The Heart of the Matter… I do
Having looked into the tearful eyes of parents whose children have abandoned the Faith, I have learned there are a million miles between our children “going through the motions” in reference to their spiritual lives versus our children possessing hearts that dictate their actions. In this column, I plan to share with you what I hope to instill in the hearts of my own children and those whom I love.
It used to be uncommon and unspoken. However, today divorce has reached epidemic proportions. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the ratio of marriages to divorces is 2 to 1. While a husband and wife may vow to love one another in sickness and in health, for richer and poorer, and for better and worse, the reality is that many individuals only stick around during times of wealth, health, and happiness. Many people can remember years ago, when parents in America would often have many children. Today children oftentimes have many parents. Sadly, the concept of commitment has been lost in our “disposable” and “instant gratification” world. There is no doubt that the tentacles of divorce reach deeply inside most—if not all—church families. And those tentacles have caused many problems throughout the body of Christ. While we don’t talk about it much for fear we may offend some, this topic desperately needs to be addressed in order to stem the epidemic.
Here’s what I intend on teaching my children about divorce.
A good marriage is one of the richest blessings you will ever know. It is an institution that was formed by God (Genesis 2:22-24). While we pray that you are able to experience it one day, we want each one of you to realize that you do not have to be married or be a parent to serve God faithfully. Consider for a moment all of the Biblical examples of faithful individuals who were single or barren/childless (e.g., Paul, Dorcas, King David’s wife Michal).
Believe it or not, your mother and I have been praying for you and your future spouses (and even their parents!) since before you were born. This topic is so crucial that we believe the time to start teaching you the importance of marriage and relationships is not when you are a teenager, but rather from your toddler years on up. Aside from your decision to be a Christian and your relationship with God, there is nothing more important on this planet. This special person will either help or hinder your journey to Heaven. Our prayer is that your mate will be a strong Christian who can help you in your spiritual journey. We hope that as you grow and mature you will select someone with which to spend your life who has similar values and priorities..
Make no mistake about it, good marriages take a great deal of work. You won’t receive a “how-to” book along with your marriage certificate. This is one reason it is so important to keep your marriage God-centered. The relationship you see daily between your mom and me did not happen overnight. We have been together through good years and bad. We have had to learn how to communicate effectively with one another, how to fight fair, how to compromise, and how to let our words be reflected in our actions. With each happy memory and each trial, our relationship has deepened and grown. However, even after being married as long as we have, we still have to invest time and energy into our marriage. That is why we try to regularly have “date night” without any children present—to reconnect, rekindle, and grow our own relationship.
Your mother and I have a rule that divorce “is not even an option.” We made this pledge to one another very early in our marriage, and it has been comforting during times of trial. The Bible is clear that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). Never forget that God joins you together with your mate (Matthew 19:6), and His original intention was that man and woman remain married until death (Mark 10:2-9). Study carefully Matthew 19:8, where Jesus explains that while divorces were permitted because of the hardness of their hearts, but “from the beginning it was not so.”
Keep your marriage intact and avoid divorce! Invest time and energy in one another. If you feel things are spiraling out of control talk to your parents, preacher, elders, or godly friends. (Don’t confide problems to a friend of the opposite sex, as that can often lead to danger.) Find a happily married, faithful couple with whom you can spend time and glean wisdom. Take time to find activities that both you and your spouse enjoy, and do those. Be willing to compromise. And do your best to never take your spouse for granted. The Bible is the best source for how men are to love their wives (Ephesians 5:25) and how wives are to treat their husbands (Titus 2:4-5; Ephesians 22-23). That’s a whole different topic!
In Matthew 19, Jesus outlines the only allowance for divorce and remarriage—sexual immorality (verse 9). That’s it. Divorce and remarriage is not allowed simply for irreconcilable differences or because one party is no longer happy. Many people have tried to manipulate this passage to find exceptions or make loopholes. In fact, many men with advanced degrees have desperately tried to argue that they possess a “newfound wisdom” about what this Scripture actually means. But as we have taught you from childhood, you don’t need advanced degrees to understand the important matters of the Bible. God is able to effectively communicate His plan on marriage and divorce.
Never change your views on Biblical matters simply because it has become personal. Remember, God is immutable (Malachi 3:6)—He and His Word do not change. It is usually the case that those trying to conjure up “exceptions” to Jesus’ teaching on marriage have personal stakes involved. For instance, maybe their children, other relatives, or friends have divorced for reasons other than sexual immorality, and they want to find a way for them to remarry. But the Scriptures are clear.
Many try to offer excuses to justify divorce and remarriage such as, “One party was not baptized at the point of marriage,”, or “Children are involved,” or “The original intent was not for a biblical permanent marriage.” They use mental gymnastics to find loopholes between Matthew 19 and 1 Corinthians 7:10-13. Remember, these commands were written to believers and unbelievers, thus baptism does not alter an adulterous marriage. Notice that 1 Corinthians 7:10 clearly states: “Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife.” The decision to marry is important and should not be entered into lightly, or because of temporal lust. Your mom and I agree that rather than jumping through hoops and rearranging the original intent looking for a “way out” years later, your time would be better invested in creating and building a healthy marriage that includes God.
This is why trust is so vital in a marriage. Go the extra mile and give your spouse information as to where you will be—don’t leave them wondering. Post a copy of your wedding picture or vows to your computer. Keep that golden band on your finger as a constant reminder.
On the day your mom and I said our wedding vows the man who baptized me read a poem that I want to share. It’s titled “Marriage Still Takes Three” (author unknown). I look forward to reading it at your wedding one day in the future.
I once thought marriage took
Just two to make a go,
But now I am convinced
It takes the Lord also.
And not one marriage fails
Where Christ is asked to enter,
As lovers come together
With Jesus at the center.
But marriage seldom thrives,
And homes are incomplete,
Till He is welcomed there
To help avoid defeat.
In homes where Christ is first,
It’s obvious to see,
Those unions really work,
For marriage still takes three.
P.S. While you may not welcome the idea, your mom and I really like the idea of “prearranged marriages,” so we are happily accepting applications from faithful parents of children your age.