It hasn’t been that long ago that someone told me our church’s position on divorce was wrong. We acknowledge that God permits divorce for habitual, unrepentant, hard-hearted violation of the marriage vows. Sexual unfaithfulness, failure to love and provide for, desertion, and abuse (a kind of desertion) are, we maintain, biblical grounds for divorce. In fact, these violations are what destroy the marriage, not the victim who files the legal paperwork. My caller however, insisted upon her rendition of Malachi 2 – claiming that it says God hates divorce. What she meant by this, of course, was that God hates ALL divorce and thus divorce is never permissible. She is wrong. Very, very wrong. And her words do great hurt and harm to abuse victims. Christians need to stop saying “God hates divorce.”
Gen 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”
Over the years in this ministry to abuse victims, I have been contacted numbers of times by people (mostly men) who are domestic abusers and Christian pretenders. Their line is always pretty much the same: “I don’t want a divorce. I haven’t been a great husband, but that has all changed. I am willing to go to counseling with my wife but she refuses.” Done. Finished. Call ended. Communication over. Why?
2 Corinthians 6:15-18 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”
Christ rejected evil people and he instructs us to do the same. One of the reasons that the wicked have such a heyday practicing their evil among Christians is that we are not properly instructed in this discipline. Think about it. Your church tells you that Christians are to love all other people. Be kind to everyone. Invite them into your home. We teach our children all of this stuff. We think it is so Christian to stick a sign out on the front lawn of the church that says “Everyone Welcome!” But when was the last time you were taught the Godly principle of rejecting the wicked? That Christ does not want some people to enter His church. How often are our children taught these things? …
James 1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
There are literal widows and orphans today who need our help. Widows who are widows indeed, without even family members to care for them. But this biblical category of people who are particularly near to the Lord’s heart – widows and orphans – is much, much broader than most Christians have realized. One lady commented:
Couldn’t all the passages that speak about caring for the fatherless apply to children who do indeed have a living father, but he doesn’t protect and teach like a father, but rather hurts them? They have a biological father, but who would debate that they don’t really have a protector and nurturer. Wouldn’t most everybody agree that we as a country do right to remove children from dangerous situations and place them in a safe home? So, when the Bible speaks of caring for the fatherless and widows, I’m wondering if the woman who has a husband who doesn’t love her, but abuses her, might she fit under the category of widow? She has a husband, but no one to love and care for her.
She is EXACTLY correct! Here we are, looking all around us for widows and orphans, and yet we miss them. They are right in front of us – many sitting in the pews of our own churches. We are fooled, just because there is a man with them. But he is no husband or father. He is their tormentor from whom they need rescue.
Eph 4:1-6 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, (2) with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, (3) eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (4) There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call– (5) one Lord, one faith, one baptism, (6) one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Church unity. We hear a lot about it, but we really don’t see or experience it very often at all. Most times the “unity” in a local church is just role play. But under the surface, whoa! Constant, low-level friction. Why?
I suggest that one chief reason for this sorry situation is that most Christians and church leaders have a warped view of biblical, genuine, spiritual unity. It often is better described as “uniformity,” in which environment the pressure is on everyone to get in line. In that kind of supposed “community,” everyone is presumed to belong, and all efforts must be diligently enforced to be sure that everyone stays in the community. Everyone. Tolerance is not only the word of the day in our secular culture. It is the attitude (enforced) in our churches. To differ is to be intolerant, and to suggest that someone really does not belong….well, that is the quickest way to be censured or tossed out.
Being “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” requires, I maintain, removing wicked, unrepentant people from the community. What’s that? I shall repeat: biblical zeal to maintain Christian unity requires the expulsion of people who have demonstrated that they are not in Christ, and thus, with whom, we have no unity. THIS is walking in a manner worthy of our calling.
“…with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, (3) eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (4) There is one body and one Spirit.”
Think about it. How can we maintain what does not exist? We are to patiently “bear with one another.” Who is the “one another”? It is believers. Those who are in Christ. Those who have one Lord, one faith, one baptism. Those who have the Spirit. That spiritual unity exists in and between all Christians. But it does not exist with the wicked.
And therefore anyone who comes along preaching to us that we are to eagerly and patiently maintain unity with an abuser (or any other so-called brother who habitually walks in evil) is preaching some kind of “unity” that the Bible knows nothing about. Consider. Isn’t it true? Abusers are allowed to remain in our churches in the name of “unity.” But there is no unity to maintain. Such a man is not our brother. In fact, many Scriptures tell us to separate ourselves from such people. To put them out of our churches (1 Cor 5). Not to even eat with them.
And when we wake up and do this, guess what? We are actually maintaining the unity between genuine believers that honors Christ, the Head of the body.
Goliath was an abuser. A really nasty one. Listen to him:
1 Samuel 17:8-10 He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” And the Philistine said, “I defy the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man, that we may fight together.”
Forty days this business went on with the giant mocking the Israelites and thus, mocking their God. Then, one day this kid shows up for the showdown and Goliath intensifies his mocking:
1 Samuel 17:40-44 Then he took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd’s pouch. His sling was in his hand, and he approached the Philistine. And the Philistine moved forward and came near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. And the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.”
Goliath was an abuser. He was a giant and he knew it. Pity his wife if he had one. Goliath hated God (although at least he was forthright about that and didn’t pretend to be a worshiper of the Lord as so many abusers do today). Goliath ridiculed his victims. Power and control and self-glory were what he was all about.
So, how should David have dealt with Goliath? I suggest to you that many Christians today think they know better than David. They tell abuse victims that when the abuser roars, victims should be meek and submissive. Win the giant over with love, they say. After all, you were a sinner too and God showed you mercy. You show Goliath mercy. Take him some sandwiches. David should have dropped to his knees and prayed and let God handle things. There’s the thing, you see.
1Jn 1:10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
Mr. Decker: “Captain, shouldn’t we take every possible precaution?”
Captain Kirk: “Mr. Decker, I will not provoke an attack. If that order isn’t clear enough for you….”
Mr. Decker: “Captain, as your executive officer it is my duty to point out alternatives.”
Captain Kirk: “Yes it is. I stand corrected.”
“Yes, it is. I stand corrected.” Words you will never hear from an abuser.
Pastor Larry Dean, a reader of this blog, loves to talk about repentance. He would tell you that it is sorely lacking not only in the world today, but in the church. And yet without repentance there can be no forgiveness of sin. A gospel with no call to repentance is no gospel at all.