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Monday, May 7, 2012

Teen Stresses: Divorce, Biblical Reflections

     Divorce is such an ugly word, bringing pain and fear to the hearts of children everywhere. The statistics are staggering, with more than half of all marriages ending in divorce. Even amongst those who consider themselves to be Christian, the numbers are the same. Most often, the single-parent home has a mother at the helm but not all. Sometimes it is the father who is learning to multi-task to get it all in while working a fulltime job. My hat is off to the single parents leading these homes; it is not an easy road they are traveling, for sure. The lives of the children are often in such a disruptive state of flux as they are shuttled from one parent to the other. Not only are their parent-child relationships changing but their sibling relationships are also disrupted when only some of the children are in one place and the rest in another. On the weekends they switch, so both parents can spend time with all of the kids at some point during the week. Sometimes the whole group of siblings is only together in one place once a month, even if that group has only two members. Parent choices or discipline issues are, sometimes, discussed between the parents but, often, there is just not the time or inclination to put their heads together on behalf of their teens.

     None of this is new to you, dear Reader, but reviewing the situation from the children’s point of view gives us a real perspective on just why God hated divorce. What God joined together for the good of the family unit, as well as to increase the numbers on earth, He did for peace and joy for the children as much as for the adults. It just didn’t work out the way He would have liked due to the sin in this world.

     Sojourner, are you saying that God expects a family to stay together no matter what the conditions… even if the father is physically or sexually abusing his children? Should they have to live under that abuse until they are old enough to leave home because God hates divorce?

     Oh my! No, not at all. I believe that an adult who abuses a child is not well mentally. God didn’t make him to be that way towards his wife or kids and they shouldn’t be subjected to the consequences of his illness. God expects us to protect the children He has placed in our care, not use them as we wish.

     I pulled up some Scriptures this morning to check on just what God had to say on the issue of divorce. I think that, all too often, the well-meaning Christians take a much more severe position than God does. Yes, God hates divorce because of what it does to the family, each member of the family, but God is also realistic. He knows it is a fallen world. His mercy extends to all “law breakers” as he offers His forgiveness to those seeking it.

     Sometimes the consequences of the divorce include being shunned by the family at the very time the single-parent needs family support the most. The only reason given is that God hates divorce. Folks sometimes think that to help the parent and their children is to support the sin of divorce so they can justify “not getting involved.” I want to direct you to a portion of Scripture that shows us God does not see it that way, at all.

     In Leviticus, the Lord told Moses that those who are priests should only marry virgins and not to marry widows, divorced women or prostitutes. Ezekiel records that it was permitted for them to marry a widow only if her deceased husband had been a priest. Okay, well, if the daughter of a priest gets divorced, and no one can marry her, what happens to her?

Leviticus 22:12-13:If a priest’s daughter marries anyone other than a priest, she may not eat any of the sacred contributions. But if a priest’s daughter becomes a widow or is divorced, yet has no children, and she returns to live in her father’s household as in her youth, she may eat her father’s food. No unauthorized person, however, may eat it.”

     God did not turn her away from her father’s house nor from eating the foods authorized for the family of the priest, even if she was divorced. God did not turn her out.

     So, are you saying that divorce isn’t such a big deal then, and it was the ancient Believers that made such a fuss about it? Nope. I’m not saying that; in fact, it is a very big deal to God. Sometimes God tries to let us know something is not to His liking but we are too much into what we want to notice the connection.

     People often blame God when things don’t seem to be going right; their prayers go unanswered when they cry out night and day. Their mate just doesn’t understand them. They have found someone else who does but there are more and more obstacles in the way and problems compounded. Malachi Chapter 2 tells us why that is:

Verses 13-14: Another thing you do: You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer looks with favor on your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, “Why?” It is because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.”

      The marriage covenant is real to God, even if we may think it is just a piece of paper. It is a binding contract but, as with all contracts, both parties are responsible for certain things.

     God isn’t looking the other way when a man is not taking care of his wife or chooses to divorce her because he no longer likes her. When God made them one flesh in their union, to divorce her is to do violence to her, the tearing apart of that united flesh:

Verse 16 “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.

     Yes, it is totally true that God is not in favor of divorce, but He did make provision for it in order to protect the innocent parties in the bad situation. His one objection was that if the man divorced his wife and she married someone else, he would not be permitted to re-marry the lady he tossed out in the first place, should her second husband die or divorce her. Remember, the Lord knows the hearts of men and women; this is not such a bad idea for the injured party to be so protected. Of note is that God allowed him to divorce her and for her to re-marry. Here’s the passage in Deuteronomy:

Deuteronomy 24: 1-4: “If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again.”

     Okay, Sojourner, but that is all Old Testament stuff. What did Jesus have to say about it? And, the Apostle Paul… there’s a guy who had a lot to say on marriage in his letters. Sounds to me like the New Testament view didn’t allow for divorce and re-marriage.

     Fair enough? Tomorrow, we’ll look at what Jesus had to say and what the Apostle Paul had to write in his letters to the Corinthians.

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