seem to be simply excuses for the real issue – a loss of faith. She writes:

I couldn’t pretend to believe things I didn’t believe anymore.

So she talks about singing “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” with an unraveled faith (even though the “shadow of turning” line in the song isn’t about OUR faith but about GOD’S faithfulness through it all). Still, she gets it right when she talks about the practice of confession.

The practice of confession gives us the chance to admit to one another that we’re not okay, and then to seek healing and reconciliation together, in community.

The contemporary American evangelical church does NOT do a good job with confession. We’re too busy pretending we’ve got it all together. Heaven forbid we admit to each other that we’re struggling with something. Heave forbid our pastors show flaws or weaknesses! Ms. Evans is right when she notes that our churches feel more like country clubs than Alcoholics Anonymous. Church ought to be the place where we are free to be broken with one another.

But then she devolves from a good conversation about confession into a litany of historical grievances against Christians, beginning with the Crusades and including Western empire building (although that was political behavior behind a veneer of religion, not religious behavior). I don’t agree with the liberal re-interpretation of the history, and I won’t spend time arguing about that here. It just seems out of place in this book and wasn’t tied into the larger story being developed.

She ends the section with the liberal call to stop judging people and to love them instead. Not surprising. I happen to think the Bible calls us to love people AND to judge them. We can point out sin without being unloving. And just because we wrestle with our own sin doesn’t mean we must shut up about talking about other sins.

Holy Orders: Holy Orders

Ms. Evans uses the sacrament of holy orders to talk about her experience being part of a church plant. Most of the section is personal narrative of her experience with planting a church. It’s tough to be part of a church plant, which she and her husband experienced first-hand. Ministry is difficult in ANY setting.

She is right that all Christians share the same calling. We are kingdom of priests and should be serving and ministering to one another. What amazes me is that she would even attempt to be part of a ministry team and a faith leader when she admittedly lacks faith.

Communion: Communion

Ms. Evans is big on doing as opposed to believing. The mainstay of evangelical churches is belief. She believes we miss the mark because we prefer to believe rather than do. When it comes to communion writes:

‘Do this,’ he said–not believe this but do this–in remembrance of me.

But what she misses is that the doing was a result OF the believing. Jesus said DO this to remember me. Without the believing communion is simply shared meal time. Even in the early church gatherings, the communal meal wasn’t the totality of the gathering. They gathered for the apostles’ teaching (doctrine and belief) and to prayer (elements of faith and belief). It was BECAUSE of their belief that they continued to meet together. You cannot separate believing and doing. Indeed, believing must precede the doing, or else we’re just Boy Scouts looking to do good deeds for others.

Ms. Evans seems to relegate communion to the act of feeding one another and table fellowship. She writes:

Certainly nonbelievers can care for one another and make one another food. But it is Christians who recognize this act as sacrament, as holy.

NO! Communion isn’t about caring for one another and making food for each other. It’s about the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross, giving up his body and blood to pay a price we couldn’t afford to pay. She de-theologizes communion when she makes it about food rather than the work of Christ on the cross. Because she makes it about table fellowship rather than Christ’s substitutionary work, she can talk about welcoming all to the table.

“Welcome! There’s bread and wine. Come eat with us and talk.” This isn’t a kingdom for the worthy; it’s a kingdom for the hungry.

While we will never be worthy (which is why we couldn’t pay the price for our sins ourselves), communion is about Jesus paying the price for us. When we come to faith we begin a shift, though, and cannot remain the same. The Church that should be welcoming to all still needs to be the Church that quotes God, “Be holy as I am holy.”

Confirmation: Confirmation

Now addressing the issue of denominations within Protestantism, Ms. Evans notes:

…our various traditions seem a sweet and necessary grace.

Well…not ALL of them. Not the denominations that go against what she holds near and dear to her heart, namely women’s ordination and exclusion of the LGBTQ community from communion. But other than those groups, a sweet and necessary grace.

And so Ms. Evans clings to the Apostles’ Creed as the end-all of Christianity. To an extent, I agree. I think that there are more things that unite Christians than divide us. We like to get bogged down in the differences, but the basic elements of faith are identical from group to group.

But there is more to faith than the ancient creeds – things like sin lists and virtue lists (both in the Bible in multiple places). Christianity is more than reciting a creed. It’s about a faith that leads us to be more Christ-like. But what happens when you don’t have that faith? As she puts it, when you’re

swallowing down the bread and wine, not believing a word of it.

Not a word.

Then all you have is a creed. Dead words that mean nothing in the grand scheme of eternity.

Anointing of the Sick: Anointing of the Sick

This is another point where I think Ms. Evans gets it completely wrong. She makes a distinction between healing and curing. We’re called to heal, not to cure. She says:

The thing about healing, as opposed to curing, is that it is relationship. It takes time.

I don’t know where she’s coming up with this stuff, but it isn’t biblical. When Jesus sends his disciples out with his authority to preach and heal, the disciples HEALED THE SICK and cast out demons. It wasn’t relationship. It was about the power of God breaking through to our reality. It was a sign that the kingdom of God is HERE! In the New Testament we see other examples of the church laying on hands and praying for healing – for people to be cured of what ailed them. It is dishonest to the Bible to pretend that there is a difference between healing and curing.

While God doesn’t always answer prayer the way we’d like, we cannot pretend that biblical healing is anything other than God changing and repairing physical bodies. Can healing take place emotionally and relationally? Yes. But don’t downplay the power of God and what the Bible says about healing. Otherwise you turn God’s healing power into one big Kumbaya sing-along where we end up crying and hugging each other.

Marriage: Marriage

Here again I find myself agreeing with Ms. Evans. Following Jesus is a group activity and wasn’t ever intended to be a solo event. But it goes beyond that. The Church is called the Bride of Christ. Turning from Jesus is infidelity. There is no other way to the Father. The Church is His, and those who believe are called to be a part of it.

She gets it right when she says:

And the church universal is sacramental when it knows no geographic boundaries, no political parties, no single language or culture, and when it advances not through power and might, but through acts of love, joy, and peace and missions of mercy, kindness, humility.

So, yes.

THIS is what the church is supposed to look like in the world.

All said and done, the book can give you a good insight into what a lot of young people go through when they realize that the faith of their parents is not their own. The book will help you see Christianity from a liberal vantage point. In the end, I think the vantage point is hollow, substituting social action for genuine faith.

The local church will always be flawed because humans are flawed. That doesn’t mean the institution is flawed or that faith is lost. The Church belongs to Jesus, and we should do our best to be faithful to him and His Church.

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It has not been my intention to misrepresent the views or writings of Rachel Held Evans in any way. This has simply been my interpretation and response to what I read.

I welcome all discussion, just keep it civil and polite. If this post resonates with you in any way, please share it on Facebook, Twitter, or email!

This Isn’t the Kind of Wedding Surprise You Want!

Saudi Wedding

It’s not often you get to see a Bible story play out in real life. But one just did!

I just read a story about a wedding in Saudi Arabia that was arranged by the bride and groom’s parents. They had never laid eyes on each other until after the ceremony.

When the bride lifted her veil, the groom said:

You are not the one I had imagined. I am sorry, but I divorce you.

Pretty crazy, right?!?

There’s a story in the Bible that is just like this. It’s the story of Jacob wanting to marry Rachel but being surprised when he was stuck with Leah.

So Jacob worked seven years for Rachel, and they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her. Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife, for my time is completed. I want to sleep with her.” So Laban invited all the men of the place to a feast. That evening, Laban took his daughter Leah and gave her to Jacob, and he slept with her. And Laban gave his slave Zilpah to his daughter Leah as her slave. When morning came, there was Leah! So he said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Wasn’t it for Rachel that I worked for you? Why have you deceived me?”

The difference here is that Jacob does the honorable thing to his wife and does not divorce her, even though he was tricked into marrying her. The Saudi husband had no such notions of honor and said, “I’m outta here!”

There is something to be said about people who stick to our word and follow through with our obligations. Our world is more and more becoming a “throw-away” world where we discard the things that displease us no matter what the consequences. Our focus is more on what makes us happy rather than doing the right thing.

I hope you never get tricked into marrying the wrong person. Chances are you’ll never find yourself in this specific situation.

Still – wherever you find yourself – don’t give in to the throw-away culture. Be a person of honor. Do what you say you’re going to do.

Do the right thing, even if it’s not the thing you wanted to do.

Calling It Quits: What Jesus Says About Divorce

Unhappy CoupleSomeone once asked me if I could describe the Gospel in just two minutes.

Yes. You see it all comes down brokenness. We are broken people and we live in a broken world. But brokenness isn’t God’s design or intention. It’s the same when it comes to marriage. N.T. Wright notes that anyone who even reads the words of Jesus out loud will most likely be called mean, unforgiving, Pharisaical, or worse. Jesus said:

“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

Many people swing into two camps that are polar opposites: on the one side you have people who say, “I can be a good Christian and pursue divorce and get remarried.” On the other side you have people who stick to a very literal and rigid reading of Jesus’ words.

And we cannot deny the words of Jesus. He clearly says in Mark 10:

Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.

At this point everyone who is divorced or who has been affected by divorce in some way shuts down, turns off their ears, and stops listening to the message.
That’s what often happens.

But that’s because preachers who read the words of Jesus in this case never go all the way with the Gospel. Hear me out.

And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again. And again, as was his custom, he taught them. And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

These guys have no real concern about understanding God’s truth about marriage and divorce. Jesus is now in the area that John the Baptist had been when John condemned the behavior of Herod marrying his brother’s wife, Herodias. John told Herod, “This is not right!” But that’s just John. He tended to get emotional.

In fact, you could say he lost his head.

When the Pharisees approach Jesus they’re trying to put in in a tough spot on Herod’s turf – wanting him to make a declaration about marriage and divorce that will get him killed. But Jesus doesn’t fall for it.

He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.”

In the ancient world the certificate of divorce was a way of saying that the husband gives up his right and claim on the woman. Another man can have her without fear of the husband coming after him. There’s only one passage in the Torah that explicitly addresses divorce. Deuteronomy 24:1 says,

“If a man marries a woman, but she has become displeasing to him because he finds something improper about her, he may write her a divorce certificate, hand it to her, and send her on her way from his house.”

And Jews fought about what this passage meant. A hundred years before Jesus was born there were two major schools of thought. Those who followed Rabbi Shammai said that “something improper” meant infidelity. Those who followed Rabbi Hillel said it could be anything that displeases the husband – even burning the soup.

They missed the bigger picture.

And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.

The law passed down from Moses doesn’t declare divorce right or wrong – it simply assumes that divorce is a fact of life and seeks to protect the wife. The certificate of divorce meant when she remarried she would not be accused of adultery. But Jesus tells them that this was not God’s original design and intent.

But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

The problem is not with God’s ideal or the Law – the problem is with people and their hardened hearts. We are broken people who live in a broken world. That means we will do broken things to each other. This is not the way God designed it to be – it’s a sad fact of brokenness.

And Jesus does an amazing thing here. Instead of simply ruling out divorce he elevates the idea of marriage. It’s not about how and when you can split. Jesus says that the way God designed human marriage to work is for two to lose their individual identities and understand that they are now part of the same person. Jesus puts marriage on a whole new level.

If this is God’s design and intention, who is man that we should split it up?

And that’s where most preachers stop. And people listening who have suffered through a divorce shrink lower and lower into their seats. But that’s not the end of the Gospel.

You see, the Gospel is about restoration and reconciliation. The Gospel says, “You matter enough to God that He paid the price to fix your brokenness – a price you could never afford.”

The Gospel says, “The only thing that is unforgivable is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.”

That means that divorce, though not God’s design and desire,
is not an unforgivable sin.

That means that, as a divorcee, you can rest assured that God still loves you and that you are not separated from Him because of your marital status.

That means that, as Christians, we can treat friends and family with love and respect even when they have gone through divorce and remarriage.

The Gospel is bigger than all of us, and God’s grace reaches farther than we could ever imagine. We are called to be people of reconciliation and restoration. When we deal with people who are divorced or going through a divorce. When we live the life of a divorcee. God’s grace reaches to us all and calls us to act towards each other with that same grace.

‘Cause it’s only when we’re acting with this kind of grace
that we’ll see true reconciliation and restoration happen.

Related Posts:
Beyond Divorce: Living After Heartbreak and Separation
I QUIT! What to Know Before You Divorce

Preventing Extramarital Affairs: Part 1

Unhappy Couple

I recently officiated a wedding. Part of my wedding message was about God’s design that marriage be a permanent covenant, not merely a part-time gig to try out until you get unhappy or something else comes along.

At the reception a gentleman who attended the wedding was talking to my wife and me and thanked me for including that part in my message. He commented that many people seem to think marriage is something you stick with while it is convenient then bail when the going gets tough. He said in the decades he and his wife and had been married there was a time when they thought they weren’t going to make it. My wife and I looked at each other and I said, “We had a time like that, too.” To which this gentleman replied, “Most couples go through something like that, I think.”

And it’s true. Any long-term relationship will have rough patches (some rougher than others). There will be times when we want to call it quits. But marriages can survive even the tough times – if we’re smart about it. And nothing is stupider or more difficult to overcome than an extra-marital affair.

Before you start accusing me of bashing men, research shows that infidelity is not limited to men. The Journal of Marital and Family Therapy released some startling numbers.

Percent of men who admit to committing infidelity in any relationship they’ve had 57%
Percentage of women who admit to committing infidelity in any relationship they’ve had 54%

This is a problem that both men and women need to get a hold of. So over the next few months I’ll be sharing some practical tips on how we can actively work to prevent affairs in our marriages.

So, the #1 tip to preventing affairs – Make a decision and commit to the idea that you will never have an affair. No circumstance can justify infidelity, so simply decide that an affair is never an option, no matter what happens in the marriage. The Bible indicates that there is something powerful in putting our minds to something.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:1-5)

I have friends who are hard-core road bikers.

No. Not
Easy Rider

I’m talking
Peleton

They tell me that the racer’s vision is HIGHLY important to the direction of the bike. Where your vision goes your bike will start to move in that direction. Where our brains our bodies will follow. If we take the Apostle seriously then we need to keep “our minds on things that are above.” Decide that infidelity is not an option in your life. Stay tuned throughout the series as we cover more tips for preventing affairs.

For additional reading, see A Celebration of Sex: A Guide to Enjoying God’s Gift of Sexual Intimacy by Dr. Douglas Rosenau – don’t worry, it’s a Christian book 😉

Related Posts:
Preventing Extramarital Affairs – Part 2

The Best Worst Marriage Advice…EVER!

Marriage

I’ve got a Twitter friend who is getting married in a few months. In honor of his impending nuptials I asked a bunch of friends to throw out some of the “Best Worst” marriage advice we could come up with. You know, the stuff that really SHOULDN’T be done if you care about having a healthy relationship.

Here are some of the gems we came up with. Enjoy!

In all seriousness, marriage can be wonderful. It does, however, require effort on the part of both people. One of the best books I’ve read on marriage is called The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by Dr. John Gottman.

Do whatever you can to work on your relationship. Read the book. Take a seminar. Talk to a pastor/counselor. Do the OPPOSITE of everything we suggested above!

Marriage can be wonderful – if you put in the time and effort to make it so.

How about you? What advice would you give to a couple about to get married?

Related Post:
8 Things Every Husband Needs to Do

The Disturbing Truth About Polygamy

polygamy

Are you going to watch the season premier of “My Five Wives” on TLC?

That was the question I was asked the other day. To be honest, I had never even heard of the show. I had heard of “Sister Wives” – the Mormon family with one husband, four wives, and a troop of kids. It seems that four wives wasn’t chaotic enough for TLC – they had to up their game and bring in a family with five.

While I didn’t watch the opening of the show, it did launch a rather interesting discussion about the Bible and polygamy.

Here’s the tough truth – there is no biblical mandate against having multiple wives. The verse that most Christians use against polygamy is where the Apostle Paul instructs that leaders should be husbands of one wife.

On the surface this seems to be a clear indicator of the Christian view of polygamy. Except that polygamy wasn’t rampant in the time and area Paul was writing. It doesn’t make sense that he would be addressing a problem that wasn’t really a problem. There is some merit to the argument that Paul is referring to divorce/remarriage rather than polygamy (but that’s a discussion for another post). Suffice to say, the Bible never comes out and says polygamy is sin.

But Chris, wouldn’t it be considered sinning if you’re having sex outside the bonds of marriage?

The biblical standard for sexual fidelity means within marriage, yes. But it’s not outside marriage if you’re having sex with one of the women you’re married to.

Interestingly, in the OT, polygamy was not about getting more nookie but about preserving the clan/family line and protecting women. With no male child a family line might die out. Multiple wives made possible the preservation of the family line. As for protecting women, in the ancient world there was no possibility for social advancement for women. If you didn’t get married you had a good chance of being destitute. Polygamy allowed for women to be taken into a family and cared for when they might not have been okay otherwise.

Several characters in OT stories have multiple wives. They are never condemned. But here’s the thing – it never ends well and always causes drama and grief. To my knowledge, every character we’re told about that is involved in polygamous families has some serious issues to contend with.

In the end I wouldn’t treat it as a salvation issue – the Bible never says that you’re excluded from eternity with God if you have multiple wives. I don’t judge the polygamists in that regard (the families from the shows are Mormons, and I do hold to a  clear belief that Mormonism is NOT the Christian faith), but THEORETICALLY it would be possible for a Christian to be a polygamist and still be saved.

But overall I DO think it’s definitely on the “pretty dumb idea” list. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a polygamy advocate.

If I tried to marry another woman my wife would kill me – she doesn’t believe in divorce!

8 Things Every Wife Needs to Do

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I believe the Bible calls us to live in mutually submissive and mutually controlling relationships. I am not my own, but I belong to my wife. She belongs to me. I need to submit to my wife’s needs, wants, and desires. She needs to submit to mine. I believe the God calls us to this kind of mutuality.

My wife and I teach a 9 week marriage-enrichment class at our church. In our marriage class we split the men and women into gender breakout groups to discuss questions and issues. Yesterday I shared about asking the women to identify 8 things their husbands do that they greatly appreciate. We also asked the men to identify 8 things their wives do that they greatly appreciate.

**Keep in mind that this is simply a list of things that the men in our class appreciated about their spouses. This is not a “MUST-DO if you want to be a Godly wife” kind of article! Please pack away your guns and your feminism and enjoy what these men appreciate about their spouses.

1. She is organized – Not all men are a mess. Some guys are fastidious. But others of us rely on the organization of our spouses to keep us from being a heaping mess. Wives, if your husband is the kind of guy who needs you to be organized don’t fight it. Embrace it. And know that we really do appreciate the fact that one of us has it together. Men, don’t use this as an excuse to be a slob. She’s not your momma, she’s your wife.

2. Takes good care of the kids – I hate to play into gender stereotypes…but here I go. Obviously it’s not true for all couples, but in my marriage (and for other couples I know) the wife is a better nurturer and caretaker than the husband. For example, let’s talk about puke. When my kids are feeling crummy and start to vomit my wife will be in the thick of it (pun definitely intended). I’ve seen her throw out her hand to catch barf before it can hit other stuff. o_O That is SO not me. Men appreciate the kind of care our wives provide for the kids.

3. Takes care of me when I’m sick – Similar to above, we appreciate it when our wives care for us in our sickness. Honestly, when I’m sick I’m a bigger baby than my kids are. The whole world shuts down when I get the flu. And there she is, bringing me toast, hot tea, medicine, whatever I need.

4. Puts me and the kids first – I’m sure there are plenty of women who are total jerks, but I daily see wives and moms put their families first. It’s an incredible trait that more of us should have. We appreciate it.

5. Gives me space and freedom with my friends – Some of the men in our group felt the need to spend “time with the guys” and appreciated it when their spouses gave them space to do that.

6. Cooks good meals – I’m reminded of the Carl’s Jr./Hardees commercial:



7. Thinks of others before herself
– This is nearly identical to number 4, but someone wanted to reiterate it 😉

8. She’s a great cleaner – Last but not least, one of our guys wanted to share how much he appreciated his wife cleaning the house. While this is an admirable trait, this is not excuse for us to be slobs, men!

Well, there you have it. It’s what our class came up with. You want a healthy and happy marriage? Put in the work to make it that way.

How about you? What else would you add to this list?

If you be so inclined, give me a follow:

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