But you have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what he teaches is true—it is not a lie. So just as he has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ.
-I John 2:27, NLT
This past week I wrote about The Village Church Scandal. It is a good(?) example of pastors/elders being controlling and calling it “care.” I have to admit I was especially angered for multiple reasons to read their FAQs response about this situation sent to their members (see here). And apparently, this controlling and spiritually abusive behavior from The Village Church leadership was not limited to Karen’s situation as they applied these nasty tactics on a faithful divorced spouse as well (see post here). Hence, I am writing today’s post as a corrective.
The manipulation or attempted spiritual manipulation of vulnerable victims of adultery (and other sexual sin) must stop!
Jesus taught us that sexual immorality (“porneia”), which certainly includes adultery and pedophilia, are allowable reasons for a follower of God to divorce a spouse. In other words, Jesus gives the faithful spouse permission to divorce the unfaithful spouse in these situations. And I am inclined to take Jesus’ permission as permission. God does not give us permission to sin, after all.
I am angered by the stories coming out of The Village Church because they are all too common in Christian communities. An “evangelical” pastor/elder thinks it is his/her job to decide about the fate of a marriage. They attempt–or do usurp–the rightful place of the faithful spouse to decide in these matters. They take Jesus’ words and permission adding their own words and conditions to them. It is wicked. And if that is not bad enough, this violation of the faithful spouse’s agency is then “covered” up with condescending and deceitful remarks that it is for his or her “own good.”
It is not for his or her own good.
It is for the good of the pastor’s own agenda or pet theology of divorce (aka divorce heresy, in my opinion).
Does God grant the faithful spouse permission to divorce? And if God does grant permission, who is man to deny the faithful spouse such permission or discipline them if they exercise said permission? Do these pastors really think they are smarter, wiser, or greater than God?
In both cases exposed about The Village Church, one does not need to hear both sides to know how Scripture applies. Neither the former unfaithful wife nor Jordan Root deny the fact of their marriage violating sin. This means the divorced pastor “John” and Karen have Biblical permission to divorce/end the marriage without shame or stigma according to Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9. With such facts established without dispute, you do not need to hold a committee to decide if they have permission to end the marriage. But you may need such meetings if you are trying to manipulate and spiritually abuse the faithful spouse into giving up his or her God-given freedom to end such sin-ravaged marriages. I applaud both Karen and “John” for not giving into such tactics.
Now, The Village Church pastors/elders may not agree ending the marriages in either case was wise. That is fine. However, they need to hold their advice with an open hand. It does not have the same weight as Scripture in these matters. This is their interpretation. And they are not greater than the Holy Spirit who indwells both Karen and “John” (see I John 2:27).
Their pastoral judgment does not give them permission to take away God’s permission to these spouses to end their marriages. The pastors of The Village Church–or any other church for that matter–are not above God in authority. God’s teaching always trumps mere human teaching (including “covenants”).
And that is the bottom line here.