Dr. C. S. Lovett’s
MARANATHA FAMILY NEWSLETTER
THE COMPASSIONATE SIDE OF DIVORCE
“Dr. Lovett, my husband divorced me six years ago to marry another lady. Since he is still alive, would I be living in a state of adultery if I married again?”
Good question! You see it is a lot easier to give counsel after a divorce has taken place. For once a divorce has occurred, the council is then directed at making the best of the situation. In that case, some godly wisdom makes the answer rather conspicuous (James 1:5). I picked up on her use of the term “state of adultery,” and made it the basis of my reply. Adultery is a SIN, not a state. It is something you COMMIT, not something you CREATE. The Lord Jesus said it in Matthew 5:32. It is my view that this should be regarded as a SINGLE SIN, one which can be confessed and forgiven the same as any other sin.
The lady was delighted with my reply. It set her free from the legalistic teaching which had bound her for years. I am pleased when the truth sets people free from bondage, but it works both ways. Sometimes the truth is NOT what a person wants to hear at all as in the case of this lady. “I’m sorry but you can no longer teach in our church! You’re a fine teacher and we hate to lose you, but our church has a policy against divorced persons holding any kind of office!” Those words broke her heart.
THE BASIC PREMISE
Here’s the guiding principle behind my counsel: If the marriage is making you more like Satan than like Jesus, it is defeating God’s purpose in the marriage. God’s goal for us is that we become like His Son (Rom. 8:29). It hurts God to see His children become more and more like the devil every day. He would rather the marriage end than watch a son or daughter throw away their growth opportunity in a ruinous marriage.
Before advising Christians, I first explore to see if their marriage is making them BITTER or BETTER. If it is clear the marital pressures are making them more like Jesus (better), I counsel them to stay married, despite the pain involved. On the other hand, if the marriage is making them more like Satan (bitter), then they should think about divorce. For when the marriage is WORSE THAN DIVORCE, God is the big loser.
GOD IS LIKE A DOCTOR
Doctors hate to amputate limbs, but when the gangrene sets in or cancer is spreading, they’ll do it to save a life. In the same way, God, though HATING DIVORCE, will quickly tolerate one to salvage a child trapped in an evil marriage. It is the lesser of two evils. God is not legalistic as some men are. He understands there is no way to IMPOSE a perfect law on imperfect people and expect it to work every time.
On the other hand, He can’t establish anything less than a perfect law, for His laws spring from His own being. There is no way sinful man can live up to God’s perfect standard. Consequently, there will always be casualties in the marriage program and God is fully aware of it, even if men aren’t (1 John 2:1). He is a compassionate God.
BUT DOESN’T GOD HATE DIVORCE?
Yes, and He flatly says so, “I hate divorce!” (Mal. 2:16 NIV).
There is no question that God hates divorce, but when does He ever get His way with everything? Fame, fortune, family, and fun seem to be the forces driving modern believers, rather than the reality of Jesus. What God likes or doesn’t like, apparently takes second place. Of course, He’d like to see His marriage law working perfectly, but when have any of his perfect laws worked perfectly with imperfect people? Certainly they didn’t in Old Testament times and things are no better in our day.
Now there is something God hates more than divorce. When marriage, which is designed to make people like CHRIST, does the opposite and makes them like SATAN, He is hurt. HE HATES IT WHEN THAT HAPPENS. God would be the last one to tell a wife to stay in that situation. He would say, as He did to Moses, “Write her a bill of divorcement!” (Deut. 24:1,2). As much as He hates divorce, He hates an evil marriage even more.
JESUS’ COMMENT ON MOSES’ LAW
When the Pharisees questioned Jesus about divorce, He replied with the original intention: “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and the two shall be one flesh” (Matt. 19:5). The Pharisees then asked, “Why did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard” (Matt. 19:7,8).
Note how the Lord said, “YOUR HEARTS,” not the hearts of the ancient Israelites. That’s because human nature hasn’t changed. Those hearing the Lord in person were no different than their ancestors. And we in America are no different either. Without the relief valve of divorce, there’d be dead wives. If divorce were not possible today, people would respond as did Jesus’ disciples: “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry” (Matt. 19:10).
THE LETTER VERSUS THE SPIRIT
“For the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life” (2 Cor. 3:6 KJV). How easy for men to thump “the letter of the Law” and point the accusing finger at the divorced Christian. They leave no room for marital casualties, whereas they willingly leave room for other kinds of casualties. There are accidents in marriage, just as there are accidents in other areas of life. Not all can be deemed strong just because they bear the name Christian. Believers can be found spread over a vast range of differences in strength and understanding. It’s a shame when any are crushed under the letter of the law.
Too few know God’s Word well enough to know His heart. They’ll work 8 hours a day to make a living but won’t spend 8 minutes getting to know Him personally—through His Word. Consequently, they are unable to judge the difference between living by the “LETTER” of the law and living by the “SPIRIT” of the law. If they did, they’d know that God is a FATHER, NOT A LAWYER. Men focus on chapter and verse, totally ignoring God’s heart. They don’t realize that New Testament legalism is just as hateful as that of the Scribes and Pharisees.
I think to God’s mind, divorce is far more tolerable THAN GOSSIP! That is satanic. It is done for the fiendish pleasure it brings the gossiping Christian. No one is locked into gossip as people are locked into marriage. Yet, there are people banned from church office for gossiping! See, men don’t think as God thinks. And that brings us to…
THE COMPASSIONATE SIDE OF DIVORCE
The “BITTER or BETTER” approach I have presented here is fully Scriptural, but there’s no way for me to prove it in the small space of this article. Some may not agree with what I’ve said here. If you’re facing a divorce or know of someone who is divorced and suffering under the bondage of legalism or someone who is suffering terribly in an evil marriage, please share this article and the Scriptures with them. You may help rescue them from a HORRIBLE situation and point them to…
A BETTER WAY!
C. S. Lovett
This article contains material from Dr. Lovett’s book, The Compassionate Side of Divorce, © C. S. Lovett, 1975. The book is currently out of print but used copies can be found on Amazon.com and are sold by various vendors.
SINCE YOU ASKED
Question: “Where is a good place for a beginner to start studying the Bible?”
Answer: My suggestion, the Gospel of John. This Gospel features the things Jesus says. It is important to get familiar with Jesus’ voice as it resonates in your spirit. At first you maybe just reading words off the pages, but in time you begin to feel them. As more time passes, you realize what you feel is God’s witness to His Word.
Read slowly. Don’t be in a hurry to cover a lot of verses. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice and they follow Me, another they will not follow.” When you get to where you can recognize Jesus’ voice in your spirit, you will immediately know something is wrong when a false teacher speaks to you.
At first, you won’t be able to defend your Christianity, but you will know enough to walk away. Later when you have mastered more of the Word, you will be able to see where the false teacher’s statements are contradicted by God’s Word. This doesn’t mean you should enter in a debate, for they rarely seek the truth. They are really interested in making a convert out of you. It is your knowledge of the Word that keeps you from being swept into one of the cults which surround us today.
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IMPACT ON LIFE: “I thank God for finding you on the World Wide Web. I was introduced to you back in 1981 by a deacon in my church. What an impact you have made on my life.” (CL-AL).
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