So What about Divorce?
“A bishop shall be the husband of one wife...” So says my beloved KJV. One piece of a verse, we hear so often in discussing someone's (un)fitness for ministry. To some,the thinking is that if a man is divorced, he is no longer a husband, but if he remarries he has somehow become the husband of two women? This verse, along with others about head coverings, hair styles, jewelry, clothing, and diet, have been used from one time to another to prove a point, and sometimes the point is exactly in line with the meaning of the passage. Sometimes not. What about this one?
Paul wrote to the Corinthians that the Cross is a stumbling block to the Jews, and foolishness to the Greeks. Most Christians have probably read that passage several times, but unless we understand the thinking of the Jews and the Greeks of his time we're not likely to understand how the contemporary Hebrew expectations about Messiah, or the accepted Greek philosophies concerning death effected how they viewed the Lord's crucifixion. In the same way the New Testament if full of specific answers that we sometimes read as applying to different questions than the ones that were being asked at the time. One preacher told me one time that the passage in Ephesians about the Spirit “sealing” us “unto the day of redemption” was referring to the vacuum seal of a Mason jar, even though that invention was 1900 years away when Paul wrote that down!
Divorce in the 20th Century made two major impacts on our thinking. The first was when it became the scandal du jour that people in the movie industry began divorcing and remarrying at a whim. Apparently at that point a good number of sermons were preached against that abuse of holy matrimony. A question that was not being asked then seems not to have been answered in those sermons. The question was about divorce-and-remarriage, just like what Jesus said, that “Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. .” The implication is even plainer, I'm told, in the Greek, of ditching the one woman to get the other, as in one maneuver. He also said that “Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery,” so Jesus was recognising that, far from being the universally "unpardonable sin," there is not necessarily any condemnation even related to it!
Divorce, they say, is messy business. Two people have been “one:” tied together like heart and lungs. then they are torn from each other for any of a number of reasons. Often the one has already set their course long ago and withdrawn or destroyed their ties to the other, while the other was trying to maintain the relationship or was possibly unaware of the deceit that was being played. Increasingly today the husband is the one who is left with the pain and disgrace and the wife goes on with her life. Paul said, in 1st Corinthians 7, “..if the unbelieving / unfaithful (same word in the Greek) will (choose to) depart, let them depart: A brother or sister is not in bondage in such a case, but God has called us to peace.”
The passage we started with, from Timothy, says the overseer of the Church can only have one wife. To interpret that as present and past tense at once is a burden on the grammar, and to hang that burden on Jesus' words about divorce is adding a whole new question to the answer, presuming to put words in the Lord's mouth! As the Holy Ghost tells us in Paul, “God has called us to peace.” We won't, here, but a study through the New Testament on that word, "peace," but people stretching and stacking verses to add to a brother or sister's misery does not fit the description!
We see from experience that divorce is increasingly common, it is messy, with a lot of pain, at least on one side of the picture; and that an increasing number of “injured parties” in these cases are the men. Most church pastors being men, there is then going to be an increasing number of pastors, and those called to the Pastorate, who have been through this kind of pain. We are called to peace, and peace means healing. This presents the Church with a task too important to overlook. Jesus came to Earth, not as one “untouched with the feelings of our infirmities,” but suffered just like we suffer. Just so He could say He did? No, but so He would be lfully qualified to stand in our place to intercede before the Father, and so He could minister to our pains with full understanding of what we're really going through by experience as well as Omniscience. He is the ultimate “Wounded Healer.” In Church today are many thousands of divorcees yearning to minister to others, knowing the pain that is there. There are, likely, thousands of would-be pastors who would be highly effective in reaching people who are going through that kind of pain. People who feel uneasy around those who have “perfect” marriages or else, too often, the “perfectly marrieds” feel threatened by those scarred by divorce. Rebecca Pippert wrote a book some time ago with a great title: Out of the Salt Shaker. If salt is left on the table for too long, it will harden to the bottom of the shaker and resist being shaken out. "Wounded healers” have had their worlds jarred and shaken, and many are ready to be poured out for the Gospel: as the Church, let's joinwith them!