Archive for the ‘marriage’ Tag

Advice Well Received   2 comments

What Advice Has Stuck With You For A Long Time? And Who Gave You That Advice?
Did someone give you some great advice at a certain time in your life? Think back to that time and write down the advice as you remember it.

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So last week, I alluded to a period in my marriage that was not easy. I didn’t go into detail because I wanted to use it for this week’s blog hop article.

Image result for image of christian adviceBrad doesn’t make a secret that he’s a recovering alcoholic. We have a rule where we try not to bring up things from decades ago to shove in each other’s faces today, but I have to sort of do that to make this blog post make sense. I’m doing this with his permission.

Relapse happens with alcoholics, but recovery is not guaranteed. About 22 years ago, Brad went off the rails and I decided that for the sake of our daughter and myself, but also for Brad’s sake, he couldn’t be with us for a while. This coincided with the younger adults of our church choosing to dis-fellowship Brad until he straightened up. As a friend of ours put it, “If you show up at our door asking me to drive you to an AA meeting, I’m all in, but if it’s for anything else … don’t bother.” That might sound cruel, but Brad now credits those people as some of his best friends.

My choice to make an ultimatum (get help or lose us) came from advice I received at Alanon, but how I did it was entirely based on advice from my friend Theresa.

Theresa had been a missionary’s wife who discovered that her husband was sexually abusing their sons. By the time of my crisis, she’d been divorced from her husband for 25 years. She’d never remarried, which I had always assumed was because she had so many kids, but when my decision became public knowledge in the church, she came to me to give me some time-honored advice from a modern perspective.

I HATED that we were moving toward divorce (and at that time, it didn’t look like there would be another outcome). I knew that divorce outside of the exemption for desertion of a Christian spouse by a non-Christian spouse or adultery was not Biblically allowed. It bothered me that I was deliberately sinning. But Theresa explained things to me in a different way.

 7:10 To the married I give this command – not Ibut the Lord 8  – a wife should not divorce a husband 7:11 (but if she does, let her remain unmarriedor be reconciled to her husband), and a husband should not divorce his wife.  1 Corinthians 7:10-11

Take a really good look at that clause in verse 11. Theresa chose to remove herself and her children from a damaging situation. She divorced her creeper husband. More power to her. We should never seek divorce lightly. “Irreconcilable differences” is a trivial excuse to end a covenant relationship sealed before God, but some marriages are not salvageable for deeper reasons than he leaves the toilet seat up or he watches football all weekend. There are husbands who beat their wives (and women who abuse their husbands). There are spouses who gamble away every dime and others who drink it away. Alcohol shuts down important centers of the brain having to do with reliability, self-control and judgment. Brad was doing things that needed to stop and he just couldn’t see that through the amber haze he was shrouding his mind in. I needed to keep a roof over our daughter’s head and I couldn’t afford his habits any longer. I provided him with a way back to us before I closed the door on him. But it looked like he wasn’t going to take that lifeline and I felt guilty that I was disobeying God by divorcing my husband.

Image result for image of christian adviceAnd then Theresa showed me this one little clause and my perspective changed.

“If you leave (for a good reason), remain unmarried or be reconciled.”

When Theresa left her husband, she did so to protect her children. He remarried (and there’s tales to tell about that one), but Theresa never did. She understood that she was still bound by the covenant they had both made before God. She was certain that (we’ll call him) John was a Christian, so his remarriage didn’t absolve her of her covenantal responsibility. She remained unmarried as an act of honoring God’s standards.

God blessed her by the way. Jobs fell out of the sky for this woman and her younger children, who had escaped their father’s predations by her choices, turned out to be wonderfully committed Christians who married wonderfully committed Christians. Some of her older children worked through their issues and are adults to be proud of. She was a respected elder in our church and among Christians throughout the state. And, she was happy, surrounded by grandchildren, financially secure, knowing she had obeyed her God to the very best of her ability.

Of course, I was at the other end of that decision. Divorcing without committing a sin wasn’t my only object in view. I had made that choice in hopes of driving Brad to a healthy choice. Would I still be there if he made it? How long was I willing to wait?

If I was going to remain “unmarried”, I could wait until God gave me other instructions. I could still have friends and a life. I didn’t have to grieve or fret about being alone because my relationship with Jesus would fill the voids. I could accept God’s will for my life and live that life.

I didn’t have to adjust to long-term singleness. Brad entered sobriety several months later, although he chose for us to remain physically separated for several more months because he didn’t want to put our daughter through a roller coaster ride while he got his head screwed on straight again. It also gave us time to enact the other part of Theresa’s advice.

Forgiveness doesn’t always mean reconciliation. It sucks when someone hurts you. It sucks more when you hold a grudge. It sucks for you more than it sucks for the person you’re angry at. Theresa never reconciled with John … more power to her … but she forgave him. She prayed for him. She wished him well. In the 1970s, there were no laws against what he’d done to their sons, but she did what she could to protect people from him. She managed to prevent at least one woman from marrying him by telling her about his past. Then he moved out of state and back in those days, it was impossible to intervene long distance. When she heard he remarried, she prayed for that woman and the children she was bringing into that marriage. She prayed every day for them, I suspect until her death just a few years ago. She never forgot, but she did forgive. She wasn’t bitter. Her daughters are friends of mine and they say that she taught them a great deal about what it takes to sustain a marriage that doesn’t have a sexual predator as a partner.

When Brad and I were working out how to reconcile, we discussed that forgiveness thing a lot. It’s not something either one of us grew up seeing modeled. His parents have been married five times between them. My mother would bring up decades-old hurts whenever she was mad. When two people get married, they have to deal with each other’s baggage. We rely on an old Amish tradition. When a person repents of sin in the Amish community, they have to do it in front of the whole community, but once they do it, there is a prohibition from ever bringing it up again. The Amish will actually discipline the person who breaks that rule. Brad and I try to practice that at all times … which still means occasionally having to bite our tongues. Every now and then one of us will say “You’re not being very Amish”, which serves to remind us that the past is dead and we need to leave it buried. That’s usually enough to make us laugh and knock it off.

Not only do we do this for those unfortunate months way back when, but we try to practice it as an ongoing discipline.

To boil Theresa’s advice down:

  • Remember, you two Christians made an unbreakable contract with God for your marriage. You can walk away legally, but God won’t. (This applies only to Christians married to Christians, btw.)
  • You can divorce, if you have a good reason, and provided you’re prepared to reconcile or remain single.
  • Regardless of the outcome, forgive. Don’t leave that anger hanging in your past so that it ruins your future. Forgiveness is not necessarily for the person who did wrong. It’s for you, so you don’t have to live with all that pain.
  • Forgiveness doesn’t always mean reconciliation. Because God created us to have free will, there are times when He can’t fix something that really needs fixing. Trust that He’ll be with you even when things don’t turn out the way that you want, and … because He’s there with you … you can be happy even when other people think you shouldn’t be.

Contentment is Better than Happiness   1 comment

One of the biggest challenges in life is to be content in our lives as they are now. The sage advice is, “Happiness is not having what you want. It is wanting what you have.” This is on-the-head accurate when it comes to singleness and marriage. God’s desire and expectation is that we would be content in Christ, whatever circumstances we find ourselves in.

Image result for image of contentment in marriageThe apostle Paul modeled godly contentment. In Philippians 4:11, he wrote that he had “learned to be content in any circumstance” Amazingly, he penned these words from a Roman prison. Paul could say he was content in Christ even while he was suffering great hardship. Paul allowed Jesus Christ to transform his heart and mind and give him a supernatural perspective.

So how many of us share Paul’s perspective? The person this Bible study was designed for does not. So, what about my readers? Are you content in your singleness or marriage? If not, why aren’t you content? Could it be that you are seeking your own happiness? When it comes to issues pertaining to singleness, marriage, and divorce and remarriage, the question is not, “What will make me happiest?” but “What will make God happiest?”

In 1 Corinthians 7:6-24, Paul told us that God is happy when we are content. Therefore, if you want to bring a smile to the face of God, cultivate contentment. As you do, you will find that contentment is one of the keys to Christianity. In this passage, Paul laid out three directives that will help us to live a life of contentment.

I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that everyone was as I am. But each has his own gift from God, one this way, another that.

To the unmarried and widows I say that it is best for them to remain as I am. But if they do not have self-control, let them get married. For it is better to marry than to burn with sexual desire.

To the married I give this command – not I, but the Lorda wife should not divorce a husband (but if she does, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband), and a husband should not divorce his wife.

To the rest I say – I, not the Lordif a brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is happy to live with him, he should not divorce herAnd if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is happy to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified because of the wife, and the unbelieving wife because of her husbandOtherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. But if the unbeliever wants a divorce, let it take place. In these circumstances the brother or sister is not boundGod has called you in peace. For how do you know, wife, whether you will bring your husband to salvation? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will bring your wife to salvation? (1 Corinthians 7:6-24

Please note that Paul distinguishes between his personal belief based on his experience and God’s commands all throughout this passage. A lot of bad theology has been perpetrated by failure to notice this.

Paul expressed his preference that all Christians be single as he was. Nevertheless, he acknowledged that both marriage and singleness are viable options for the Christian. In 7:6, Paul wrote, “But this I say by way of concession, not of command.” Paul wanted to make it clear that what he was about to say in 7:7-9 is a “concession” and not a “command.”5 The word “concession” means “permission to do something.” In 7:7-9 Paul explains his concession: “Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that. But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

Paul wished that all Christians would remain single. He explained later in this chapter that a single man or woman is able to be more devoted to Christ (7:32-34). He also made it clear that his concession is based upon the present circumstances. Some historians believe there was a famine in Corinth or the surrounding areas at the time of writing. In light of these factors, Paul believed that during that specific time, it was better not to marry. Yet, even during a time of crisis Paul was a realist and said, “…it is better to marry than to burn” with unfulfilled sexual passion (7:9).

Two principles come to mind:

Celibacy is a spiritual gift and should be treated accordinglyIn 7:7, Paul wrote, “each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that.” Those men and women who are able to be single have been gifted by the Lord to do so. It is unlikely that marriage is a gift, since it is a normal expression for humans. Nevertheless, it should be treated as a gift. Thus, if you are single you should value your gift of singleness, and if you are married you ought to celebrate your marriage. This is God’s express desire.

Often single people want to be married and married people want to be single. Our problem is a lack of contentment. We don’t value God’s gifts and timing. Consequently, we are always restless and dissatisfied. It is worth recognizing that at some point in our lives each of us will be single. It may be before marriage or after marriage. Since 90% of all Americans will eventually marry, it is also likely that many people who are single will marry. God’s call is for us to be content in Christ, whatever our circumstances. Remember, God is happy when we are content.

I think Christians reject the legitimacy of singleness. I am convinced that is the reason for so much hurt in the church regarding this issue. Directly or indirectly, subtly or not so subtly, we have ascribed to the conviction that singles are unfinished business. We say in groups and in private conversations, “Aren’t you married yet?” “What’s a nice girl like you doing unmarried?” “What you need is a good wife.” “Found anybody to date yet?” “I’m praying the Lord will lead you to a good guy.” “It’s too bad he’s not married.” Parents and relatives say that. Family reunions apparently are notorious for these and similar comments. Books and articles are written from a Christian viewpoint that say, “If you will only commit your life to Christ, God will give you a marriage partner.” Christ never said that. He said He will lead you to a life of meaning, purpose and fulfillment. He never said He would give you marriage. He’s more concerned about other things. We need to accept the legitimacy of singleness. Simple mathematics says there are more women than men in this world, and there always will be. We need to accept singleness because there are some people whose circumstances involve singleness, and they have no opportunity to change. Others prefer not to change. We need to accept the legitimacy of singleness primarily because the Bible does.

Marriage is to be encouraged not discouraged. In 7:9, Paul encouraged singles to get married if they lack control and are burning. This desire is from God and is not meant to be inappropriately squelched. It’s hard for us to understand this in our day of age with its extended adolescence, but at the time of the New Testament writings (and for hundreds of years afterward), marriage occurred closer to the age of puberty. Marriage permitted the blossoming sex drive to be fulfilled and not frustrated. Today, marriage is usually postponed until later in life due to modern educational, vocational, and financial pressures. The longer one postpones marriage past puberty, the more sexual temptations he or she will naturally have to face. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 96 percent of Americans over the age of 20 have had sex. Premarital sex is an epidemic in the world and in the church. We must seek to protect our young people. Does this mean that young people should get married at 13 years old? No! That’s way too young. I recommend young people avoid sexual temptation and not postpone marriage until all their proverbial “ducks are in a row.” If you are spiritually ready and are in a godly relationship that you are willing to commit to for the rest of your earthly life, you have the Biblical freedom to marry.

Yeah, that probably terrifies a lot of parents, but consider this. Apart from your child’s relationship with Jesus Christ, the most important passion you can develop in your son or daughter is to be a godly husband or wife. We typically don’t give this as much thought as we should. We are more concerned about ensuring that our children get good grades, get into the right college, and learn the right profession. If you really want to set your child up for success, prepare your child to be a godly spouse. Teach your child responsibility and commitment. Encourage your child to look forward to marriage. Let your child know that nothing matters more than being a godly husband or wife.

So, I doubt that a lot of teenagers read my blog, but I hope they won’t use my words against their parents’ wishes. Most teenagers feel lots of passion. They’re basically hormones with feet. But most of them are not ready for marriage. A Christian marriage is a covenant before God that is filled with blood, sweat, and tears. It is not something to be entered into lightly. So if you want to get married soon or in the near future, I would suggest that you work feverishly on your relationship with Christ, prioritize your purity, and find a good job or finish college as quickly as you can. That said, if you are having trouble keeping your hands off your intended, better to marry than to misuse one another.

Know that until God brings the right person into your life, He will provide the strength to resist temptation. Two of the best means through which His strength is realized are spiritual service and physical exercise. Additionally, He expects you to avoid listening to, looking at, or being around anything that strengthens the temptation, and to focus your minds on that which is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, of excellence and worthy of praise (see Philippians 4:8).

Paul was clear. You need to consider marriage carefully, but if you choose to get married you must Remain married permanently (7:10-16).

Modern Americans find this passage difficult. We are so steeped in the false ideology that God wants us to be happy at every moment of our lives, so we struggle with the concept that God wants us to remain in a relationship that doesn’t rock the fireworks or bring us candy every night. But that is exactly what He wants from us. Paul urged Christian spouses to remain married. In 7:10-11, Paul wrote to Christian spouses in a Christian marriage: “But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave [divorce] her husband (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.”

Paul gave instructions that are from Jesus Who spoke about the permanence of marriage (Matthew 5:32; 19:6; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:8). Divorce is not an option. The husband does not have God’s permission to divorce his wife and the wife does not have God’s permission to divorce her husband.

It is worth noting that there is a parenthetical statement in 7:11. “but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband”. It is possible that Paul may have been making a compassionate provision for an abused woman. This seems to indicate that God Himself is acknowledging that some marriages, even between Christians, are so difficult, unwholesome and degrading that divorce is the lesser of two evils. It is as though God is regrettably tolerating a violation of one of His own principles. Regardless, for the believer who divorces his believing spouse there are two options: singleness or reconciliation. Remarriage to a different spouse is not Biblically permissible.

We must recognize that “divorce” is an expletive. Many of us who would never drop an expletive or use Jesus’ name in vain, frequently bring up divorce. This is a sin. If you are married, God’s intent and expectation is that your marriage goes the distance. This means when (not if) there are problems in your marriage, it is imperative that you go to the leadership of the church before it’s too late. Too often, couples run to the pastors and elders when their marriage is on life support and nothing can be done to salvage it. Yes, God can and will work miracles, but it is wise to include Him in our marriage trauma before it’s too late.

Paul continued his argument for the permanence of marriage in 7:12-16. But in these verses Paul wrote to a believer who is married to an unbeliever: “But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?”

Four times in 7:10-13, Paul prohibited divorce. To write it once would be sufficient. Twice would be unmistakably clear. Three times would be more than enough. But four times? The man meant business!

In 7:12, Paul distinguished between his own apostolic instruction and Jesus’ teaching during His earthly ministry. Paul dealt with a situation about which Jesus gave no instruction in His earthly teaching.

It’s very important to recognize that the mixed marriages Paul addressed here are the by-products of the conversion of one of the partners. When these two individuals got married they were both unbelievers; now one of them has become a Christian. This section does not apply to a believer who violates God’s law by knowingly marrying an unbeliever. For such a person to appeal to this passage would be like a teenager killing his parents and then appealing to the judge for leniency on the grounds that he’s an orphan.

In 7:12-16, the discussion is not about a believing spouse initiating a divorce. Instead, the unbelieving spouse initiates the divorce. The general principle in 7:12-16 is that those who are married are to stay married (i.e., the believer should remain married to the unbeliever). Although the believer should not initiate the divorce, if the unbeliever should do so, the believer is no longer bound to the marriage (7:15). Paul granted permission for divorce in the case of a believer being deserted by an unbeliever.

This is stated in 7:15, where Paul wrote that the believer is “not bound in regard to marriage” (i.e., free to remain single or to remarry). In 7:39-40, there is a conceptual parallel where a wife is said to be “bound” (a different word in Greek, but the same concept) as long as her husband lives. But if the husband dies, she is “free” to marry as she wishes, only in the Lord. If the parallel holds, then “not bound” in 7:15 also means “free to marry another.”

Two motivations that Paul brought out for remaining in an unequally yoked marriage are:

  • the spiritual benefits that accrue to your family (7:14)
  • the hope that you may win your spouse to Christ (7:16).

Paul said that the unbeliever is “sanctified” (i.e., set apart for God’s blessings) on account of the believer. Salvation does not change the marriage state. If the wife’s becoming a Christian annulled the marriage, then the children in the home would become illegitimate. Instead, these children may one day be saved if the Christian mate is faithful to the Lord. Paul also holds out hope that the believing spouse may influence the unbelieving spouse to believe the gospel.

A Christian whose unsaved spouse has divorced him or her should remain unmarried as long as there is a possibility that the unsaved person may return. However, if the unsaved spouse who has departed remarries, I believe Christian would be free to remarry since, by remarrying, the unsaved partner has closed the door on reconciliation. Remaining faithful to your marriage blesses your spouse and children.

Nevertheless, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each person, so must he live. I give this sort of direction in all the churches. Was anyone called after he had been circumcised? He should not try to undo his circumcisionWas anyone called who is uncircumcised? He should not get circumcised. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Instead, keeping God’s commandments is what countsLet each one remain in that situation in life in which he was called. Were you called as a slave? Do not worry about it. But if indeed you are able to be free, make the most of the opportunityFor the one who was called in the Lord as a slave is the Lord’s freedman. In the same way, the one who was called as a free person is Christ’s slave. You were bought with a price. Do not become slaves of men. In whatever situation someone was called, brothers and sisters, let him remain in it with God. (1 Cointhians 7:17-24)

Stay put indefinitely (7:17-24). Paul now departed from commenting about marriage to offer more general considerations about one’s overall situation in life. But since he continued with issues concerning sexuality in 7:25-40, we cannot interpret the present section as unrelated to the marriage issues just discussed. In order to explain the general principle he had been trying to communicate in the previous verses about marriage, Paul used two other less urgent issues (circumcision and slavery) as examples. His main point is that after experiencing the call of God, each person should remain in the situation he or she was in at the time of that call. Becoming a Christian does not mean totally revamping one’s social status. Do not seek marriage; do not seek singleness; do not seek divorce. In fact, do not actively seek any change in social status!

Three times Paul insists that a believer is to remain in the situation he or she was in at the point of faith in Christ (7:17, 20, and 24). This means that a Christian does not have to seek “the right situation” in order to enjoy Christian freedom or to serve God’s call effectively. We should serve God where we are until He calls us elsewhere.

Again, Paul’s overarching point in this passage was God is happy when we are content. If you are single—be content, if you are married—be content. Whatever your stage in life, be content.

I read a story some time ago called The Stonecutter:

Once upon a time, a stonecutter lived all alone. Though he had acquired great skills, he was very poor. He lived in a tiny bamboo hut and wore tattered clothing. One day as the stonecutter worked with his hammer and chisel upon a huge stone, he heard a crowd gathering along the streets. By their shouts he could tell that the king was coming to visit his humble village. Joining in the procession, the stonecutter gazed on as the king, dressed in marvelous silk, was greeted by his subjects. Oh, how I wish I had the power and glory of the king, he thought. He has soldiers at his command. There is no one more powerful. His cry was heard in the heavens, and immediately the humble stonecutter was transformed into a powerful king. He found himself riding on a great horse, waving at the crowds of people who had flocked to see him. This is power, he thought.

As the summer progressed, however, the new king watched the effects of the heat upon his people. Men and animals became weary, and plants withered under the powerful rays of the sun. As he looked at the sky, the new king realized that the sun was more powerful than any earthly ruler. How I wish I were as powerful as that, he thought. I wish I were the sun. Immediately, his wish was granted. The stonecutter relished his new role as the sun. He gloried in the power he felt as he surveyed the kingdoms below. As he sent his bright rays to earth, he watched kings and princes hide under their parasols; he watched as powerful warriors became weak under his gaze. Even the crops in the field were under his command.

Then one day a tiny cloud moved over the land, shielding the earth from the sun’s bright rays. Seeing that here was something more powerful, he thought, I want very much to be a cloud. Again, his wish was granted. Now he blocked the sun’s rays and felt important. He gathered all his strength, becoming a gigantic cloud, and began to pour down rain on the earth. Rivers formed where previously there were none, and water flooded the streets of the cities and the farmland. Everything—trees, animals, people—seemed to be awed by his power. Only the massive rocks were unswayed. There is nothing, he thought, as powerful as a rock. How I wish I were a huge stone. His wish was granted.

As a stone he remained motionless and powerful, unmoved by sun, wind, or rain. He felt exempt from all the forces that shaped the existence of those around him. Then one day a man approached, carrying a bag. When he stopped, he pulled out a chisel and a hammer and began to chip away at the rock. Realizing that the man with the tools was more powerful than any rock, he cried out, “Oh, I want to be a stonecutter.”

Once again the heavens heard his cry, and he became a stonecutter. Once again he lived in a bamboo hut and made his living with hammer and chisel. And he was content.

God is happy when we are content.

Sex Is Good   Leave a comment

In our sex-obsessed society, it is perhaps a shock that sex is a touchy subject. Equally shocking for some people is that the Bible talks about sex A LOT. Though the Bible handles this subject matter much differently than the secular world, it does have much to say on the subject. I can only think of one reason for matters pertaining to sex to be so frequently discussed in the Bible—sexuality must be very closely related to spirituality.

Now with regard to the issues you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of immoralities, each man should have relations with his own wife and each woman with her own husband. A husband should give to his wife her sexual rightsand likewise a wife to her husband. It is not the wife who has the rights to her own body, but the husband. In the same way, it is not the husband who has the rights to his own body, but the wife. Do not deprive each other, except by mutual agreement for a specified time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayerThen resume your relationship, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-controlI say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that everyone was as I am. But each has his own gift from God, one this way, another that.  1 Corinthians 7:1-5

The beliefs and practices of the Corinthian saints seem to vary greatly when it comes to matters of sexual values and conduct. Paul rebuked the liberal extreme for failing to exercise church discipline on a man living in an incestuous relationship with his father’s wife. In chapter 6, Paul confronted those who felt that having sex with a prostitute is not contrary or detrimental to one’s spiritual life. There are those in Corinth whose sexual values are shocking, even to the pagan Corinthians (see 5:1).

Image result for image of christian marital sexOur current text indicates there were some believers who used spirituality as a pretext for sexual immorality, while for others spirituality meant abstaining from sex altogether. By the way, this is where the water hits the wheel with our friend who caused us to start this series. He believes he’s found support in the Bible for his sexual immorality. So far, he has yet to show us convincing evidence of his belief.

In chapter 7, Paul turned his attention to those who seem to regard all sex as dirty, and who therefore advocated celibacy. For those who are single, it means staying single and, unlike today, celibate as well. For those who are married, it seems to mean that these couples should also refrain from sexual relations. I see a touch of gnosticism in this — the idea that the flesh is evil and must never be indulged.

In the matter of sexual conduct, the Corinthians lived in a very troubled world, not unlike our own era. The ancient world of Paul’s day had a very distorted view of women, sex, and marriage. Prostitution was an essential part of Greek life. Demosthenes had laid it down as the common and accepted rule of life: “We have courtesans for the sake of pleasure; we have concubines for the sake of daily cohabitation; we have wives for the purpose of having children legitimately, and having a faithful guardian for all our household affairs.”

The Roman sexual ethic was no better. By Paul’s era, Roman family life was wrecked. Seneca wrote that women were married to be divorced and divorced to be married. In Rome the Romans did not commonly date their years by numbers. Women called them by the names of their husbands. Martial the Roman poet tells of a woman who had ten husbands; Juvenal tells us of one who had had eight husbands in five years; Jerome declares it to be true that in Rome there was a woman who was married to her 23rd husband and she herself was his 21st wife.

One would hope the Jews would be exemplary in matters of sex and marriage, but it wasn’t the case. In Paul’s day Judaism reverenced neither women nor marriage. Josephus wrote, ‘The woman is worse than the man in everything’ (Josephus, Contra Apionem, 2, 201).

In the age of the coming of Christianity, even with Judaism the marriage bond was in peril so great that the institution of marriage was threatened. Jewish girls were refusing to marry at all because the position of the wife was so uncertain. The ancient ritual of “female circumcision” was practiced then too. This (cough) surgical procedure doesn’t benefit the woman at all, but prevents her enjoyment of sex. It seems that in the minds of those men who impose this on women, it is the woman’s place to give pleasure to the man, but never the woman’s place to receive pleasure from the man. While we may not mutilate our women in the United States, many American men expect their wives to give them sexual pleasure at any time, but feel little or no obligation toward fulfilling their wives’ sexual pleasure.

Paul’s words concerning sex and marriage were desperately needed in his day and no less needed in our own day.

From the Book of Proverbs, we know that God designed marriage and sex not only as a means for bringing children into this world, but also as God’s appointed means for a man to find pleasure in his wife:

Drink water from your own cistern, And fresh water from your own well. Should your springs be dispersed abroad, Streams of water in the streets? Let them be yours alone, And not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice in the wife of your youth. As a loving hind and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; Be exhilarated always with her love. Proverbs 5:15-19.

In the New Testament, Jesus attended a wedding and then miraculously provided wine when their supplies were exhausted (John 2:1-11). The Apostle Paul assumed that elders and deacons would be married with children (1 Timothy 3:2, 12). Paul also encouraged younger widows to marry (1 Timothy 5:14). He claimed the right as an apostle to “lead about a wife” (1 Corinthians 9:5). The writer to the Hebrews also held marriage in high esteem, and the proper realm for sexual enjoyment between husband and wife. “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4).

In the Bible, marriage is viewed as the norm, and the single life as the exception. Marriage is viewed as holy, righteous, and good. Those who seek to prohibit marriage as something evil are identified as false teachers by Paul (1 Timothy 4:1-5). Marriage is a good gift from God that many Christians gratefully receive and enjoy.

We know that there was a previous letter from Paul to the Corinthians and it is reasonable to assume that the Corinthians wrote a letter to Paul asking his advice on certain matters. Beginning with the statement, “Now concerning the things about which you wrote…” suggests Paul was answering their questions. In studying for this lesson, I ran across a textual critic who notes that Paul doesn’t say he’s answering a question. He says he is responding to what they wrote. There’s a difference there.

Some people ask questions which are not meant to be enlightening. Many questions are asked in a way which cleverly “teaches” the one who is asked or others who are listening. Some seek to undermine the teaching or authority of the one asked. Remembering the Corinthian factions, it is entirely possible that the Corinthians were asking gotcha questions or it could also be that they wrote him what they thought was true and expected him to agree with them.

Were they, in their enlightened wisdom, attempting to teach Paul? It’s possible. Could they be writing to Paul as their spiritual father and mentor, wanting to hear his wisdom and heed it? I’m inclined to view their communication with Paul with suspicion.

We know from Paul’s words in chapter 5 that when a Corinthian church member was living with his father’s wife and that the church had not exercised church discipline, but instead were proud of their accepting attitude (5:2). Some Corinthians were proud as a result of sin and their response to it. When Paul raised the issue of sex and marriage in chapter 7, he was dealing with the opposite extreme in the church … those who have overreacted to fleshly lusts, seeking to overcome them by asceticism. These folks were just as proud of their asceticism as the others named in chapter 5 were of their fleshly indulgence. Perhaps these ascetics had become so smug they assumed Paul would applaud them. After all, when it came to sexual abstinence and remaining single, Paul stood out among the apostles, and among those in the churches (see 1 Corinthians 9:4-5). They may not have agreed with Paul on many matters, but these ascetics might well have wanted Paul’s endorsement here. Paul’s words in response to their communication probably shocked them.

Before attempting to interpret Paul’s words in verse 1, we must pause to point out that the translation of the NIV is inaccurate. The expression, “not to touch a woman,” is a reference to sexual intercourse, not marriage, and thus the NIV is in error when it translates as it does.

The idiom ‘to touch a woman’ occurs nine times in Greek antiquity, ranging across six centuries and a variety of writers, and in every other instance, without ambiguity it refers to having sexual intercourse. There is no evidence of any kind that it can be extended or watered down to mean, ‘It is good for a man not to marry.’71

The Corinthian ascetics didn’t sanction sexual immorality. Instead, they didn’t sanction sex. They felt sex is dirty, whether within marriage or without. This tells us more about the ascetics than it does about biblical morality: “To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled” (Titus 1:15). Having concluded that all sex is evil, these folks followed out the implications of their false doctrine. If all sex is evil, then it is evil to enjoy sex in marriage. Husbands and wives should abstain from sex, unless for the bearing of children … if that. And those who are single should avoid the “temptation to have sex” by avoiding and abstaining from marriage. Paul refused to endorse such a view.

It would have been really easy for Paul to come on strong with these Corinthians, but he was gentle in his rebuke, clearly distinguishing between his personal convictions, his counsel (advice), and his authoritative apostolic commands (see 7:6-7, 40). His approach was to introduce the issue at hand and then gently correct the errors. In later chapters (e.g. 8-10), Paul’s initial gentleness leads to a very clear and forceful conclusion.

The ascetics of the Corinthian church had overreacted to the immorality of their day and city, concluding that all sex is dirty and should be avoided, even within marriage. When Paul says, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman,” I think he is repeating the position held by the Corinthian ascetics. It was another of those slogans introduced in Chapter 6. Paul repeated the statement, not because he agreed with it in its entirety, but because he agreed with it in part. Celibacy has its benefits, but not inside of marriage.

Eliminating Marriage Licenses   Leave a comment

Image result for image of marriageA few years ago, I became convinced that we ought to do away with marriage licenses entirely and replace them (actually go back to using) with civil contracts. At the time, I contemplated that it would be decades before any government entity would get on board.

Surprise! Alabama’s Senate considered the question in May 2016, resulting in the 22-3 passage of Senate Bill 377, which would abolish marriage licenses in favor of a plain contract filed with the Probate office.

 

There’s a long convoluted history to this. Marriage licenses came about in the early part of the 20th century as a means to stop interracial marriage and reduce procreation among “undesirables”. This was all powered by eugenics, a very American idea back then. They later became entrenched as a standard of proof for government benefits claims.

Traditionally, marriage has been a religious and social construct. If the couple had assets to worry about, a legal contract was drawn up as a private matter between the parties involved – often including not only the couple, but their parents, legal representative, clergy and witnesses. Marriage was seen as an individual choice like any other good or services and the government wasn’t involved.

 

We’ve been in a full-out battle for some time now over the definition of marriage, trying to find a legal standard that applied to everyone. There is no way I am every agreeing with Ellen Degeneres on that topic. To me, marriage is between a man and God and a woman and God and then between the man and woman and God and because God never ends His convenants, it would be for a lifetime. We could stop living together, but we could not become unmarried. I’m pretty sure Ellen would leave God out of it entirely and it would be between her and a successive string of women, something the Bible clearly shows to be part of the sexual immorality Christians are to flee.

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That Ellen shacks up with other women is really none of my concern … until she invites me to her wedding. I would decline because I’m told to flee sexual immorality and approving of her sexual immorality is the same as participating in it myself. Of course, these days I really don’t have a choice to decline if I work in a profession that is wedding related. If the current trend continues, I suspect I won’t have the option to decline even as a friend. Which is why it is important to me to get government out of marriage. I prefer not to have to choose between violating God’s clear commands and being charged with a hate crime. I don’t hate anyone, but a part of my religious observance is obeying God’s commands and He clearly tells me to flee sexual immorality … yours as well as my own … and not just homosexuality. That just happens to be the sexual immorality under discussion at the moment. Regardless, it is impossible to say you don’t approve of homosexuality if you are attending the wedding, even as an unwilling service provider, Nothing says “it doesn’t matter” so much as attending the nuptials.

So, going back to Alabama – this step would go a long way toward ending the division and confusion over marriage both in Alabama, and hopefully … eventually, the rest of the country. As long as we need a permission slip from the government to get married, the voters will imagine themselves as having a stake in those decisions which rightfully involve only the parties to the exchange. Alabama’s conservative politicians and judges anticipate being forced by courts to accept same-sex marriage and they rightfully want nothing to do with the moral conundrum that represents. By getting rid of licenses entirely, they remove their own moral culpability  for approving something utterly offensive to God.

The search for a single legal definition of marriage for everyone threatens real damage to the institution of marriage and to anyone who happens to disagree with that single government-mandated definition. Using contracts rather than license leaves the terms and conditions up to the couple and gets government out of the definition process.

Eliminating the marriage license and replacing it with a contract would take us a long way toward ending the culture wars by giving us one less thing to fight about.

 

 

 

Posted December 11, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in cultural divide, Uncategorized

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Does It Have To Be?   Leave a comment

aurorawatcherak

This is my public policy post on this subject. I’ve actually said this before in different words and the more I hang out with anarchists, the more I find myself agreeing with them.

The Bible is very clear that homosexual behavior is a sin. It follows that the commitment ceremonies gays insist upon calling “weddings” are public declarations of ongoing sexual immorality. The Bible tells Christians to FLEE sexual immorality because it corrupts our relationship with God. It is worse than other sins because it involves our own bodies. From those two facts, I judge that God is telling Christians that we may not encourage the homosexual activity of other humans. For the sake of our own relationship with God AND for the sake of the homosexuals we come in contact with, we must NOT participate in their commitment ceremonies, even as an unwilling caterer, photographer, florist, etc.

The Bible…

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Posted April 19, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

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Thankful for 30 years   Leave a comment

Are you grateful for something? Join us for the Open Book Blog Hop’s Thankful Thursday.

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This week marked 30 years of marriage for my husband and me. They have been turbulent years mixed with moments of bliss and contentment. Life is not perfect because human beings are not perfect and Brad and I are not perfect so our marriage is not perfect.

For us, marriage is not a contract between Brad and I registered with the State, but a covenant relationship. I vowed to God that I would enter into marriage and remain married until “death does part us” and God promised to give me strength to do that. At a later date, after going through a patch of Hell on earth, Brad vowed to God that he would remain married until “death does part us” and God promised him strength to do that. Only when that was in place were we able to honor the legal contract between us as man and wife. We could still shred that legal contract up, but a covenant with God last forever because God does not change His mind, even if we do.

The decision to form a covenant with God put Brad and I on the same page of God’s playbook, but it did not make us perfect and it did not make our marriage beautiful. We are messy people who dragged the baggage of our separate lives into our marriage. We have to deal with that mess on a daily basis and that’s okay.

Brad is a recovering alcoholic who can tell you how many days it’s been since his last drink, but together we are recovering marriage doofuses who can tell you how many days it’s been since our last fight. We can also tell you, because we journal these things, that our fights are less important these days and we don’t say such mean things to each other. I was actually surprised that Brad logged that I had yelled at him over my having to scrub the turnip patch out of the downstairs tub this weekend. I don’t use the downstairs bathroom and  I think the users of the tub should clean it. I thought I was being perfectly reasonable. He thought my request was reasonable and my tone was not. He’s right. I had a legitimate complaint, but I went about expressing it in the wrong way.

Despite the fact that we are not a Hallmark movie in the making, I am grateful for our 30 years — not just for the good times, but also for the hard times because they have taught us better ways of existing. Good times tend to make us lazy, but hard times keep us vigilant and growing and that is well worth the struggle.

So, to 30 years of hard work that have been well worth the effort.

For the Love of Happiness   Leave a comment

Blind spot ignorance causes a lot of car accidents and they’ve wrecked many a Christian life. The blind spots that are common among the churches today involve sexual immorality, including adultery.

Make no mistake. God makes a Christian marriage and when both partners are Christians, there is no divorce recognized. You can dissolve the human contract, but not the covenant made between you and God.

Amy Grant exhibits the blind spots of our modern society as it affects the churches and so, it may seem unfair, but she’s the example we’re going to use. When Amy divorced Gary Chapman, she explained that she didn’t take divorce lightly. They’d been through lots of marriage counseling and it just hadn’t produced what she had hoped it would produce. Chapman didn’t want the divorce, saying he was an old-fashioned guy who believed marriage ended with death do us part – a quaint notion found in Romans 7:2-3. “By law, a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adultress.”

Chapman held to this standard, believing it to be spiritually healthy, while Grant felt the main point of marriage is thriving together and enjoying one another. She quoted a counselor who told her that “God didn’t create this institution of marriage so He could just plug people into it. He provided this so that people could enjoy each other to the fullest.” Grant took this as permission to end her marriage.

Removing the marriage as a pathway to happiness for the individual sounds like really pragmatic advice, until you look at the facts. Large scale studies have compared unhappy spouses who divorced or seperated with unhappy spouses who chose to stay in unhappy marriages and found no great difference between the two groups in terms of happiness.Researcher Maggie Gallagher observed:

[M]ost of the unhappy spouses who avoided divorce did not stay trapped in misery. Two-thirds of unhappy spouses who stayed married ended up happily married five years down the road.” Most unhealthy, unhappy marriages heal and become happy only if both spouses are committed to hang in there long enough to work through their differences.

The counseling profession includes some compassionate, wise, Bible-based therapists, but (my observation based on 15 years in the field), many counselors do more harm than good. Some see divorce not as a problem but as a normal event.

“It is time to move beyond thinking about the divorce rate as an indicator of a social disorder that must be reduced. Divorce should be regarded as one of the “normal social events in the life course of modern families.“ (William Pinsof, a marriage therapist and editor of a journal on family counseling)

Such thinking is too common among marriage counselors. Maybe that’s why marriage counselors themselves have a divorce rate that is higher than almost any other profession. Why work to preserve a marriage if you see divorce just one of those “normal social events“ that modern families ought to expect?

Christians should know that God hates divorce, but do we understand the full reason why? It’s not because divorce is painful  to spouses and children. It is! My husband went through five divorces with his parents. Trust me, it’s painful! But that’s not the reason why God hates divorce. Remember, He is more interested in your character than your comfort.

God hates divorce because divorce defies God’s commands and breaks a solemn covenant designed to demonstrate God’s own faithfulness and love of Jesus Christ for His church. Marriage is about more than helping two individuals flourish and be happy together. That’s a side blessing when and if it happens.

Marriage is about being faithful to each other no matter what, out of obedience to God and a desire to reflect His faithfulness in our own lives.

Therefore, a marriage is not finished just because one or both spouses is unhappy. It’s not done because a number of counseling sessions occurred without doing much good. A marriage begins with a vow before God and with two bodies becoming one flesh. God designed the one-flesh union of sex and He expects us to take it seriously.

“What God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:6 – that’s Jesus speaking). God takes sexual union seriously. He also takes promises seriously. “It is better not to make a vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it. Do not protest. My vow was a mistake. Therefore, stand in awe of God,” (Eccleasiastes 5:5-7)

If marriage is just a matter of happiness and friendship, then why bother promising to be faithful “for better or for worse, till death do us part“? Why not say instead, “I promise to stay with you as long as you make me happy and we feel like friends, and as long as we don’t have problems too serious for counseling to cure.“ If that’s how we really see marriage, then we should say so and not make false vows. We should say what we mean, and mean what we say. If we promise “till death do us part,“ we had better mean it.

The modern mentality, fostered by many counselors and therapist, says that marriage should continue only if both partners are enjoying each other and flourishing together. In this mentality, we assume that the only way a marriage can last is if it brings enough happiness and doesn’t bring too much struggle. We also assume that if we do have trouble and spend some sessions with a counselor, then we’ve done just about everything that can be expected, and if we’re still not happy, it’s time to end the marriage and move on. This mentality is a huge blind spot for many people. It’s out of tune with God.

Why Is Government Even Talking About Marriage?   4 comments

Yes, this is germane to what I’ve been talking about because it touches on the administrative state.

 

I’m a Great Commission Baptist Sunday School teacher. Most people call us Southern Baptist. I describe myself as a nonpartisan conservative with libertarian leanings. Today I will be playing the part of a social conservative with libertarian leanings.

I believe marriage involves a man, a woman and God. It does not involve two men, two women, groups of men and women, or humans and animals. It also doesn’t involve a man and a woman without God. I base that belief on the Bible’s teaching. No, you won’t change my mind. Homosexuals can live together, have sex, raise kids, and jointly own property and their civil union is still not a marriage, because marriage is a sacred relationship instituted before and under God before the community. You will never convince me that the government deeming sin to be equal to a sacred relationship is good for society.

So far, I’m playing the role of a social conservative to a T, right? Now for the controversial – libertarian – leanings.

First, history records that we would probably not have an establishment clause if not for the Baptists of Rhode Island, who were tired of being pushed around by other, more politically connected denominations. They demanded the Constitution protect their right not to be Episcopalians. The Southern Baptist Convention has been politically supportive of socially conservative issues, but many of its members oppose theocracy in all its shades, harkening back to our forebears. We introduced separation of church and state to these shores. While we don’t accept that religion has not place in the public square, we know that imposed morality is tyranny.

I am not going to either defend or oppose homosexual marriages because the government being involved in marriage is against the founding principles of the United States. There are proposed constitutional amendments that would put morality under control of government and effectively violate the principles of separation of church and state. Social conservatives who want to make Christianity the official religion of the United States might want to think long and hard on what exactly that means. Government has no role in defining religious values.

A constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman would put the government, not God, in charge of marriage. It would undermine the separation of church and state and de-sacralize marriage.

The purpose of good government is to create a rule of law that protects people and allows them to live together peacefully. There is an unfortunate desire among some of my friends to see government as a means to force others to believe or pay for something we want. The founders were worried something like this would happen.

Traditionally marriages were blessed by religious officials or elders of a community in public ceremonies that created community recognition of the union. In the U.S., the states did not get involved in marriages until after the Civil War. If a couple did not seek a religious ceremony or blessing by God, a ceremony would be performed by a local justice of the peace. Such justices were local community officials. If couples cohabited for more than seven years, their marriage was often considered a “common law” marriage. States were not involved in marriage.

States became involved in issuing marriage licenses in extreme cases after the Civil War when white and black couples could not get a local religious official or magistrate to perform the ceremony. That problem no longer exists, so why is the government still involved in marriage?

State power grows. It’s rare for it to retreat. No matter how unconstitutional a state power may be, no matter that its purpose has long become invalid, it is rare for it to be eliminated. The Founding Fathers created the Supreme Court to strike down unconstitutional legal practices. The courts have been derelict in this duty, usually succumbing to social fads and seldom striking down unconstitutional legislation or legal practices.

In 1921, the US government became involved in the recognition of marriage when a dispute over miscegenation laws was appealed to the Supreme Court, opening the door for the U.S. to begin suing estates for inheritance taxes. The encroachment on marriage by the states and the Federal government parallels the encroachment on personal property with the passage of the 16th Amendment a few years earlier. These laws represent the process in which a bottom-up flow of power from people to government became replaced by a top-down flow of power where the people were effectively changed from citizens to subjects of the state.

Marriage is a cultural institution based on the love and fidelity of people for one another. It is properly blessed by religious and cultural institutions. The government was brought into marriage originally to provide a vehicle for the expression of this love when no social institution could be found to bless a marriage, or when lower governments sought to deny people rights based on interracial marriage. This was the result of the failure of cultural institutions to exercise responsibilities appropriate for the cultural sphere.

Today there are plenty of cultural groups that are willing to bless interracial and homosexual marriages. If a church won’t do it, you can easily find someone else. In Alaska, we allow pretty much anyone to perform a legally binding marriage ceremony. The need for government involvement to force this issue no longer exists. State and federal governments should withdraw from definitions of marriage and allow people the freedom of marriage and assembly as they choose.

Yes, that will complicate family law for a while. We’ll need to set up new ways of dealing with inheritance, for example. Some lawyers will no doubt make some money until that is settled. Government getting out of marriage will not end the social and religious debate over homosexual activity. It simply removes government from the debate and allows marriage to remain a sacred tradition that does not force Bible believers to violate their conscience.

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