Lots of people have lots of questions about matters of faith. I know this. I also know that many folks are reluctant to ask those questions. Sometimes it is because the question might reveal too much about their struggles. Sometimes it’s because they asked a question once and it led to judgment or dismissal. Sometimes folks fear that the question is silly.
First, I want to say that there are no silly questions when it comes to matters of faith. Second, I want you to know that Pastor Travis and I welcome questions of all kinds because dialogue is something the Holy Spirit uses to build us up. Third, I want to tell you that pastors don’t always have answers, but we can always work to find them together.
This year, I am adding an element to our Adult Learning ministry called Table Talk which will invite anyone to submit questions for consideration, discussion, and occasionally, a best attempt at an answer.
To give you an example, let me start with a question lots of people have and a few over the years have asked. Is divorce a sin? This usually follows a Sunday when the scripture readings have raised the matter. Perhaps this passage from Mark 10:
He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:11-12)
Well, that seems clear; even harsh. So, what of all the people who have experienced divorce? Are they hopeless sinners? First, let’s talk about sin. What is it? Sin is essentially anything that separates us from God or neighbor. A broken relationship between me and God, me, and creation, or me and my neighbor are manifestations of sin. In fact, to have a broken relationship with neighbor or creation is to necessarily have a broken relationship with God.
Keeping this in mind, I don’t think anyone can argue that divorce is not all about broken relationships and the pain that results. In this sense, divorce is sin, it is brokenness. God never intends for us to suffer the pain that comes from divorce which is why the marriage covenant is taken quite seriously in scripture and church. The incarnation of Christ shows us that when a family suffers through the pain of divorce, Christ suffers too.
The real question is not whether divorce is a sin. The real question is whether God’s forgiveness and reconciliation can overcome the brokenness. Can God, does God, forgive divorce. Absolutely. Without question. Here’s what the ELCA writes about divorce in its statement on Human Sexuality:
“This church recognizes that in some situations the trust upon which marriage is built becomes so deeply damaged or is so deeply flawed that the marriage itself must come to a legal end (Matthew 19:3–12). This church does not treat divorce lightly nor does it disregard the responsibilities of marriage. However, in such situations, it provides support to the people involved and all who are affected. Divorced individuals are encouraged to avail themselves of pastoral care, to be assured of God’s presence, forgiveness, and healing, and to remain in the communion of the church, recognizing the all-encompassing mercy of God.” (17)
God’s intention for the world is peace, love, hope, and the unity of people. Divorce can indeed be contrary to these divine intentions. Sometimes a relationship becomes too broken, too alienating, too toxic for this intention to continue. Divorce is a painful remedy. The cross teaches us that out of that kind of brokenness and pain, resurrection can happen, new beginnings are possible, reconciliation and hope are available. These are God’s answers to the brokenness of any human relationship that goes awry. God will restore what is broken.
If you have a question you would like to ask, please feel free to post a comment on this blog. There is always room at the table to talk.
Pax Christi – Tim Olson, Lead Pastor