Divorce

Tomorrow night we are turning our discussion of the family to God’s intended plan for marriage. While it is generally easy in Christian circles to say that God created Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve, it is a whole different animal to look at a group of teenagers and say that divorce is a sin. It is just such a painful subject for many people that I found myself saying about 100 different equivocations in my notes.

But I don’t want to shy away from this topic. If we are ever going to turn the divorce rate around it will have to come because a generation decides that marriage will be something sacred again. So much of what I am teaching has to do with their future.

I guess the best way that you can do that, the best way you can “guarantee” your marriage is to forget everything that you ever learned in Jerry McGuire. Finding a person who “completes” you is the quickest way to divorce. It is God who completes us. It is God who makes us whole. We should find someone who compliments us and who is strong where we are weak, but we should be dependant on God. Too many people ask their spouse to be the source of their life and happiness. When that person fails at being God then it is time to get out of the marriage.

Now I know all divorce isn’t about this, but I think that if more people would seek God as much as they seek a mate then the divorce rate would drop dramatically.

It is amazing how many things can be solved simply by loving God and living like He says to live. Life is funny that way.

10 thoughts on “Divorce

  1. JD says:

    First, let me say that while difficult,we need to be upfront with our teens and let them know that divorce is a sin. Lots of things that need to be said to teens are difficult, but we don’t back down from them because of that.
    I agree with your thoughts about finding a mate. One of my friends recently had as her facebook status that she must be so lost in God that a man would have to find HIm in order to find her.
    I other thought here is that there must also be some work with parents of your teens about how they model marriage for thier kids.

  2. Anonymous says:

    God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son so that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. If God loved the world enough that he gave his only son and he professed the sanctity of marriage why would he teach us not to marry for love? Even if we are consumed with love for him we still have the ability to love others. Why would he give us the joy of love if he meant for us to marry people who do not complete us and do not make us happy? Why would he have us marry into an unhappy marriage where we are not truly in love with our spouse? If we fall in love with that person who compliments us, even better but if you love someone purely with all the strength you put to loving God then why should you not marry them because they complete you and make you happy like God does? I do agree that God wants us to love him with all our heart but he also loves marrriage and love so I can’t begin to understand why you would tell teenagers NOT to fall in love because it will NOT make you happy and defies God’s wishes. It seems to me that thats exactly the opposite of what he is all about.

  3. The Average Youth Minister says:

    I am sorry that you read that differently than I intended. I never said not to marry someone you love. I am not someone who wants to have arranged marriages just for the sake of continuing the species.

    I will defend my comment about not looking for someone who completes you. There is a difference in someone who completes you and someone who complements you. You should find your completeness in God. If you don’t then you are going to end up hurt. But I think it is perfect to look for someone who you love and who also is someone who complements you.

    God’s plans for your life can be very different from your own plans many times, in fact most of the time. He sees and knows things that we cannot know. I have a 2 year old and this is teaching me lots about God’s plan for my life. Nathan loves suckers. He would eat them one right after the other. If I were a dad who loved him would I just keep giving him suckers to make him happy? No if I really loved him I would stop giving him what he wants right now because I know that there will be consequences later.

    The same is true when it comes to who we are going to marry. I am not saying that we shouldn’t marry someone we love. I am saying that far too many people make the "feeling" of love the only criteria for getting married. God takes marriage very seriously. He also takes you and your life very seriously. He wants you to be happy. He loves you, and that is why he says to get our needs met in him. If we don’t, if we go off and try to find someone else to meet our needs, that is just going to lead to pain. It may feel good for a while, but what happens when you both grow up and grow apart or when one of you gets bored, or just when you realize that she isn’t the answer to all of the issues you have in your life. Asking someone you love to complete you isn’t love it is asking them to be God and when they can’t be that there will be a big hurt at the end.

    I love my wife. I love her smile and the way that she laughs. I also love her because she is so many things that I am not. She is organized and actually understands that bills need to be paid. I fall on the other side of both of those spectrums.

    But because I love my wife I don’t ask her to be my everything. I don’t ask her to be my whole world. I don’t ask her to define me as a man or to complete some deep need in my life. Those are God sized things and if I ask her to fill those things then I am going to end up hurt and she will too. Meredith can’t complete me. She can’t fill the hole in my heart that is only for God. If I ask her to do that then I am treating her poorly.

    Meredith comes along side me and fights with me as we tackle the problems of this world. That is marriage and it is glorious, and it is made for two people who are in love. Marriage is about two people who are secure in who they are with God who can serve him better together than apart. Now sometimes there are hard times when I need her to help me pull through and I hope that I am the same for her some times, but that doesn’t mean that I ask her to complete me.

    My advice for anyone who wants to get married is always to give your life to God first and seek after him and HIS love first. For 2 reasons 1) His love can never fail and 2) You will have a hard time understanding real deep and forever love until you have met the author of that love in God.

    Now as for what I teach teenagers, on Wednesday night I gave them 4 pieces of advice to help to divorce proof (that is "help to" remember) their future marriage.

    1) Give your life to God: Life, real life begins when you are a Christian

    2) Let God complete you: Your love for others will grow exponentially with your love for God. Seek Him first and His righteousness and all these other things will be added to you.

    3) Don’t date non-Christians: Mainly because as a Christian you shouldn’t enter into a covenant with non-Christians. A Christian and a Non-Christian have 2 radically different world views. They live for 2 radically different things. Bringing those 2 wildly different worldviews into the same house is just asking for trouble. You can save that trouble by committing to not date non-Christians

    4) Take the covenant of marriage seriously: Jesus was pretty serious about marriage and about divorce. Take it is seriously. Make a real and honest commitment. I say this because there will be hard times. Trust me there will be times when you want to run away. There will be times when you feel like you have made the wrong decisions, but knowing that there is no option for a "way out" will help you go through those difficult times.

    My last bit of advice for Anonymous would be that love can be many things to a teenager. There is real love that can be found in these early years of your life, but there aren’t many people who are seniors in high school who haven’t had at least one time when they were desperately in love oonly to have those feelings change. That sort of passionate love can be a fickle thing and if you get married thinking that all of those feelings are going to carry you through your life then you will be disappointed. Love, the kind of love that comes between a man and a woman in a marriage is more than just a feeling it is a commitment t. Not only that it must grow and change over time. That can only happen if the 2 people involved are holding on to God and getting constantly fed by the love that he provides.

    Love is amazing when you are 18. It feels so real and and thrilling. Love is why you get up in the morning it is what makes the day worth living. I know that feeling: it is a very heady drug. But there is a love that you have in a marriage that comes not just from that feeling (trust me 11 years later my wife walks into a room when I haven’t seen her all day and suddenly my day is better and my heart is lighter) but that is from more than just a feeling it is from walking through life together. That deeper love comes from God and it is nurtured by 2 people who are seeking to know God and love God and accept his love in return. That is what frees Meredith and I to love each other so completely.

    You see love at 18 is magical, but it is also blinding. At 18 it is hard to imagine life at 30. It is hard to imagine when you start to get a little squidgy around the edges and you look around at your life and you feel like "is this all there is" and you wonder how this man who made you feel so amazing when you were young can be this same guy who is loosing his hair and scratching himself while watching football. It is hard to imagine those moments when you feel like running away not because you really want to go but because the deep need in your life that you had at 18 and that you took to this guy to fill may have stopped hurting for a while, but it hasn’t been filled and you look at him and think "why isn’t he making me feel like I should be feeling". It is hard to see those days when you will resent him for not being what you want him to be.

    But when you try to ask them to fill your needs instead of God eventually you will find yourself in that place, because no man or no woman can ever be God.

    So in conclusion of this insane comment. Marry someone you love, please marry someone you love, but don’t ask them to be the God of your life. If you do then they will eventually let you down or you will let them down. So let God be the God of your life and let your future husband or wife be the person that you love with all the love that God provides.

  4. Andy Crouch says:

    Shane,

    I think you meant "complement", not "compliment". I know it’s a nit-pick spelling thing, but in this particular instance, it’s an important point.

    But, either way – I can’t think of any instance in the Bible where we are told to marry the person that we love. I don’t recall it ever even being discussed. We are, however, told to LOVE the one that we MARRY. That’s a big difference, and a critical one. Otherwise, what do you do with the story of Hosea?

    http://www.gnpcb.org/esv/search/?q=Hosea+1%3A2-3

  5. The Average Youth Minister says:

    Yeah, you’re right those are 2 totally different words. I did mean complement. I am actually going to go back and change that now so most people won’t ever see the mistake.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I’m not christian, but from what I’ve read and heard, God created everything, people the world, all of it. So that must mean he created love, and the feeling you get when you know someone completes you. So why is that a negative thing? I believe in taking marriage and divorce seriously, but I think it’s disgusting that you’re teaching teenagers to not marry non-Christians. So they’d have two different world views. That doesn’t mean they couldn’t be in love. They’re marrying each other, not Jesus. It shouldn’t impact their relationship with another person that much, unless their entire life is about Christianity, and I think that that is just unhealthy. Dependency is looked down on when it’s drug-users who are dependent on a substance and I don’t see how it’s any different for religion.

  7. The Average Youth Minister says:

    With all of the cool stuff that the Internet does for us one thing that it doesn’t work well for is a theological discussion. It takes a whole bunch of words to convey what just a few words and the right tone of voice will convey when you are speaking. Add to that the anonymity of posting and you have a place where there is usually more fighting going on than actual dialog. Phrases like "I think it is disgusting" sound really good when they are typed, but would never be said in an actual face to face meeting.

    With that being said I will try to answer a few of your concerns, please understand that there is now way that I am going to change your mind and I understand that, in fact I am not really trying to. I just want to show you that there is another side to your argument that is probably a whole lot more rational than you think.

    Let’s start by talking about LOVE. That word can mean a whole bunch of things in English. It is perfectly acceptable to say that I love my wife, love my son, and love my computer. All of those are correct ways to use the same word, but they are all very different types of love.

    In Greek there were 3 words that could be translated love. There was Philio (I am not going to spell any of these words right) which was a brother type of love (think Philadelphia) there was Eros which was passionate sexual type of love and then there was Aggape which was sacrificial love, which was often used as the love that parent would have for a child. This word was seen as a deeper more pure type of love, a love that didn’t have anything to do with romance or marriage.

    So when you start talking about how God is love it is important to understand that the love of God is different than the love that is between a man and a woman. Somewhere in our society we have taken this idea of Eros love and made it the most important thing in the world. "They are in love" becomes the universal excuse for any number of sins. Being in love has more important than duty, more important than keeping your word. Who cares if you made a promise if you are in love that must be more important than anything else.

    The problem is that love isn’t the most important thing in this world; God is. We have taken this wonderful gift from God that he created so that we can understand our relationship with him more fully and we have elevated it to the most important place in our culture. But it was never supposed to be there. Love between a man and a woman is wonderful, it is magical, it is spiritual, but it is nothing compared to God.

    So we must start any discussion of marriage and love with this understanding that love that exists between a man and a woman is a dim reflection of the love that you can experience in a relationship with God. If you have tasted the thrill that comes in those early days of "love" then you have had a small glimpse of the joy that comes when we are living our lives with God. You see for me, God is first and love is second. Looking at the Bible and through my own personal experience I believe that is true and also that it is the most fulfilling way to live. Everything else that I say comes out of this belief. If you can’t get on board with this principle then all of the talk about who completes you is just going to be a forever argument.

    To me the crux of this discussion is contained right there. I believe that a relationship with God is greater and ultimately more fulfilling than any relationship with another person. If you don’t also believe that then I can see how all of the stuff that I have said sounds wrong to you. But in my life I have tried all sorts of relationships and I am in a marriage that is amazing with a wife who loves me and who I love dearly, but my relationship with God is still greater than that and she would say the same thing.

    So considering that we will probably have to agree to disagree on that point I imagine that all of the rest of my arguments will fall on deaf ears as well, but I will give you some bullet points anyway.

    Marrying Non-Christians
    This isn’t my rule it is God’s rule. Check out this verse 2 Corinthians 6:14 "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?"

    But let me just say that I would offer the advice even if it wasn’t in the Bible. It will just save you from pain and heartache later. Think about this, if you are honestly passionate about something and it is the driving force of your life what will happen if the person that you marry doesn’t share that passion? You will eventually find that the two of you growing apart and tension will come because of it.

    Being a Christian
    Part of being a Christian is about giving all of your life, not just the Sunday morning part over to God. It is about trusting Him to take care of you, but it is also about committing your life to something greater than yourself. It is being humble enough to admit that you and your needs are the most important thing in the universe and that you can find peace, contentment, happiness, and purpose only when you give your life to serving God.

    Being a Christian is about much more than just saying that I believe, it is the consuming passion of my life. My relationship with God has a part in every aspect of my day. It colors my decisions and helps me to choose what path to take. It teaches me to respect others, to think about them as more than myself and to serve them as Christ served the church. Being a Christian is the lens through which I view the world.

    Christians and Non-Christians can and should be friends. They can find common ground in many of the everyday struggles of life. They can form a bonds of love and friendship that will last a lifetime. But when it comes to a marriage there are things that the two could never fully share. As a non-Christian you can’t know the joy that comes through worship or the peace that comes in the middle of crisis. There is a wide gulf between people who believe and people who don’t. Just look at your comments. You compare following God with all of your life to being a drug user and I consider it to be the motivating factor of everything that I do and the only way to really be complete here on earth. How can those two different viewpoints survive in a marriage?

    Dependency
    You have made a conflicting argument when you begin to talk about dependency. If you feel that it is important that someone "completes" you doesn’t that mean that you would be dependent on them? How is trying to be complete from a person different from trying to be complete from God, aside from the fact that people will let you down and God won’t?

    What is your life about?
    That sound very accusatory and I don’t mean for it to. Like I said this is a terrible forum for these discussions. But you speak of it being unhealthy for your whole life to be about Christianity. I would have to agree on that point, because Christianity is a religion. But I do believe that your whole life should be consumed by God and following Him.

    But if not? What should you give your life to do? What should be the driving passion of your existence? What do you do to make you feel whole? From what do you gain your sense of purpose? What should we follow instead? What gives you joy or peace in the middle of troubles? What do you spend your time and energy doing? What makes life worth it for you? What makes you get out of bed every morning?

    Again, don’t think I am trying to belittle you. I honestly want to know. Because I have found something that answers all of those questions for me. God gives me purpose and a passion. He gives me joy in the middle of hard times and the strength to go forward when everyone else would be going back. God calls me to serve people in love, and even though I don’t do it enough His love gives me the strength to think of others before myself. All of my life revolves around my relationship with God and I have to say that I believe I am the better
    for it.

    That is the nature of faith. I believe that God is and that following Him is the best way to live this life. I would love to know what you believe.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Honestly, I don’t have a "driving force" in my life. I am perfectly happy with the idea of being alive for the sake of being alive. I think that is the difference between believers an non-believers. Believers need a purpose and non-believers don’t. I think religion has done great things for people, and humankind, but people can take it too far. A friend of mine got dumped by a girl he loved because she read this article, and decided the feeling of completeness he gave her was wrong. They’re not married, nor were they considering marriage, so why should this affect them? He was respectful of her faith, and he even went to church with her, so there wasn’t a problem.

    When I’m sad I think of my friends, and my boyfriend, and the people who care about me. That’s the only thought I need to get out of bed in the morning. Honestly, most of my spare time is spent trying to be there for them, when it comes to questions about life or love or friendship or happiness, even if I don’t quite know all the answers. I think everyone should know that no matter what someone is there for them, cause sometimes their God can’t quite give them all the answers.

    Completeness doesn’t necessarily imply dependency. I feel complete when I get a hug from a person I love, because I enjoy the feeling of having someone care about me. Again, there are people who take that feeling too far, and convince themselves they can’t live without another person. I personally think life is incredibly precious, and not being religious, I think we only get one chance at it, so we should value it, so I’ve never understood martyrdom, or wasting a life in the name of love.

    I’m truly sorry if my previous post was accusatory, but I was upset on my friends behalf, and I strongly disagree with your philosophy, but I can respect the reasons you have it. However, it doesn’t work for some people as well as it does for you.

  9. The Average Youth Minister says:

    God says something really remarkable in Psalm 34:8. It says "taste and see that the Lord is Good". God invites us to try Him out and see if what He says is true. What "works" for me will work for you. Living life God’s way works even without the fact that God is there for you in the middle of hard times.

    But if you haven’t had them yet, there will be times in everyone’s life–times when they are all alone, and everyone who said that they would care about you have left you, or at least it will feel that way. In those times the peace of knowing that God is with you is more than I can express. There will be times in your life when you wake up and you are 40 and you look at your life and say, "now really why am I doing this?" and that is when it is important to know that God gives you a purpose.

    Everyone, everyone was created with a desire for God. It is a natural part of who we are. It is why we seek out love and beauty and romance and adventure because we were created to live with God. You sound like someone who has a good grasp of your life and who you are, so I hope that one day you will see that the other stuff that we all try to do to fill that deep need in our life will never make us feel the way that God makes us feel.

  10. Cindy H. says:

    Shane
    Your witness is so gentle & really expresses God’s love. I believe a seed has been planted.

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