Marriage Moment of Truth

Marriages start out on an exciting note, full of happy expectation. Yet some of those marriages end up on the trash heap. At some point from the engagement to the divorce something went wrong. Whatever the challenges are that lead to a failed marriage other marriages weather the storm and come through stronger.

So, along the way from the proposal to the decree nisi there is some telling moment or development that tips the scales from success to sabotage; from freedom to failure; and from celebration to shame. So, we’re looking for the Moment of Truth in Marriage, where that tipping point is encountered.

Tipping Point

The Moment of Truth is that point in the couple’s journey where they make a decision, balk at a hurdle, draw a line or otherwise change the course of their relationship. What started as delight became bogged down with disappointment. Strife replaced celebration and the couple began to move toward the death of their marriage.

Now, the tipping point is not the same for each couple. Some couples know that it is all over by the end of the honeymoon. Other couples work together for thirty-five years before ending their marriage. For some there is a major shock, such as unfaithfulness, that bombards the relationship. For others some subtle, slow process sets in that eats away at the union.

This makes it hard to come up with a simplistic “tipping point” definition.

Attitude Not Action

The tipping point, or Moment of Truth, when a relationship takes a turn toward its own destruction cannot be built on an action. Marriages have proven to be incredibly resilient. Marriages have survived and even flourished after such tragedies and traumas as abuse, violence, adultery, death of a child, financial ruin, war, betrayal, attempted suicide, mental breakdown, and more.

The tipping point, then, is not an action. Instead it is an attitude. The attitude may spring to life in response to an action, but it is wrong to blame the action. Others have endured the same treatment, circumstances, disappointment, stress and so on, without destroying their marriage. So it must be firmly stated that the problem is NOT the action.

However, when a wrong attitude comes into the picture it can be poisonous, impossible to endure and persistent to the point of total destruction. The tipping point is the point at which a wrong attitude takes root, setting the course toward ultimate ruin.

Biblical Warning

Since the Bible is supremely relevant and current, we should expect it to speak clearly to this issue, and it does. There is a serious warning given in the New Testament which is probably directly linked to the Moment of Truth, or Tipping Point in marriage.

The Biblical warning is that people MUST give grace to one another. Specifically they are to give each other the “grace of God”. That means that they are to forgive each other, accept each other and be considerate of each other, in the same way that God is gracious to all of humanity. God gives sunshine and rain to both the good people and evil people. God is gracious, even to people who are campaigning to prove that God does not exist.

Humans, then, are to be ever willing to tolerate and be gracious to each other, just as God is.

But the warning goes further than that. The Biblical warning is that if a person fails to provide God’s grace to others the only alternative is that the evil attitude of bitterness will spring up in their life and lead to all kinds of problems.

“Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” Hebrews 12:14,15

Let me paraphrase that text for you this way: “Be at peace with everyone. And keep yourself holy. If you are not holy you will never see God. Be diligent to keep on giving God’s grace to people. If you don’t a root of bitterness will spring up within you and agitate you. A root of bitterness will make trouble for many people around you.”

Key Moment

The key moment in your marriage is not how or where you propose. It’s not how long your engagement is. It is not the wedding day, or the wedding night. It’s not the honeymoon. It’s not your first year, or your first home. It’s not based on how soon the kids come along, or how many you have or don’t have. It’s not about how much money you have or whether one, both or none of you work.

The key moment in any marriage is that moment when one or other of the couple decides to stop giving grace to the other. When one person makes the internal decision, “I’ve had enough of that”, “I’m not taking any more of this”, “I won’t forgive them this time”, or something like that, they have tipped the marriage into the path toward destruction.

It is possible for a couple to come close to that point several times, and still survive. If the person tips back, changing their mind and forgiving, extending grace, accepting the one they had decided to reject, then they can undo the damage that has been done. But when they come to that point and decide to stick on that track, that’s when the end has been determined.

The Grace of God

The most valuable ingredient you can bring into any relationship, then, is the grace of God. A couple which has determined to always forgive and extend grace to each other will be able to ride over the ups and downs of their relationship.

Remember that bitterness only springs up when someone has determined to stop giving God’s grace. As long as the graces of forgiveness, compassion, acceptance, sacrificial commitment and such like are poured into a marriage that marriage can weather any storm or strain.

When the attitude turns from one that gives grace to one that digs in with hardness of heart, bitterness takes root and poisons the mind, attitudes, decisions and relationships.

Remember, the problem is not the actions experienced, but the attitudes taken up in response to those things.

Moments of Grace

Protect your marriage with moments of grace. Tip your marriage toward success and indestructibility. Determine, with God’s help, to give grace to each other. Determine to continue extending grace, God’s grace, no matter what.

Instead of having Moments of Truth and Tipping Points that turn your marriage into dust, have Moments of Grace and multiple Turning Points which turn your marriage back to God’s grace and God’s miraculous provision for your happiness and success.

Remarriage and Adultery

Probably one of the touchiest subjects that can be brought up in Christian circles is that of Divorce and Remarriage. It cuts rather close to the bone in just about all church communities. We now have millions of Christians who get divorced and re-married. While once the church was distinct from the general culture in this issue, it has now caught up and been mired in the same devaluation of marriage which it once frowned upon.

Getting Real on the Issue

If the church is going to have any hope of finding God’s wisdom on issues where its own values have changed in recent generations, then it must at least remain conscious of the voice of God’s Word. While interpretations, arguments and counter-arguments might rage in certain circles, it would be wrong to pretend that what the Bible says is not there.

Let’s at least acknowledge a couple of facts. The church has moved its goal posts regarding divorce and remarriage, just as society has done. That means we were either not Biblical before or we are not seeing things the same way any more, or something.

Historically the western cultural standards for indissoluble marriage came from the Christian church. More recently the church’s practice of easy divorce has come from the culture. So we have moved from a church which sets social standards to a church which allows the secular culture to set its standards. That seems very much like the salt having lost its saltiness, don’t you think?

The Issue is Discussed in the Bible

This might come as a shock to some people, but the Bible does speak about divorce and remarriage. It has a fair bit to say about it. While the things that it says are challenging, they come from such reliable sources as the mouth of our Lord Jesus Christ, and from the Apostle Paul, who gave us most of the New Testament theology and practice.

While there is a nice thought in today’s church world that just about any kind of remarriage is OK, there are a number of comments in the Bible which clearly indicate that remarriage constitutes adultery, at least on some occasions.

That link between remarriage and adultery has caused the church to give a very high regard to marriage, to publish marriage banns, to insist on time for the couple to be sure of their choice, and to apply marriage vows that are very binding on the couple.

Today, however, there is a sense that marriage is a more casual commitment, it can be entered into just on the basis of emotional confidence and it can be thrown away if it doesn’t work out. With that, too, comes the idea that people are entitled to a second go if their first try didn’t work out as well as they hoped.

All of that brings disrepute to marriage.

The Unspeakable Link

The problem for the church today is that just about every congregation, denomination and group has people as members, leaders and heroes who have also been divorced and remarried. To make matters worse, it seems a bit tough to go to the heathen who are quite entangled in divorces and remarriages and entice them with such heavy-handed messages as “Your Remarriage is Adultery!”

It’s just not politically correct to discuss such things. So the link between remarriage and adultery is one of those “unspeakable” things.

But sociologist, Gerard Egan, suggests that “undiscussibility” in an organisation is an indication of ill-health. So if the church cannot discuss this topic, then the church has become unhealthy as an organisation.

So allow me to press your boundaries a little by simply putting on the table the fact that the Bible makes a clear link between remarriage and adultery, such that Jesus Christ tells us that (at least in some cases) remarriage is adultery.

Politically Correct

The suggestion that remarriage may represent something evil is frowned upon, since it might reflect on someone who is a respected church leader or pastor. So the church has become silent on the subject. Thus it is interesting to see that Jesus was not silent on this topic.

To be politically correct, let’s not make anything of what Jesus said, but just have a little peep at it. All we want to do is acknowledge that Jesus linked remarriage with adultery. That is not to say that He did so in every case – but He at least did so in some cases. So too did the Apostle Paul.

Let’s just do a quick skim of those references and leave the implications for some other time, a l-o-n-g time from now. That way it can’t really be too much harm to look at what the Bible says.

Bible Quotes

All I want you to acknowledge in these quotes is that Jesus and Paul do actually make a link between divorce and remarriage – at least in some cases. That’s all we’re looking at here.

“But I say to you, That whoever will put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causes her to commit adultery: and whoever will marry her that is divorced commits adultery.” Matthew 5:32

“And I say to you, Who ever will put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and will marry another, commits adultery: and whoever marries her which is put away commits adultery.” Matthew 19:9

“And he said to them, Who ever will put away his wife, and marry another, commits adultery against her. And if a woman will put away her husband, and be married to another, she commits adultery.” Mark 10:11,12

“Whoever puts away his wife, and marries another, commits adultery: and whoever marries her that is put away from her husband commits adultery.” Luke 16:18

“For the woman which has an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he lives; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.” Romans 7:2,3

“And to the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.” 1Corinthians 7:10,11

A Consistent Theme

I don’t know whether you noticed, but the connection between remarriage and adultery is made in those verses a total of nine times. That means it has more direct Biblical emphasis that being “born again”.

Note also that it is consistent. Christ taught it and so did Paul. Christ made his statements in the context of upholding what God created in Eden (Matthew 19:4-8). Paul and Christ gave special emphasis to the lasting quality of the bond that God creates for the couple when they are married. That bond is the reason why future divorce and remarriage is seen as adultery by God, Christ and the church.

So, What are You Saying?

At about this point someone will be jumping up and down accusing me of saying things I haven’t said. Read my lips! I am simply getting YOU to read what the Bible says. What you do about it is your business. What the broader church decides as its theology on the issue is the church’s business.

But if you blithely head off into a course of action based on what is culturally popular and you have not stopped to look at the words in red in your Bible (assuming you have a Red Letter edition with the words of Christ in red ink) then you are in danger of coming to conclusions which Jesus may wish to talk with you about.

I am not your judge. I would be in danger if I were to make judgements. I’m just a regular Joe who thinks we need to remain at least Biblical, whatever else we decide to do.

Now, class dismissed!

The Heart of Your Child

It is vital that you train the heart of your children. However it is popular to ignore this essential process and give in to shallow alternatives. Since many young parents have not thought these issues through I am penning these notes as a guide to parents.

The Heart of the Matter

The most important part of your child’s development is the training of their heart. While we may not be aware of what is going on inside other people, including our children, the Bible tells us that God looks on the heart.

“But the LORD said to Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 1Samuel 16:7

God’s prophet, Samuel, did what people naturally do. He looked on external things. God accurately accused men of taking notice of external things – “man looks on the outward appearance”. That is why people have to take ‘first impressions’ seriously and why image is such a big deal for worldly people. It should not be so for those who love and follow God, but sadly appearance and image is a major focus of some churches today.

Since God looks on your child’s heart it is essential that you make it a key focus on your attention.

The Heart of Your Child is Exposed by What Comes Out

Jesus had much to say about what comes out of the heart. He said that we are defiled by what comes out of us. He then listed a bunch of things that find their source in the human heart.

“The words which come out of the mouth come from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” Jesus Christ, Matthew 15:18-19

Jesus is pointing here to both the words people speak and the motivations that lead them to do evil things. So wise parents will be attentive to the spontaneous expressions from their children and also from the behaviour patterns the children display.

A winning smile on the face of a child can be deceptive. Sweet words of promise and nicety may be a cover for wrong intentions. In the same way that adults can be expert at this level of deception, some children know how to play up to their parents’ expectations.

Key Lessons For the Heart

The heart is troubled by the presence of foolishness, which Solomon warns us is bound in the heart of every child (Proverbs 22:15). So it is important for each parent to respect the particular process that God prescribes for removing that foolishness. The prescribed process is to use the rod of correction on the child.

Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction will drive it far from him.” Solomon, Proverbs 22:15

Obedience is a key test of the child’s heart. If a child refuses to obey then they have foolishness. So getting the child to promptly obey the parent is a key heart training process. This involves them submitting to the parent’s authority. In that process they learn to fear the Lord, giving respect to God’s requirement that they obey their parents.

Games and Tricks Don’t Train the Heart

Some parents think that they are doing quite well if they get the desired action from the child. But it is not the action that is the most important. What is important, as we saw earlier, is the heart of the child. God does not look on the outward evidence but on the heart.

If you instruct a child to eat their food and the child is reluctant to obey, then a matter of the heart has been exposed. The child’s rebellious or independent attitude is a more serious matter than the nutritional value of the meal.

Many parents, however, become distracted with the external element, getting the food into the child. They can completely miss the much more serious issue of the child’s heart. Clever parents can resort to games to get the child to eat. “Let’s pretend that the spoon is a train and your mouth is a tunnel. Let the train into the tunnel.”

Such games may be fun, but they set the parent and child up for future pain. The child’s heart is left in a rebellious state, even though all the food is eaten.

The same is true when a parent tricks a child into doing the right thing, or fitting in with the parent’s plans. Games and fun, cute as they may be in the hands of clever parents, have no place in testing or training the child’s heart.

The most mature and complete heart training is evident when there is every reason to disobey or to get away with doing wrong, and yet the person insists and persists in doing what is right.

Tough Choices Make for Strong Character

When parents rescue their children from tough choices they undermine the child’s character. Tough choices make for strong character.

The child who must stand by his post, while others get to do fun things, or taunt him, or who is otherwise suffering in order to be there, will develop much stronger character than the child who is given every opportunity to cheat on their character.

False compassion can prompt some parents to remove the tough choices and hard situations from their child’s life. Such emotion is called ‘false’ compassion because it is not true love at all. It masquerades as compassion but it harms the child, so it cannot be real love.

You are Allowed to Play Games

Please note that I am not saying every moment of your child’s life should be a tough moment with tough choices. There is plenty of room for fun, games and play. You are welcome to play ‘aeroplanes’ and fly the food into your child’s mouth or to make cleaning up the room into a fun race against the clock.

The tough choices are made at strategic moments and are then built upon. But once the tough moment is past it is time for celebration and enjoyment of life. The problem will come when your child is never challenged to learn and their heart is not trained.

Insist that they Learn

Parents, be diligent to ensure that each of your children has learned to obey you, to submit to authority and to fear God. You will need to remain attentive to their heart, through what they say and how that is backed up by the attitudes and actions.

Insist that they learn the lessons. Don’t give in, just because they are crying, or complaining. There is much more at stake than their temporary responses.

The Church of England is Born

This is the day that … Henry VIII was excommunicated by the Pope of Rome. It was 1533.

He was 42 years of age, had sat upon the throne of England since 1509 … and (in 1521) had been awarded the title “Defender of the Faith” – by Pope Leo X!

Why? Because Henry had taken up his pen and denounced Martin Luther as a heretic.

Henry VIII was a loyal son of the Roman church. Until, that is, he set his eyes on Anne Boleyn! This raven-haired beauty, incidentally, “had a sixth finger on her left hand, a deformity she skilfully concealed…”

The problem was that Henry was already married to Catherine of Aragon … and after “16 years of repeated pregnancies” there was still no male heir. So Henry decided that his marriage was not legal in the first place – after all, Catherine had been the widow of Henry’s brother … and didn’t Leviticus have something to say about that? So he demanded that the Pope annul the marriage.

The Pope, however, stood firm. He may not have done so had it not been for the fact that he (the Pope) was “really a prisoner in the hands of Charles V of Spain … who was Catherine’s nephew”!

Suffice to say Henry divorced Catherine … married Anne, who was already pregnant (January, 1533) … and passed the Act of Supremacy (1534), which states that he is “the Supreme Head in Earth immediately under God of the Church of England”.

By September, 1533, Henry already had his roving eye on Jane Seymour.

Thus Anne was declared to be guilty of adultery, beheaded on Tower Hill … and Henry married Jane less than a month later.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.