Preaching through James is proving to be a deeply convicting labor. Over the last two Sundays, we have delved into the sin of partiality, as James tackles it in Chapter Two, verses One Through Thirteen. Though he applies it directly to economic status (rich or poor), we had to explore ways in which we may knowingly or unknowingly commit this same sin in our church today. While I hope I supplied enough examples and illustrations to help my listeners examine their hearts, I want to now add another category of people that I think we often treat with partiality in churches today:
Believers who have been divorced cannot win for losing in evangelical churches today. I realize many hold firm convictions in the matter of divorce and remarriage. I personally have strong convictions informed by texts like Matthew 19 and 1 Corinthians 7. But I also must be humble enough to recognize other Bible-believing believers and scholars do not see it exactly the way I do. So, this issue is kind of like eschatology – it demands an ongoing humility, not a dogmatic judgmentalism.
So, though I might not think a certain divorcee should get remarried, I cannot castigate that person or mistreat them as somehow “sub-Christian” if they do in fact remarry. Neither can I be disappointed if a divorcee chooses to remain single, despite all the best attempts to match-make inside the church. These decisions are deeply personal, and every divorcee carries bloody scars that will never fully heal until Resurrection Day. So, may “mercy triumph over judgment” in these matters for us, dear friends. To help us think more deeply on this subject, I am pasting below some thoughts from our sister and Biblical Counselor, Lori Beard:
I hate the vocabulary of divorced people. I hear them talk and it breaks my heart. Things like, “Well I don’t have to have her back until 10. Surely he won’t get mad if I keep her a little longer.” Or, “Well I can’t pick my kids up till 9 and they leave at 12 so we won’t be able to do dinner.” Or, “This is not my weekend. My kids cannot go.”
It appears to me the ones most affected are the kids.
The other language that drives me crazy is that of those who are married and have never been divorced, but have a struggling marriage. Things like this, “Nothing could be harder than staying in this marriage.” Or, “I cannot wait until I am free of this hurt.” Or, “When he leaves I am done with him finally.” It never ends. It’s as if divorce is being anticipated! Maybe even looked forward to?
I also have figured out I hate the language of those married, who believe they have it all mastered, towards divorcees. Things like, “Well, they should have married better.” Really? So you knew something divorced people did not? Or was it by grace alone that you married who you did? Or this, “They neither one had the guts or commitment to stay.” Really?! Did you ask them that or just assume as you made that horrifyingly hurtful blanket statement? Or this, “Well, if she would have just thought before she married him.” What if she did not just think but she prayed for hours? She sought counsel from several pastors? She went through intense premarital counseling? And what if your assumptions have crushed an already crushed person.
Words have so much power. Often good power. Like, “We the people” or “I have a dream ” or “Nothing to fear but fear itself.” But they can also destroy and cause damage that is unseen, but is suffered for years. Be careful. Be careful. People are listening. So is God.
A healing tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit (Prov 15:4).