Healing, Forgiveness, Mercy, Tolerance, or Repentance?
Out of all my family members pictured below, only one couple escaped ever having gone through the agonizing pain of divorce–my mother and father who, with my little brother, to the left of my father, are no longer with us. We love them and miss them very dearly.
But every person pictured here has been hurt by unkind, unloving behavior leading to divorce. And I don’t say this hoping to hurt those responsible for causing these tragedies.
Kindness, Mercy, and Understanding for Divorce
Divorce is a hateful and unforgiving thing. Yet people argue it is better to divorce than to fight. We cry that the children will suffer bitterly if their foundation of secure family love is destroyed, and that is very true. But insist children are resilient and they will be fine if the parents will handle the divorce like mature, wise adults. I question whether this is said to comfort the children or the unfaithful who are looking for relief from their moral convictions.
A parent becomes attracted to a member of the opposite sex and gives in to temptation. Like a drug, adultery quickly becomes an addiction hard to overcome.
Some regret and fight hard to overcome this addiction just as others fight to overcome addiction to pornography. But sometimes the other spouse wants to end the marriage immediately. No mercy. No forgiveness. No trust. No patience. No understanding. And that is not unreasonable in the least.
But sometimes the other spouse is willing to forgive, but wants the adultery to stop. They will have questions about how it happened and why and what can be done to help keep it from happening again. Families have even moved across country to get away from the temptation. And sometimes the temptation has followed the unfaithful spouse to the new location. Other times, addiction raised its ugly head and the unfaithful spouse fell to temptation and left the family to return to the other lover.l
Tolerance or Love?
Should we kiss the weapon that slays our best friend? Is that how to be faithful to one’s best friend?
Let me rephrase that question so its relevance is more clear:
Should we speak softly and sweetly of the sin that deprives our family of its loving unity and deprives the faithful and their children of their foundation of faithful family love, of their home, of their shared family assets, of their peace, of their liberty to share openly with one another?
Should we speak lovingly of the tyrant of injustice and addiction that enslaves one person to the injury of the rest for fear we might cause the person pain who clings to that slave-master?
Should we call that “Mercy”? “Love”? “Kindness”? “Christian”?
Salvation, Confession, Repentance, Restitution
Christians generally know God is both loving and just. And we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We know Jesus died on the cross for our sins and if we will confess and ask forgiveness and ask Jesus into our hearts and confess him as Lord, we will be saved–not by buying our salvation through works, but by God’s freely given grace received through faith. And that faith involves confession to God of our sins and confession involves repentance.
So, we fall into adultery. Hot, sexy person of the opposite sex gives us the attention and person affirmation, apparent love, and appreciation, and physical attention we crave, and bang, we’re addicted. I say “we”, though it has been my lifelong goal never to fall into that sin. Yet I have fallen into lust before making me not completely ignorant of the experience. Furthermore, I have been grieved and angered to see so many people fall into this sin and become completely consumed by it.
Wrestling to Cope, Recover Honor, While Living for Addiction
People in adultery often want their honor back–especially before family and friends. They feel great pain and shame to lose their children’s respect. They long for approval, which they call “mercy”, “kindness”, “forgiveness”, “trust”, “respect from children”. And yet, truth said, they deserve none of it. None.
Sadly, rather than endeavoring to restore their character, they often discard their family and friends and children and begin establishing a new circle of expectant admirers they would call their new family and friends.
It’s a harsh reality, but it is the truth. The person who gives into adultery is morally weak, inept, dishonest, cowardly, phony, hypocritical, unethical, inconsiderate, indecent, immoral, and a poor example for their children.
And if the faithful spouse left behind dares to speak of this, a judge is ready to rip the child from the hands of a loving and faithful parent and throw the children into a whorehouse of adultery rather than allow the unfaithful spouse to suffer the pain of knowing his or her children understand the importance of sincerity, love, faithfulness, integrity, and honoring one’s wedding vows.
How to Repent from Putting Family Through an Unjust Living Hell?
Preachers who have put their families through this unjust misery have often struggled to get back into the pulpit. Why? Perhaps they miss the limelight. The attention. The admiration. The respect of being a spiritual leader. And it matters to many not whether they would take their congregation or entire city to hell through their poor example of ungodliness if they can only remain or get back into their comfort zone.
They’re addicted to their adultery. And they’re addicted to their line of work. Holy or unholy, the show must go on. Perhaps they pile on fake miracles for which they seek glory. Perhaps they create a new line of theology to make their unholiness look “forgiven”. ie. “Just say ‘Sorry God’, every time you sin, and all will be well.”
But repentance is not real until it lays the axe to the root of the sin.
Running for the Border
Many fake their repentance by doing what I call a “Run for the Border”. They know Deut. 24:1-4 forbids men from receiving back a wife they sent away with a letter of divorce if he had found something unclean about her. Here, she’s the one in adultery. He sends her away with a letter of divorce. She marries another man. That man dies or divorces her. And now the first husband is prohibited from taking her back.
So, how does this relate to “running for the border?”
This running for the border is based on a misuse of Deut. 24:1-4 where a person who divorces and remarries is never, ever, ever again allowed to return back to the first spouse.
Well, isn’t that what Deut. 24 says? No. It doesn’t. It doesn’t say that at all. Read it. Read it well. Take off the foggy glasses of the divorce supporter and look at it for what it says. I am sure cults can come up with all sorts of imaginary tales and claims that it says this or that in the original languages, but read it for what it says and pray for wisdom to understand it as you read it.
It says the man found something unclean about his wife–sexually unclean, adultery. Sexual immorality. He sends her away. He doesn’t have to send her away, but he can send her away for that reason. It does not say he cheated and ran away and sent her a letter. It says she was unclean and he sent her away. She became married to another. She’s defiled as far as the first husband is concerned.
Back to the Border
Now, let’s go back to the man running off with another woman. He quickly gets a divorce and remarries that woman with him in adultery. There’s a ceremony. Does that make the original wedding vows unsaid? Does it? No, no, but, but, but…What about Deut. 24?
Well, the wife of his youth is not unclean at all. He is not sending her away because she is in adultery. He is sending her away because he, himself wants to divorce the wife of his youth and marry another woman.
Now, many pastors will pound the pulpit and say, “The man cannot return–Deut 24. Done. Final.” Apparently, those pastors should go back and instruct Malachi and Ezra and God Himself of this fact as apparently even God Himself is in violation of these pastor’s understanding of Deut. 24:1-4.
But when I find myself forced to choose between the truth of God and the lies of these very ignorant and arrogant and irresponsible and dishonest pastors, I find it morally obligatory to stay the course with God instead. And if that offends those pastors, I must ask, “May I repeat myself?”
When Repentance Calls for Divorce and Return to Original Spouse
Repentance does not always require returning to the original spouse. There are situations where that is not possible. For example,
- When the original spouse has sent the adulterer away with a divorce.
- When the original spouse accepted an unjust divorce and remarried.
- When the original spouse has passed away.
By accepting the divorce, I don’t mean that the spouse necessarily said it was OK. I mean that the faithful spouse accepted the fact that a divorce had happened and allowed the divorce to stay. That means the faithful spouse is under no moral obligation to remain and pine away for life allowing the unfaithful spouse to continue in adultery knowing he or she can always return if things don’t work out. Some consider that a moral obligation of the faithful Christian spouse, to pray and wait for the unfaithful spouse to return. I think it is best to wait on the Lord to guide.
When Repentance DOES Call for Return to the Original Spouse
This beckons back to Ezra 10. The men in Ezra 10 were going to war against a formidable enemy, and God was angry with them. The men had dealt treacherously with the wives of their youth by divorcing them. Not just putting them away without a letter of divorce. That’s a concoction of convenience. But they divorced their wives to marry pagan women. Many had children with those women.
The first wives were not unclean morally, or else Deut. 24 would apply. The men just wanted new wives apparently, so they got rid of their first wives and the children with those wives and took on new wives. And Malachi and Ezra both rebuked them.
The whole notion that God was upset for their failure to write a “Get” or “Letter of divorce”, is nonsense. That should be obvious from the fact that the two prophets could simply ask the men to write letters of divorce and send them to their first wives, and the problem would be solved.
But the prophets required a more severe and painful resolution: The men had to divorce their pagan wives and return to the wives of their youth. And they had better treat them well after all they had done unless they wanted to live under God’s intense wrath.
These men were about to go to war. If they wanted God’s protection and strength, they had better listen to what God required of them. And apparently, they did so with great weeping.
Put Away the Games
There is no sense in trying to game the system. God won’t be mocked.
We need to understand it not from my point of view. I recommend that you do not take my word or anybody else’s word for any of this but rather pray and search Scripture to understand it, and then live by it.
You or I may fool each other or fool many people easily. But we will never fool God. It is sad how many people don’t seem to get that. Now, that cute little Fidelity Mini-Chess Challenger still works well today, and it’s a great game to play with. But God’s Word is no game. He is a God of unchanging principles, holiness, honor, absolute integrity, and justice.
He may love you and me dearly enough to go to the cross for us. But He also loves the universe and His principles enough to be faithful, even if that means being truthful if and when we are deserving of eternal punishment in hell.
The devil will never be able to ask God, “Why did you send so-and-so to heaven while sending me to hell for my sins?” God paid a dear price to give us an opportunity to leave our lives of sin behind. Did we take that opportunity, or turn it down?
If you need to repent from sin, and leave that sin behind, please do it.
We all choose Jesus or sin as Lord. The one we trust and obey is our Lord.
We all choose God or Mammon. Not both. Not neither.
Playing games with God is not the right way to repent. Those of us who would worship Him must do so in spirit and in truth.
Are you saved from sin or are you still in sin?