No. 22. >> Josh, thanks for taking us in this direction. Because it raises a related question for me. If everything ultimately ties back to God's plan in creation and the fulfillment of that plan in Christ, how does this emphasis on the importance of marriage and the sacredness of the marriage vow fit with attitudes towards divorce that are current in the church? In fact, let me become really practical. Say there was a woman in our congregation who married young and later found herself in a highly non-productive relationship with a constant drinker. A an alcoholic. She runs from the marriage. And seeks a divorce. How am I to treat this woman when she feels guilt? And what course am I to take when she wants to marry again in the church? >>DR. JOEL D. BIERMANN: Nick, that's a really relevant question. And man, I feel remarkable sympathy with you having to deal with this. In my years in the parish, I spent an inordinate amount of time doing this kind of counselling with couples. And I think about the sort of counselling I did. I would say the vast majority of it was marriage counselling. And especially in situations where you have broken and harmed marriages. And people wanting out or people getting out. And the kinds of grief and strive that comes with that. So this is very relevant. And a really practical question. You're right. So let's try to unpack it a little bit and get into this. I think the first thing we need to establish -- and we should be unyielding on this -- is divorce is always a violation of God's primary will. It's not what he wants. He wants marriages to reflect his love for us. He wants marriages to be a place of mutual building. A place where husbands are loving their wives and wives are respecting their husbands and things are things are growing the way they are supposed to. This is his desire. Divorce is the very antifascist what God wants. It's the breaking apart of everything he's put together. He hates divorce. He says it straight in Malachi: I hate divorce. So divorce is never God's desire. Now, does that mean divorce is totally ruled out? Obviously not. There are concessions because of our sinfulness. And Jesus talks about this. Because Moses allowed for divorce because of your hard hearts. And Jesus also grants that. And we learn from Jesus two reasons for divorce: Desertion or adultery. In both of those situations you have one party has already destroyed the marriage. By adultery he's broken the marriage. By desertion he's broken the marriage. And so the other partner would be free to say: Fine. This marriage is done. I'm leaving the marriage. So there's that concession. But is that ever good? Of course not. There's always sin involves that leads to it. It's never the best. It's never what God wants. So divorce is a violation of God's will. And yet there is this concession. There's a possibility that divorce might result because of our sinfulness. Because of the brokenness of the world. And because of the things that we do in our wickedness. We can destroy a good marriage. It can happen. Is there forgiveness? Well, yeah, there's forgiveness for every sin. So the woman who finds herself divorced, maybe she got divorced for good reasons. And she's still feeling bad about it. So you can counsel her and console her and tell her about God's forgiveness and strength to help her in his comfort that he will give to her as she waits for the plan to be unveiled as time goes on. Or maybe she got divorced, even not unlikely, for bad reasons. She just got tired of the marriage. Or she was ready to check out. And she's now feeling guilt about that. I would say maybe her guilt is well founded. And you should deal with that not by telling her: Don't feel guilty. But instead, give her the absolution. When you are sorry for sin, you recognize the error of your ways, you confess it and you receive forgiveness. And you give it to her. And she is forgiven. And now as a forgiven child of God is she free to move forward in God's plan? Well, yeah. And might that plan involve another marriage? It might. And I'm not going to rule that out. But I would say you need to be very careful moving into a second marriage. I think mostly because we want to make sure that the first marriage really is dead and is no longer a possibility. Because I think God's desire would always be reconciliation and restoration of his plan. If she was involved in a marriage as you kind of painted the picture to an alcoholic man and all of the hurt and the problems that come in there, well, yeah, there's no doubt. He's a very difficult man to be married to. And maybe that's not God's best. Yet statement maybe he can also repent and receive God's forgiveness and be a new man. You never know what God's Spirit might accomplish. So it's hard to have one quick and easy, hard and fast answer to this. But I think we need to be real careful to honor marriage. And I guess I'll say this as an aside, too. And I wanted to get a chance to speak to this a little bit. I think we really have in our own church body -- and probably in Evangelicalism in general -- adopted a rather much too tolerant attitude toward divorce. In the culture that we live in now, divorce is not a big deal. You can go to the Hallmark store and buy divorce cards. Where you actually celebrate the divorce. Or wish somebody's blessings on their divorce. Which to me is just nuts. It's just -- I can't imagine such a thing. I can still remember when I was a little guy that you didn't talk about divorce. And when somebody got divorced, it was a cause for shame and a cause for embarrassment. Because it was just -- it shouldn't be. That's how it should be. The kind of sense of: This is a wrong thing. We shouldn't get so used to it. And in the church we've gotten too used to it. And I'm suspicious it grows out of our desire to be forgiving. We want to show the Gospel. We want to be understanding. So we quickly run to the Gospel and say: We're here for you. We just love you. But we never quite get around to saying: You know what? That's not God's will. You can't be kind of playing games like this. And you can't be kind of fudging on the marriage vow. A vow is a vow. And marriage is meant to be forever. So maybe in the church we need to be putting on the brakes a little more and telling somebody who says: Pastor, we're getting a divorce. Maybe the first word the pastor should say is: No, you're not. You can't. This is not acceptable. This is a grieving -- this is a grievous thing. You're violating God's will. You can't do this. I think if more pastors are willing to say this, we would have more couples saying: You're right. We have to fix this thing. Instead of taking the easy way out. And I have had couples who have told me that they wished the church would say this more because they know it would slow down the divorce rate and would cause them to reinvest themselves. So I think we need to slow down a little bit and make sure we say: What is God's will for us in marriages? Let's make sure we are delivering the law when we need to. And when there is sin and when there is repentance, we deliver the Gospel. I'm not saying a divorced person is, you know, now has the red letter and has to be kicked out and has to be shunned. That's ridiculous. Someone who is divorced and repentant, there's always forgiveness, always grace. We're all sinners in need of God's grace. And we all get it. Yet, that does not overrun the truth that marriage is God's sacred institution and should be upheld. We can do both things. And we need to do them better.