Take a Stand!

picture of a divorce decreeA recent post on Intentionally Yours blog exhorts Take a Stand: Divorce is Not the Answer Similarly, Will Davis Junior recently posted Hey Christians, It’s Time to Take Divorce Off the Table! and Always Learning recently posted For Those Pondering Divorce ~ DON’T

These sorts of posts are quite common.  If you frequent the Christian blogosphere, you can easily find one every couple of weeks along these lines.  Most of them are by well-intentioned believers convinced they are promoting a good and godly message.  I understand…a couple of decades ago, I would have mostly agreed with their position and supported their efforts…but not any more…

I suspect they haven’t really thought through what they are promoting.  By taking a stand against divorce aren’t they taking a stand in direct opposition to God’s chosen course of action proclaimed in Jeremiah 3:8?

And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce…

Frankly, as a follower of Christ, I don’t want to take a stand against anything God has chosen as an appropriate course of action.

Even more, I wonder how have we so forgotten our foundational beliefs?  There is no principle more foundational to biblical faith than that of Redemption.  Have we completely forgotten what redemption is?  Or have we not studied our own faith deeply enough to understand redemption?

Today, we often use the word redemption (or redeem) in a rather broad sense, to simply mean bringing good out of bad circumstances.  However, the biblical use of this word is much more specific, relating to covenant law and legal ownership.

The Law of Redemption, recorded in the 25th chapter of Leviticus, clearly relates to land which has been sold and to people who have become enslaved, both as a result of covenant agreements.

God provided redemption right for land, allowing the land to be bought back by the original owner or by a near kinsman on his behalf. Essentially, the redemption right allowed the seller to cancel the purchase covenant by refunding the cost of the sale.

The basis of provision for redemption was that the land belongs to God:

The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me. Thus for every piece of your property, you are to provide for the redemption of the land. (Leviticus 25:23-24)

God also provided redemption right for someone who had become enslaved as the result of a debt covenant he could not repay. A near kinsman could redeem the debtor from slavery by repaying the debt on his behalf. The debt payment justly fulfilled the covenant obligation, thus ending the debt covenant.

Here, again, the basis for the redemption right was that they belong to God:

For they are My servants whom I brought out from the land of Egypt… (Leviticus 25:42)

So we see that redemption, as used in scripture, means to justly bring about the end of a covenant of bondage by which someone (or something) belonging to God is being held captive.

God, working through Moses, redeemed Israel from Egypt.  He brought about the just dissolution of Joseph’s covenant with Pharaoh…the inherited covenant that had become slavery under the abusive rule of the new king.

Jesus redeemed His people from the kingdom of darkness.  He brought about the just dissolution of Adam’s covenant of bondage to the kingdom of darkness by which we were enslaved to sin.

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13)

Let’s be very clear on this.  Where there is redemption there is a divorce.  Without the just dissolution of a covenant, there is no redemption.

To categorically take a stand against divorce is to take a stand against redemption!

I stand in strong support of whole-heartedly honoring covenant vows.  I also stand in strong support of redemption from covenants of abusive bondage.

Jesus announced the beginning of His ministry with these words:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed,
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord. (Luke 4:18-19)

I am taking a stand for the downtrodden and abused…for justice and mercy…for redemption and deliverance.

I will speak hope, encouragement and blessing to the oppressed and marginalized:

  • to those living in fear of injury or death at the hands of an abusive spouse who have been told that leaving would be a sin against God…
  • to those living with the guilt of knowing their children are being abused but feeling helpless to intervene because they’ve been told they must remain in the marriage to have God’s blessing in their children’s lives…
  • to those living a lonely existence apart from the body of Christ because they did what they had to do, then were pushed out of their church for refusing to reconcile with their abuser…

I will speak out for these.

I will speak of God’s heart of redemption for His children who are enslaved in a covenant of abusive bondage.

What stand has God led you to take?

[Linked to Messy Marriage, Graceful, Wellspring ]



18 thoughts on “Take a Stand!

  1. I think Jesus died for us as individuals, and I think it’s up to each of us to seek Him so as to understand His plan for his or her individual life. The problem with the articles you mentioned and so many others is that Christians want to make blanket statements when not everyone fits under the same blanket…or under a blanket at all. At the end of the day, each of us will be help accountable for the way (s)he lived his or her individual life, and I’d say it won’t be pretty (because all our righteousness is like filthy rags) if I didn’t know Our Lord to be merciful as well as just. No matter how it goes down, Joe, no one will have to answer for me except me (and possibly my husband, depending upon how one interprets scripture), so I wish those with the blankets would get out of my business. 🙂 Thank you for being my friend.

    • Yes, they see a specific need for a specific situation and assume they have the solution for all situations.

      But life is a lot messier than that…and human relationships are a lot more complicated…

      I appreciate your friendship, Brandee! 🙂

  2. Joe, this is great! Exactly what people need to hear.

    To take that kind of categorical position that the article-writers have done is to overlook a basic truth – most Christians are not really practicing Christianity. They make exceptions for themselves – often in pride, sometimes in other areas (I’ve heard people justify their extramarital affairs as being ‘of God’).

    And those blanket application of the ‘rules’ as they see them are more to fuel their own pride in their ‘stand’ – and are bereft of mercy.

    And if mercy, for the individual and the world, is not at the heart of Christ’s death and life, then the whole thing is a sham. Just more good advice, as C.S. Lewis once said, in a world that does not lack for good advice which can be safely ignored.

    • “To take that kind of categorical position that the article-writers have done is to overlook a basic truth…”

      Exactly! It is an overemphasis of one aspect that results in overlooking a very fundamental truth.

      And, yes, the end result is a rules-based doctrine bereft of mercy…experts on God’s law with no understanding of God’s heart of compassion and redemption.

      Thank you, Andrew! Well stated!

  3. Joe, our God is the Relentless Redeemer, and we are grateful beyond words for Him! With Him our lives are not the same. We believe He also seeks to redeem the abusers, that He came to set them free from their bondage, too.

    We take a stand for marriage because:

    Divorce is the world’s first response to problems in marriage (regardless of the severity).
    Divorce is the Word’s last resort to problems in marriage. God hates divorce, we are called to hate what He hates.

    As long as you are breathing, there is hope for redemption…Like for Saul…who became Paul after an encounter with Jesus…like my verbally abusive husband who became an amazing man of God after his encounter with Jesus.

    When we counsel, our first response in abusive situations is ALWAYS get safe FIRST. Separation, not divorce…divorce is the last resort. Neither spouse can work on a marriage under a spirit of fear of abuse. God is able to change abusers as well as the abused.

    • ‘Hate,’ ‘divorce’ and ‘God’…three words plucked individually from a 36 word verse in a 17 verse chapter…rearranged into a different order and placed together to form a popular phrase devoid of contextual reference…used as the foundational basis of a shaky doctrine…then legalistically applied indiscriminantly to all marital situations…coercing victims of abuse into returning to their abusers out of fear of inducing God’s wrath.

      The oft-misquoted Malachi 2:16 also happens to be one of the most difficult verses to translate in the entire Bible. Reading the commentaries and translation notes, it becomes apparent that the translators are all uncertain of the exact meaning of the verse. However, the most reputable translators are in agreement that the verb ‘hates’ is being acted on by the masculine second-personal pronoun ‘he’ rather than by the speaker, God. In other words, it’s not God doing the hating, but the person being spoken of by God.

      The NIV translation is probably closer to the original meaning, retains the correct grammatical references, and certainly is more in keeping with the emphasis of the overall passage:

      ““The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty.

      So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.”

      At any rate, the focus of the overall passage is God’s condemnation of treacherous violation of covenant vows…God’s condemnation of covenant abuse. It is clearly NOT intended to condemn just divorce from an abusive spouse.

      As clearly illustrated in Jeremiah 3:8, divorce is sometimes the most godly course of action and God’s perfect will for a given situation.

      Without acknowledging and proclaiming this truth, we will never understand God’s heart of grace and redemption.

      If God hates divorce (an assumption for which I find no biblical basis) He absolutely hates covenant abuse and the enslavement of His children much more!

  4. I don’t want to go too far off topic, but when I went through a divorce last year, evangelical Christians became my least favorite people to deal with. I had some close friends who were familiar with my situation; who had seen the troubled marriage and how hard I’d worked to hold it together. Then there were those who knew nothing about it, who came in at the last minute with such useful advice as :

    “You need to fight for your marriage!”
    Thanks, why didn’t anybody tell me that years ago? Would have made all the difference. Never thought of that one.

    “You should pray!”
    Again, I apparently never thought of that. Didn’t spend any time crying out to God to help fix my marriage and keep it together over the years. Thank you for your timely advice.

    “You need to watch Fireproof! Do “The Love Dare” on your wife!”
    You do know Fireproof is fiction right, and not even based on a true story? Besides, I’ve seen it three times, and lead a Fireproof small group when that was the fad in Churchianity.

    I used to tell these people that in a perfect world, there would be no divorce. But we don’t live in that world. Sometimes no matter what you do, no matter how hard you pray and try to make it work, one person will be dead set on getting out of the marriage. And when that person apparently starts manufacturing “evidence” against you, the best thing you can do is let them go. And for whatever reason, God doesn’t appear to be answering.

    Thank you for your analysis. I’m glad to see something besides the typical “You shouldn’t divorce for any reason, even if one person is set on that course and won’t change her mind. You should watch Fireproof.” type advice I got from most of my fellow believers.

    • Eric, I always love your sense of irony! You flash spotlights of truth on the fallacies of ‘bumper-sticker theology’ with your response quips.

      I think many evangelical Christians completely miss the concept that God works out His will in a fallen world populated by mostly sinful creatures. They keep expecting little perfect-world-scenarios as illustrations of God’s perfect will, but that’s not how things work in this life.

      God’s perfect will expressed in Jeremiah 3:8 was to divorce. That doesn’t mean he hated Israel or set divorce as the ideal. Rather, it means He allowed Israel to make her own choices…He honored her free will. And His perfect will on which He acted, for that situation, was divorce.

      Thank you, so much, for your insightful comments!

      Blessings to you, my friend!

  5. I’m not a Bible scholar. I can’t go into translations and grammar and all of that. But as a regular, plain follower of Christ, I have a question about the passage you referenced:

    Jeremiah 3:8 – And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce…

    Correct me if I’m wrong but God wasn’t actually referring to a LITERAL writ of divorce for a literal adultery between and a husband and wife was he? You seem so quick to come down on Sherry for her understanding of the passage in Malachi – for taking a few words out of context of the whole passage and using it to support her beliefs…but have you not done the same thing? Maybe not in your own personal understanding of the Scripture…but to those of us reading who don’t know the ins and outs of the entire Bible…what is the context in Jeremiah 3:8?

    To say that that one verse encourages divorce and is a Biblical justification for divorce and a guideline we should follow…that seems just as far of a stretch as to say that Sherry’s interpretation of Malachai is so Biblically off base.

    You as the author and some of those commenting are seeming to condemn those who make a blanket statement that “divorce is not the answer” and yet, aren’t you making a blanket statement that in situations with abuse divorce IS the answer?

    Personally, I don’t like what divorce does to families. I don’t like that so many people see a problem in their marriage (not related to abuse) and are so eager to forgo their covenant. Marriage is a covenant, is it not? Is it wrong that Sherry at Intentionally Yours and those posting similar articles are taking a stand for honoring your covenant? The encouragement of SOME of these sincere writers is to honor God and your vow before him…and stand for that, rather than run away at the first sign of a problem. Again, I’m not talking about extreme situations where people are being abused.

    Sherry’s article is actually just informative for those who may want to try to fight for their marriage. For those who may be considering divorce already because life got hard. It isn’t some deluded Christian propaganda or false teaching meant to lead others astray or bring discouragement to someone who may be in an abusive marriage.

    I know I have gone on and on…but I just don’t understand what was wrong with Sherry’s article-did you take issue with the title itself because she said divorce wasn’t the answer or was there something within the post that further solidified in your mind that she was writing something that wasn’t Biblical? Would it have rubbed you the wrong way if she had said that “divorce isn’t the ONLY answer?”

    You wrote about redemption and how divorce is involved in redemption, or with redemption there is divorce. Yes, God “divorced” his people because they were adulterous. It wasn’t a literal divorce, where he broke a covenant vow he made to his people. It was a separation from him. And in the end, what did he do? He took his people back! That’s the fullness of redemption-it didn’t stop at the divorce. Redemption was complete when God called his bride back to him.

    What do you do with Hosea? Was he wrong to not divorce Gomer? What about those of us living in redeemed marriages…those of us who chose NOT to divorce. Who chose to fight for our marriage, because one or both of us broke our marriage vows in one way or another and became adulterers? Are we living in sin because we did not divorce? According to your article (at least how it comes across) you seem to be advocating that to not divorce, you are standing against redemption.

    I am not trying to be controversial. I am trying to understand what you are saying. I can see where Sherry is coming from, and I applaud her. I applaud your heart for the down-trodden and abused. Am I naive to think that there is good and God’s hand is on the hearts of both of you? Can God not minister his love and grace through both of you??? Does one of you have to be right and one wrong?

    • Jamie, these are good questions, and I thank you for asking them.

      No, I do not see divorce as the only solution in an abusive marriage…depending on the situation, it may or may not be the best or mostly godly solution.

      I, myself, was in an abusive marriage for 17 years. Although that marriage eventually ended in divorce, and although there were multiple reconciliations and renewals prior to the divorce, I am thankful to be able to say with confidence that I fully honored my covenant vows and did all in my power to try to heal that relationship.

      My issue is with Christians saying or implying that divorce is never the best or most godly course of action…because sometimes it is. In Sherry’s article, she repeatedly called on readers to “Take a bold stand against divorce!” and in big bold letters stated “Divorce is not an option!”

      We are not called to stand against divorce. Not all divorce is sin. God does not hate all divorce, nor is all divorce repugnant to Him.

      Sometimes, divorce is the best and most godly course of action in some situations. Certainly not every time, but sometimes. And we need to acknowledge that!

      Is Jeremiah 3:8 a law to live by for every marital situation? Because God divorced Israel, should we always divorce when vows have been violated? NO! But by the same token, just because God told Hosea to reconcile with Gomer does not make that a law for every situation, either. (As a side note, God did NOT reconcile with the kingdom of Israel, nor was that kingdom ever restored. It was dispersed among the nations and is now referred to by historians as “the ten lost tribes of Israel.” God DID restore the kingdom of Judah composed of the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin, whom He did NOT divorce. The descendants of the kingdom of Judah are the modern-day Jews…a name derived from the word Judah)

      Divorce is not inherently more sinful or more godly than marriage. It is not the best choice for every situation, nor is it the worst choice for every situation. Believers finding themselves in an abusive marriage have no easy paths before them. Divorce is not the easy out, but a very difficult and painful path…as is reconciliation.

      Ultimately, the decision of whether to divorce or reconcile is up to the individual believer and their consultation with the Holy Spirit for wisdom and guidance. It is an intensely personal decision and should not require justification to anyone else, other than God.

      It’s not my place (or anyone else’s) to tell someone else whether they should divorce or reconcile. My role is to encourage, to pray, to listen, to encourage fellow believers to walk in godliness whether thru divorce or reconciliation, and to remind them of God’s goodness and faithfulness in all of life’s circumstances.

      Thank You and God Bless!

  6. I am presently half way through Redemptive Divorce, http://amzn.to/1fFKYXA
    , which talks about the need to redeem the other person and bring both parties to a right relationship with God.

    Despite all the negative emotions, the words, the sin, and the pain, ultimately that’s what I want for my once-wife — redemption

  7. I’ve never thought of redemption in these terms, Joe. I appreciate you shedding new light on this. This is so true: “I stand in strong support of whole-heartedly honoring covenant vows. I also stand in strong support of redemption from covenants of abusive bondage.” Thank you for always speaking hope, encouragement, and blessing!

  8. Whoa, Joe! You are swimming in waters too theologically deep for me to stay afloat in today! I know you’ve done extensive research. I can see that not just from this post, but from the way you responded to Sherry. I guess, in my simplistic view, I think that there’s redemption in marriage and redemption in divorce. One does not cancel out the other. Maybe that’s what you’re trying to say and I’m just not fully understanding. But I truly thank you for such a thought-provoking and study-provoking post! I’m going to have to reread this one slowly and over and over to grasp it all!

    • Hmmm…

      So, now I’m thinking I must not have explained very well…

      And that I tend to use more precise word meanings than most people do…which can make things confusing at times…

      I’ll have to ponder whether a future blog post should discuss this further…or maybe discuss the difference between Redemption and Deliverance…

      Anyway, thank you, Beth, for graciously taking the time to contemplate my words.

      Blessings to you, my friend! 🙂

  9. I love that you wrote about redemption today. This word evokes emotion, a sense of forgiveness, and the idea that you can move forward with a clean slate. I am intrigued with the last few posts that I have read here and how you have addressed divorce. I first found you when you did a guest post for Beth at Messy Marriage. I do know that I struggle at times with the sense of isolation I have felt at the hands of the church. Knowing that God redeems all and with this comes the end of bondage provides a sense of empowerment for me and strengthens my relationship with God. Thank you! Coming to you today from Wedded Wednesday link up. Blessings, Mary!

    • “Knowing that God redeems all and with this comes the end of bondage provides a sense of empowerment for me and strengthens my relationship with God.”

      Yes, me too, Mary! As you might have guessed from the blog name, God’s redemptive work is very close to my heart…and the word ‘redeemed’ carries meaning on multiple levels for me, personally.

      Even the feeling of isolation from those within the church who don’t understand is, I believe, a sign of God’s deliverance…deliverance from poor doctrine….deliverance from misconceptions of God’s heart of love toward His children…even deliverance from reliance on ‘friends’ who lack the understanding or grace to come alongside us…

      Blessings to you!

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