When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.”
-Joshua 5:13-14a, ESV
As followers of God, our first allegiance is to Him. This allegiance is the utmost allegiance for anything less is to say something else is our god. Today’s puzzling passage out of Joshua points out that allegiance is to God over whatever agenda we may have. That allegiance to God included, apparently, taking primacy over even Joshua’s God-given command to conquer the Holy Land.
God takes first place over any command.
In seminary and subsequent training, I was taught the practice in couples pastoral counseling to advocate for the marriage. It is the perspective of trying to keep both spouses invested in the relationship. This seemed like wise counsel at the time as it creates an aura of impartiality and seems to be in the best interest of keeping marriages together. However, I now question the wisdom of this stance. And I question whether it is a truly Christian stance and not really just a sneaky secular, psychological infiltration into our churches.
I question its underlying premises:
1) Advocating for the marriage stance assumes keeping the marriage together is always God’s preferred choice. I do not think this is so. While we are to honor marriage and keep our marital covenants, I do not see God treating marriage as inviolable. God is a realist and realizes some humans will choose sin over His purposes for marriage. As such, God makes provisions in mercy for faithful spouses. So, minimally, I do not see God advocating for a marriage continuing when unrepentant adultery is present in a marriage.
2) This stance de facto teaches that divorce is a worse outcome than ongoing or unrepentant adultery. I do not see such a stance as Biblical. God hates adultery more than divorce (see post here).
So, this brings me to my new position when it comes to working with Christian couples:
I am not for the marriage.
I am for honoring God first and foremost.
My perspective as a Christian pastor is to advocate for godliness and holiness. Our relationship with God always needs to be first in our lives or else we succumb to idolatry. Sometimes taking this perspective means exhorting spouses to uphold their marriage vows and grow through times of unhappiness. Other times, it means pointing out the painfully obvious: your spouse is not repenting from committing adultery, and divorce is a wiser choice than continuing this destructive relationship risking further soul rapes.
Am I for the marriage or against it?
I am a priest of the Most Holy God. And I advocate for the LORD.