About five years ago a father of five children called us and described how psychology, through so-called Christian counselors, had influenced his wife in the direction of separation and divorce. This husband and father, whom we shall call John, wanted reconciliation. Both a close friend of the wife and a pastor of her church admitted to us that she had no biblical grounds for separation or divorce.
While John was living separately from his wife at her request, he wanted as much contact with his children as possible. Without going into the details, we will describe two incidents involving two different churches and two different pastors.
The first was at a church they were both attending as NONMEMBERS. The wife, whom we shall call Mary, met with a pastor at that church and was told (as a result of an official meeting of the church board) that while they did not encourage divorce, they would support her if she decided to divorce her husband. The church’s justification for its position was based on a false interpretation of Matthew 19:9.
One of the pastors, whom we shall refer to as Pastor One, advised Mary that she had biblical grounds for divorce because the word porneia in Matthew 19: 9 has a broader definition than “sexual sin.” He explained that the Greek word porneia is used to translate a Hebrew word that would be translated “uncleanness” in English. He explained further that this word porneia encompasses a number of violations of the marriage covenant. In fact, this pastor pointed out that God’s divorce of Israel in Jeremiah 3:8 further proved that porneia means more than “sexual sin.” Pastor One said Mary’s husband was like Israel because he was idolatrous in his self-centeredness and that this was tantamount to adultery. Thus, following the logic of his understanding of porneia in Matthew 19:9, Pastor One concluded that, since self-centeredness is tantamount to adultery, Mary had biblical justification and permission to divorce her husband.
John, the husband, asked to meet with the church board to answer Mary’s allegations, but was denied his request. He later made several further requests to be heard at other levels of this denominational church. All requests were denied on the basis that he was not a member of that church. Even while Mary was not a member of that church, the church leadership had given her both an audience and a justification for divorce. Contrarily, John was not even provided an audience to be heard simply because he was not a member of the church either.
After this grave disservice, John started attending a different church (which we will refer to as Second Church) and became a member. The pastor of Second Church (whom we will call Pastor Two), after meeting with both John and Mary, concluded that there were no biblical grounds for divorce. At John’s request, Pastor Two began a Matthew 18 procedure.
A primary reason for writing this article is to print the letter Pastor Two wrote to Mary after he had made a number of attempts at reconciliation. In all our years of ministry we have NEVER seen or known of a church or pastor to attempt such a reconciliation and then to write a letter such as this.
We contend that Second Church and Pastor Two took the right biblical path, while Church One, which supported Mary’s intent for divorce, followed the broad, worldly way and corrupted the clear biblical teaching on divorce. Here is Pastor Two’s letter:
After so many years of separation and heartache, John still desires to be reconciled with you in marriage. I am disheartened and anguished that the counselors who surround you apparently are unwilling to recommend that you reconcile with John as the Scriptures so clearly instruct. I implore you once again to return to John, your husband, the man God has appointed as your head! Although such a reconciliation will be very difficult humanly speaking, I know that you and John can be restored to one another and enjoy a loving relationship together through the tender mercies of our Savior. Mary, it is what God desires and requires, it is what your husband craves, and it is what your children so desperately need!
Mary, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ cannot continue to support and encourage you in your willing disobedience to God’s Word. You are in the process of dishonoring our blessed Savior and rebelling against His sovereign lordship. You give the impression to the lost world that marital separation is favored by Christ. Mary, you know that marital departure is allowed only in the cases of adultery and when a believing spouse is abandoned by an unbelieving spouse. John has not abandoned you, for he desires to reconcile, but you have departed from him, refusing to fulfill your marital duties as a wife. Your departure from John over these past many years has torn your family apart and is destroying your children.
You have been repeatedly urged to reconcile with John. Your unwillingness to heed the Scriptures leaves the church of the Lord Jesus Christ no alternative. In accordance with our conversations and the letters I have written to you, I am calling upon the church of Jesus Christ (all who trust in Christ alone) to withdraw their fellowship from you as the Scriptures so clearly command (Mat. 18:15-20; 1 Cor. 5; 1 Tim 1: 18-20; 2 Thes. 3:6-15). The church has a two-fold purpose in withdrawing fellowship from you. First, it is our desire that you repent and return to fellowship with Christ and then John. To this end, we hope that the believers who know you will, in true love for you, disassociate from you that you might be shamed into repentance (2 Thes. 3:14-15). Second, the church must protect its purity. To this end, the church may not consider you a part of its fellowship with Christ since you stubbornly repudiate the truths of God’s Word (I Cor. 5:5-8, 11-13).
This heartbreaking judgment is being urged in devotion to Christ and in true brotherly love for you and your family. It remains our sincere desire and constant prayer that you will return to the Savior and then John, and that together you and John will seek godly counsel under which you may be fully restored to one another in accordance with the Scriptures. Mary, please return to our gracious Savior! Believers in Christ will be praying for you!
Sincerely in Christ,
This is definitely a case of how both psychological and so-called biblical counseling supported and therefore encouraged Mary to file for divorce. This is a clear case of psychoheresy on the part of Mary’s counselors, followed by Pastor One’s false biblical understanding leading to divorce. However, we want to emphasize Pastor Two’s letter because it is such a rarity in the church today. Much psychotherapy and even biblical counseling have encouraged divorces that are totally without biblical grounds.
The irony of this situation is that the pastor who wrote the letter is blind! He cannot see with physical eyes, but, oh, does he have spiritual eyes to see and spiritual commitment to follow through to do right according to God’s Word! We pray that the pastors of Mary’s church who are all physically sighted will come to “see” as well.
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