Divorce and Works

I have heard lots of psychologists, “Christian” and otherwise, give plenty of talks regarding the problem of alcoholism – sin or disease?  But everybody agrees that it is not good; many confirmed alcoholics would like to quit.  What makes it “sin” is when a person refuses to do anything about it.  After all, any normal person tries to get rid of a sickness; he becomes responsible for his plight if he ignores or denies it.

And so with divorce.  We have a tendency to be legalistic, having all kinds of rules regarding many different areas in religion, even how to worship.  And so people get all bent out of shape in asking such questions, “Is divorce OK under this circumstance, etc.?”  Rules, rules!  Jesus was asked that same thing, and cut through it all by saying, Divorce is wrong, period.  Like murder, say.  If those who persist in such (or doting relatives who defend them, by saying, This is not the unpardonable sin!) would simply say, “It’s wrong; I am sorry.  If I could restore the union, I would. The fault was mine as much as hers (or his).”  Then we could go on from there.  Every sin is pardonable.  To get a divorce under “permissible” circumstances is like a man shooting somebody in self-defense; he says, “It is wrong, always, to kill anybody.  I am sorry I did.  I regret I had to.  But there was no alternative.”  People who divorce on shoddy or no grounds are saying, “There is no alternative” – when often there is.  They are denying it’s wrongfulness.  All of which is a sign of an unregenerative, unchanged heart.  It is disagreeing with God, who says, “I hate divorce” – Malachi.

And that is what is involved in the statement in John 3, right after vs 16 – that Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world (which some people misinterpret to mean that everybody will be saved!) but to save the world.  That is; he did not come to give some more bright ideas as to what is right and wrong (which is how some people interpret the Sermon on the Mount, etc.).  We have plenty of that already.  Jesus said, I have come to change you; make you new people.  I am not telling you what to do and what not to do, but rather, what you ought to, and can, be!   Other religious leaders are always and forever fastening new rules on you; Jesus said my “yoke” is easy, my burden is light.  Learn of me.  Be like me.  Let me live in you.  Relax; quit trying so hard.

Which, by the way, is what is all wrong with this thing you often hear in sermons; Jesus did so much for us; let us try to do more for him.  The gratitude-attitude.  Self-effort.  That is not the gospel. That’s salvation by works.  If we are saved, then we automatically and naturally will live the Christian life; or rather, Christ will live his life in and through us.

Martin Luther, in his good reaction to Roman Catholicism and “earning” salvation, stressed that last point.  That’s why we need another Reformation.  The Heidelberg Catechism is off the track here, in its third part which says, Since God and Christ have done so much for us, what should we do for them?  The Bible says, God is at work in us to desire and do what is right, what he wants us to do, for our own good.

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