In Defense of the Faith
Tuesday, June 07, 2016
My intent for today’s column was, like most weeks, something in the area of apologetics --meaning head knowledge that proves the Bible is true. But that changed with a phone call. One that notified me that yet another strong Christian marriage has gone down in flames. Which makes the total, just among ostensibly strong Christians that our family knows well, to three just in a matter of weeks.
The first in this string of heart-wrenching family implosions hit me hard. A couple that my husband and I were particularly close to as a young couple and had always considered the perfect Christian family. Stalwart, faithful followers of God, with six kids, by all appearances happy as a family could be until a facebook post, in April, announced their split.
Six kids. I grieved for a week. At least.
Second: my own campus pastor, admitting to an extra-marital affair with a female member of the congregation—the 4th pastor to go down in similar lack-of-fidelity flames over our 12 years as members.
(I know you’re wondering why we are still there, so I'll tell you. The head pastor (who oversees both campuses) also has six kids and is an incredible expositor of the Word as well as a genuine, personable stand-up guy that is no doubt the best pastor and teacher I have ever had. He put lots of policies in place intended to protect both this staff and the congregation from falling into sin when he took over from the last philanderer, but our campus pastor disregarded them. So he’s gone, and we’re still here.
But it was a catastrophic event with ongoing repercussions for the families involved, the new plant campus (which suddenly has an awful lot of empty seats) and the community we live in (that had recently named this individual “Man of the year”).
Now another family, both on their second marriage, with whom we have enjoyed many years of fellowship, studying the Bible together, breaking bread together, and watching each other’s kids soccer games and baseball games and concerts.
Rock Solid Christians who love the Lord.
But again: infidelity, and again, divorce looming on the horizon.
So what gives? My Bible tells me that God sets a pretty high value on marriage, and on fidelity within marriage.
You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer looks with favor on your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, “Why?” It is because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.
Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth.“The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,”says the Lord Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful. Malachi 2:13-16 NKJV
My Bible also tells me pretty clearly that bailing out, for Christians, is not an option.
But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery .Matthew 5:32
So I say again, “what gives"?
Here’s what gives. First of all, nobody is really rock solid. We’re all sinners, saved by grace and the Scriptures warn us not to get too cocky.
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. I Peter 1:8
That means he looks for an opening with every one of us every day. Which, in my opinion, is why the Scriptures also say.
“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” I Corinthians 10:12
But I think we all have to admit to ourselves that it’s not just the wiles of the devil that does us in. It’s also our own smug selves not recognizing the fact that no matter how mature we are in the faith and how much praising the Lord we did on Sunday, our sinful nature remains till the Lord comes. And that sinful nature is always waiting for an opportunity to fan into flames the root cause, a battle for all of us, I’d venture to say all day every day. A root cause that the passage in I Corinthians actually identifies a view verses later: Idolatry.:
Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.
All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. I Cor 10;14,23
The law was nailed to the cross, and we are saved by grace. So it can be all too easy to excuse our own sin. And you’d have to look up a whole different book to find Galatians 5:13:
“you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh”.
Sinful creatures, we are. But that’s not going to change till we see Him face to face. So what are we to do?
Trust, pray, abide, stay, obviously, but I think there is one more little example to follow hidden away in Psalms. Psalm 101, to be exact:
I will conduct the affairs of my house with a blameless heart. I will not look with approval on anything that is vile.
The version I memorized it says this: “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes.”
That’s a tough one. What about the hundred channels on my TV (not even counting the porn). What about the internet, youtube, facebook, gossip magazines, (I only look at them while I’m waiting to get checked out, so that doesn’t count, Right?) And don’t even get me started on today’s selection of movies. My husband and I always check out Focus on the Family’s movie reviews site (Plugged In), which provides specific information on what to expect in terms of sex, language, violence, and general world view issues. But even then we sometimes capitulate. And most of the believing friends we mention it to are unaware of the resource and aren’t interested. We routinely hear friends praise movies that we have crossed off the list because of plentiful sex or language. (Including a large group of Christian women I know who went together to see Magic Mike. A male Stripper).
I know, I know. That’s all there is to pick from anymore. But what you subsidize you get more of. If Christians voted more with their dollars we’d likely see the sex, language and violence toned down.
But I digress. The bottom line, in my opinion, is this. It’s us against the culture, and for now, it seems the culture is winning. The divorce rate among Christians is reported to be no different than that of unbelievers, and a recent study found the divorce rate in areas where Southern Baptist churches predominated, it’s even higher than the culture as a whole.
I may not have mentioned that it is, in fact, a Southern Baptist church that I attend.
The sad thing is that God hates divorce, and for two reasons. First, because it is a tragedy for the people involved, and second, because he established marriage to be a picture of what his relationship with humankind was to be:
"neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. …Therefore do not be partakers with them." Ephesians 5:4-5
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”
Here’s the part you very seldom hear at a wedding, the reason got instituted marriage:
This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:22-32
What that means is the body of believers in our day, at least in the west, are missing the boat big time on two levels. To begin with, we have accommodated to the cultural erosion of moral standards regarding the sanctity of marriage, and in the meantime, we distorted the message that our marriages were supposed to convey to the lost. And I think it stems from what see set in front of our eyes.
The word of God, eternal, living, active and powerful, or the movies, magazines, TV shows, books, and videos, that are a product of our modern post-Christian culture.
Which is, on its best day, worthless. And when you watch enough movies that feature meaningless sex and divorce and cheating spouses, it’s like the frog in the hot water. What would have, at one point, horrified us seems like no big deal.
And as a Christian living in that culture, I can testify that without deliberate effort on any given day we’ll get a whole lot more worthless coming in than any message that will spur us on to love and good deeds or to seek after God.
"I will set nothing wicked before my eyes." Psalm 101:3
Onward, Christian Soldiers!
That’s our marching orders.
About Wendy Wippel
Last week: Grace, Freely
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