woensdag 23 juli 2014

Dealing with the issue of divorce from the perspective of the Law of Christ

Dear .....

It is so nice to hear from you again after such a long time. I am happy to hear you are doing a Bible major. I am very well thanks be to God.

Concerning your questions about the issue of divorce.....

In as far as divorce or any other issue is concerned, one's view depends very much on one's theological allegiance. Many Christians follow the teachings of John Calvin, John Wesley, or other well-known theologians. Again others follow the theology of their church, denomination or university/Bible College. Although very few of them will admit this, but many of such theologies have been shaped by historical and cultural factors. Since I work with many different churches and people from many different cultures I cannot afford myself the 'luxury' of blindly following a certain theological tradition in judging matters.

So how can I judge matters to be morally/ethically right or wrong? For me the starting point is Jesus Christ. He is the full revelation of who God is. Jesus is Gods self disclosure to us (Hebr. 1:1-3; Col. 1:15-20). In addition He has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18) and God has made Him Lord of all and placed everything under His feet (Philip. 2:9-11; Eph. 1:19-23).

Christ as Lord means that He is the new Law-Giver, one more important than Moses. It means that now everyone everywhere in the world is called to follow the teachings of Christ (Matt. 28:19). These are summarized in  Matthew 22:36-40 :We ought to live a life of love for God (Dt. 6:5; 10:12; 11:13), which is demonstrated in our relations with other human beings by loving our neighbour as we love ourselves (Lev. 19:18).

In His sermon on the mount Jesus explains that the application of the Law of Love goes much further than the law of Moses: Do not murder is not enough, we should not even hold on to our angry feelings towards someone and not talk negatively about others (Matt. 5:21-22). The Law of Moses says do not commit adultery, but Jesus adds that we should not even look lustfully at another man's wife (Matt. 5:27-28).

On the practice of divorcing one's wife when one no longer desired her, which was allowed by the law of Moses (Deut. 21:14), Jesus says: No, you should not divorce your wife unless she has committed adultery (Matt. 5:31-32).

Jesus gives more examples of how we ought to apply the Law of Love and concludes his law-giving with Matthew 7:12 'Treat others as you want them to treat you. This is what the Law and the Prophets are all about.'

Now notice that Jesus does not give us an exhaustive book of Law as Moses did in Leviticus-Numbers-Deuteronomy. He simply gives us a few case studies and shows how to apply the guiding principle of love-for-God and love-for-ones-neighbor & treat-others-as-you-want-them-to-treat-you

Both in Matt. 5:31-32 and in Matt 19:7-9 Jesus is addressing the issue of divorcing one's wife for any reason as was allowed by Deuteronomy 21:14. He is addressing the abusive practice which is still common today that men divorce their wives when they become old and ugly and exchange them for a good looking younger model. Jesus is not talking about every possible instance or situation.

It is up to Gods church, especially the leaders of the congregation to determine what they deem acceptable or not in the light of the Law of Christ. As Matthew 18:18-20 says:

 I promise you that God in heaven will allow whatever you allow on earth, but he will not allow anything you don't allow. 19 I promise that when any two of you on earth agree about something you are praying for, my Father in heaven will do it for you. 20 Whenever two or three of you come together in my name, I am there with you.

And again in John 20:23 If you forgive anyone's sins, they will be forgiven. But if you don't forgive their sins, they will not be forgiven.

For example together with the elders of a church I have allowed a woman to divorce her abusive husband. He would have ended up killing her if we had forced her to stay with him and he was unwilling to change. In such a case treat-others-as-you-want-to-be-treated meant we brought the woman and her children into safety. In this way we showed love to her and her children by protecting them and we showed love to the abusive husband by preventing him from committing further evil.

In another case we allowed the divorce of a woman whose husband kept cheating on her and she had to worry about HIV/AIDS and other STDs.

In my own case my church accepted my divorce as it was imposed on me and I was innocent of the allegations which were leveled at me by my ex in order to justify the divorce. Of course I was guilty of other errors and mistakes but these were not brought up by my ex- nor were they the reason for the divorce.

So in conclusion, whether it is divorce or any other moral/ethical matter, it is to be decided by the leaders of the local church on the basis of the Law of Christ. Not in a legalistic manner, but driven by a Spirit of love for one's neighbor and a true commitment to lovingly treating-the-other-as-they-want-to-be-treated if they had been in the same situation.

I hope this bit of jurisprudence from the righteousness of the Kingdom of God, the applied Law of Christ, will help you in your further intellectual and spiritual development. I trust you realize that it is humanly impossible to live consistently in accordance with His righteousness but thanks be to God it is possible through the Holy Spirit who works in us (Romans.8:1ff) and who gives us all the Love we need to live by the Spirit in accordance with the Law of Christ (Rom. 5:5; Gal. 5:22-23).

God bless,