Tag Archives: divorce

Preparing for Marriage

Many couples are not excited—even worried and confused—about premarital counseling. It is especially dumbfounding to a world today that has become increasingly desensitized to the sacredness of marriage.

And it is most disconcerting of all that Christians have added to the confusion over biblical marriage and contributed to the epidemic of divorce.

The Christian pollster George Barna has said, “There no longer seems to be much of a stigma attached to divorce; it is now seen as an unavoidable rite of passage.” See my article: Marriage & the Gospel of Jesus.

Christians are called to honor marriage as the most sacred of earthly covenants—a lifelong covenant to be entered in purity with a holy commitment to God in Christ.

Yet the church has succumbed to the spirit of the age by ignoring Jesus’ teaching on sacred marriage and the destructive nature of divorce (Gen 2:24; Matt 19:1-12; 1 Cor 7; Eph 5:22-33; Heb 13:4, etc.).

Let’s be honest, divorce not only destroys marriages and leaves a lasting mark on the couple affected, it tears apart families and perpetuates the cycle of dehumanization. You do not escape unscathed.

Divorce is antithetical to the Gospel and the reconciliatory work of Christ in the world. The church must be reminded of this and be admonished when necessary. Regardless of our mistakes, we must hold marriage high at all costs. We must operate off of principle instead of emotion.

Christian marriages crumble for a number of reasons. It is a relationship that must be continually maintained with a love that knows no bounds and be refreshed by a shared passion for the heavenly bridegroom—Jesus Christ. I can’t stress enough how this must be a “shared” passion and conviction. Believers are not to be “yoked” together with unbelievers (2 Cor 6:14).

Premarital counseling is an attempt to confront couples with the weight of the decision they are preparing to make. It is for the purpose of helping believers enter into marriage grounded upon Christ and equipped to move forward as hopeful realists. Premarital counseling is intended to position the couple for the best possible beginning to a Christ-honoring marriage.

Here are a few specific goals I have for Christian premarital counseling:

Goal One: Help establish and affirm the couple’s commitment to Christ.

If I’m asked to marry a couple, I believe it is necessary to establish the couple’s commitment to Christ. Does each person share a personal knowledge and love for Jesus? Have they both accepted Christ as Lord? Are they active members in a local church?

If so, then the couple will be encouraged in how to share Christ with one another and go on to discuss their plans for church life together.

If it becomes evident that they are unequally yoked and spiritually apathetic, I will advise the couple not to marry (at least until the situation is corrected). If they are insistent upon marriage regardless of the biblical teaching and their spiritual condition, I must decline to marry them.

There will be no hard feelings or judgment on my part if this happens. It’s nothing personal. I simply must respectfully decline out of my own conviction and the best interest of the couple.

As a minister of the Gospel there is no way that I can invoke the Lord’s blessing upon what I perceive to be an unbiblical union. I do not think that the marriage vows and ceremony are meaningless jargon and ritual for the sake of producing a romantic memory or making it “official” for the state.

Marriage is the beginning of a promise before God and men that the two are joining to become one flesh. There is nothing more sacred on the earth than marriage. We dare not enter into it carelessly.

The couple may be able to find a licensed minister to put his stamp of approval upon their marriage and go on to perform the ceremony without any conditions, but my conscience is bound to my understanding of Christian marriage. I’m aware that not everyone understands or agrees with this position, but I do believe that it is reasonable and biblically defensible.

The real challenge is trying to find a biblical argument against it.

Goal Two: Help the couple discern whether or not God is really calling them together.

This goal is reached by challenging the couple to learn more about each other. This goes beyond their fiancés favorite color, how they each feel loved and respected, and what they plan to do about credit cards.

Instead, it goes to the heart of marriage. What brought the couple together? Were they following Christ when they met? What part has Christ played in their dating relationship? Have they sought the Lord as a couple in making the decision to pursue marriage? Are they honoring the Lord now?

It is critical that the couple recognize that they began and/or are now pursuing God’s good will and purposes. Does their relationship go beyond mere attraction and companionship?

If the relationship is not rooted in God and his purposes for their lives, the couple increases their chances for divorce.

I can remember the anxiety I experienced during the pre-engagement period (even some while we were engaged) as I desperately sought after the Lord’s will on whether or not I was to marry my wife. I admit that some of it may have been overkill due to a spiritual immaturity.

However, after almost 10 years of marriage, I believe it was healthy for me to wrestle with the decision to marry, especially at such a young age. We wanted to please the Lord, so it concerned both of us that we trust in the Lord’s best for us. This is a good thing.

I would never advise a couple marry without seeking the Lord about it together. If a couple has decided to get married with little to no concern about the Lord’s thoughts, they need to seriously go before the Lord together in prayer and seek his heart for their relationship.

Making a decision about marriage without having totally surrendered your will and heart to the Lord is reckless.

It is for certain that being intentional about discussing the things that really matter most will raise questions, doubts, and qualms to the surface. Many couples fail to ask uneasy questions of each other and even ignore sensitive issues that they hope will eventually work themselves out later.

Couples will unknowingly—and knowingly—wear blinders to many things. It’s easy to do this when they have become infatuated with each other. So, an outsider is helpful to stir the pot a bit.

Premarital counseling will stimulate conversation that the couple needs to have, but may not have if they are not encouraged and guided in that process. It’s a great way to enter marriage with confidence that the Lord is indeed Master of the relationship—that he brought the couple together and that he will see them through it “until death do you part.”

Goal Three: Help the couple to exchange an idealistic view of marriage for a more realistic and biblical view.

This last goal is met by working to deconstruct the fantasies of romance and marriage. Each person brings with them certain expectations about marriage. There is a great deal of unrealistic expectations that have been acquired from well-intentioned parents all the way to the distortions of Hollywood.

If the couple is not aware of those expectations to discuss them, those unresolved expectations will eventually lead to demands, and demands will lead to an attempt to manipulate and control the other partner.

Many married couples are later blind-sided with this sort of thing and never move beyond this power struggle of bending the other to their will. This leads to isolation for both partners. It is often the killer of many marriages.

H. Norman Wright writes:

Too many couples enter marriage blinded by unrealistic expectations. They believe the relationship should be characterized by a high level of continuous romantic love. As one young adult said, “I wanted marriage to fulfill all my desires. I needed security, someone to take care of me, intellectual stimulation, economic security immediately—but it just wasn’t like that!” People are looking for something “magical” to happen in marriage. But magic doesn’t make a marriage work: hard work does (Communication: Key to Your Marriage).

Premarital counseling’s third goal is to help bring out some of those unrealistic expectations and to find guidance from an older married couple(s) on how confronting this idealism will keep a couple from disappointment, disillusionment, and divorce.

What is a biblical marriage in a broken world? It is important that the couple recognize the lies in order to embrace the truth of the real marriage journey.

Finally, if each partner can begin to identify the baggage from their upbringing and traumas suffered in the past—and do so while dating and during the premarital counseling experience—this will help the couple tremendously as they enter marriage.

When these things are identified, they may be dealt with if the couple is committed to the hard work of investing in a fulfilling marriage.

Selfishness that is displayed in an unwillingness to work through personal problems and past traumas will end a marriage before it even begins. You gotta deny yourself for marriage to work.

The counseling process can help the couple learn how to begin working through the painful experiences that have left open festering wounds that need to be treated. It is for the health of your future marriage.

This process will not uncover all hidden realities and sort out all “issues” a couple may have, but it will most definitely encourage a healthy communication that is essential for a successful marriage.

Preparing for Marriage–Some Premarital Counseling Is Better Than None

Why premarital counseling? Well, I will be so bold to say that those who really care about their future marriage and are seeking to honor Christ with their lives will have no qualms or hesitations with beginning preparatory sessions that will position them for a marriage that lasts.

If you want a marriage that is built on Christ and for a future serving him with your spouse, strengthen your relationship by taking the first steps on solid ground. Take the first steps toward a marriage that doesn’t make you happy, but instead makes you holy.

D.D. Flowers, 2011.


Marriage & the Gospel of Jesus

My wife and I just celebrated our 9th year anniversary (12/15). In celebration of my wife and in honor of my grandmother, I decided to share some thoughts on marriage. I’m aware that this is a hot button issue, so just keep in mind that these are my personal thoughts on something I think is central to living out the Gospel of Jesus.

FYI: This was sparked by an older article from Christianity Today Magazine. You can read the article here.

We are all familiar with the great debate over marriage, divorce, and remarriage. I would like to focus my comments particularly on where divorce fits into God’s plan. My understanding is that it doesn’t.

The Epidemic of Divorce

The Christian pollster George Barna has said, “There no longer seems to be much of a stigma attached to divorce; it is now seen as an unavoidable rite of passage.” It is now old news that, according to the most reliable statistical figures, there is virtually no difference between believers and non-believers when it comes to the divorce rate.

How can this be? How is it that Christ-followers have given up on such a central teaching of Jesus?—Reconciliation (Matt. 5-7).

I know believers that have claimed emotional abuse as their reason for divorce. Honestly, what spouse could not claim emotional abuse in marriage? All of us who are married could claim this at some point.

It must be said if there were any legitimate reasons for divorce, this would not be one of them—no matter how many well-intentioned authors and radio talk show hosts say so.

And if there is real physical abuse, there are plenty of creative ways the church can help a believer respond (and protect them) without encouraging a severing of the relationship. The church’s uncreative response to this reminds me of how she has too often shirked her responsibility to address other evils in a manner that is reflective of Christ (e.g. abortion, poverty, war, etc.).

If my grandmother, Emma, who was physically abused and cheated on numerous times, had left my grandfather, who eventually became a believer, I would not be here today. In fact, my siblings and many of my cousins would not be here either. There would no doubt be fewer folks in the kingdom of God. I’m thankful for the strength, the spiritual depth, and the persistence of this dear lady. She believed God and it paid off.

In all of the (Christian) discussions about marriage and divorce, it is rarely mentioned how destructive divorce is, for any reason. It’s an epidemic in the church today. It destroys families and the lives of people around us. It certainly doesn’t reflect Christ who reconciles and loves us without limit.

It doesn’t reflect new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).

The Bible & Divorce

Is God looking for a way out of his relationship with us because we have abused him? I am thankful for the bond of Christ, and the promise of God’s power to reconcile all things to himself (Col. 1:19-20). And I am thankful that he still “hates” divorce (Malachi 2:16).

I believe, as the CT article suggests, Jesus and Paul were both dealing with specific questions about marriage. The biblical text is not giving us answers to all of the many scenarios about marriage and divorce that we seek today.

We certainly don’t want to start constructing arguments based off silence either, lest we think Jesus somehow believed in war and that homosexuality is consistent with the created order. Jesus didn’t directly address many things, but the core of his teachings gives us a portrait of God’s divine image and his good purposes for his creation. The Scripture is plain enough (Mark 10:1-10; Lk 16:18).

This much is true. We can debate all day long about the “exception” clause (Matt. 5:32; 19:9). However, it doesn’t take a biblical scholar to see that the biblical text is very clear that divorce is destructive and should be avoided at all costs (1 Cor. 7:10-16).

Divorce may happen, but it isn’t “allowed” any more than other radical evils. Like everything else, Jesus has revealed a better way—a higher spiritual law.

Unfortunately, I see the church easing the conscience of Christians so they can follow their flesh and turn to worldly law courts to kill their covenant vows made with God and spouse—hoping that the next marriage will stick. Christians determined to escape their unpleasant situation, will not have to go very far to find a friend or pastor willing to assist them with “biblical” and psychological reasons for terminating their marriage.

Believers should keep this clear in their mind, that whatever they believe the exceptions or allowances may be (if any), the biblical text recognizes that divorce is antithetical to the kingdom of God–plain and simple (e.g. 1 Cor. 13; 2 Cor. 5:11-21; Col. 3:12-14; 1 Peter. 3:-1-7; etc.) You can’t simply give up on marriage and carry on with the Lord as if nothing happened.

“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death” (1 Jn. 3:14).

What else would the Scripture need to say for us to get it?

Marriage as Faithfulness to Christ

I think we should make this as biblically plain as possible and do all that we can to salvage marriages–instead of spending time helping people divorce with a good conscience and God’s approval; which is unfortunately how the conversation is geared today.

There must be a way to believe in grace and still profess a thing called holiness. Many Christians have forsaken it for a hipster faith. We need to find the balance in Christ. God thinks holiness is hip. You can’t read the Old Testament and miss that one. The New Testament writers knew this well: “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do” (1 Pet. 1:15).

There is mercy and grace at the cross, but it must be understood, if we give up on marriage, we are giving up on Christ.

In an age where things get hard and it’s easy to leave churches that make us mad, marriages that didn’t turn out the way we hoped, and other difficult situations that hurt our self-esteem, it is critical that we show the world a different way to live. If we don’t, nobody will.

It calls for denying ourselves and showing the world that there is real power in the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Lk. 9:23).

Until the church can largely affirm that, I see she has no place in telling pagans what marriage ought to be in the halls of worldly law. She has lost that right. In fact, she loses the right to say anything about the value of relationships. This issue alone may be, I suspect, why the church is losing her influence in the culture.

It may also have much to do with why Christians are leaving the church—no lasting marriages, no healthy families, so no real commitment to anything in life. We have given up on marriage as a life commitment, and we have therefore no reason to believe in a real otherworldly community of the Triune God on the earth.

Ministers of Reconciliation

I want to believe that the Lord is beginning to stir in the hearts of his people to stop this foolishness and believe that Jesus has the power to redeem what is lost and mend what is broken. Marriage doesn’t stand a chance when there is not a life covenant made that lasts as long as Christ loves the church.

Just think how different things could be if young people entered into marriage believing “this thing is forever” no if-and-buts about it. How much harder we would all work at maintaining the most important relationship of all if we understood that the Gospel itself even hinges upon the depth and the sincerity of this one relationship?

We are called to be ministers of reconciliation in every area of life. As Christians, we have not been afforded the right to select certain people who we wish to extend his mercy and forgiveness. It’s a free gift to all who will receive it. It’s a command that is central to the Gospel of Jesus (Jn. 13:34-35).

We are peacemakers, not home-wreckers.

Jesus cancelled our debts, if we want to continue receiving his forgiveness, we must forgive the debts of others (Matt. 18:21-35). It’s the only way are able to pray, “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matt. 6:12).

For those who have blown it in the past, I believe forgiveness and restoration is in no short supply. Begin again with the Lord today. Turn from making destructive choices and believe in the power of the Gospel of Jesus. Align yourself with the Lord’s kingdom purposes and he will intercede. Seek reconciliation, dear saints.

Our decisions have lasting consequences. May we all be reminded of the difference our choices make in God’s battle for heaven and earth. I pray that we would get our hearts right about what is most important to the Lord and press on as ministers of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:11-21).

And may our marriages reflect the beauty of the one that exists between Jesus and his bride, the church.

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sinfor us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Paul, 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

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