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Divorce and Grace
by John Collings

April 6, 2006

Dear _____________,

I heard you asking me in your short phone call to explain how divorce is covered by grace.

I have spent some time understanding Marriage and Divorce. I was the one who committed adultery in my first marriage, and I have religious brother-in-laws who made it clear that I was living in sin with Janie and should have gone back to my first marriage despite the fact that we already had two children of our own. It wasn’t difficult for me to get past the rightness of their arguments and on to Grace. But, ________, the law is holy and righteous there can be no arguing the law. Clearly adultery is a sin, divorce is a sin, looking at another with lust is a sin. If we rank sin by how many it hurts then divorce is way up there at the top of the list.

Still I have much to say about this, but not by discussing the relative sinfulness of one sin which by the law is made even more sinful by continuing in it (adultery), or another that breaks up homes and families and forever affects the lives of innocent children (divorce).

_______, begin by putting the verses you are concerned about into context of the whole thought and then the book and even the bible, then consider God’s heart and purpose. Don’t get stuck on the “jots and tittles”. The sermon that Jesus was teaching in Matthew 5 doesn’t begin with what sinners we are. It begins by telling us of how we are blessed. Are you “poor in spirit”, do you mourn, are you meek, do you hunger and thirst for righteousness, are you pure in heart, are you a peacemaker? Yes to any of these and Jesus calls you blessed. In truth, ¬¬¬¬_________, you are all of these, and you are blessed.

Continue friend and you find that you are the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Christ lives in you and through you is all of this).

Then Christ makes the law even more difficult than it was “of Old”. Where the law says you should not kill, Jesus says that being angry is the same; and for anger you will burn in hell. For ANGER, ________ you deserve Hell, but then he gives a way out.

Continuing Jesus says “you have heard it said of old (old testament law) Thou shalt not commit adultery” but then he takes the law that men think they might be able to fulfill and makes that impossible. Looking at someone with Lust is as bad as adultery; so bad that you should pluck out your eye rather than be tempted. It is better to lose your sight than for your whole body to be cast into hell.

Then Jesus mentions the old testament way out of marriage (divorce), but even following the prescribed way it is wrong and just as wrong to remarry and though he doesn’t say it the penalty for this would be “cast into hell”.

Thou shalt not swear, thou shalt not, thou shalt not, thou shalt not. So he makes sin utterly sinful. There is no way to goodness.

Then he begins to speak of charity and love and ends with the most difficult commandment there is. This is the commandment that brought me to my knees to realize it is impossible for me to be righteous.

“Be ye therefore PERFECT, even as your father in heaven is perfect.” This is a commandment. We aren’t called to live a good life, or a life better than average. We are called to live a perfect life.

Don’t stop with chapter 5 read the whole sermon in this context (through chapter 7), then read on and see how Jesus lived out His life showing the example of how to live. We can’t do that either, but it is the end of the story that is the real beginning for us. He died, descended into Hell himself, the Hell that we were condemned to. After living the one perfect life he willingly went to that hell that we should have been cast into. He was resurrected. But, __________, the resurrection wasn’t the miracle; the miracle was that he gave us the Holy Spirit. His life to be our life. So the Grace is Him in us. That is the mystery of the gospel and who can get it by arguing the law. Understanding the mystery only comes by revelation and that usually by a crisis that has pushed us beyond our capabilities.

So there is no way to argue the law. Jesus didn’t try but he took it to its extreme. Remember that he began by saying “I have not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it”. How is this? First he makes the law more difficult than it was for the Pharisee who was the supreme law abider and says that “our righteousness MUST EXCEED theirs. You must know that there is only one way this is possible. Only Christ can obey the law. We must DIE. We must receive his Life that he has freely given us. We must live by God life. Then as Paul said, we become not just good enough; we become the fulfillment of the law, those of us who are in Christ Jesus. It is Him who fulfills the law, and His life has become our life. Truly we live by Christ.

With Love,

John . . .