Monday, September 05, 2011

The Necessity of Divorce

Did you know that of the words in the Scriptures for Forgiveness some are the same as for Divorce?

Forgiveness is divorcing or separating or sending away or loosing an offender from that person’s offence so that becoming divorced from the person is avoided. This is what God does for us. He looks upon us with mercy and love so that He takes our offenses and pays for them so as to be able to divorce us from our offenses. He cuts us off from our sins so that He does not have to cut us off from Himself.

This is the way of forgiveness. It is entirely one-sided. The one who forgives acts entirely apart from the one who is forgiven. From the side of the one who has been offended, a divorce is enacted, a divorce of all recollection and accounting of the offense in connection with the offender.

In order for the offender to receive this forgiveness the offender must be called to repentance. The person must be made willing to hear that the offense is genuine and that the person must be turned from the offense to the forgiveness and renewal of life with the one who was offended. The result is healing and restoration.

We forgive because God has forgiven us and has called us to repentance. Knowing what He has forgiven us, we look to others with eagerness to forgive them what they have done wrong to us.

If we do not act in this way it is because we have not truly received God repentance and forgiveness ourselves. No one who is abiding in God’s forgiveness can hold a grudge and refuse forgiveness, especially to those who repent and ask forgiveness of us. If one refuses to forgive, that person refuses to receive forgiveness. How can anyone truly believe the Gospel, the wonderful message of what God in Christ has done to redeem us all, how can such a believer not acknowledge the “for all” part of God’s forgiveness? How can one who truly knows God’s forgiveness reject the fact that this forgiveness includes the wrongs that are done to us personally?

It simply is not possible. This why Jesus commands us to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses, even as we forgive those who trespass against us.” This is the way of forgiveness. It is the only way. Forgiveness begets forgiveness. Moreover, to refuse to forgive on our part, is to deny the reality of what God has already forgiven in Christ. How can we look upon another sinner for whom Christ died and not forgive on our part?

This is why so many “Christians” become divorced. If they truly believed God’s forgiveness, they would continually forgive one another, calling each other to return to the Lord’s forgiveness and to abide in the unity of that forgiveness together. How can anyone claiming to be a Christian even begin to argue that there exist “irreconcilable differences” between the two marriage partners? This is equal to saying, “I do not believe in the power of God’s forgiveness.”

There is only one irreconcilable difference that prevents reconciliation. That is when people do not agree to the means through which God works His forgiveness in us. The Lord has plainly declared His means of grace. He has recorded them in His Holy Scriptures. If we refuse to acknowledge them and receive them as He has ordained, the reconciliation that He has accomplished in Christ is rejected by us and we remain separated both from Him and from one another.

Thanks be to God that He continually calls us to repent even of such denials of His grace so that we receive His forgiveness and in turn forgive one another. Otherwise we would all be without any hope. But He is our hope. His mercy continues to draw us back into His forgiveness and Holy Communion.

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Gary Cepek said...

Romans 8:1-8 offers additional substance to your commentary on the workings of God which affect forgiveness in and also from the repentant believer.

"So those who are believers in Christ Jesus can no longer be condemned. The rule of the Spirit, who gives life, has in Christ Jesus freed you from the rule of sin that kills. What the Law, weakened by the flesh, could not do, God has done by sending His Son to be like sinful flesh and to be a sacrifice for sin. He condemned sin in the flesh so that we who don't follow the flesh but the spirit will be as righteous as the Law demands. Those who follow the flesh have their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who follow the spirit have their minds on the things of the spirit. What the flesh thinks kills, but what the spirit thinks gives life and peace. This is so because the fleshly mind hates God. It refuses to obey God's Law because it can't obey it. Those who are in the flesh can't please God. You are not in the flesh but in the spirit if God's spirit lives in you. But anyone who doesn't have the Spirit of Christ doesn't belong to Him. But if Christ is in you, even though your bodies are dead because you were sinful, your spirits are alive because you are righteous. And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also make your dying bodies alive by His Spirit living in you. And so, fellow Christians, we don't owe it to the flesh to live according to the flesh. If you live according tot he flesh, you will die. But, if by the spirit, you kill the activities of the body, you will live. All who are moved by God's Spirit are God's children. You didn't receive the spirit of slaves to make you feel afraid again, but you received the Spirit who makes us God's adopted children, and moves us to call, 'Abba, Father!' This Spirit assures our spirit that we are God's children, and if children, then heirs, God's heris, and joint heirs with Christ since we share in His suffering in order that we may also share in his glory. I think that what we suffer now isn't important when I compare it with the glory to be revealed to us (AAT).

(continues in the next post)

Gary Cepek said...

(continued from the previous post)

A couple of brief, but not exhaustive notes about this section. 1) The pronoun, you, is plural. As a plural it respectfully reflects, according to its referent, either what is characteristic of either the old sinful nature on the one hand, or what is characteristic of the new man created by the Spirit using the means of grace. 2) As to these two natures that are present in every Christian on earth, there is a clear distinction: my flesh produces only sin; my spirit produces what is God pleasing. There is no overlap between the two. 3) When Paul writes in Romans about the good that he would do, but doesn't, and the evil that he would not do, but does, Paul is not saying this to make an excuse for his sin. These verses in chapter 8 make very clear that there is no excuse for sin in the Christian.

To put these truths together in our understanding, perhaps Luther's 1st thesis of his 95 can be helpful: "When our Lord and Mater, Jesus Christ, said, 'Repent' [MT. 4:17], He willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance."

Our sinful nature, my sinful nature, is so desperately wicked, habitually, overtly, subtly, and any other way we can put it. Because of this temporal truth about "me," there is never a moment when it is not warring against me, the new self, who is created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. God's one-sided forgiveness of my sins, grasped by faith wrought by the Spirit, produces in me the response of forgiving others their wrongs against me, freely and fully, just as God has forgiven mine, freely and fully. At the very same time, the natural self centered, self protecting fruit from my flesh must be "killed by my spirit," as Paul reveals. Thus my entire life, in Christ, is to be one of continual repentance, daily, hourly, minute by minute if need be. Otherwise, the speck in my spouse's eye may well be what the devil arouses my flesh to use, like the world around me does, to use a "my" reason for getting a so-called scriptural divorce - and as the so-called innocent party, let me think I can re-marry guiltlessly; all with the blessing of many theologians.

Pastor siems, thank you for the clear and accurate blog posting you have just written. May our Lord use it to draw His people, forgiven in Christ, to learn more and more to love what is good, to hate what is evil, as their ways of thinking are purified by His pure Word, and as that Word and the blessed Sacraments build them up for such a fight during this life.

Gary Cepek

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