Several years ago David Pawson, a well known British Bible teacher challenged our congregation in Kansas City to fight for marriages. For the church to be a community where divorce was truly a rare thing. His words have haunted me…” What does it look like to do that? Another marriage seminar, counseling programs, or write another book? “Until recently answers eluded me. Before I share my thoughts let me give a disclaimer of what this article isn’t about.
Friends I am not writing to condemn any who’ve felt the sting of divorce. Yet this godly man’s words echo in my spirit. Growing up in the church I’ve seen the religious response that condemned, shamed, punished, and ostracized the divorced. I certainly do not condone or advocate for that response. If you’ve felt the sting of that, my heart and empathy are extended towards you. That was wrong. However, could it be said today, that in our zeal to love the hurting, we’ve actually fostered a culture that accepts divorce as normal rather than a rare and tragic thing?
In doing so, have we made it so acceptable that people throw in the towel as easily as one might file bankruptcy or default on a home loan? Marriage is not a contract, it is a covenant and that reality has apparently been lost to much of the church.
Where are the men and women of covenant who will fight and contend for a broken marriage, even when it looks like all hope is gone? One of my fellow Pastors, recently shared a personal story that happened in a previous church he Pastored. His story is a paraphrase and I’ve changed the names, but I assure you it is true.
A few of the men in the church I was pastoring had finished reading John Eldredge’s book, “Wild At Heart”, and we decided to form a “Band of Brothers.” A covenant to be “iron that sharpen’s iron.” To grow deep in the things of God together. We met regularly we grew deep in friendship and our love for God.
One day one of the wives, called me to say her husband had packed up his pick-up and was moving to the east coast with his girlfriend. Our little “Band of Brothers” gathered to pray. We were shocked, “Bill” was an elder in the church. We thought we knew him well, none of us had seen this coming. One of the men said, we should all travel back east, and knock on the door of the house Bill was “shacking up” with his girlfriend. When he opened the door, we’d tell him that we loved him too much to let him throw away his marriage, family, and walk away from the LORD and his covenant. All of us agreed it was a great idea, but none of us had the money personally, nor did the church. We prayed about it and went on our way.
A little while later a woman called me at the church to say the LORD had told her to give a certain amount to our church. She didn’t know of our situation or prayer, her gift covered the entire expense. “Bill” was shocked when we showed up on his doorstep. He was overwhelmed and broke into repentance. A prodigal encountering the loving arms of his Father. It took lots of work to rebuild that marriage, but today a marriage is restored.
I share this story to inspire us. “Bill”‘s wife showing up at that house probably wouldn’t have resulted in a heart overwhelmed by love and conviction. It was costly, courageous, and inconvenient but a small group of guys in community modeled Covenant that day. That band of brothers didn’t simply “swoop in and save the day!” They walked with both “Bill” and his wife. I was challenged by this story to contend for the ending of divorce and covenantal abuse (domestic abuse). What would it look like if we fought for one another’s marriages? Families restored, sons and daughters given first-hand examples of covenant, commitment, forgiveness and love, even sacrificial love, looks like.
Galatians6:1-2 “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
Let’s commit to building friendships and community that have spiritual depth, investing enough relational capital so that when the next “Bill” falls in our church, we’ll have enough influence to build a bridge that will lead him back to the place of repentance, healing and restoration. Lord, we need your help to walk this out.