Christianity 201

September 9, 2020

Not Holding Back: Making God’s Plan-A Clear

Acts 20:27

For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. (NIV)

For I didn’t shrink from declaring all that God wants you to know. (NLT)

Many times in the church, the leadership is asked to comment on the social issues of the day; including things that simply never existed at the time the scriptures were written; but also including things which were the same in their day as they are in our own.

A pastor may feel pressed to comment on homosexuality, but I guaranty that a minister who is in the least compassionate will temper that message, or at the very least phrase things very gently, if he knows there are lesbian or gay people in the congregation, or people who are related to (by being parents or brothers or sisters) someone with that orientation. Even the most conservative sermon approach will, I hope, offer God’s “Plan A” in a loving manner; and hopefully some will allow for the possibility of other interpretations where their theology and convictions permit.

When it comes to abortion, in a congregation of any measurable size, there is even more likelihood that someone listening to the pastor’s words have walked down that road. The sting of those memories is still strong, and dredging that up in a weekend worship service may seem like the last thing they needed.

This bring up the question of, ‘Why bother to address these things at all?’

There is some wisdom which must be credited to those who follow a Lectionary approach to preaching. Prescribed readings for each week offer a compendium of scriptures over a three year cycle. There aren’t “sermon series” topics running consecutive weeks, or room to maneuver the preaching focus to social issues or political ones.

That said though, the scriptures have application to so much of every day life. A pastor who goes off on a rant on abortion at least once a month runs the risk of appear obsessed on the topic, and as stated above, may be trampling on the sensitivities of individuals in the church. A pastor who ignores the possibility* that abortion grieves the heart of God runs the risk of making the Bible seem irrelevant to social issues and practical concerns.

[*Okay, more than possibility, but this is what I meant by speaking things gently. In fact, having presented some foundational scriptures, making the point in an interrogative form — “Do you think perhaps this grieves the heart of God?” — is probably closer to how Jesus would handle this.]

But on the off-chance your church doesn’t have people who are homosexual (or leaning in that direction) or have had an abortion (or are close to someone who did), it is entirely possible that you have people in your church who have been through divorce, or are even about to proceed in that direction. Statistically, it is far more likely.

The most cited phrase is “God hates divorce;” but notice the difference in two popular translations’ rendering of Malachi 2:16

“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. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.  NIV

“For I hate divorce!” says the LORD, the God of Israel. “To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “So guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife.”  NLT (NASB, NKJV, GNT, NET, are similar on the key phrase)

But even with the NIV rendering, it’s clear that God’s original “Plan A” was marriage for life.

“Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Mark 10:9 quoting Jesus

Some will ask, and the disciples did ask,

“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

to which

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.  (Matthew 19: 7 above, and 8, NIV)

Even there we see grace, and in similar fashion grace* should be at the center of our proclamation.

[*Sadly some pastors don’t read Jesus this way and prescribe that people should stay together even in the middle of a physically abusive situation. Hardliners, including some pastors and authors whose names you would recognize, would insist that saying otherwise is creating situation ethics. But that’s a topic for another article.]

I mention all these things not because today’s devotional has in any way been an attempt to cover the subject of divorce, although if you’re interested in an exhaustive 3-part research piece on the effects of divorce on children, I encourage to read the one we ran here, here and here.

Rather, I am to say here that in the course of the life of a church congregation, certain topics should eventually surface in its preaching and teaching ministry, and at that point, one cannot avoid lovingly declaring “the whole counsel of God.”

So I want to end where we began:

Acts 20:27:

For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. (NIV)

For I didn’t shrink from declaring all that God wants you to know. (NLT)

 

April 3, 2011

Jesus’ Attitude Toward the Divorced, Remarried and Those Guilty of Adultery

I “borrow” a lot of things to keep this blog running, but today I’m sure to get caught (again!) because Pastor Kevin Rogers is a regular reader.   This appeared on his blog, The Orphan Age, under the title, Hope for Damaged Divorcees. So much of what we read online consists of our opinions on this subject and we forget how Jesus handled things…

So, what are we to understand about Jesus’ attitude toward the divorced, remarried and those guilty of adultery? His encounters with the guilty help us understand his attitude toward us. The Samaritan woman at the well is a great example of Jesus’ message to lawbreakers.

We find the Lord in a mutually vulnerable situation. He is a Jewish man alone in a conversation with a Samaritan woman. Cultural taboos would suggest that this was inappropriate on many levels. Still, Jesus is not bound by what the neighbors think.

The love of God reaches far beyond the protective limitations of religious people. To the pure all things are pure. Jesus was not about to take advantage of this woman.

The ensuing conversation is loaded with new thought about God’s Kingdom. Jesus is offering her something that will satisfy her at the deepest level, like a drink that has a permanent quenching effect. The offer of God’s life is appealing, but who can be good enough to earn it? Could this woman be respectable enough to merit God’s blessing?

John 4:
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.

We see here a woman who had been betrayed and polluted by many. It’s not a question of whether she is the victim or the manipulator, but a recognition of the brokenness. Could it be that every new relationship came with a weak promise of lasting commitment and security? Men were not her answer.

Is the Law of God about adultery applicable to this woman? Indeed it is. The Law condemns her actions. But Jesus does not sound accusatory or judgmental here. Instead he invites her to bring his message of hope to the damaged remnants of relationship. Multiple failed marriages and adultery were not standing in God’s way of bringing lasting satisfaction to her. The impact of this woman’s life would be incredible.

John 4:
28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.
42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

Having been known as the town slut, she now becomes God’s messenger of hope. God took the irreparable damage of her life and gave her a contagious satisfaction. The story never addresses what became of the man she was living with at the time, but we can know with certainty that her newfound belief in Jesus would have a rippling effect that would stay with her for life. The central issue was not how bad she had been, but how loved she would be. God would love her with an everlasting love that would purify her.

It made so much sense that many of her neighbors would want it, too. The question is not how many divorces or adulterous affairs have you had, but are you open to being loved by the King of Heaven. Love covers a multitude of sins and purifies the polluted.

Do you struggle with guilt and condemnation from past failures? Christ’s love and grace is ready to heal you.

Jesus offers great hope of satisfaction to the castaways of broken marriage. You will find the fidelity and contentment you long for. It will come in receiving God’s Kingdom into your life—in receiving the King of Heaven as your satisfaction.

~Kevin Rogers

 

Read a previous Kevin Rogers post at this blog here.