Writing to free the prisoner of one idea, crossing the bridge of paradox to truth, serving the legacies of Chesterton and Lewis who defended their faith in Christ
Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright. – Proverbs 14:9
There is among a growing number in the church an attitude that seems more in keeping with the character in a long ago film about an illegal car race. The driver starts to adjust his rear view mirror, but instead, rips it down from the windshield and tosses it as he says: “What’s behind me is not important.” Why? Because the rules don’t matter. The people behind him don’t matter. The only things that matter are what’s important to him. His happiness. His well-being. We are at that point: what we have done to people in our past doesn’t seem to matter to us. It’s as if we just delete them and the damage we may have done to them from our hard drive. Our ‘new life’ as Christians is more important and we think we deserve to have a brand new life that is suited to our happiness and desires. It’s true, as Christians we are in a race but St. Paul says that in order to get the prize we must contend according to the rules. But are we contending according to the rules?
Not long ago, respected pastor, Dr. Albert Mohler, spoke about this trend and called it ‘Moral therapeutic deism‘. Its characteristics show a marked form of narcissism which experts also say is on the rise. It is an attitude that professes a sort of ‘selfish salvation’ concerned only with what is desirable for that person rather than an inward conviction of wanting to be just and righteous, of wanting to make amends for what one has done which signals that a new and changed inner person has been born (John 3:3). And yet, this attitude does not seem to have slowed down the visits to counselors and psychiatrists nor the need for anti-depressants. It has not slowed down the constant desire to be distracted with entertainments to make oneself feel better. Does that describe what inner peace should look like? Would you be interested to know that St. Paul spoke of the reason why it doesn’t represent the kind of inner peace Jesus was talking about ? (John 14:27) A situation had arisen in the congregation at Corinth requiring some strong words from Paul. But as a result, the congregation took those strong words to heart and did what was needed to make the matter right:
Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. So even though I wrote to you, it was neither on account of the one who did the wrong nor on account of the injured party, but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are. By all this we are encouraged. – 2 Corinthians 7: 8-13 (italics, writer)
Writing this has caused me some sorrow. I can well understand why Paul says what he does. No one who loves and cares wants to cause others sorrow…unless as Paul says it leads to repentance and God is obeyed and lives are saved. So as a result of their sorrow did you see that they were longing to see that justice was done to the one wronged? What is at the heart of this is being concerned with justice being done to the person you or I have wronged. We love when this is reversed and justice is being down for ourselves. But God is asking more from us. He is asking us to be just in this lesson about Christian love. We are to love righteousness and justice:
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. – Micah 6:8
This is a hallmark of the Christian spirit and character. Being just toward others is part of sincere love ( Romans 12:9 ) just as much as mercy and humility are and marks us as different from the world. If its not there, something is wrong. Something is missing and that is holiness.
Specifically, one of these areas where holiness is missing is how we treat marriage. Marriage has become something to be viewed as a route to personal fulfillment and desire rather than something that is holy and a lifetime vow. In fact, we now think it is defined solely by the government and not God despite knowing “what God has joined together, let no man put apart” (Matt. 19:6). Because we are so preoccupied with making ourselves happy that we actually have come to believe (despite the consistency of the scriptures stating otherwise on the matter) that governments can issue a decree to breakup the marriage and God simply goes along with our decision. There are even some, who despite knowing that God sees the heart, are willing to twist scripture to their favor or, to state it emphatically, lie to act upon their desire to end the marriage. They do not seem to consider, perhaps even not to care, about the fate of their mate’s everlasting life which is now in jeopardy along with theirs when they do this. So what exactly does this kind of situation look like “in real life” you may ask? Can you go back and make amends if you have acted unjustly towards God and your mate? Can a marriage be restored that our society thinks is dead?
C.S. Lewis considers Christian marriage in his book Mere Christianity and note what he has to say about the issue of justice to one’s mate and marriage:
Before we consider this modern view in its relation to chastity, we must not forget to consider it in relation to another virtue, namely justice. Justice, as I said before, includes the keeping of promises. Now everyone who has been married in a church has made a public, solemn promise to stick to his (or her) partner till death…
To this someone may reply that he regarded the promise made in church as a mere formality and never intended to keep it. Whom, then, was he trying to deceive when he made it? God? That was really very unwise. Himself? That was not very much wiser. The bride, or bridegroom, or the “in-laws”? That was treacherous. Most often, I think, the couple (or one of them) hoped to deceive the public. They wanted the respectability that is attached to marriage without intending to pay the price: that is, they were impostors they cheated. If they are still contented cheats, I have nothing to say to them: who would urge the high and hard duty of chastity on people who have not yet wished to be merely honest? If they have now come to their senses and want to be honest, their promise, already made, constrains them. And this, you will see, comes under the heading of justice, not that of chastity.
If we want to be honest, especially in regards the modern idea of remarriage, an idea that has unfortunately been endorsed even by those in the church helping to break up family after family, we must remember the promise made between two Christians before God, that constrains them. We must doubly consider it because of the consequences made quite clear by Jesus about those who sought to remarry on grounds they do not and did not have and the horrific position they have put their innocent mate in by sinning in this way. If such is the case, it is time to make amends with God and your mate and set things straight back to where they should be with God’s help. What has been done, can be undone. You can go back and make it right by returning to your covenant spouse.
If the attitudes and social mores of our post-modern world are holding you back; don’t let them. Why be ruled by the *”clock or the century”? Is God going to be concerned with how others think of you or with what is right being done? Is He more concerned with your personal desires or with obedience to Him and love towards your mate?
If you would like support from those who have listened to God and returned to their covenant marriage, Rejoice Marriage Ministries is a scripturally-based ministry that encourages and prays for both those who stand and wait on God for their marriages to be restored and also for those who have left to return.
*G.K. Chesterton, The Flag of the World, Orthodoxy.
An imbecile habit has arisen in modern controversy of saying that such and such a creed can be held in one age but cannot be held in another. Some dogma, we are told, was credible in the twelfth century, but is not credible in the twentieth. You might as well say that a certain philosophy can be believed on Mondays, but cannot be believed on Tuesdays. You might as well say of a view of the cosmos that it was suitable to half-past three, but not suitable to half-past four. What a man can believe depends upon his philosophy, not upon the clock or the century.