“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed seem beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’
“Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. – Matthew 23:27-36 (NKJV)
Jesus took issue with the Pharisees because as hard as the law was for the people to follow, they added to it and made it impossible. Yet they themselves indulged in sin and put on the air of being more righteous than everyone else. They loved to stand in judgement of others. As Jesus said, outwardly they appeared to be righteous but inside they were full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.
Jesus came to set people free from religion because of the yoke it puts on people. Religion doesn’t save anyone, it kills and destroys hope while making the self-righteous feel good about themselves because of the power they can exert over others. Jesus said; Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28-29 (NKJV) In Luke He said; “ The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed; Luke 4:18 (NKJV)
In dying on the cross Jesus made it possible for us to find mercy and grace when we mess up. There is no sin too great that He will not forgive with the exception of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Matthew 12:31 In Christ all are equal, whether they be Jew or Gentile, rich or poor or man or woman. There are no second class citizens. But in many parts of the church there are those that have set themselves up as judges and put yokes on others they themselves would not readily carry.
I used to attend a church in a mainline denomination her in Canada. It was the church I had known for most of my Christian walk. I had left for a while because I disagreed with the direction that a new pastor was taking the church in. In the months that followed my marriage started unraveling and my wife filed for separation and divorce. It was not something I wanted and for several years afterwards I fought it in the courts and vigorously sought to reconcile with her to no avail. When I came back to the church I was in my 4th year of separation and had custody of my children. I came back because there was a new pastor and I wanted my children to attend the Christian school they had which I had helped to set up as a deacon before I left the first time.
God had called me into singing ministry many years ago and the calling upon my heart to serve was strong. But in going back to the church I began to hit many walls. Many of the brothers and sisters I used to call friends were distant and even when I asked to usher I was told that I couldn’t and whereas in the past I was always given opportunities to use my musical talent, I was now passed over. One Sunday there was a special communion service where all deacons and elders, past and present were called up to be honoured. I was the only one who was not. I talked with some about wanting to get remarried one day again if I couldn’t reconcile with my wife and was told not to even entertain those thoughts as I would have to stay single for the rest of my life. I felt crushed and wondered where God’s mercy was in all this.
Years before I had a friend who was divorced through no fault of his own. He met someone in the church and they fell in love and decided to get married. They were counselled against it by the church and told that they would not be allowed to marry there. They decided to find another church that would accommodate them. They invited my wife and I and as I was a young Christian I decided that we would not attend because of him being previously divorced. Many from our church decided the same thing and also refused to attend. It hurt them deeply. Here were brothers and sisters that supposedly loved them standing in judgement over them. I have since regretted that decision as very poor judgement on my part.
Divorce is a big problem in the church today and there are those that take lightly the covenant made in marriage. Many divorce simply because “they’ve lost that loving feeling.” or they meet someone else and declare as in the case of Amy Grant that their marriage was a mistake. But there are also those who are victims of divorce. Those who did all they could to hold their marriage together but in the end they lost and they see their ex-spouses marry another partner and seemingly find happiness. Many were married to unbeliever’s or lost their spouse to adultery. They have gone through unbelievable pain and sorrow. When my wife left me and went with another man I felt as if my very soul was being ripped apart. It sent me tail spinning into a period of depression and darkness that only God was able to lift me out of. The last thing these people or I needed to hear is you are no longer worthy to serve in the church or that they need to spend the rest of their lives alone while they see their ex’s remarried and living happy lives. There is something seriously wrong with this picture.
Many churches use 1 Timothy 3:2 to disqualify the divorced and remarried from ministry. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behaviour, hospitable, able to teach. If this was the case then those who have had a spouse pass away would also be disqualified. In reality Paul was addressing the problem of polygamy. During Paul’s and Timothy’s time it wasn’t uncommon for a man to be married to more than one woman at a time.
Is divorce or being a victim of divorce an unpardonable sin that disqualifies you form serving or remarrying again? According to many churches they would say yes. Really? Is that the Word of God or the opinion of man? Lets look at Matthew 12:31; “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Hmm, I don’t see divorce there. Jesus says every sin will be forgiven except blasphemy against the Spirit. In my case I did not sin, my wife divorced me against my will. It was seven years before I granted it to her. Does that disqualify me from serving in the ministry? Romans 11:29 says; “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” That tells me that no man has the right to suppress the area of service God has called you to unless you are living a life of unrepentant sin.
The bible makes two allowances for divorce. The first is if an unbeliever wishes to leave a believing spouse, that spouse is no longer under bondage and is free. But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace. 1 Corinthians 7:15 The second is in the case of adultery. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.” Matthew 19:9
Christians who stand in judgement of those who have been divorced or are victims of divorce and treat them as second class citizens forget one very important thing. Psalm 103:8 says The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. Mercy and grace are two things that are shown to every repentant sinner no matter what they have done. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9. So now if God can forgive and treat us with love and respect why can’t the church?
I have met the most beautiful woman, inside and out, I have ever known. She is a widow and she is everything I have prayed about for years. It is a miracle that God brought us together. We will be getting married in the near future and already there are those who are already lining up to judge us by the fact that I am a victim of divorce. People from outside the church see these things and they ask why they would want to attend a church that stands in judgement and condemns those who through no fault of their own have lost in marriage. They see the lack of compassion. What they need to see is the love of Christ. A love that doesn’t remember our sins after we repent. He sets us back up and tells us to carry on and show the same love and compassion to others that He has shown us. Sadly many forget.