Divorce

Q. I know an abusive husband who beats his wife black and blue. I have no qualms advising her to divorce him. What do you think?

A. What I think is not important. What God thinks is. The Bible is very clear on the subject of divorce:
Mal 2:16 For I hate divorce,” says the LORD, the God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with wrong,” says the LORD of hosts. “So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.”
• Mt 5:31-32 It was said, ‘WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE’; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Also Mt 19:7-9; Mk 10:11-12; Lk 16:18
• 1 Co 7:11-12 But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife. But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away.

God hates divorce, but allows it for the reason of unchastity, when the marriage covenant had been broken. Being married to an unbeliever spouse is not a biblical ground for divorce, nor is spousal abuse specifically allowed as an exception to the rule of “no divorce”. I sympathize with the spouse who is subject to abuse, and would advise “separation” to protect herself/himself against further abuse.

One point seldom discussed. Although God hates divorce, He Himself sent Israel and Judah away and gave them a writ of divorce because of their spiritual adultery:
Is 50:1 Thus says the LORD, “Where is the certificate of divorce By which I have sent your mother away? Or to whom of My creditors did I sell you? Behold, you were sold for your iniquities, And for your transgressions your mother was sent away.
• Jer 3:8 And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also.

Yet He waited for them and gave them opportunities to repent and return to Him. I think we can follow not only what He said but what He did.

We once met a sister who cried throughout as she told us how her husband abused her not just physically, but mentally, verbally and sexually. I don’t know the extent of his perversion, but “unchastity” translates the Greek word porneia, which is defined as illicit sexual intercourse, including:
• adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals etc.
• sexual intercourse with close relatives (i.e. incest, Lev 18);
• sexual intercourse with a divorced man or woman (Mk 10:11-12);
So depending on what he had done, he might have broken the marriage covenant already, even though he did not have a mistress.

She did not want to report him to the police for fear that he would be jailed, and that there will be repercussions. We advised her for the sake of her own and their children’s safety, she must separate themselves from him. Since he is perverted, he might go after the children when he no longer gets excitement after abusing her.

To try to get to the root of the problem, we also witnessed to her husband in the hope that he would repent. He listened to the gospel but did not receive Christ at that time. However, we were glad to learn that he had treated his wife better from that time on, and occasionally would even come to church himself. We understand your concern for your abused friend, but I would follow the Bible as best as we can without going beyond what the Lord permits.

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Eating Blood (2 of 2)

pig's blood 1

(Continued from yesterday)

• The references cited for the “no problem” position pertain to all foods or things being “clean”. However, the reason for forbidding eating blood is not “uncleanness”, but because blood stands for life (Gen 9:4; Lev 17:11, 14; Deut 12:23). The “no problem” verses are misapplied. Ceremonial cleanness or uncleanness is not the issue, which in any event have been fulfilled in Christ. The sanctity of life is.

• The prohibition against blood is repeated in the NT, not set aside (Acts 15:20, 29; 21:25). The Jerusalem Council under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:28) determined that a Gentile does not have to be circumcised like a Jew in order to be saved (Acts 15:1). Nevertheless, it placed 4 requirements on Gentile believers, to abstain from:
o things sacrificed to idols,
o fornication,
o what is strangled,
o blood (Acts 15:20, 29; 21:25).

• Some believe the restrictions were cultural to accommodate Jewish sentiments at that time, as the Mosaic law forbade eating/drinking blood. I believe they were more than that. The issue at stake is whether the observance of the law of Moses (Acts 15:5) is necessary to be saved. The answer is clearly “NO”, as we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus (Acts 15:5). Having broken away from the yoke that no one could bear (Acts 15:10), I think it’s highly unlikely that the apostles will muddy the water again by accommodating to the Pharisees’ desires.

• Rather, the 4 practices were common among Gentiles, and the Council’s requirements were that Gentile believers need to make a clean break from paganism. They need not become Jews, but they need to be thorough Christians, not hanging onto pagan practices they’ve left behind. I believe the principle of “abstaining from blood” to be the correct interpretation, though I believe its application need to be contextualized to 21st century.

• Concerning eating of things sacrificed to idols, to someone with knowledge they are nothing in and of themselves, and it is alright to eat them, but we don’t eat them for others’ sake:
o 1 Co 8:4 Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one.
o 1 Co 8:10 What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything?
o 1 Co 10:28 But if anyone says to you, “This is meat sacrificed to idols,” do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for conscience’ sake;

• Fornication comes from the heart and defile the man, so we abstain:
o Mt 15:18-20 But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man; (also Mk 7:20-21)

• What is strangled does not have its blood drained. Both strangled and blood relate to the sanctity of life which is to be protected. Hence their prohibition.

• None of the underlying reasons are cultural, but moral. That’s why I believe they are still valid nowadays. Having said that, blood is no longer closely associated with paganism as it was, and we have to adapt its application to the spirit rather than the letter of the law. Some eat black pudding or blood soup for their taste. I don’t take them myself for theological as well as personal reasons, but respect others’ preferences provided they do not infringe on others. So enjoy your rare steak. To avoid it is to behave like a Pharisee.

Eating Blood (1 of 2)

rare steak 1

Q. I like my steak rare. I also enjoy “pig red” (pig’s blood) congee. But Gen 9:4 says “Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.” So can Christians eat blood?

A. There are opposing views. On the one hand, some claim there are no problems because:
Mk 7:19 because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” (Thus He declared all foods clean.)
• Acts 10:15 Again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.”
• Rom 14:14 I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
• Rom 14:20 Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense.
• Col 2:16 Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day

According to them, blood is clean, and Christians are not bound by OT laws, but live under grace. So they can eat it if they want to. It is not a sin.

On the other hand, some oppose because:
Lev 17:14 “For as for the life of all flesh, its blood is identified with its life. Therefore I said to the sons of Israel, ‘You are not to eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood; whoever eats it shall be cut off.’
• Deut 12:23 Only be sure not to eat the blood, for the blood is the life, and you shall not eat the life with the flesh.
• Acts 15:20 but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood.
• Acts 15:29 that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell.”
• Acts 21:25 But concerning the Gentiles who have believed, we wrote, having decided that they should abstain from meat sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication.”

Both cite Scripture. Who is correct? While I believe we live under grace and not law, my position is in between. And I am not being wishy-washy. Here’s why:

(To be continued)