Loving and Leaving

There was a bull who took a lovely young cow for his wife. This bull lavished gifts upon his bride. He bought her a golden bell and silver tips for her horns. He kissed her tenderly every morning and before bed every night. He provided her with the choicest pastures in which to graze. After seven years of marriage, a new heiffer caught the bull's eye and he left his wife. The cow became destitute and lived with the pain of rejection for the rest of her life.

In a stream near the bull's pasture, there lived an otter. He was not rich like the bull, but he found a female whom he liked, and they were married. The otter was very quiet. He did not heap praises on his wife. He did not give her expensive gifts. He gave her a good home and enough to eat, and even a few toys to play with, but little more. His declarations of love were never more than a simple "I love you", rather than flowery poems.Years down the line, a pretty young female caught his eye. The otter thought momentarily about leaving his wife for the other female, but he immediately thought better of it. He could not hurt his beloved like that. He remained with the wife of his youth for the rest of his life.

Which one of these exemplified true love?

Sadly, the marriage of the bull seems to be the model for our modern society. People who have been married for many years simply walk out on threir husbands and wives. Others cheat on them, living a lifestyle of abandonment even while living in the same house. Mothers decide that they don't want to be mothers anymore and walk out on their families. Fathers do the same. Perhaps the most abominable is an act that is unthinkable to many species of animal is one that a large portion of humanity is fighting for. That is the deliberate murder of babies in their mothers' wombs.

Many of you have experienced the pain of a loved one leaving. Some of you have had a parent walk out. Some a sibling. Some of you have gone through the pain of an unwanted divorce. I myself was rejected and abandoned by a fiance who was for all intents and purposes my wife, save for the legalities and the consumation.

Divorce is something God hates. Not just marital divorce, but any kind of abandonment.
Malachi 2:16 "I hate divorce," says the LORD God of Israel, "and I hate a man's covering himself with violence as well as with his garment," says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.
And Jesus says in Matthew 5:32
"But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery."
In Matthew 19, Jesus explains that God only allowed the Israelites to divorce because their hearts were hardened. He declared the practice of divorce and remarriage to be adultery. He then said that if this is the way it's going to be, it's better never to get married at all.

In 1 Corinthians 7:10-17, Despite the command not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers, God overrides this command by saying that if you already ARE married to an unbeliever, you must not divorce them.

What are the two greatest commandments, according to Jesus?
Matthew 22:37 Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'
38 This is the first and greatest commandment.
39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'
40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
If we divorce or abandon someone we claim to love, we fail to keep the second commandment. If we hurt one another, we dishonor the God who made them and fail to keep the first. It is impossible to treat our fellows with contempt and honor God.
James 3:9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness.
10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.
11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?
Now I don't want to be misunderstood here. I am not saying that divorce is never the right thing. When one is in physical danger from a family member, for instance, divorce is not only an acceptable option but necessary.

I give you as an example a friend of mine, who shall remain nameless. This woman is living in a house owned by her boyfriend. This alleged boyfriend promised to drive her to and from her medical appointments after she had been in an auto accident. He never did, but always found an excuse. As a result, her neck was undergoing continued damage from misalignment and fractures. When she did get to a doctor, it was discovered that the damage was so severe that she could have died at any time from a severed spinal cord. This same boyfriend has recently refused to allow this woman or her two daughters to eat any of his food. (She could not afford her own because she was paying HIS medical bills) When my local church provided her with food, he forbade her from using any of the kitchen appliances. You'll be happy to know that she is leaving him as soon as her tax refund comes in.

In this case, we have a state of "living divorce". The creep has already abandoned my friend even though he still lays claim to her.

I am also reminded of the parents of my late first fiance. These two people had learned to hate each other and lived in a state of constant misery because they were constantly subjecting one another to emotional abuse. Yet they remained together because it would have been wrong to get a divorce. The problem is that by that point, legal or physical separation would have meant nothing. This man and this woman had already divorced one another in their hearts.

It is not legal procedings that God hates. It is the attitude of abandonment that he despises. Does that mean that God hates divorcees?

Before we answer that, there is something we must understand. There are two kinds of divorcee. Lets go back to the illustration of the cow and the bull. Both of them can now be considered divorcees. But what is the difference?

The bull did the abandoning. He made a deliberate choice to leave his wife for his own pleasure. He hurt his wife.

But the cow did nothing wrong. She did not want to leave the marriage. She did not abandon her husband. She did nothing to hurt him.

Now I am not saying that every divorce includes one person who is innocent. Not at all. But many of them do, especially today, when it's so fashinable to simply walk out on someone you're bored with.

I have been in churches where, in order to comply with Paul's instructions in 1 Timothy, no divorcee was permitted to serve in any position of authority. In one particular church in Massachusets, the pastor's wife left him. As soon as the divorce was final, the church removed him from office because he was technically a divorcee. I think I can safely say that you won't see that here.

After all, if we did that, we'd have to fire God.

God knows what it's like to be abandoned and divorced. Read the book of Hosea. God chose the nation of Israel to be his bride, fully knowing that she would turn away and divorce Him. Jesus echoes His father's pain when He cries "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!"

God does not condemn those of us who have been abandoned by an unfaithful spouse, because He knows what it's like.

This brings me to the point I've been wanting to make most of all. If you are someone who has been abandoned by a parent or spouse, you have a special promise from God.
Psalm 68:5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.
God has a special love for those who have lost their spouse our parent (etc.), especially those who have no one else to turn to. Time and time again is the scriptures, God stresses the importance of taking care of widows and orphans.
James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
It could even be said that God is a husband to the innocent divorcee who places her trust in Him. He cares for her and provides for her and loves her when no one else will.

This promise isn't just for women, either. Consider that as Christians, we are all a part of the bride of Christ. The promise is equally valid for men.

When I was rejected by my fiance and essentially divorced (despite never actually having been married) I laid claim to this promise. Having no earthly spouse, I made up my mind to make the most of being "married" to Christ, as is reflected by the course taken my comic strip self. I was not disappointed. The Lord took me in and cleaned me up (an often painful process) and made me a partner in His work. But most importantly, He has given me an even greater fulfilment than I ever could have gotten from a wife.

And it's ironic... I have decided not to marry, at least for now. I don't need to. But should I decide to do so in the near future, I know I can be a much better husband because of the way the Lord has transformed me.

And the best part- marriages aren't forever. They end when we die. But when we get to Heaven, our marriage to Jesus is only just beginning. When this world is lamenting the horrors of the tribulation, we will be celebrating the wedding feast of the Lamb. Our God has promised never to leave nor forsake us. (Deut 31:6, Psalm 94:14, Heb 13:5)

And now for this week's challenge.

For the unsaved, God is inviting you to come and be part of this wonderful relationship. All you have to do is accept.

For my fellow Christians, I urge you to rejoice in the Lord as I have, loving Him as you would a parent or a spouse, and being loved in the same way.

And for anyone who has lost a spouse or a parent, I offer you a note of hope. God himself is still in the middle of the greatest divorce story ever told. But the story is not over. We know that Israel will come back to her God in the end.
Hosea 2:23 I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called 'Not my loved one. ' I will say to those called 'Not my people, ' 'You are my people'; and they will say, 'You are my God.'"
If this can happen with Israel, whose unfaithfulness is recorded in book after book of the Old Testament, then there is hope for our loved ones who have wandered away. So keep praying for them. You never know whether they might repent and return.

Pastor Oren Otter
March 4, 2006