Divorce and remarriage is quickly becoming the prickliest subject in the church today. On the one hand the Bible is profoundly clear on the subject that God hates divorce (Mal 2:16), but on the other hand as many as half the people sitting in the pew may be divorced. At the risk of offending the ‘faithful’ (pun intended) most pastors remain conspicuously quiet on the subject. I understand that. It would seem counter-intuitive to offend half our congregation, so it is easier to just avoid the subject altogether. The problem is that divorce and remarriage in the church is now reaching epidemic proportions. We have no desire to chase divorcees out of the church but at some point we need do something to do stem the tide and return to honouring this God ordained institution.
The church’s standard on marriage took a big step backward last week when the 700 Club’s Pat Robertson gave a man, whose wife was suffering from Alzheimer’s, the incredibly bad and unbiblical advice to “divorce her and move on.” After a firestorm of criticism he came on air a week later and said that he was misunderstood. I listened carefully to both broadcasts. He never recanted or apologized but instead insisted that he would never advise someone to divorce their sick spouse. What? That is exactly what he did. Watch the unedited video. It’s pretty clear what he said.
Look, nobody understands better than me how easy it is to say something stupid on TV. I do it every week. So I am going to give Pat Robertson the benefit of the doubt that… HE IS THE ONE SUFFERING FROM ALZHEIMER’S AND THAT HE HAS FORGOTTEN WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT DIVORCE! Sarcasm aside, this is exactly what I am talking about; that preachers have become so soft on this issue that their voices are almost indistinguishable from that of non-christians. (Although I am quite certain many would not think it very honorable to divorce a terminally ill spouse) Most vows today still include the commitment; for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do we part. It is a sad state of affairs when we are not willing to stand by our spouses in their greatest hour of need. In the case of the guy whose wife had advanced Alzheimer’s, it would only be a few years or months and he would be free to remarry soon enough. We are just so selfish and have no understanding of the virtue of sacrifice.
I spoke about this issue last Sunday in our church. A newcomer was annoyed with me and told me that her friend’s husband (wink wink) was abusive and she was now living with another man. Why was she not free to divorce her husband and marry Mr Wonderful, she wanted to know. “Look”, I said, “I don’t make the rules. You do not have to live with an abusive spouse, but you are not free to divorce him and marry another.” To which she said, “Don’t you believe that God is happy when we are happy?” I responded sarcastically, “Yes, that’s it, our personal happiness trumps all the other principles of God’s word.” To which she rebutted quite satisfied, “Then I rest my case.” Aaarrrggg Lord help us!
If I am to get even bolder and blunter, this sentiment is actually coming from the clergy itself. We have not clearly articulated God’s will regarding marriage nor provided the resources to help marriages succeed. Worse yet a frightening number of pastors are divorcing their wives, remarrying and carrying on in the pulpit like nothing was the matter. 38% of pastors in North America are now divorced. Here is a short list of some of the more well known ones that barely missed a beat after their marriages went south; Kathryn Kulmann, Aimee Semple Mcpherson, Richard Roberts, Jimmy Bakker, Robert Tilton, John Hagee, John Jacobs, Paula White, Charles Stanley, Benny Hinn, Juanita Bynum and the list goes on and on. How does one justify any of this?
I am not claiming to be morally superior to these people. Kathy could get sick of me and leave me tomorrow… yeah, yeah who could blame her? I just want to know why these preachers have not stepped gracefully out of ministry and allowed God to rebuild their obviously broken lives? Why are we still listening to and following leaders who have put their personal happiness ahead of all the values that Jesus taught on marriage? The Apostle Paul (who it is generally believed to have been a widower) gave a higher standard for those who are ministers of the gospel. ...He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord–how he may please the Lord. But he who is married cares about the things of the world–how he may please his wife. Cor 7: 32-33 He taught that if a man was no longer married he should devote himself to serving God not to pleasing himself or a wife. That is not the message that is being communicated today.
Nobody said marriage was easy, but if God isn’t big enough to keep our marriages together than what hope is there for us and our mission to a broken world? And why would anyone want to listen to our so-called message of hope… they already know how to screw up their relationships… they don’t need our help for that. The fact is the Bible has wisdom for marriages just like it does every other subject… or as the Apostle Peter said “in all things pertaining to life and godliness.” There are tremendous books, videos and courses on marriage by Tim Kimmel, Mark Gungor, Gary Smalley and 100’s of more. It is not like we lack resources, we just lack resolve.