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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Gospel and Exceptions

I've been attempting to work through the "exceptions" and whether they articulate a person can/should pursue a divorce. If you're new to the discussion, you can click my summary (and follow the links for more detail) to see my textual discussion.

I have also proceded in expressing other problems I see with the popular perspective of Matthew 5:32 and 19:9. One such post is that I don't understand the logic of the argument. The other is regarding God's will versus permission.

I anticipate this will be the last post on this topic (unless comments or emails manifest the need for more). This issue can be seen as the greater context to the entire discussion as to whether a person should pursue divorce (Again, this is a whole different discussion from 1 Corinthians 7, where a person's spouse pursues a divorce). I would also like, before presenting this final post, to again state that this series is not intended to rebuke those who are divorced, but rather is intended as a study in marriage for those married and considering it. My apologizes for any insensitivity in language that may have caused additional pain from the tragedy of divorce. (And please contact me privately so I can correct it.)

The Gospel and Marriage

Ephesians 5 states for us the great mystery of marriage. It is not that a woman and man can become one flesh (which is miraculous), but rather that it is a testimony of Christ and the Church. The ultimate purpose of marriage is the reflection of intimacy (between the members of the Godhead) that is now also available between man and God (through Christ, our Reconciliation). A couple of thoughts I offer up for discussion:

My righteousness as a spouse
    I have none. Any righteousness I have is Christ's imputed to me. Some have commented to me that Matthew 5 is actually about God's righteousness compared to man's righteousness, not about the specifics of marriage, divorce, murder, oaths, etc. I would encourage you to see that it is not "either or," it is both. When we are aware of our dearth or righteousness, it changes the way we view others. Matthew 18:21-35, appears to express when we understand our sin is against God alone (Psalm 51) we see that the unfaithful spouse has offended God more than us. We also develop the mind of Paul (I Timothy 1:15), seeing our own self, not our spouse as the "chief of sinners." Therefore, it appears to me, that to pursue a divorce because your spouse has been unfaithful can communicate you believe your spouse is a greater sinner than you. This seems to be a diminishing of the gospel.
My righteousness to God.
    When we come to the cross, we also realize we cannot mock Israel for her unfaithfulness. Instead, I see myself as dead (Ephesians) before knowing Christ. I also see that though I love Christ, I am not always faithful to Him (Romans 7). Yet God graciously forgives. For the person pursuing divorce, they communicate a lack of forgiveness that isn't consistent with the gospel they have received. (This is a hard statement. I know I have not been down this path myself, but God's mercy can overcome the pain a person feels in their heart, allowing them to forgive even when it is difficult.)
Power in the Vow
    Our security in salvation is based on the promises of God (Hebrews 6:9-20). Therefore, my covenant with God is not based on my performance, but rather on His promises. Even my obediance within the covenant is based upon His promises (Phil 1:6)! Therefore, it seems the person who pursues divorce is sending a message that their covenant was based in the other person, or on their own whim...neither of which is a reflection of the gospel.

I am thankful that God will not turn from me, though I can be unfaithful. It seems to turn from your spouse (by pursuing a divorce), is to not reflect that statement to the world. Therefore, to claim the exception as "your right to pursue divorce" appears to open the door for a gospel that would give God the right to abandon me. And if He had that right, my life certainly isn't righteous enough to keep Him with me. I must rest in my salvation (and marriage) in a promise that can not be broken.

Someone may break that promise with me (again, see I Corinthians 7), but as a believer, I should strive not to break that promise.


  • At 4:38 PM, Anonymous peppo said…

    Sorry for the repeat, but this comment seemed to fit better with this latest post.

    In Jeremiah 3:6-10, Jehovah says that because Israel had committed adultery (moicheuo in LXX) He had put her away and given her a bill of divorce. There is a sense, then, speaking figuratively of course, in which God himself pursued a divorce, and that for the cause of adultery. Doesn't this lend at least some support for the "popular" understanding of the exception?

  • At 10:14 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    i can see your point brad, and had a friend suggest that one the other day.

    i'll have to examine that passage closer.

    initial thoughts are, "I don't know." mixed with a little caution about carrying the figurative nature out too far, and also that "moicheuo" in that passage is a translated word, not the inspired hebrew word used at that time.

    it's certainly worth considering, but we'd also have to acknowledge that verses "opposing" the popular view seem to far outweigh those which support.

  • At 10:17 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    of course, a second thought too is that God can be perfectly justified to pursue divorce because He is perfectly faithful...and we are not.

    therefore, this may be one of those situations where God can act in a certain way and be totally righteous because of His character while we can not do likewise.

    i cannot say that i have been a more faithful spouse than my wife...but God certainly could say that to Israel.

  • At 12:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Yep, but God doesn't say He's considering a divorce from Israel because He's perfectly faithful... but because Israel was so unfaithful (at that time in history). His reason for considering divorce had to do with THEIR unfaithfulness... yes?


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