Friday, November 14, 2014

Biblical Divorce: Summary

In 1980, my first husband and I divorced. I had yet to find the Lord, but my spirit still grieved--not because I needed or desired to remain with this man, but because I knew I had broken my vow.

Through the years--I've studied the topic extensively. I did not want to stay single, nor did I want to grieve God. I asked ministers, and here are a few of the answers they gave. None resonated with me:

  1. Even if you weren't saved before you divorced, you still can never marry until that husband dies.
  2. By marrying someone else, you commit adultery. By committing adultery, you break your vows and thus the new marriage is okay.
  3. Did you ever pray about getting married? If not, then it wasn't sanctified by Jesus.
All these men, except the first, grappled with the idea that a lifetime of loneliness because of one sin grieved humans. Most ministers looked for mercy--yet some defined divorce as the unpardonable sin.

In my life, God gave me a Biblical justification. My ex-husband had been unfaithful. I did not get concrete confirmation until after we agreed to divorce. Without that certainty, I still could not have stayed with him. 

He never hit me, but he was emotionally abusive. He desired to control me and keep me from anyone that could take my complete loyalty away from him. And I say these things with the utmost humility and Godly love for this man. He fathered my daughter, one of the most beautiful people I have ever known. I've forgiven him, and I pray for him.

I do believe whom God has joined together, no man should part (Matt. 19:6).

However, marriage is more than a paper signed by two people--as is divorce. Many married couples still live together, have sex together, but have divorced the other in his or her heart. That, in itself, is divorce. If you're married--the husband is commanded to love his wife, and she must respect him. We cannot remain married and fail to do this. It is sin.

Through the years, I've come to see Biblical divorce as protection for the woman. A man could mary many women. If his wife was put out--she had nothing: no job, no alimony, no children because they stayed with the husband. If her family did not take her in, she, more than likely, had only prostitution to turn to.

If we look at the New Testament scriptures, virtually all of them talk about divorcing a wife (or at least primarily).

Deutsch: Christus und die Ehebrecherin, Alte P...
Deutsch: Christus und die Ehebrecherin, Alte Pinakothek, Raum 17, Inv.-Nr. 1217 DSCF4774.JPG (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Matt 5:31-32 "...whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality...whoever marries a woman who is divorced..." This section does not talk about the man.

Mark 10:10-12  talks about a man divorcing his wife and vice versa.

Luke 16:18  "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery. "

Mark 10:2-12  vs 8 "He said to them, "Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.  9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery." 

Luke 16:18 again couches it only toward the woman.

In most of the above Scriptures, Jesus acknowledges divorce only for unfaithfulness--and usually of the woman toward the man.

I see two elements here. If a woman cheats, the man cannot know whose progeny he's supporting. He needs to be freed from that onerous obligation. 

But this protects the woman. As I said earlier, the usual recourse for a divorced woman with no family was destitution--prostitution--misery. Jesus was protecting the woman from men who had the ability to divorce her because she gave him wrinkled clothes or burned the lentils.

The only other New Testament concession to divorce has been termed desertion. Yet, if you wish to be a legalist, it would only be desertion of an unbelieving spouse, not a believer. Read 1 Cor 7:10-16 carefully.

So where does that leave us if a woman is battered and bruised? Is brought to the edge of suicide because of emotional abuse? If a Christian man leaves her? What if she (or he) simply ruins the marriage and it ends? (read the blog that follows this for more information).

There is only one unpardonable sin, and that's not divorce (Matt. 12:31). We can find forgiveness--but don't be cavalier about it. Repentance only comes from God, and I wouldn't want to gamble that He'll knock sorrow into my thick skull.

So how do we prevent divorce? There are solutions. Leave any suggestions you may have or tune in next week. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Biblical Divorce: Abuse

עברית: חתונה יהודית.
עברית: חתונה יהודית. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Instone-Brewer, David. "What God Has Joined." Christianity Today. 5 October 2007. Web. 1 November 2014.

We've all met pious people--mostly women, but men included, who stay with an abusive spouse because the Bible only clearly states adultery or desertion as reasons for divorce. However, the question always arises, how can Jesus, who says if we say "raca" to a person, we are in danger of hell fire, say it is okay for a woman to stay with a man who regularly throws her down the stairs or calls her an "expletive" idiot?

He commands us to love just as He loves us with an undying love. When asked about the greatest commandment, He says all are contained in two sentences: to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:37-40). We are known as his disciples if we have love for one another (Jn. 13:35).

We do have to understand culture and elements that are understood within that society. Today, I'd have to define the word raca--whose root word comes from to spit, and it essentially means worthless or good for nothing . It was a term of severe contempt. In Jesus's day, no definition was needed.

My uncle called those he considered ignorant fools Cossacks. Uncle Al was Belorussian, and the Cossacks were brutal invaders of their territory. I once happily told a woman of Ukrainian descent that we were Belorussian. My mother was horrified. "Ukranians hate Bellorussians!," she whispered to me. "Don't tell her that." Who knew?

I taught Spanish. Not one student would use the word allegre for happy. The dictionary defined it as "gay", and no matter what I told them, they were sure that when they used that word, they were calling someone a homosexual.

So we do have to understand some context of Jesus's society. I was happy to come across David Instone-Brewer's article. Brewer is the senior research fellow in rabbinics and the New Testament at Tyndale House, Cambridge. His article shed some light on divorce in abusive situations.

A few decades before Jesus's time, the Hillelittes, a rabbinical group, invented a clause for divorce for any reason--the "any cause" divorce. The Shammaites, another group of rabbis, held to a strict, moral interpretation for divorce.

The Jews in Jesus's day who were divorce had the "any cause" divorce which had simply become known as divorce.

Thus, in Matt. 19:3, when the rabbis ask Jesus about divorce for any causes, they wanted him to agree to divorce because of a burnt meal or a wrinkled garment, for anything. The two groups were pitting Jesus against both groups.

Jesus defiantly disagreed with the Hillelittes and affirmed the Old Testament We cannot divorce for any whim. Marriage is sacred. However, he defended the Old Testament, a Biblical text the church still holds, as God's word. Ex. 21:10-11 allows divorce for neglect. Exodus says, according to Brewer, "...everyone, even a slave wife, had three rights within marriage--the rights to food, clothing, and love. If these were neglected, the wronged spouse had the right to seek freedom from that marriage."

Jesus did not condone a divorce for any little thing--but for neglect. Yest.

These three rights are the basis for the Jewish marriage vows, and have been found in marriage contracts discovered near the Dead Sea. They also form the basis for our own marriage vows--to love honor and obey.

I urge you to read Brewer's article. Longer than this blog, it clearly articulates what I've tried to summarize.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Biblical Divorce--Three Reasons: Adultery, Abandonment and Neglect

The Gutenberg Bible displayed by the United St...
The Gutenberg Bible displayed by the United States Library of Congress, demonstrating printed pages as a storage medium. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Divorce is not the unpardonable sin. Despite the fact that divorce can be forgiven and remarriage can ensue, it is never to be taken lightly. If you love your spouse, but are not "in love", if you are best friends with him or her, then you best work on your marriage. Marriage is not romance and tingling loins--marriage is a compact of mutual respect. It honors God.

Marriage has lost its sacred nature, and we, as followers of Christ, need to resurrect that component. However, the Bible gives us clear-cut examples when divorce can be "no-fault" (so to speak) to the innocent parties--Adultery and desertion AND neglect. 

1. Adultery

Matt 19:8-9

8 Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery." NIV

Most of the New Testament couches this with the man toward the woman. When a man is responsible for the well being of the wife and her offspring, he needs to know that the lineage she produces is his. That's obviously not the case today.

And Paul writes in Galations 3:28, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus."KJV

In a world where women can fend for themselves through their careers, she can seek the divorce. Remember, a woman in Bible times had no means of support. If her husband divorced her, she could do little and generally lived in poverty--often having to turn to prostitution in order to survive.

2. Desertion

1 Cor 7:15-16, "But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. NIV

God does not want us to be tied to a person who refuses to live with us, support us, and fulfill what God has joined together.

3. Neglect

I've seen abused women stay in a marriage because they believe only desertion and adultery qualifies as grounds for divorce. However, we must understand the culture of the day and what the people who initially heard Jesus, understood.

Jesus did not forbid divorce in cases of abuse. I recently read an interesting article by David Instone-Brewer in Christianity Today. Brewer is the senior research fellow in rabbinics and the New Testament at Tyndale House, Cambridge. His research definitively shows how Jesus never commanded a spouse to stay in a marriage if abuse and neglect abounded. Next week, I will distill his argument. However, I have included the link below so you can read the entire article.

Divorce involves humans--men and women of broken spirit. Christians serve a God who understands their needs and hears their pleas. If you have any testimony about your life as a divorced Christian, I'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

What Is Divorce?

"αθεοι" (atheoi), Greek for "th...
"αθεοι" (atheoi), Greek for "those without god", as it appears in the Epistle to the Ephesians on the third-century papyrus known as "Papyrus 46" (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
My ex-husband would leave me early in the evening so he could get into the bars before the cover charge went into effect. This, he said, was because we had so little money. Financed only with bravado, he'd shoot pool for drinks and come home drunk.

I was left with a child, no TV, poor radio reception, and a party line. My best friend was never home those evenings, so loneliness and lack of self-esteem flourished in my love-starved soul.

Neither of us were Christians, and I had never heard the admonition of Ephesians 5:25. " Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." I never knew a man, or a woman, could love a spouse so intensely. Imagine God's love for us: Jesus allowed himself to be whipped and mocked and crucified because he love us more than himself.

Because a man does not love a woman in this manner doesn't mean she should head for divorce court. But a sacrificial love is the life blood of a strong marriage. Like the lack of blood, without a love that prefers the other above yourself, the marriage will necrotize and die.

Ephesians goes on to say in verse twenty-eight, "In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself." It doesn't say to love yourself first. Love of self only comes with the love of your spouse.

In the same section of Ephesians, verse 22, women are simply admonished to "... submit to your husbands as to the Lord". Submission is a dirty word in our society, but its meaning is misunderstood. It does not mean to kowtow to every whim of your spouse. It does not mean your husband becomes a god you must adore. However, as we explore the definition of Biblical marriage and divorce, we will see how submission to a godly husband aids in the protection of and devotion to a wife.

Day 150: And that's that.
Day 150: And that's that. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Love, protection, respect, submission. These four elements lead to a strong marriage. Their absence is not a licence for divorce, but a steady absence of these elements will destroy a marriage. Partners may stay together because they believe divorce is unbiblical--however, divorce is more than legal papers dissolving the union.

Divorce is the absence of love, protection, respect and submission. You can still be married and yet be divorced.

What is marriage to you? What is your definition of divorce? Do you have questions you'd like to explore? Leave a comment.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Divorce: A Biblical Perspective

Once upon a time
I am divorced.

It is not the unpardonable sin, despite the theology of many churches. A sad example of how unforgiving many Christians can be about this issue is seen in the calling of a dear friend of mine.

"Sam" had been called into the ministry. With all of his being, he wanted to be a pastor. However, prior to his conversion, his first wife left him for another man. Close to suicide, Sam became a Christian and his sins were forgiven.

Apparently, all was forgiven but his divorce. He attended a neighborhood church with his new wife. There, he was flatly informed he could not preach or be involved in what they called ministry because of his pre-salvation divorce.

In a similar manner, one Baptist minisJesus Christ.
ter told me I could never remarry even though my divorce came before my acceptance of

And so I wonder. Had Sam or I murdered our cheating spouses and done our time, could we remarry? Could we minister? Is murder a more tolerable sin than ending up in an abusive relationship or with a philandering spouse and having the dignity to leave? Must divorced people be punished for all time for a sin not their own?

Even if a person destroys his or her own marriage and truly repents, should the punishment go on in perpetuity?

I, in no way, cavalierly endorse the end of a marriage. But marriage takes two people.

Then, we need to define divorce. When Michal scorned David, he never went in to her again--but never divorced her. Even in New Testament times, men could marry more than one woman, so could a Biblical divorce be the ending of support for the woman? Moses and the law allowed for it and accepted a remarriage. In those days, survival was nearly impossible for a single woman without a husband.

But what about people who stay married, live in the same house, but essentially have nothing to do with each other. Haven't they already divorced their spouses?

We do have explicit exceptions given in the New Testament, but the culture of the times would have understood some of the implicit issues.

Over the next few weeks, I'd like to explore divorce, remarriage, and most importantly, what does it mean to be a Christian couple?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Fenians in Malone: Part 4

On May 27, 1870, five hundred additional Fenians reinforced the straggling,  poorly trained group at Leahy's farm in Trout River. They were well situated behind a ditch in a hops' field, had a stout barricade across the highway and woods and the river on
their flanks. Had they been well trained and well led, they could have withheld against any attack and had a successful raid on Canada.

Of course, that did not happen.

One thousand Canadian troops attacked. After a short, disorderly battle, the Fenians scattered. "They fired only a single full volley when the advance began" (Seaver 674). All these shots, and the few rounds that followed, all flew over the heads of the Canadian troops.
Only a few injuries resulted overall, so the Canadians were not much better prepared.

The fleeing Fenians escaped over the border, and the Canadian troops did not follow.

And the fleeing scene is something worthy of a Hollywood comedy. The Fenians swarmed Trout River, ran to Leahy's far and continued on back to Malone throwing away their armaments, or battering them away for food, as they scattered.

On May 28, back at the Fairgrounds, some officers tried to rally the troops for another attack. Hungry and tired, the refused. This appears to be good for them as one thousand US regulars arrived the next morning and would have suppressed the attack.

As a result of the battle, no Canadians were killed, Three or four Fenians were wounded, and one was taken prisoner. According to Seaver, the Fenians themselves were good fighters, but their leadership lacked talent.

Seaver, Fredrick. Historical Sketches of Franklin Countly. Albany: JP Lyons, 1918.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Fenian Uprising--Malone: Part 3

Fenian raids
Fenian raids (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Fenians arrived in Malone expecting to find arms awaiting them. Wrong. The US government had confiscated most of them along the border. Thus, unarmed, the Fenians thought it best to not attack Canada in 1866.

Border agents seized a trainload of arms in Watertown. The Fenians recaptured them. Once more, in DeKalb, all the arms were confiscatedm and the Fenians were unable to get them back.

General Meade approached Malone with one-thousand regulars. On June 3, 1866, he ordered the Fenians to disband. Many desertions followed and all who applied for  transportation home were given it. Thus, Malone became a peaceful village once more.

Over twenty-thousand prisoners were captured in Canada and sentenced to be hung. Most were commuted to life imprisonment.

For four years, not much happened as far as the Fenian revolution. In the early spring of 1870, a second movement began. This time, they forwarded their arms months ahead of time. These supplies were hidden in the barns of sympathetic farmers. Chateuagay, Fort Covington and Hoagansburg were principle hiding places. Arms were then hauled to Trout River.

Malone was chosen as a principle invasion point. They would rush a troop into Canada. There they would wait for reinforcements. The troops who assembled in Malone did not camp here as they had in 1866. Instead they hurried off to Trout River

On May 25, 1870, they marched into Canada from the farm of George Lahey, a half mile south form Trout River. The Canadians were warned by spies, but no Canadian troop reached Huntingdon until May 26, so the place was undefended.

The Fenians advanced about three miles, and staked out a position on the Donnelly farm. Here they levied the farmers for food, raided stores and, in general, acting like invading armies.

Because their reinforcements failed to come. The Fenians retreated back to Leahy's farm on May. 26.

Next week: the conclusion of the Fenians in Malone. Do any of you have information regarding these raids you'd like to share?

All work for this article taken from:
Seaver, Fredrick. Historical Sketches of Franklin County. Albany: JP Lyons, 1918.