Marriage and Divorce: Restoring the Sacredness of a Perverted Sacrament

   

Image by Tanesa Flavell

We have become a culture of divorce, free sex, and relationships resting on pleasure. Something has got to change. Should marriage be abandoned? Or should it be restored and rebuilt? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below on marriage, divorce, and sex.

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America has become a divorce culture. While numerous and divergent statistics can be cited, the most common number is 50%. Those are some pretty crazy numbers. But we aren’t talking about numbers. We are talking about people—men, women, and children. The reality is, statistically speaking, half of all my friends and family will get a divorce. A great many of my friends grew up in divorced homes and many still will have children in broken homes. And we can see what this is doing to people in American culture. We are training young men to stay boys rather than become men. We are training young girls to have free sex with whomever. We are training our children, through example, that what is most important is me, my happiness, my pleasure, my satisfaction, and my way.

These are the self-centered principles that I and my daughter’s mother have taught our little girl.

That’s right, I am divorced.

I grew up in a home and in a church in which divorce was (properly, I might add) discouraged. And when I got my girlfriend pregnant at age 20, I stepped up to face my mistakes. I made public confession and asked for forgiveness of the entire church (a crazy fearful thing to be sure—but incredibly liberating!) and married my then girlfriend. Several months went by—my daughter grew, she was born, and her mother and I grew apart. Eventually, I heard the cliché words—”I love you, but I am not in love with you.”

We split and eventually divorced.

Was I a saint and innocent victim? By no means. I was a selfish jerk. I never fought for our marriage. I never fought to keep things right. I never fought to read the scripture or pray together. I was just a lost selfish kid.

And while I thought the social shunning and outcasting was bad before for being a “sexual deviant”, I was now divorced! The looks, scoffs, and condemnation only got worse. Most people, in my position, would have left the church, and perhaps even Christianity, and never look back. This was going to far. Where was the grace? Yes, divorce is horrible—but even after confession, I was despised by many.

Churches fail at this all the time. When Christians start thinking that their sin is less grievous than others and that their sin doesn’t stink, all other’s mistakes become an object to which the “righteous” can contrast themselves rather than love and forgive as Christ had.

The reality is, we are all terrible sinners and we all need the incredible grace of Jesus Christ.

But does this grace dissuade us from charging others to not sin? Does this grace that we ought to show to the broken prevent us from telling people they should not divorce?

The reality is, God hates divorce. He says so quite clearly.

“‘I hate divorce,’ says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘because the man who divorces his wife covers his garment with violence.’” Or as the NIV states, “‘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.” Malachi 2:16

Here God blames the husband for harming his wife when he ought to protect and love her. This sort of divorce was not over adultery, which was a sin punishable by death according to the Law. This sort of divorce was for any other selfish reason—what we like to call “irreconcilable differences.”

God hates divorce. And if He hates it, so should we.

It tears apart the image which God created in us, both male and female, to reflect His character. Marriage, perfectly designed by God, was fashioned to reflect His nature—diversity in perfect unity. This divine mystery is revealed in us. And through marriage, we are to practice the very basic teachings of Christ, “love your neighbor (in this case your wife or husband) as yourself.” Paul pushes this further, writing “each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.” Ephesians 5:33

But divorce does more than just break the image of God in us, it also breaks our children. My daughter is broken-hearted and there is nothing I can do about it. Just this last weekend, she cried to me in deep, painful sobs, how hard it is to have two homes. When she is with me, she misses her mother deeply. When she is with her mother, she misses me deeply. And while I am happily married again and love my wife so deeply, I wish—for her sake—that either I never met my ex-wife or that we had worked things out. Divorce is painful, no matter what, and is far more detrimental than living a life in an unhappy marriage.

And that is the core of it. We have bought into this lie that marriage is about us. It is about being happy. It is about making my life more enjoyable. It isn’t. Marriage makes us more holy—or breaks us in the process.

Marriage is not, nor will it ever be, eternal bubbles, wagging puppy tails, room service, and endless excitement, newness, and wild sex.

Marriage is raw, difficult, compromise in which two people learn to live, not for themselves—which is the natural inclination—but for each other.

But too few people count the cost of marriage. Many, especially out here is Southern California, jump in and out of marriages like they are different pairs of pants. I, like Paul, would much rather see people not marry than see marriages without life-long commitments.

Marriage is sacred, and we should treat it as such.

THEOLOGY21 is a co-op of authors dedicated to renovating theology for a new generation, taking the ancient truths of scripture and theology and speaking to the post-Christian culture of the 21st century. To keep up-to-date on all things THEOLOGY21, Give our Facebook page a “like”, follow our twitter page, add yourself to our email list, or subscribe to our feed!
 
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  • Mmargarit

    What can I say. But a HUGE AMEN!!! Great post!

  • Amen. Hallelujah.

    As a single, 20 year old, I just started being mentored by a married couple, because divorce and single parents are something that runs in my family.

    Too often, especially for the children in 50% of failed marriages, our vision of marriage is proposed by what we see on TV or the partial picture that we get from our friends with parents that are still together. Then we continue on in this broken cycle, perpetuating the same problems we grew up with!

    Thank you for your thoughts and insights on this. 

  • Barb

    I agree. This is a subject very close to my heart.  I have seen the damage and the struggle brought by divorce as a public middle school teacher over the 40 year span of my career.  Marriage IS hard; I contemplated divorce myself, when things got really bad, to the point of being almost intolerable, but, looking back, I am glad I made the decision to trust and obey God and put my marriage in His hands. My first and only husband and I just celebrated our 43rd wedding anniversary.  Nothing is impossible with God!
    Thank you for Theology 21-I read every post with great interest and appreciation! 

  • Thank you for writing this, Jon, and for your own confession from your life. I am 29 and unmarried, and never have been married. I think growing up I idealized the concept of marriage and always thought that somehow rings made a difference, somehow the bells and whistles just made it work. But looking back on my life and those of my parents, my friends and those I’ve known who have been married and some divorced I came to realize in my mid 20’s that in the end who ever my wife may be, if I ever get married, and I will continue to be two people who are struggling to be one flesh, and that is no easy thing. Marriage is a serious thing and divorce is not supposed to be our out, knowing this now I tread carefully in the perception of my future and what the Lord may have in store for me. Thanks again for the article, great write up!

  • Amen. This message is a passion of mine because I too, am divorced. I wrote two pieces about it. One is my testimony (long read): http://www.tonyjalicea.com/2011/02/afflictions-eclipsed-by-glory/

    The other is one I called The Divorce Experts (http://www.tonyjalicea.com/2011/03/the-divorce-experts/) , in which I echo these same sentiments. I, for one, will no longer stand for divorce in my life in ANY of it’s forms.

  • Thanks @TheHumbleSearcher:disqus . It is always hard. When I was a kid, I thought all my lust problems would end as soon as I could have sex in marriage. I Even though those who were married who told me otherwise were full of crap. I now know that just because you said some vows and have a ring on your finger, it does not mean you are free from temptation or desire. We are still sinners after all, married or otherwise. 

  • TV may be the worst influence when it comes to sex, marriage, and divorce. One central motif is taught—what do YOU want. What would make YOU feel good. What if YOU are unhappy? We must guard our own hearts and the hearts of our children against such desires because we are already grossly inclined to be incredibly selfish. 

  • True enough. While having only been in the class room for a few years, I can already see the incredible destruction selfish parents play on their children. From neglected kids, molested little girls, abused and beaten children, and painful broken homes in which children are forced to choose between their parents in custody battles. These hurts run deep and leave scars visible for a lifetime. Our culture’s attitude needs to change toward marriage and divorce—and it starts with us! Thanks for reading!

  • I find that, though painful, my mistakes and the divorce has given me a better platform on which to speak to this generation. Thank God he has forgiven me! I look forward to checking out your story!

  • Anonymous

    Can’t we assume, though, that if we’re Christians, and so we can trust our conscience / the Holy Spirit  when we ask ourselves What would make me happy?
    Does God not like us being happy?
    Is it not sometimes okay to do what makes us happy – because in the end, it’s us that has to live with us the most often and the longest. … I don’t think that is selfish.

    all the same, you make a good point.

  • Anonymous

    Great Article. and passionately put.

  • Good Stuff! I have to say that my heart aches a bit for the way that other Christians have looked on you. Its odd how the Church, grounded on the universal need for salvation, seems so quick to look down on “other people’s” sin.

  • Wow! Absolutely gripping post! This is a sensitive and passionate topic for me because of how God restored my marriage. A few things I have learned along the way about marriage are: 1) All of what you said! 2) To grasp a tiny taste of the parallel between our earthly marriage and our eternal marriage is one of the most incredibly liberating truths that display the glory and beauty of our Bridegroom. 3) Submission and humility as a wife, representing the Bride of Christ is culturally insane. Living in submission and humility as a woman in our culture feels like swimming against the tide. It is ridiculously difficult, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    GREAT POST!! God bless you guys!

  • Jon-I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to land on your blog. Allison directed me to it, and she has a high opinion of your content and the honesty with which you approach it. She doesn’t dole out compliments like that easily.

    What an incredibly balanced and insightful post. This line in particular needed to be said, and unfortunately, I’ve never read it anywhere but here:

    “And that is the core of it. We have bought into this lie that
    marriage is about us. It is about being happy. It is about making my
    life more enjoyable. It isn’t. Marriage makes us more holy—or breaks us
    in the process.”

    The idea that we become one flesh, and simultaneously expect to be personally gratified is ironic at best, and patently ridiculous at worst. Yet we all succumb to the idea in varying degrees. Thanks for tough be needed reminder on the sanctity and sactifying nature of marriage.

  • Jon-I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to land on your blog. Allison directed me to it, and she has a high opinion of your content and the honesty with which you approach it. She doesn’t dole out compliments like that easily.

    What an incredibly balanced and insightful post. This line in particular needed to be said, and unfortunately, I’ve never read it anywhere but here:

    “And that is the core of it. We have bought into this lie that
    marriage is about us. It is about being happy. It is about making my
    life more enjoyable. It isn’t. Marriage makes us more holy—or breaks us
    in the process.”

    The idea that we become one flesh, and simultaneously expect to be personally gratified is ironic at best, and patently ridiculous at worst. Yet we all succumb to the idea in varying degrees. Thanks for tough be needed reminder on the sanctity and sactifying nature of marriage.

  • Awesome! Thanks for checking the site out man! I has been years to be sure! I have only come to these views of marriage recently, particularly from an AWESOME book all husbands and wives should read—“Sacred Marriage.” It is an amazing book and has definitely changed my approach toward my wife and toward marriage. http://amzn.to/j9KINN

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