Friday, July 19, 2013

Piece of Paper

While the percentage of people who choose to cohabit continues to increase, there is a corresponding decline in morality and an increase in unwed mothers and children being raised in single parent homes.

The situation has become so common that many young people do not know that it is wrong to live together conjugally without being married. Those who do have some form of moral upbringing throw out the argument that there is no where in the Bible where marriage is constituted by a “piece of paper.”

Piece of Paper

The argument is extremely hollow and selfish; intended to excuse bad behavior. The Bible actually does talk about a “piece of paper.” Jesus indicated that from the beginning it was to be one woman with one man in a bond or covenant of life long, committed, relationship. “What God has joined let no man put asunder,” speaks loudly to the level of commitment intended. Also, it was “till death parts,” covenant. While there were no court houses at the time or justice of the peace or marriage licenses, there was a society that recognized marriage as sacred. Parents made contracts and arrangements with each other for their children that were legally binding. Although arranged marriages are passé, the purpose of my point is that there were legal implications and binding relationships that were sealed in many different ways. The ceremony was a community recognition that this couple was now a unit. The Biblical laws were such that the contract of marriage was sealed by the blood stain of the virgin wife. This was binding and final. The recognition of marriage was so final that adultery was punishable by death. This speaks strongly to the value of marriage in God’s eyes and the eyes of the society.

Now the “piece of paper” that I am talking about is the writ of divorce. Jesus said that because of the hardness of people’s hearts, a writ or certificate of divorce was granted. If a certificate of divorce was given, it is explicitly implied that the marriage had a bond and contract that had been broken. Marriage protects all. It protects the society in that there is no wholesale sexual abuse of male and female. It protects a society from rampant diseases of the body and of the soul. Marriage provides and protects children from great harm and abuse such as child trafficking, slavery, and physical abuse. It protects the woman giving her a place of importance and a place to bear children that are cared for and loved.

Without marriage, partners have no legal responsibility to each other. The relationship is a casual sexual relationship used by both parties, but withholding the totality of self to the other. When the relationship fails through frailties, emotional failure, financial circumstances, or just boredom, the parties are left destitute of recourse. There is no protection. So the 60 year old woman is replaced by a younger one and she is left in the cold with no protection from the law. A man is left by his partner and incurs huge credit card bills and she finds another sugar daddy. He has no legal recourse. They have children and she leaves with the children; he has little to stand on.

The Bible does not teach, nor support casual relationships without any commitment. The issue of marriage is an important one with deep, legal ramifications. It has to do with heritage, inheritances, blessings, birthrights, and long term health. Living together outside the bond of marriage offers none of the above. By law, the children are illegitimate, the woman, a paramour at best, and the man, an irresponsible lout.

Yes, there is a piece of paper in the Bible. It is a writ of divorce.

Marriage 4

Marriage IV
Love is patient and is kind; love doesn’t envy. Love doesn’t brag, is not proud, (1 Corinthians 13:4)

“Without love, we can live together; yet live alone. Without love, we can have children; yet despise and revile them. Without love, we can be filthy rich; yet desperately destitute.” - Cole Will in his personally written marriage vow to Katie.
Cole shared that with me Sunday night at youth and it was so profound I asked his permission to use it in this article.
How many people are living in a loveless marriage? How many people despise their children? How many people have money, but are destitute? Marriage is an institution which is ordained of God; yet it is used and abused by many who are married. It is not meant to be a torture chamber. It is not meant to be a place of loneliness while sharing the same roof with someone. How many women are trapped in bad marriages because they need the provision that the man is earning?
Silence, distance, co-existence mark many relationships. Man living in his man cave with the TV on, the woman is her chair with her hobbies and phone and Facebook. I have seen people who take separate vacations, have a separate social circle, who, for all intents and purposes, are divorced. They are divorced emotionally. What keeps people like that together? Finances do. Children do. Social pressure does. Embarrassment does. A fear of God does for some.
The Pharisees asked if a man could divorce for any reason. Jesus told them it was not so from the beginning. That the man and the woman would become one flesh. When asked about the law of Moses, Jesus responded that it was because of the hardness of hearts that divorce was granted. So the unity that is intended in marriage is far more than realized. The one flesh rule includes far more than sexual union. It implies that there is a common goal, a common life, a common care. As one nourishes and cares for their own body, the same response is given to the marriage partner. Nothing is to be done to harm the other. While there are huge gender differences and emotional approaches, it is never an excuse to quit on the other person. We are one flesh. It is like one being.
Now the reality is far different. Self enters the picture regularly and consistently. Self wants to emphasize the differences, emphasize personal need, and lobby strongly for what self wants. This is true of man and woman. The playing field of marriage shifts regularly. It is place of constant change and adjustment. Children change things, jobs change things, in-laws change things, age changes things. Each decade seems to bring changes in physical and emotional health for each member of the marriage and learning the oneness is a new adventure.
Those who are constantly looking for romantic bliss will probably never see it. Those who are looking to serve and love their spouse will find those moments of romantic bliss. However, the moments are fairly spontaneous, extemporaneous, and fleeting. Sometimes, it is almost like when you recognize and mention it, it is gone. So, when you have the moment, savor it and keep quiet, do not label it, just take it in and cherish it.
However, long term success in marriage is not one long romantic moment, it is more the peace, acceptance, the calm love, the security, and the shared journey that really counts.
Men and women who keep their marriages charged with jealousy, arguments, insecurity, and constant distrust, ruin the intended blessing of one flesh. No one wants to live with someone who does not trust them. And every partner should be so committed to the other that there should be no distrust.
Remember, love is kind and patient. We must work toward these Biblical goals. Trouble comes and we are troubled by events and circumstances, but they can be overcome by the patience and love that each should have for one another. Remember, we are one flesh. Together we make a pretty formidable stance against the enemy and any situation thrown against us.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Seasons, To Everything a Time

Seasons, To Everything a Time
Faith. The illusive understanding. All of us have struggled with faith. We struggle mostly because of confusion. We do not fully understand what God is doing. We read of the miracles in the Bible, we listen to the TV preacher who speaks of formulas of faith, we read the books and testimonies of great times of God’s interventions and then we have our challenge facing us.
We question, why? We do not understand that in one instance God does His intervention thing and then in others, it seems He is uninterested or maybe, just says no. We have  our questions and with them come out doubts. Am I crazy, am I an unbeliever, have I backslidden, or maybe God just dosen’t like me?
Every honest follower of Christ has asked these questions. If you live by a formula of faith, you will fail. God is not a magic dispenser. He is not moved by threat or formulas by which he is supposed to perform. He does know our human condition. Even Jesus cried out with a sense of forsakenness from the cross even though he is a part of the trinity and is God. Wow, figure that one out.
However faith is not capricious. He does not favor one over the other. As the call to salvation is for all, so is the call to faith. We cannot please him without faith. Faith is basically, trust. I trust you God. Faith has substance and most times what we call faith has no substance. It is more a hope of grasping something that is illusive. Faith comes by hearing the word of God. Not preaching, but the word of God. Not reading, but the word of God. This means I heard God speak to me. Not all things we hear from God are favorable in this sense, it may mean a call to suffering or dying. What Jesus heard in the Garden was the cross and no options. What Paul heard was Jerusalem and jail. Yet, faith was in those words. Strength to endure were in those words.
Often our attempt at faith has a preconceived notion or a prejudice of response. Faith is trusting God after hearing him. Oh, we can bring our wish list and our priority list to him and those my match up at times, but really faith only comes when we hear him. He may reject our wish list. He may rearrange our priorities. He may speak something totally unheard before and tell us to take that path.
Now, when we hear from God, we get substance and evidence. We can boldly move forward since we have substance and evidence. Faith has a confidence. There is none of the confusion. There is no waffling. It is firm, established, and now the confession part works. Confession does not work until you have faith. Often people are making confessions to work themselves into faith. What a waste of time. Seek the Father, hear his voice, get your instructions, and then you have grounds of faith to begin confessing what God has instructed. Then you begin to practice faith. Then you do not doubt in the dark what you saw in the light.
Can I have questions? Yes. What about my doubts? You can have those too. But questions and doubts should drive us to God for answers and reassurance. They should not take us to accusations of God nor lead us into self worship.
Learning the seasons of God helps us in coping with life. Blanket exemption from life’s seasons is not available to Christians or non Christians. Life’s problems are held by all. But we do have the Lord and his wonderful care. Faith causes us to trust Him and that all things will work together for our good. -Pastor Bill