Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Relationships matter 2

This is my second thought on relationships, this time focused on divorce.

Divorce is a big issue for many Christians since God seems to have a negative view of it. God uses pretty harsh language through the prophets, likening Israel's (in the Old Testament)  behaviour to that of an unfaithful partner. Why is God so down on divorce? Possibly because it signifies the break-up of something that should have been being nurtured between two people and instead has fallen apart with all of the associated issues. God's language is even more vehement through Micah (a prophet) - "I hate divorce ...".

Divorce is a big issue for society, it breaks families, relationships, often generates huge patterns of long lasting hurt, anger and resentment and if stats are correct for 2009, affects over 99K children a year in England and Scotland combined!

I am sure we can all cite cases where the situation could only be resolved through divorce and there are, in my opinion, some which Christians should advocate divorce in for example where violence is being done to one or other or both and cannot be stopped or where children are being harmed. However many relationships break up for reasons which may well have been resolvable if only those involved had tried earlier or not given in to temptation or wrong encouragement.

But the real point is this, divorce, like living together rather than marrying, is not God's best for us. Being who we are means we understand too late what we have broken by the actions or lack of actions that caused the break-up. God's best is that we find partners who we will invest our lives with and who in turn will invest their lives in us.

When however it has gone wrong and a person is divorced, the next difficulty is can they remarry with God's blessing? Can they be married again in God's eye's? A question I have been asked a few times of late. In a perfect world with no sin, there would be no divorce because none of us would marry "the wrong person", non of us would "stop loving" our partner ... but we are what we are and the result is broken relationships and a desire often to form new ones with the hope of something better.

 Fortunately for us, God is forgiving, its in God's nature to forgive even when his people break relationship with him time and again he offers a new start. That new start is shown to us in Christ - we are told to admit our wrong doings and accept forgiveness for them, forgive as you expect to be forgiven. Then and only then can we move on, works in progress but hopefully the wiser for our experience able to try again with God working with us, making a better and more lasting result of a subsequent marriage.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Relationships matter

Over the last few weeks I have had a number of conversations with people around the church and on the edge of the church about relationships, married, civil partnerships, living together, divorce and so on. In this thought I want to consider living together.

God tells us throughout the Bible that he wants a relationship with each of us and often this comes up as a covenant or agreement between a person or people and God. Such a covenant has benefits and demands so that to enjoy the benefits the beneficiaries have to accept the need to take on board the cost.

Our relationships, Biblically anyway, fall into that same form, God puts a man and a woman together for a number of reasons, companionship, friendship, producing children. They leave their parents and agree to be only for each other for a life-time. A covenant agreement which in human terms is often framed in a marriage ceremony, with vows to seal it before God and to ask God's hand and blessing to this coming together of a man an a woman.

In this day and age many skip the formal covenant and opt for a more open ended (OK not always), relationship, living together. This appears to have a degree of freedom, perhaps a little less commitment while enjoying the benefits (Sex, relationship, children ...). In my view not God's best for us but and heres the KRUNCH - in God's view it seems that once a man and a women joined together as one, have made love / had sex or whatever you want to call it, they are married in our sense of the word - two have become one. No apparent certificate or ceremony, but then I don't read of Adam and Eve having a wedding with bells and songs God puts them together and tells them to populate the world!

Think carefully before you give in to yours or another's desire to gratify sexual need or to find happiness where previously you had none or to rush into moving in before considering the long term, it doesn't come free of responsibility.Think carefully before you take the step of living with someone - just because there is no certificate or ceremony  does not mean that there is not the same responsibility, cost and benefit equation coming into being over that relationship - the real difference is that God has been left out and to produce wholesome, long-lived, fulfilling relationships we need all the help we can get, especially God's.

One positive is that there are courses run by churches to help those considering long term relationships - marriage, no matter where they are starting from (single, married, living together). The Relationship central marriage course and pre-marriage course are good for exploring relationships and helping to build healthy marriages.