I had an interesting conversation the other day with a couple of pastors on the topic of “divorce“. Both pastors lead churches where the policy of the church is not to allow a divorced man to serve as a deacon in the church or to serve as pastor. That sounded okay at first but then it was revealed that it does not matter when the divorce took place (this is not the view of either pastor but a policy in the church constitution). I asked an obvious question, “What if the men were divorced before they were born again?”. The answer was a bit shocking (for me anyway). I was told (again, not the view of either pastor but the church’s policy) that it did not matter when the divorce took place, or the circumstances of the divorce, a divorced man cannot serve as a deacon or pastor. I know one of the pastors very well and he later told me his view on the subject but had no control over the established policy of the church. I immediately thought, “what does the Word of God teach on this subject?” I decided to go home and do some research.
I know that divorce is a terrible thing, no matter who it happens to or what the circumstances are behind it. There are no winners in divorce court (not matter who the judge sides with). I see the disastrous effects on a daily basis because I am a pastor. I counsel the children who are the innocent victims. They are scarred for life, even after they come to Christ and He changes them. I would like to take a look at what the Bible says on the subject of divorce and serving in the body of Christ, the Church.
The “when” of the divorce matters greatly. If you were a nonbeliever (not born again) when you were divorced then that sin cannot be held against you. Here is what God has to say through the Apostle Paul:
14 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died ; 15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. 16 Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh ; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. 17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature ; the old things passed away ; behold, new things have come. 18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Let’s examine the passage and see what God has to say about those who come to Christ, repent of their sins, and are born again.
- They do what they do out of love (punishing a person for sins that God has erased is not love)
- They do not live for themselves but for God (if God forgives the sin and forgets it, should His followers not do the same for the past sins of their brothers in Christ)
- They no longer recognize anything according to the flesh (the sin nature of the past, along with all of its sins, are no longer recognized, or in other words, forgotten and not held against them)
- The old things of the person’s life have passed away, new things are to come (a lifestyle of sin and its condemnation are gone, a new lifestyle of service to God by serving others is here)
- He is placed in the ministry of reconciliation (getting people together with God, and maintaining relationships with the other Christian brothers, it is hard to be “friends” when your own Christian brothers punish you for things that God has forgiven and forgotten)
- Those who have been reconciled to God do not have their sins counted against them (the sins that they committed before being reconciled with God. Therefore, when we punish divorced men who were divorced before being born again, by not allowing them to SERVE as deacons and pastors, the we sin greatly by putting ourselves in God’ seat and making our own rules)
What is your stance on divorced men (who were divorced before “getting saved”/being born again) serving as deacons and pastors? Do you sit in the judgment seat of God, claiming to know better than He does by punishing a man for his sins, the sins which God has forgiven and forgotten? If this is your church’s “stance” on divorced men serving as deacons and pastors then you need to raise the question (in a polite, mannerly way), why are we condemning what God has forgiven and forgotten? May the Lord help us be obedient to His Word over the “traditions or men”.