If you remember I have been talking about living with integrity based on the standards we glean from the Bible..
An unfortunate syndrome that I observe in some people my age is the "Yeah, but . . ." response to the curves that life seems to throw us. (I say people my age, because by the time one gets up around the half-century mark she/he has accumulated enough experience, baggage, dependents, and complications that life becomes exceedingly complicated. Fleshed out the Yeah-but response goes something like, "Yes, I know that is what the Bible teaches, but (here the speaker fills in the complicated real life situation) so I am going to do. . . ."
A wise friend of mine once told me that he had never been so sure of things as he was when he had just graduated from seminary.
At twenty-five the path through a difficult ethical dilemma was perfectly clear. Over the years real-life situations that I observe and experience are like brush and tall grass growing in and next to the path. When, like me, one starts receiving the AARP magazine, some of those saplings have become huge trees, and the path can be all but obscured.
- Preachers kids, even those of preachers who take a hard-core position on divorce, have marriages that end in court.
- It is interesting to see pastors who maintained a no-hair-on-the-collar standard hanging out with grandsons with 2 heads of hair.
- Sometimes guitars, or even worse drums, represent not only a change in worship style for a church, but the "eating of words" for the older preacher.
You get the idea. You can go on with other examples.
Let me make a couple of observations--I'm still working on this, so I would appreciate your input--then I'll share an experience of my own.
- We ought to be cautious about making categorical, hard-and-fast, declarations about life issues that we have not yet experienced. Note, I didn't say that we shouldn't. Sometimes we must, &/or should. I said be careful.
- When we do make pronouncements as described above, we need to be absolutely sure that they are firmly anchored in scripture. I spoke on child-rearing before I had children. I was careful simply teach what the Bible says. Come to think of it, I still try to do that. Somebody famous said something like, "I used to have 5 theories on child-rearing. Now I have children and no theories."
- When experiences in life seem to conflict with what we conclude the Bible teaches.
- We need to know that the Bible always trumps experience.
- We need to abide by the Bible's teaching even if it causes pain.
- It is appropriate to allow my experience, or that observed in others, to cause me to re-evaluate my conclusions. The Bible is inerrant. My exegesis and teaching are frequently in error.
- God's word was not given for a fictional ideal world, but for the real world in which we live.
(I hope I am wrong, but I fear that some in my position, in essence, take the position that "My mind is made up. Don't confuse me with real life evidence that appears to contradict what I have already decided." Here is an area where the postmodern/emergent types are right. We Fundamentalist or conservative Evangelicals have frequently been too sure.)
4. When we conclude that we were wrong in the past we need to admit it in the present.
My recent experience:
A number of years ago I struggled through the issues of divorce and remarriage.
I grew up spiritually in an environment that basically said there was no such thing as a Biblical divorce. In that day the churches and institutions that made up the constituency of "my kind" were mostly made up of a population that did not include the divorced. In society in general divorce was much less common, and in churches like the one where I grew up, the "D"-word was mostly absent. In a recent conversation a friend my age told me about a divorce that took place in the very traditional town of his youth. The man who divorced his wife had to leave the area because of the public shame his divorce brought him. There are some things we like about that. There are other aspects of that expression of public morality that are horribly toxic.
As a young pastor, I had to figure out what I believed & what I was going to teach. Part of my struggle stemmed from the fact that I was rejecting part of the teaching that my spiritual mentors had handed me. I won't go into details, but I concluded that the Bible made provision for 2 clear grounds for divorce. ( I still struggle in sorting out a third.) I saw that a Biblical divorce without the right to remarry is an animal that doesn't exist in the Bible's menagerie. It is clear to me that people who are divorced, even wrongly divorced, are not married, in the sight of God, or anywhere else. There is clearly an expression of grace in God's standard of the maintenance of marriage, and His graciousness can be seen as well in His provision for its dissolution. I could go on, but you get the idea. As was true with a great many other things I was taught, the gist of what was put before me was that adopting the most restrictive position was always the best decision. I reject that in general, and in particular in relation to this situation. As I say, all of this took place in my thinking decades ago.
Now the present:
Later this month, my son, a divorced man, who has spent the last several years pretty much single-handedly raising his 4 children, will marry a lovely young lady. One of the great honors of my life, is his invitation for me to stand with him as the "Best man." I put that in quotes, since my grandson will also stand with his dad, so I can't really be the best man. : )
On the wedding day, I will put on my tux--and other than regretting how much the rental is--I will stand with my son with great joy and clear conscience.
When you take the time to wrestle issues to the mat the result is a freedom and peace that can come no other way. Often we mistakenly look at Biblical ethics as nothing more than compiling a list of ways that Gods says "No!"
No. God also says "Yes," with no "buts."
I rejoice in that yes.