Tag Archives: relationships

Does the Bible Permit Divorced Persons to Serve as Church Leaders?

 

I recall a man in a church who was known and respected by everyone. He volunteered to help when people were in need and provided wise counsel when people were struggling. At a congregational meeting, his name was put forward as candidate for elder. But an objection was raised: 20 years earlier he had been divorced after his wife left him for another man. Even though he’d been faithfully married to his current spouse for many years, some in the congregation wondered if his election as a church leader would violate the standard set by 1 Timothy 3:2 and 1 Timothy 3:12:

Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach. (niv)

A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well. (niv)

In Greek, the expression translated in most English Bible versions as “husband of one wife” actually reads “one-woman man.”

Some believe this passage implies that anyone who has ever been divorced and remarried is not permitted to serve as an elder or deacon. But this assumes that being a “one-woman man” means never being divorced. And that isn’t always the case.[1]

A number of other considerations must be taken into account in the context of Paul’s letter to Timothy and other New Testament passages. The “one-woman man” standard doesn’t stand alone; it is part of a larger group. First Timothy 3:2-7 seems to teach that a person’s suitability to serve as a church leader rests not only on one qualification, but many. An elder must be:

 

         blameless

         temperate

         self-controlled

         respectable

         hospitable

         an apt teacher (teachable)

         not given to drunkenness

         gentle

         not quarrelsome

         not greedy or covetous

         a good manager of his household and children

         a seasoned believer

         of good reputation with outsiders

 

A couple of additional thoughts:

First, the criteria for church leadership doesn’t seem to involve sins committed prior to conversion. The apostle Paul, for example, persecuted the church and participated in the murders of Christians prior to his conversion, yet he became one of the most influential church leaders of all time.

Second, a fair evaluation of an individual should take all circumstances into account. Are those who have struggled to preserve their marriage after being abandoned by an unfaithful spouse really in violation of the “one-woman man” principle?[2] Not likely.[3]

[1] Many scholars believe that this phrase is talking about current character rather than past performance. According to this line of thinking, a twice-divorced person who has been faithful to their spouse for 15 years may be more suitable to serve than a never-divorced person who habitually fosters inappropriate relationships with persons other than their spouse.

[2] Jesus himself acknowledged that sexual sin was legitimate grounds for divorce and remarriage (Matthew 5:32; Mark 10:11).

[3] If a person’s suitability on the basis of one qualification comes into question, his evaluation should continue based on all of the rest. If a local congregation knows that a man’s divorce had truly biblical grounds or occurred prior to his conversion so that he can be considered “blameless” (1 Timothy 3:2) and well-qualified upon the basis of all the other criteria, he can be considered a “one-woman man.”

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Are doubts a sign of a weak faith?

I’m a believer—a Christian. I’m a “lifer” and an insider. I was born into a Christian home. I have Christian parents. I’ve gone to church all my life.

I’m also a doubter.

Over the years I’ve had many troubling questions: How do I know God exists? Can I be sure Christianity is right? How can there be an all-loving and all-powerful God when there is so much evil in the world? Can I really trust that the Bible is true?

For most of my life I’ve walked in a place of doubt-plagued faith. And while I’ve never stopped believing, I have stopped pretending that I have all the answers. I’ve come to believe that not all doubt is an enemy of faith. Sincere doubts can be an indispensable part of each person’s faith journey.

If we never doubt, we never question. If we never question, we never change. And if we never change, we never grow.

Just before I graduated from seminary, I had a conversation with my 80-year-old grandfather that changed how I think about doubt.

Poppaw had called to congratulate me on my upcoming graduation. He asked about the kids. I asked if he had been fishing. He talked about getting the old boat in the river. And then the conversation took an unexpected turn.

“Son [my grandfather called me son], I need to ask you a question.” He paused. “Can I trust the Bible? I mean, does the Bible I read in English say the same thing as the original Bible says?”

Up until this point I thought my doubts were a sign that my faith was weak. Frankly, that was part of my reason for going to seminary in the first place. I thought if I could just accumulate enough information, then all my doubts would be crushed under the weight of overwhelming information. But at the end of his faith journey here was Poppaw—one of the most faithful Christ-followers I have ever known—struggling to believe despite his doubt.

That day I began to wonder if I had misdiagnosed the problem. Maybe my doubts weren’t the problem. Maybe they were part of the solution.

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Can domestic abuse be non-physical?

Yes, it certainly can. Often, verbal or other types of non-physical abuse are not considered abuse. However, consider this brief definition: Domestic or intimate partner violence/abuse is a pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviors by an adult — male or female — including physical, sexual, and psychological attacks, as well as economic coercion used against current or former intimate partners.

Domestic abuse can take many forms and they all should be taken seriously. Here are some examples of abuse that are not necessarily physical:

Verbal abuse involves belittling, demeaning, or threatening speech that is meant to manipulate or coerce one’s partner or spouse. Verbal abuse often carries the threat of physical violence, but not always.

Sexual abuse includes coerced sex through threats or intimidation or through physical force, forcing unwanted sexual acts, forcing sex in front of others, and forcing sex with others. But it can also be accomplished by withholding sex and intimacy as a means of control.

Psychological abuse can involve isolation from others (including family and friends), excessive jealousy, control of activities, verbal aggression, intimidation through destruction of property, harassment or stalking, threats of violence, constant belittling and humiliation, threats of physical violence or harm, creating a situation of total economic dependency, and financial enslavement.

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Is It Biblical to Use Birth Control?

The Bible neither advocates nor condemns the use of birth control because it was written long before modern methods of contraception were developed. Consequently, the Bible’s silence cannot be used to argue for or against birth control’s use.

Like many issues in life, God seems to leave it up to us to decide how to honor Him in this matter. God could have plainly stated: “All families must have five children; no more, and no less.” That would have ended the issue. But He chose not to, because He allows for personal choice here. But the freedom to choose necessitates wisdom. Wise couples will take into consideration their emotional, medical, and financial limitations as they seek God’s wisdom when having children.

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Why do women stay with abusive men?

The reasons women stay in abusive relationships are varied and complicated. If we are going help those who suffer in domestic abuse situations, we must first recognize that these women need someone who will listen to their story, not re-victimize them with questions and innuendos. Sometimes we do more harm than good when we say things like:

  • Why doesn’t she just leave?
  • Why would anybody in their right mind stay with him?
  • She must like the abuse; she keeps going back!

A woman who is being abused may leave several times in her mind and actually attempt to move out more than five times before she is finally successful. Often it is dangerous for a woman to leave an abusive relationship, but there are also many other reasons that she doesn’t just walk or run away.

Sometimes women stay because they are afraid. She fears:

  • Greater physical danger to herself and her children if she tries to leave.
  • Being hunted down and suffering a worse beating than before.
  • Negative responses or lack of understanding from family, friends, police, ministers, counselors, courts, etc.

Sometimes women stay because they do not have the resources to leave. They do not have:

  • Employment or a source of income.
  • Knowledge of shelters, advocacy groups, or support.
  • Spiritual strength, wisdom, discernment, or a loving community.

Sometimes women stay because they believe things will get better if they just try harder. They think:

  • “I need to keep the family together no matter what. Kids need a father.”
  • “I swore to stay married till death do us part. I promised to stay with him in sickness and in health, for better or worse. I can’t just leave him because he has a problem.”
  • “I can help him get better if we stay. No one understands him like I do.”
  • “It’s really not that bad. Other people have it worse.”
  • “I am the cause of the violence and it’s all my fault.” She may feel as though she deserves the abuse.

And sometimes she stays, as strange as it sounds, because she loves her abuser.

  • Often the abuser is quite loving and lovable when he is not being abusive.
  • He really does make her feel good and he knows what she likes.

She remembers what he used to be like, especially during the makeup phase.

(adapted from Live Right Now)

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