Thursday, May 9, 2013

Divorce for the Single Person

It was said,
‘Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce’;
But I say to you that:
Everyone who divorces his wife (except for the reason of unchastity) makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.  
Matthew 5.31-32 

Continuing with the same section from the SOM, let’s see the implications of this teaching for a single person.  It can be very helpful for you to understand this before you enter another relationship.  Let’s look at advice excerpted from a letter Paul wrote to the church in Corinth:
…I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I [single].  But if they don’t have self-control, let them marry; for it’s better to marry than to burn.
I want you to be free from concern.
One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and is divided. The woman who is unmarried … is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband.  1 Corinthians 7:8-9 & 32-34
If you combine Paul’s advice with Jesus’ instruction, how would you advise an unmarried disciple of Jesus?  Obviously the implication is that marriage is for those who need it.  Marriage is a gift from God, like church or the bible.  It’s a blessing that can make our lives easier, and makes it easier for us to resist temptation.  Two can be better than one. 


But that blessing can be misleading to those who are single.  Single people often are hyper-aware of their sexual drive, loneliness, and desire to have a partner.  And most have no idea how many bad marriages there are, and just how devastating it is to be in a bad one, but not tell anyone about it.  When we combine these two forces…
The obvious advantage of being married can create in us a blinding sense of urgency – we think we ‘need’ a partner, and we need one now.  That’s when a sense of desperation can be overwhelming.  We think we must settle for a relationship that is not great.  We are tempted to overlook lots of problems because we so badly want to be married, and we think we can learn to live with flaws or shortcomings, and so are deluded.  Not only that, but many will also be dishonest with who they are, for fear they may lose their chance at love. 

Once a marriage is begun this way, it leads to a lifetime of misery.  There are millions of couples who are struggling right now because they made a poor and/or premature decision about marriage. No - “Struggle” is too weak a word.  There are people praying for their spouse to die - or cheat - or anything that will set them free – lots of them!  And for the most part, they suffer in silence – thinking there’s nothing they can do, and feeling foolish.  Loneliness at a whole new level.  Pastors and counselors today will see too much of this. 

Children suffer even more, because their parents are staying married “for the children,” and the children grow up learning to fake religion just as they fake marriage and learn how to live a life of hypocrisy.  Children overwhelmingly become what they see as they grow up.  

For you who are single, this is my advice to you, and you really should follow it:
Find tactics to keep you from desperation.  Talk to your friends now.  It will be embarrassing for some to confess their sexual urges, and for others to confess how desperately they want to find the right person.  Join with your friends and help each other never to be desperate, so that you won’t be tempted to make a bad decision about relationships.  

This is even more difficult for single parents.  You’re trying to make rent, raise kids, maybe go to school, pay rent, be a “good” Christian, etc.  The pressure on single parents is crazy.  We should be helping them in every way possible.  Offer to babysit, help with school, whatever it takes. 

In short: strategize together in honesty about how you can remove all temptations that may provoke you to make a poor decision!  Help your friends to be happy now in relation to the Lord, and it’ll be a lot easier to make wise marriage decisions!  Help each other!!!  I’ll say it again … you and your close disciple-friends … help each other!  And then … speak often with God.  Ask your Father to give you wisdom in relationships.

If/when single people date, they need to be far from desperate so that they make wise decisions about picking a partner who will not be merely “good enough.”  You want a partner that will love you like crazy, not merely stay with you; who will help you grow stronger in the Lord, not merely go to church.  You want a partner who wants to see you get stronger spiritually, and will deliver you and your children safely into the next life. 

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