There were some hard-hitting chapters this week! And, can I just say, some that are rather, er, difficult to read to your kids during homeschool? There were a few sections I just skimmed right over with them, I admit it. Because while I'm all for training a child up right from the get-go, I'm also not for introducing subjects to my little ones when they really don't need to know about them quite yet. Another couple years...
Anyway. Chapter 7 in particular is one of those that is difficult to tackle in this day and age, isn't it? Granted, most of it Paul particularly says is his wisdom, not a direct command from God. Except this part:
10 Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. 11 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. (NKJV)
This is hard to even talk about in the church today, where the divorce rate is just as high as it is in the world. Why? That, I think, should be our first question. What has gone wrong in the modern understanding of what marriage is, that it's so easily broken by believers?
Not easily for all, I know. I'm not saying that. But is it the case most of the time that one of the spouses isn't true in their faith? Maybe. But where does that leave the other, who has been left? Well, according to this scripture it's pretty clear.
But in practice? Does it remain so clear? I know very, very few people who have gone through a divorce and opted to remain single thereafter, focusing solely on God. I've heard, from people I love and trust, that God has told them it's okay to remarry--that he doesn't want us to be alone.
What do you think of that? Is this a case of a best and better way? A case where God would love it if He were enough for us, but that He's willing to grant us human companionship if we require it to stay above sin? Where do you come down on the whole issue? And more to the point, how do you translate ideology into practice? I know what I would do--but how should I treat those who believe differently? Do we shake our heads at people who choose to remain unmarried, telling them they're not moving on? If we believe remarriage is wrong, do we use it as a means of bludgeoning and scorning those who disagree with us?
I think what it ultimately comes down to is this: if we seek God first, do all we do for Him and not ourselves, His Spirit will make the way clear. But not if we're trying to twist God and Christ into our own image.
The verse that jumped out at me quite strongly in chapter 10 is verse 9. The Message version states it this way:
We must never try to get Christ to serve us instead of us serving him; they tried it, and God launched an epidemic of poisonous snakes.
NKJV translates it as "never tempt Christ," which is no doubt a more literal word-for-word translation, but I think The Message sheds light on what that might mean. Paul is likening it to the Israelites in the wilderness, who were trying to force God to act as they wanted Him to do. I love how he uses this example, since it's the very one Christ used to explain his purpose--that he's the salvation that comes in the aftermath of that epidemic of poison.
It's still true today. We live in a world that's writhing with poisoning snakes--sin. Too many people today in the church are twisting their ideas of God around until He looks like they want Him to--a nice, loving, forgiving god who doesn't hold them to too high a standard.
But God's pretty clear on what happens when we do that. We've turned Him into an idol when we do--we've made a golden calf. When the truth is that He demands far more of us. He calls us to difficult life. A high standard. It is, and is supposed to be, hard. Because the best things in life are worth the effort.
So what standard are we living by?