This article will attempt to address one of the most serious problems in the Church, the Body of Christ, today. That problem is theft through fraud. I’m not talking about crooked preachers, or embezzlement from a church body by an employee; even though those can be serious problems, they are only isolated incidents that occur. The subject of this article is a much more widespread problem that affects the Body of Christ worldwide, but especially in the United States. The problem is divorce in general and among Christians in particular.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I never liked having anything stolen from me. Being quite poor growing up, it was difficult enough to have, and keep, anything of value without the threat of loss to a thief. So, my parents always taught me to safeguard the things that I owned, specifically such things as my bike, my ball glove and baseball (yes, as a boy, I loved playing baseball). I usually followed their advice and made sure those items were kept where they belonged. However, there were times when I would forget to do so, and yes, there were times when thieves took what belonged to me, due to my negligence. The result was disheartening since money was not easy to come by, hence the replacement of the stolen items was not a guarantee.
The Thief and the Fraud
We, as Christians, would do well to remember that, as good as our Father in heaven is to us, providing all that we need to be secure, healthy and prosperous, there is another spiritual being in the world who delights in trying to undo everything that God has done.
Jesus described Satan as “the thief”, the one whose sole purpose is ‘to steal, and to kill and to destroy”- (John 10:10 KJV). Satan, the thief, the killer, the destroyer, is always roaming around, looking for a victim of his deception, someone who can be turned from God’s word and redirected on a different path. This is exactly why the Holy Spirit instructed the apostle Peter to pen the words,
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8 KJV).
The word translated ‘sober’ in this passage is from the Greek word, ‘nepho (pronounced nay-fo) and it has duel meanings, 1) to abstain from wine, and 2) to be watchful.
Merriam-Webster defines a ‘fraud’ as: 1) a person who is not what he or she pretends to be: an imposter, 2) one that is not what it seems or is represented to be.
Notice in I Peter 5:8 that the devil is NOT a roaring lion, he only passes himself off as one to deceive and get his victims to willingly, and through fear, enter the trap he sets for his prey. Satan is a fraud and uses fraudulent methods to deceive and trap his victims. We are also told that he seeks anyone whom he may devour. The word ‘may’ hints that the victim has something to say about the devouring process. Unless the victim cooperates with Satan, accepting the deception and lies offered, Satan can easily be repelled. James, the half-brother of Jesus tells us,
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (see James 4:7 KJV).
The key to the repelling of Satan lies in being submitted to God. A huge part of being ‘sober and vigilant’ (Peter’s words) is to ‘submit oneself to God’ (James’s words). According to these scriptures, if one lives in a sober, vigilant manner, submitted to God, the devil must absolutely flee from that person.
History’s Greatest Heist
There have been many Hollywood movies created about great robberies, or heists, that have been committed throughout history. Some of these robberies involve huge sums of gold or other precious metals, large sums of money, priceless works of art, and large amounts of diamonds or other precious stones. As valuable as these might be, from the human perspective, none of them ranks near the top of the list of greatest heists. That dis-honor belongs to the stealing of the union of a man and a woman, joined together before Almighty God by the making of solemn vows, intended to be holy and unbreakable before God.
What Does God Say About Marriage?
God decreed the beauty and holiness of marriage when he crafted a perfect mate, taken from Adam’s own body, to join with Adam shortly after he was created. God intended for Adam and Eve to join (marry), be fruitful, multiply and replenish the earth. Adam said this to God after God had removed a part of Adam’s own body and used it to skillfully create Eve, his perfect helpmate:
“And Adam said, this is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Genesis 2:23 KJV).
Jesus, when questioned by the Pharisees regarding the lawfulness of divorce, answered them this way:
“The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:3-6 KJV).
When God says that a marriage should not be dissolved by any man (or woman), I believe He means just that. For reference, I have provided a link to a previous Chugley’s Chatter article on marriage.
How Important are Vows?
All my life, any wedding ceremony I’ve attended, including my own, had as an integral part, the wedding ‘vows’. I seldom thought about it but now must wonder, what exactly are ‘vows’ and how important are they? Merriam-Webster defines the word vow as: (noun) a solemn promise or assertion; specifically: one by which a person is bound to an act, service, or condition.
Why Do People Make Vows?
Based on the scripture where Jesus stated that, “what God has joined together, no man is to put asunder”, the making of vows, or solemn promises, as part of a wedding/marriage ceremony, is to ensure the participants understand how important the union of a man and a woman is in God’s eyes.
There are other occasions where vows are considered extremely important, such as entering the military, or assuming public office. In each case, the promise of ‘fidelity’ is a critical element for the participants to be successful. When any person who has publicly vowed fidelity to a government, a public office or another person, as in marriage, breaks the vow, nothing good follows
Knowing then the importance of vows, why is divorce so prevalent, especially in The Church? There may be as many answers to that question as there are marriages, but a few are more likely to provide the best insight into this problem. Based on the explicit commandments from God’s Word about marriage, any marriage performed by a minister of the gospel before Almighty God is as much a vow to God as to the persons in the marriage, but that may not be understood, or taken seriously enough, by the participants. The vows made in the marriage ceremony are binding on both parties, and, in God’s eyes, should never be broken (Matthew 19:6 KJV). Marriage vows are made “in faith”, e.g. faith in the other party’s lifetime commitment to the union (till death do us part) and faith in God to provide everything needed to make the marriage successful. If God decreed that a husband and wife should not be ‘put asunder’ (separated), He would surely do all He can to help the husband and wife be successful in the marriage. It must be assumed then that, when a Christian couple decides to divorce, the Word of God was not truly believed by one, or the other, or possibly both.
The Right Kind of Love
Adam and Eve gave little priority to God’s Word when they were commanded to abstain from eating the forbidden fruit, and instead, disobeyed Him and sinned. Many Christian couples also place little priority on God’s commands regarding marriage. Based on God’s Word, and the making of marital ‘vows’ before God, if both participants are believers, why would they consider divorce a solution to marital problems? Did they marry simply because they ‘fell in love’? And, what does it mean to ‘fall in love’? Is it biblical? Love, at least the lasting ‘God-kind’ of love, is not something to ‘fall into’, but this is a question for a future article.
In the Bible, several words are translated ‘love’. There is the Greek word ‘phileo’ (Strong’s 5368, pronounced fil-eh’-o), which means ‘a fondness for’, or an ‘affection for’. This is considered by many to be ‘brotherly love’.
Then there is the Hebrew word ahab (Strong’s 157, pronounced aw-hab’), and it means to have affection for, sexually or otherwise. This could also be considered the Eros love, or the physical sexual attraction that brings a man and a woman together bodily.
Finally, there is the Greek word agapao (Strong’s 25, pronounced ag-ap-ah’-o). This is generally considered the ‘God kind of love’, or the love that God has for all mankind: “For God so loved the world (agapao) that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). This is the ‘love that gives unconditionally’. God’s love was, and is, based on a decision, not a physical attraction, and is expressed thus: “I choose to love you because you are valuable and precious to me, and not because you are lovable.” God loved us when we were in a sinful, filthy state and had nothing to recommend us for His love. It was strictly His decision, based on His agapao love, that provided the means for our redemption.
Therefore the kind of love that every should be built upon is not the kind that two people fall into, but rather a kind based on a decision to love, until death parts them.
Love in Marriage
All three types of biblical love must be found in a Godly marriage if it is to be successful. The husband and wife must have a true affection for one another, such as that between best friends (phileo). They should also share the love that unites them sexually and makes them truly ‘one flesh’ (ahab/Eros). Most importantly, they must have, and understand, the God-kind of love, the love that gives unconditionally. Ahab and phileo love are based on a mutual attraction to, or fondness for, another that can be, and usually is, subject to outside forces that can cause the love to change, to decrease or even disappear altogether. Being more sensual based, these two types of love can be highly influenced by physical appearance, especially aging and/or sickness which eventually takes its toll on our human bodies.
Even so, these factors do not make them any less important in a marriage, but they should not be, indeed cannot be, the foundation for a solid marriage. The foundation must be based on the God-kind of love, the agapao love that God displayed when we were totally unlovable in our fallen, sinful state. In other words, the love that is based on ‘a decision’ and is therefore not subject to outside influences.
In a marriage, this God-kind of love could never be merely the product of a human thought process alone, any more than it could be solely the result of a bodily, physical, sexual attraction. It is based on making a decision which says, “I choose to love you because you are valuable and precious to me; and, just as God loves me, I will continue to love you even when you are the least lovable”. Only when the phileo and ahab love are added to the foundation of agapao love will marital success be possible.
Satan’s Weapon Against Marriage
Satan has hated marriage since God introduced the concept when he created Eve for Adam and instructed them to ‘become one flesh’. By doing so, God placed the responsibility for replenishment of the earth squarely on their shoulders. His perfect plan was to provide the means necessary for the two of them to present God with the family He desired to fellowship with. Satan began tearing married couples apart in the Garden of Eden by tempting them to defy God and receive the promised curse. Unfortunately, he has been very successful in his evil attempt for centuries. Even more unfortunately, men and women have made it easy for him in many cases.
Anytime Satan can cause a man or woman to leave his or her mate, he has succeeded in stealing from those two people the most precious gift, other than salvation, they can receive. For all married couples, marriage is, or should be, a treasure to be protected and cherished, but especially for Christian couples. The devil is successful when he can cause divorce among any married couples, but, I’m sure he gets much more excited when he can convince a Christian couple that divorce is the answer to their problems. In a Christian marriage, how does Satan use his weapon? Other than deception and lies, he is limited in his power to affect our lives. He must therefore get the husband and wife to cooperate with him since he cannot physically force them to separate. What are the means he uses for this deception?
One tactic he uses is to convince the man or his wife that there is someone better-looking, smarter or perhaps wealthier than the present mate. He may try to convince them that the marriage vow is not really that important, that, after all, marriage is nothing more than ‘a piece of paper’. He does not want either one to know that God considers marriage a “taking of vows”, a swearing if you will, to follow a specific moral path, in fidelity to one’s chosen mate, regardless of the problems encountered, or the potential outcome being other than that originally anticipated. Dissolving the marriage means that the vows meant little to nothing when taken, indicating a lack of character in one or both parties.
Satan works toward getting married couples, especially husbands, to lose their ‘self-love’. God decreed that a man and woman, when married, should become ‘one flesh’, and God sees a husband and wife exactly that way, as ‘one flesh’. Paul wrote that, “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones” (Ephesians 5:28-30 KJV). Any man who fails to follow this scripture has placed himself in contradiction against his own body, and that cannot produce a good outcome. A person who does not love himself/herself will not know how to properly love another.
God has a purpose for every man and woman born into the human family. The Word of God is the guideline that must be followed for any person to learn what that purpose is. When a husband and wife decide to terminate a marriage, it means that one or the other, or possibly both, have either not learned their purpose for existence, or do not want to admit what that purpose is. The Bible, God’s Word, must be the marriage guide, as led by the Holy Spirit, in order for marriages to be successful. The Holy Spirit, guiding one into all truth (John 16:13 KJV) becomes the leader, directing the husband and wife on a certain path toward their purpose in life. Fulfillment, rather than gratification, is to be the main goal in marriage. “Without leadership, people seek gratification rather than fulfillment. The latter requires commitment and character. The former does not”. (Quote from Marilyn Barnewall / NewsWithViews / Feb 25,2018)
Too often, married couples allow outside influences to alter the commitment they made when taking the marriage vows. When the commitment is gone the marriage is doomed. It takes a mighty effort on the part of both a husband and a wife to make any marriage work. Success is certainly not automatic. Once the glitter and the celebration and the giddiness of the wedding ceremony are gone, the real work begins. Only those couples who are truly tuned in to God’s Word have the slightest hope of having a good and lasting marriage, let alone a great one. The mates who remain in touch with God’s Word, which is His will, can experience a lasting fellowship with God as well as the joy of a wonderful, lasting God-ordained marriage. Building a good, successful marriage is a sign of reverence for God.
In God’s Word, we are given great counsel, which when followed, will help any married couple build a marriage that works and lasts ‘unto death’. For example, the Apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesian believers:
“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.” (Ephesians 5:22-33 KJV).
If every Christian husband would realize that the word ‘love’, used by Paul in all the verses above is the agapao, the God-kind of love, and realize that he is to love his wife in the same unconditional way that God loves us, his marriage would become much stronger. Also of critical importance is for Christian wives to know that the word reverence in verse 33, is the Greek word phoebe, (Strong’s 5399, pronounced fob-eh’-o) and it means “to be in awe of”. If a wife wants agapao love, respect and adoration from her husband, she should treat him with the same reverence, and awe, that we are all to show toward our heavenly Father.
The psalmist said it best:
“Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not” (Psalm 15:1-4 KJV).
My desire is that these words have provided some insight into true Christian marriage with the goal that divorce should not be considered an option, or at least the very LAST option, when marital problems show up, and show up, they will.
©Bud Hancock. All rights reserved.