It was a long trip home. Not because of the miles or even the traffic. No, it was the thoughts and questions running through my head, some serious contemplation about the last session of the day, which seemed to slow life way down.
It was a familiar situation. A woman had separated from her husband, fully intending to divorce him because of his adultery (of which he had repented). I heard all about how, because of her husband’s infidelity, it was okay with God that she divorce him; I suggested that while it may be permitted by God, it is never “okay” with God – He still hates divorce.
She went on to tell me that the only way she could have dignity was to rid herself of this man as a means to demonstrate her worth (a message she was preaching hard to her teenage daughter sitting next to her). I suggested that true dignity and worth are found in God alone who never lies nor wavers; and that when dignity is found in Him, no human can rob her of it.
Finally, she threw out her last argument: God would not want her to live this way, unhappy and miserable. He would not “condemn” her to a life with a man who was unloving, untrustworthy and who had hurt her so deeply. She went on to explain that she had felt a lack of worth and distrust of men all her life, since being molested as a girl, and she was determined not to endure it anymore. I suggested that perhaps the most important thing she could do was to resolve her lifelong pain so it would not interfere so strongly with her ability to listen to the Lord and make wise decisions.
I was not trying to tell her that she must stay with her husband (although I am confident that is all she heard). But I really did want to expose some faulty thinking and misplaced priorities in her life in regards to marriage, dignity and the expectations Jesus had for his disciples.
My pastor has been teaching through the gospel of John and a recurring theme is contrasts: grace and law; light and dark; freedom and bondage; life and death; honor and dishonor. All these contrasts can be summarized as the difference between the physical and the spiritual, the kingdom of this world and the kingdom of God.
The woman gave testimony to a long and vibrant relationship with Jesus. But I pondered her understanding of this verse:
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)
I wondered if she ever considered that it may possibly be important, in ways she may never understand, for her to stay in the marriage for the sake of the kingdom of God? That “Seek first the kingdom of God” may result in an entirely different attitude and perspective for decision-making? And that her drive to divorce may be more about loving her own life than following Jesus?
Trust me, I don’t stand in judgment of this lady – the trip home was a long one because I was trying to determine if I was truly anymore kingdom minded than she.