There’s an excitement building in our congregation as we step into a new season of a release into intimacy – in our marriages, between covenant partners – and with our Father. It has come on the heels of a difficult time watching a few couples in our congregation lose the war waged by the enemy on marriage, and they have divorced. In times like these, watching people and families we love be torn apart, it’s impossible not to also be personally affected. Women wonder, “Could that happen to me?” Men ask within themselves, “Would she stay if that happened to us?” It filters through the whole body, in fact, and as a coldness in the air sets in, we feel a stirring to rise up and answer the challenge by bringing forth our own standard in this battle.
It’s so easy to regurgitate the list of sins these couples are committing. Any upstanding church member can recite the verses in Ephesians - our treatise on marriage. Surely that should dissect what’s wrong in any given situation. As pastors and counselors, we cling to our roles and processes – Well, she’s in church and he isn’t, or he’s got an addiction and she’s got a spending habit. Or maybe he’s too harsh, and she’s not respecting his authority. We give them bible verses, pray, and send them on their way until the appointments eventually trickle down to unanswered phone calls and we finally find out it’s over. They folded.
The very definition of insanity is to repeat the same thing over and over again and expect a different result, and that’s what has been happening in our marriages. Finally, we decided to put our processes on hold and sought the face of the Lord for new direction on this crucial, bedrock issue of the marriage covenant. And like so many other struggles we’ve faced, we have found the war on marriage is grown out of a root issue of the misunderstanding of the Word of God and in missing the hidden treasure of grace. We have learned that a decoding of language between men and women had to take place. As we began to demystify the conundrum of our marriage problem, we found Him again. Our Savior, right there beneath the surface, drawing us closer to Him through this searching. When we find Truth anywhere, even in marriage – even in just talking, understanding, and knowing one another – we find Him, for He is Grace and Truth, personified.
Armed with these truths, what did we do?
We organized and mobilized our congregation to protest at the highest levels of state and national government. We drew up charts that illustrated divorce rates within and outside the church, gathered scientific analysis regarding women and men and their reactions to one another during arguments, we created forums and big plastic buttons with our catch phrase prominently displayed. We created conferences and worksheets and even made up new praise and worship songs, chanting our slogans, “We will NOT….” “We will NOT…”
We didn’t do any of that.
We genuinely, without judgment, believed our couples wanted to glorify God in their marriage and those outside who had yet to come to Christ were also good-willed people who wanted to escape those statistics. We showed them the grace of God and bid them to come closer in fellowship, to experience the love of a good God, who is no longer dealing with man on the basis of his sins but rather the relationship of His Son. We gave them positives – something to fight for, rather than against. We have found a broken down, burned out people who instinctively are moving away from the political and self-righteous catch phrases as solutions to their problems and are turning to search for something real and relevant. We are showing them that there is a place in the heart of Christ for them.
That means sometimes we don’t turn away a couple who is living together outside of marriage, new to the concept of church and believing in this God of grace and mercy, as we disciple them lovingly in the Kingdom. Messy? Oh yes. Not easy at all. Trusting the Holy Spirit rather than just following a set of rules and processes is never easy for our flesh. That might mean we must teach Mary that she can still capture the love and desire of her husband, Jack, if she will still show him respect in a language he can understand – even though he was unfaithful to her. That might mean we de-code the phrases of “weaker partner” and “submission,” and reveal the strength of both the men and women who form this most serious of bonds.
It is time for the body to rethink its approach to marriage, counseling, and the sanctity of all life – believers and those who have yet to believe. It is time for Grace and Truth, and for people to remember that our good Father will bring all men to Himself by His goodness. In this truth, we are finally finding all the answers, and most importantly, we are finding Him.