(Part Four of the Playing King of the Mountain with God, Series)
A few months ago, I sat with a 40 something Christian guy, successful in every way the world considers successful. He and his wife have been married for fifteen years and have four children, the guy wants out. He’s not happy. He doesn’t feel anything anymore for his wife. They fight all the time.
After hearing their situation, its apparent, he has no biblical basis for a divorce. Trust me, he’s been looking with pharisaical ferver to find a biblical “out” and can’t find one. But he thinks he has a trump card, and here it comes; “but doesn’t God want me to be happy?”
“Not if you’re disobedient,” I responded. This surprises him. And it always surprises me, that Christians are surprised by my answer. So, why is that? This blog really isn’t about divorce. However, I use the issue of divorce as an example of how creative Christians can be to justify our own happiness and actually make God appear to approve of our disobedience, in the pursuit of that goal. And, frankly, I hear the “doesn’t God want me to be happy?” argument, most often used in connection with a divorce.
A “hall pass” from God? Most Christians attending evangelical churches, who’ve been Christians for a few years and who’ve attended some Bible studies, have a pretty good idea about how God expects us to live. And let’s be honest here, every married person whose marriage has ever been in serious trouble, has scoured the Bible to find some biblical way out, and there are two; adultery by their spouse or abandonment of the marriage by an unbelieving spouse. (Matthew 5:31,32; 1 Corinthians 7:12-16) (Even then, I think Jesus would prefer we forgive the unfaithful spouse.)
However, if those two reasons do not exist, it is still astonishing to me that some Christians believe their circumstances, in essence give them a “hall pass” from obeying God’s clear teaching on this issue. And increasingly, that hall pass is for one of the following:
Emotional Abandonment – My spouse is distant and uncommunicative and has mentally and emotional abandoned me. However, when I ask if they believe their spouse is born-again, they’ll generally admit they probably are – so this wouldn’t apply in any case.
Verbal or Emotional Abuse – I blogged on this subject on December 8, 2014, if you’re interested. (http://bit.ly/1wSmeqr).
But doesn’t God want me to be happy? – For whatever reason, there are lots of Christians who believe God’s will for them is to be happy.
Happiness isn’t a zero-sum issue. More often, the pursuit of happiness for one person causes pain for many others. I can’t tell you how often I’ve met with the children of divorce, who are the true victims. They spend the rest of their lives paying the price for the “happiness” of the person primarily responsible for causing the divorce. And since the children of divorce, are statistically more likely to divorce, this pursuit of happiness affects generations yet unborn! Then of course, there’s the innocent spouse who also sacrifices his, or her happiness without any choice in the matter.
And God too is a victim of divorce. I’ve sat with scores of children of divorce, now adults, who have no interest in God, because “Christianity didn’t work for my parents!”, or “God didn’t save my parents from splitting.” With divorce reaching levels in the church, almost as high as among the unchurched, the reputation of Christians and therefore, of Christ, is eroding every year.
So, whenever Christians pursue happiness by disobeying a clear command of scripture, it causes pain to both God and others, violating the two greatest commands in all of scripture;
“One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:36-39
The willful violation of these two commandments, is, in effect saying to God, I am king! My happiness is king. People who willfully violate these two commands, ought to be afraid of God because they obviously love themselves more than him, and their family. Jesus made obedience to him, the litmus test of our love for him when he said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” John 14:15
So, when you mentor or counsel Christians, who believe they have a right to be happy in disobedience, remind them of these words from God. “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” 1 Timothy 6:6. What God wants isn’t necessarily our personal happiness, but our pursuit of godliness. Ironically, it’s in the pursuit of godliness, that we will find peace with God and the joy of healthy relationships with others.
Like a good parent who knows that good rules make the entire family healthier and happier, God too, has given us his laws for the good of the family of God. Yes, living by God’s laws may cause us to be unhappy for a time, but in the long run when his, “will is done on earth as it is in heaven,” the kingdom flourishes and the whole family of God is happier.
How following Jesus works in real life.
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