Straining a Gnat to Swallow a Camel – Marriage “Laws” in Most Churches

We all know that the Lord instructs Christians to marry Christians –

1Co 7:39 A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.

I do not know any real Christian who does not care if they marry a Christian or non-Christian. Of course, we want a believing husband or wife.

But…

I want to point out some inconsistencies in most churches which should be glaring and obvious, but no one seems willing to admit it. Here it is:

  • Pastors and church leaders will typically insist that a Christian who is married to an abusive spouse remain married to their oppressor.
  • At the same time, these same pastors and church leaders will insist that a Christian only marry another Christian.

What, we may rightfully ask, is wrong with this picture? It is so convoluted that it is difficult to sort out. Let me begin perhaps with this:

There is widespread unbiblical teaching in local churches about who a Christian is. That is to say, people are being pronounced “Christian” who the bible very clearly teaches are not regenerate at all. Typically, all that is required is for a person to profess to be a Christian, to claim to “believe in Jesus,” and boom! He’s a brother in Christ and it is wrong to ever question his claim.

Consequently, even though a husband might habitually abuse his wife for decades, he is still going to be regarded as a Christian. After all, you know, “we are all sinners.” And further, because of this faulty gospel of “just believe and that’s all that matters,” churches will forbid marriage to anyone who hasn’t “said the words and accepted Jesus” while they will authorize a marriage to someone who “says the words and has accepted Jesus” even if that person’s life shows no real fruit of regeneration. Do you see how twisted all of this is?

I have had several Christian women who have survived horrible abuse over many years ask me if it is ever permissible before God for them to marry a non-Christian man. The case is usually that a man who does not profess to be a Christian has come along in the course of their life and is very respectful, kind, courteous, humble – everything the “Christian” they were previously married to wasn’t. What are they to do? In many cases like this the abuse survivor has nothing. She was robbed economically. Deserted. Shunned. And now here is a man who is generous and kind.

Now, for purposes of our discussion here, let me just say that I know and most all of you know that wicked people can parade as Mr. Wonderful. That great caution needs to be exercised in these situations lest the abuse survivor get duped right into still another abuser’s evil. But the cases I am speaking of are ones in which the non-Christian man has, over quite a long time, continued to show himself as genuine. Moral. Responsible. Kind. And what I want us to think about is this – If there are no real Christian men showing kindness and care for a woman who has been sorely abused, if in fact the “Christians” in her life have cast her out for divorcing her abuser, and now here is a man who is genuinely kind toward her, is it in fact a hard and fast unbreakable Law of God that she can never marry such a man?

Do you see my point? Jesus rebuked the Pharisees because they strained out a gnat and swallowed a camel. They made the law of tithing so universally binding that it ruled out mercy toward their needy parents. And Jesus also said this:

Mat 12:1-7 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. (2) But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” (3) He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: (4) how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? (5) Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? (6) I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. (7) And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.

Mercy, not sacrifice. MERCY. God’s Word is to be applied faithfully, but to do so requires showing mercy. His Law was not given to enslave, but for man’s benefit. And it is my conclusion that most local churches and pastors today are showing themselves to be Pharisees who apply God’s Word in such a way that mercy is thrown out the window.

Divorce for Abuse – An argument from lesser to greater

For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned1 Corinthians 9:9

He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?”  Matthew 12:3-4 

Many if not most Christians, churches, pastors, confessions of faith and theologians acknowledge that Scripture permits divorce for the reason of adultery. Others add desertion to the list. Often however these same Christians balk at any suggestion that abuse is biblical grounds for divorce. Why? I suggest it is because –

  1. they do not grasp the evil nature of abuse,
  2. they have a wrong notion about the nature of covenants, specifically, the marriage covenant, and
  3. they cling to a method of Scripture interpretation (a “hermenuetic”) that is unbiblical.

It is this last reason I want to discuss here.

Continue reading “Divorce for Abuse – An argument from lesser to greater”