Friday, June 28, 2013
Do you have Biblical Compassion for the Divorced?
Does it ever seem to you that Christians often choose between holding to what are perceived as the biblical principles of the righteous ideals God desires or holding to the virtues of compassion and mercy. You may recall the Gospel accounts of Jesus reproving some of the Jewish leaders for being more concerned about their rules of righteousness than they were about being concerned for the struggling people around them. It would seem that the balance between standing for righteous principles and being a person of mercy has been a difficult one for sincere religious individuals to manage for many years.
Divorce is an area in which this dichotomy manifests itself quite frequently. How does a God fearing Christian stand up for the sanctity of marriage, and yet deal with the reality that many individuals within the church as well as outside it have foundered in the breakwaters of divorce? I received a note from a friend the other day that included another article in which the writer came down hard on the high ideal of marriage and the unacceptability of divorce in the church. And let me quickly add, I agree, that divorce should not exist among Christians, and if every individual who claims the name of Christ were always totally obedient to everything God desires of us, we would see divorce disappear from among us. And, of course, we would also see church splits come to an end, gossip would find no place in our ranks and we would be so caring for one another that no individual would feel pushed aside or unwelcome in the body of Christ. It is a good thing to stand up for the highest ideals, to believe in the perfection of God’s design.
But as long as we live in this world, it is a necessary thing to stand for those ideals with a recognition of the fact that the sin and brokenness in this world has left us all scarred and far short of God’s perfection, apart from the mercy of God and the justification purchased on the cross.
So while holding firm to the sanctity of marriage, we acknowledge with sorrow those many times those vows have been discarded, ignored and shattered by behaviors and attitudes that end in divorce. But, as Jesus pointed out in the passage above, our sin broken world must be met with mercy and compassion for those whose lives have been devastated by the ravages of fallen creation.
I guess the point is, I appreciate that there is a need to stand strong for biblical teachings, yet with recognition that biblical teaching includes not merely a list of high standards and lofty ideals, but also the example of compassion and mercy toward individuals whose lives have been shattered, scarred, even misguided as they navigate their way in this fallen world. Jesus demonstrated it toward prostitutes, tax collectors, outcasts, those declared unclean…countless individuals who longed for a kind word of hope and promise that could lift them out of the mire and give them the second chance they needed. Jesus offered it not only to those who had yet to follow him, but also to individuals like Peter himself, who time and again needed to learn, grow and be given one more chance.
If you have been bound up in despair, feeling cast away from God and unworthy of God’s love because of the shortcomings, sins and mistakes of your life, then know that you are exactly the kind of person to whom Jesus himself offered mercy while walking the earth. Do your best, by the power of God, to pursue the high ideals God establishes for his people, falling upon his mercy and grace when you have fallen short.
If you are a person who has lost your balance, and have either compromised away the ideals God would call us to follow, or have kept the ideals but run roughshod over people God loves as you held to them, then perhaps today would be a good day to learn the lesson Jesus tried to teach, that God desires mercy, not sacrifice, and thus become a person of mercy as part of your noble ideals. Because Jesus demonstrated to those of us who would follow, that the world is filled with people desperate to know that the mercy of God extends even to them in their brokenness and despair.