The Ministry of Marriage
by Bill Bogart
“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery."
God hates divorce. So do we. We just never thought we would have to go through divorce to get to this conclusion. We praise God that He used this experience to show us His heart and bring us to a better understanding of His design for marriage.
I never thought I would experience divorce, but I did….20 years ago. The dream of a growing family celebrating life together was shattered. It was traumatic. It was a violent tearing apart of a one-flesh relationship that God had designed to remain together. PCPC’s DivorceCare program likens divorce to an open, gaping wound that never heals. That pain led Brenda and I to devote our married life to help others heal from divorce and equip existing marriage relationships to be healthier.
In Jesus’ teaching on divorce in Matthew 5, He begins by saying, “It was also said...” These words underscore the false narrative that the Pharisees taught – a worldly, contractual view of marriage that suggests marriage can be dissolved when personal needs in a relationship are not met. In Matthew 19, Jesus elaborates by saying Moses allowed divorce to accommodate man’s hardness of heart. Jesus then points to eternal truth when He says, “But I say to you...” With these words, He points us to God’s plan for marriage – not a contractual view but a covenantal view. A covenant is a permanent, unchangeable commitment. God’s covenant with us is that He will never leave or forsake us. And He uses marriage as a mirror for this relationship He has with His Church. As He will never leave us, we are to not leave each other in marriage. In this way, marriage exhibits the character of God, who constantly pursues us and never lets us go. Through my journey, God has revealed that marriage is more about Him, displaying His character of grace and forgiveness, and not solely about me, my desires, and happiness.
I met my first husband on my 15th birthday. Thirty years later, to the day, I was standing before a judge in a Dallas courtroom with my attorney getting “unmarried” from the man I had built my life around. The one who had taught me how to drive a car, the boy I had loved as a young girl, birthed babies with, built a home and business with, lost a baby with, buried friends and loved ones with, laughed and cried with.
I really never thought I would be divorced. I even looked down on people who were. I avoided them in the grocery store, not knowing what to say. Would I have to choose sides?
Today, I am 17 years into a healthy second marriage and a thriving life but thinking about my divorce still brings tears. It was tragic, brutal, and by far the most devastating event of my life. It is like a coffin that never closes. I am constantly reminded that my family broke, and I lost something I could never put back together.
God has redeemed this hurt and provided healing through working in our DivorceCare, Foundation groups, re|engage, and UNION ministries. I have learned many vital things I never knew about God’s design for marriage. When a marriage goes bad, it’s so easy to blame the one who leaves. And believe me, I did my share of blaming. But these years in marriage ministry are teaching me where I was wrong. And because I brought my broken self into my current marriage, serving here has saved me from repeating my folly.
I am thankful to be part of a church family committed to the ministry of marriage. God’s plan for marriage is exciting and complex; it is difficult and thrilling. It’s not always easy, but I don’t think it’s supposed to be. I now know that I have always been the biggest threat to my marriage. This means working on “me” (and not my spouse) is the best thing I can do to avail myself of God’s plan to transform me into the likeness of His Son.
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18
The following PCPC ministries are available to all who seek God’s presence in the midst of divorce, engagement, and marriage:
UNION – Preparing engaged and seriously dating couples for marriage.
Foundation Groups – Home groups teaching biblical principles to newly marrieds.
re|engage – Brings couples together to learn about God’s design for marriage and apply biblical principles for building a healthy relationship.
DivorceCare – Pointing separated and divorced individuals to God for healing.