What a sad commentary on the cheapness of marriage today! What God has united, many will put asunder for less than the price of a good pair of shoes. Samuele Bacchiocchi
The divorce rates in India may be one of the lowest in the world but this giant killer is certainly on a rampage claiming hundreds and thousands of families every year. The rise of divorces especially in urban, semi-urban and small towns is alarming. In the 1980s, Delhi’s family courts witnessed 200 or fewer divorce cases per year, around 1000 per year in the 1990s, and at present the nation’s capital sees no less than 9000 divorce cases in a year! Madurai, a conservative semiurban centre in Tamil Nadu, had to deal with 835 cases in its family court in the year 2013. People from all walks of life become involved in divorce and remarriage. Several reasons have been put forward to explain why divorce in the contemporary society is so common. Some of the causes include women’s liberation, women’s empowerment, masculine shortcomings, economic issues, genetics, lack of commitment, peer pressure, escapism, lack of role models, easy legislative procedures, so on and so forth. Likewise, the stress on rights rather than duties, unrealistic expectations of easy and sustained happiness, the removal of parental support, the acceptance of divorce in elite circles, the growing post-modern tendency, all these have been observed as causes. John Stott, the famous Evangelical theologian, writes: “Undoubtedly, the greatest single reason for the increase in divorce is the decline of Christian faith, together with the loss of commitment to a Christian understanding of the sanctity and permanence of marriage, and the growing non-Christian
assault on traditional concepts of sex, marriage and family.” The most common biblical description of marriage is in covenantal terms (Gen. 31:50, Prov. 2:17). Marriage is a covenant relationship. It is born out of a covenant of mutual promises, and it is established and confirmed in the presence of God and His people. Whether it is an arranged marriage or marriage by choice, the Bible affirms that it is God who joins the partners together (Gen. 2:18–22, Matt. 19:6). Therefore, marriage in its very essence is God’s plan and creation. The biblical record shows that unlike marriage, divorce was not instituted by God. Divorce is a human innovation and it is the result of human sinfulness. In His comments on divorce, Jesus explained that divorce represents a change in God’s order because “from the beginning it was not so.” (Matt. 19:8). Undoubtedly, society’s outlook on marriage and divorce is rapidly changing. Divorce is no more seen as taboo. It is easier to obtain a divorce today than before. Should the followers of Jesus Christ change with the times? Should our perception of marriage and divorce change with the world? In this issue, we take a brief look at the teachings of the Bible on marriage and divorce. Most articles talk about practical ways by which Christian marriages can be strengthened and sustained. There are also a couple of articles for young people who are contemplating marriage. Be blessed. We welcome your comments, responses and suggestions. Please write to us
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readers to live for Christ and His kingdom. It seeks to apply the Word of God to contemporary issues Christians face in their day-to-day life. Also, it aims at instilling a passion for world missions. Contents copyright©2014 by Kingdom Friends Network. All information is published in good faith. The publisher and the editors are not liable for inaccuracies. Publishing of any item does not reflect the official stand of the magazine.
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God Is Great & Glorious
Slow down! Rest! Wait!
Angel Investors For Missions
Before You Marry...
Love Beyond Romance
The Law of Possession
Talking Your Way Through Marriage
The Urban Challenge: Raising Our Kids
Handling Finances at Home
Once Married, Always Married? What Does the nt Teach?
J S A Julius
Sam K John
Capt. Jose Palamootil Oommen
Sam K John
Dr Adalyn George
GOD IS GREAT & GLORIOUS
which He cannot handle. There is no height which He cannot scale. There is no mountain which He cannot move. He is able to subdue every enemy. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords (1Tim. 1:17; 6:15,16). He is high and exalted (Isa. 6:1; 57:15). We are safe and secure in His hand.
6. He is eternal (Psa. 90:1,2; Gen.
21:33; Deut. 33:27; 1Tim. 1:17). He is from eternity to eternity. He has no beginning and no end. He is Alpha and Omega. He is the beginning and the end. There was never a point in time when He was not there. There will never be a point when He will not be there. He is infinite in His existence.
Continued from Know Your God in the previous issue (Vol 3 Issue 1)
Hseveral is greatness is seen in ways: 1. He is one (Deut. 6:4; 4:39). He
alone is God. There is no one beside Him, before Him or beyond Him. He is unique. There is no one like Him (Exodus15:11).
2. He is spirit (John 4:24). He does
not have a body (Cf. Luke 24:39). The Bible does speak of God’s eyes, hands and feet, etc. But that is expressing the truth of God in human language so that we can understand. Body limits a person to one place. But God is not limited. Body has its own needs and is subject to decay. But God has no needs and is not subject to decay.
3. He is omnipresent (Psa.139:7). He
is everywhere. He is not limited by time and space. We are always in His presence. His eyes are always upon us. His hands are always with us to guide us. We cannot run away or hide from His presence. He is everywhere. Whether we go to the highest height or deepest
7. He is self-existent (John 5:26).
depth, He is there. We can have fellowship with Him and worship Him anywhere. There is no need to feel lonely. Wherever we are, He is there.
4. He is omniscient (Rom. 11:33).
He knows everything. There is nothing which He does not know. He knows past, present and future. His knowledge is infinite and accurate. Nothing is news to Him. He cannot be taken by surprise. He cannot be cheated or deceived. His knowledge of everything is perfect. There is nothing for Him to know. There is no secret with Him. He sees everything clearly (Heb. 4:13). Nothing in all creation is hidden from His sight.
5. He is omnipotent (Gen. 18:14;
Luke 1:37; Jer. 32:17; Job 42:2; Dan 4:35). Nothing is impossible with Him. Nothing is too difficult for Him. He can do all things. No one can challenge Him, hinder Him, stop Him or frustrate Him. He is sovereign Lord (Ps.135: 6). There is no problem which He cannot solve. There is no difficulty
No one created Him. He does not need anyone or anything for His survival (Acts 17:25). He has no need of anything outside of Him. He is not dependent on anyone or anything. He is self-sufficient. He has given life and existence to everyone and everything but He Himself is uncreated and selfexistent.
8. He is the true and living God
(1Thess.1:9; John 17:3). Only the God of the Bible is the true God. He is the living God. He is not like idols of the world who have mouths but cannot speak; ears, but cannot hear; eyes, but cannot see; feet, but cannot walk. They need to be carried by their worshipers but our God carries us (Psa.135: 15–17). The idols cannot keep themselves secure; how on earth can they provide security to anyone! (Isa. 46:7; 41:7b)
9. He is the Judge of all the earth
(Gen. 18:25). He is not blind to the sins of the world. It’s not that He does not notice the oppression, injustice and exploitation of the poor, weak and the marginalized. He is saddened by every murder, rape, sexual perversion and immorality, etc. He is waiting patiently for sinners to repent and
not perish but have everlasting life. Even now His anger is revealed everyday from heaven (Rom. 1:14). Today is the day of salvation. But the door of salvation will not remain open forever. He has set aside a day when He will judge the world through Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 17:31; Rom. 2:16). One day we all have to stand before the judgment seat of Christ (2Cor. 5:10).
10. He is triune. He is one God. But
in that one Godhead there are three divine Beings—God, the Father; God, the Son; and God, the Holy Spirit. These three are not three Gods but three Persons in one Godhead. It is difficult for us to understand how there can be three divine Persons yet only one God. But that is how the Bible reveals God. The Father is God. The Son is God. The Holy Spirit is God. They are same in essence, so equal in status, but different in functions. God speaks of Himself in plural (Gen. 1:26; 11: 7). The angel of the Lord is spoken of as a divine person (Gen. 16:7,13; Exo. 3:2,4). In certain places the Messiah is speaking and mentions the other two (Isa. 48:16; 61:1; cf. Luke 4:18). All the three Persons are clearly seen together at the time of Jesus’ baptism (Matt. 3:16, 17), Great Commission (Matt. 28: 19) and Apostolic Benediction (2Cor. 13:14).
His glory is seen in his goodness, greatness as well as in His moral attributes: 1. He is holy (Lev. 11:44,45; 19:2; 20:7; Isa. 6:3; 1Pet. 1:15,16). There is no sin, wickedness, and unrighteousness in Him. There is nothing unclean in Him. There is no injustice, oppression or lawlessness in Him. He does not do anything wrong (Deut. 32:4). He does not show any partiality or favoritism (2Chron. 19:7). He is a just and righteous God. He is absolutely and perfectly holy. 2. He is light (1John 1:5). There is no darkness in Him. He is transparent. For Him there is nothing to hide. He does not have a double-standard life. He is not something else in public and quite contrary in private. He does not have any hidden corner or hidden agenda. He has no hidden ulterior motive. There is nothing selfish in Him.
3. He is love (1John 4:8,16). Some think mistakenly that love is God. But love is not God. Love is an attribute of God. God is love. It is in His nature to love. He has loved us first (1John 4:10). Our love for Him is just a feeble response to His great, sacrificial, unconditional and eternal love. His love is seen in His care for us but primarily on the Cross. He loved us so much that He sent His Son to die for us. 4. He is faithful (1 Cor. 1:9). He can be trusted. He is true to His promises. He does not change (Mal. 3:6). What He promises with His mouth He fulfills with His hands (Joshua 21:45; 23:14; Psa. 145:13; 1Kings 8:24,56). 5. He is truthful (Titus 1:2). He does not lie. He does not deceive. He does not give false impressions. He is honest. He is trustworthy. He is reliable.
11. He is Creator (Gen. 1:1; 14:19,22;
Acts 14:15; 17:24; Heb. 11:3). He is the Creator of all that is visible and all that is invisible, of everything that is in heaven, on earth and sea. There is nothing which He has not created. He created everything out of nothing. He created everything by His powerful Word. Why did He create? He created everything for His glory and purpose (Rev. 4: 11; Isa. 43:7,21; 45:8).
n today’s fast paced world,
Fourth, trust Him (Prov. 3:5,6). Trust Him even in the dark when we do not have even a ray of light. Trust Him even when we are going through deep darkness and utter hopelessness (Isa. 50:10). He is a trustworthy God. Trust Him for your past, present and future. Trust Him even when you don’t understand (Cf. John 13:7). One day, some day, we will understand and praise Him. He does and turns everything for our welfare. (Rom. 8:28,29)
6. He is forgiving, gracious, compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness (Exo. 34:6; Neh. 9:17). He forgives us all our sins and does not treat us as our sins deserve. He knows how we are formed. He knows that we are dust. (Psa. 103:3,10,14). So He is very kind, compassionate, gracious and merciful to us. He is not hard-hearted and unreasonable. He is gentle in His dealings with us. 7. He is unchangeable (Num. 23:19; Mal. 3:6; Jsa. 1:17). He does not change His mind. He does not change in His character and commitment. He does not change in His age or attitude. He does not change in His wisdom and understanding. Because He is a perfect God He does not increase or decrease. People change their minds. Those who were friends become foes. Those who promised do not fulfill their promise. People change in their age and attitude. So some of them prove to be unreliable. But God is fully, completely, unreservedly, entirely and absolutely reliable. 8. God is perfect (Deut. 32:4; Psa. 18:30; Matt. 5:48). He is morally, spiritually, intellectually and emotionally perfect. His ways
are perfect. No one can find fault with Him. He does not grow in perfection. He is perfect without any shortcoming or failure in Him.
Fifth, obey Him (1Sam.15:22). Obedience is better than sacrifice. Obedience is sure evidence of our love for Him. Obedience is an expression of our gratefulness to his love. If we worship, love, serve and trust God in words only, we are hypocrites. We must love and serve Him in action too. Obedience is a proof our faith in Him and commitment to Him. Without obedience everything is hollow.
So how are we to respond to such a good, great and glorious God?
Sixth, believe Him and in Him (Heb. 11:6). There are those who do not believe in the existence of God. We must believe that He is and He rewards those who diligently seek Him.
We can do so in several ways. First, we are to worship Him (Psa. 95:6,7). He alone is worthy of our worship. We are to worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:24), in the splendor of His holiness (Psa. 29:2), in reverence and awe (Heb. 12:28) and with gladness (Psa. 100:2).
May God help us to know Him and enjoy Him forever!
Richard Masih is a minister at large based out of New Delhi. He is a frequent speaker in UESI conferences and training programs.
Second, love Him (Deut. 6:5). Love Him with all our hearts, minds, strength and will. He alone is worthy of our love and affection. Third, serve Him (Matt. 4:10; Deut. 10:12; 13:4). Find out His will in everything and carry it out. Wait at His doorpost every day to listen to what He wants us to do today. It should be our joy to do His will and plan for our lives. It’s a great privilege and honour to serve the true and the living God. Satan is a hard taskmaster. There is no joy in serving him. The only reward in serving him is a lifetime of misery and death. Serving God gives us deep satisfaction and eternal security.
ERROR In page 21 of the last issue, it was wrongly mentioned that the founder of Mormonism is John Smith. It is, in fact, Joseph Smith. The error is regretted.
hurriedness is so common that the idea of slowing down is becoming out-dated. We face ever-increasing ‘to-do’ lists, oppressive workloads, taunting dead-lines, insurmountable expectations of bosses, complex office politics, and overwhelming demands from the different roles we are expected to play. Slowing down is the last thing on our lists as we are frantically running to ‘get ahead’ in life—to catch up with the many others who once were our peers and now are ‘way ahead’ of us in terms of the things they possess, titles they hold, degrees they’ve earned, and money they make. When we are already running way behind many others, the call to slow down—is it reasonable, is it possible? Another facet of today’s world is the restlessness created by information overload. Every SMS, every email, every reminder and every popup bombards us with information and causes restlessness. Many times we realize that we need rest. We try to take rest but we are not able to. Can we truly rest at least in our time or day of rest? Yet another facet of today’s world is the swiftness of services rendered to us. From quick service restaurants that promise to serve us in a minute, to 2-minute photographs; from instant coffees to instant personal loans; from ready-tocook food to ready-made clothes—we are taught that we deserve to be served fast. Many service organizations tell their employees, ‘Answer the phone in three rings, else you’ve made the customer wait too long.’ Even hospitals display their standards of permissible waiting time for different kinds of ailments. Reduced waiting time is synonymous with increased efficiency. Electronic retailers offer ‘sameday delivery’ to avoid customers waiting. In this context, is not waiting a waste of time? Many of us have a distant dream—to be at peace, at least with ourselves. But our crowded schedules don’t have time. Then, come an unforeseen sickness, a sudden accident, and an unexpected visit to the hospital. These are times that make us think about the most important things in life. The hectic running to ‘go ahead’ seems unimportant now.
The benefits of slowing down are many. When we slow down, we get time to think. When we drive our cars at very high speeds, it is definitely worthwhile to spend a few moments to check if we are headed in the right direction. When we slow down, we get time to prioritize. We can give the most important things precedence. Then, when we turn back at the end of our lives, we’ll be content and not regret. When we slow down, we get time to ‘sharpen our saws’—to prepare ourselves for the forthcoming assignments. Abraham Lincoln was right when he said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” The benefits of resting are also many. When we rest, we fulfill a sacred requirement for our thriving. When God created the world, He, in his wisdom, designed certain patterns. Day and night: a day of work to be followed by a night of rest. Six days and a Sabbath day: six days of work to be followed by a day of rest. The Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Similar God-given patterns of rest include observing Sabbath every seventh year as a solemn rest for the land and also the consecration of the fiftieth year (Jubilee year) to proclaim liberty to all. So, resting is fulfilling a sacred requirement. When we rest, we are rejuvenated and we become more efficient in our work. We have lost a lot of our efficiency by
working round the clock. It is said that Mr Narayana Murthy, in a mentoring session, emphasized the need for employees going home on time by making the following observation: “I have seen people work Tuesday through Friday to correct mistakes made after 5pm on Monday.” In her book “Sleeping with your Smartphone,” Harvard Business School professor Leslie Perlow reveals how one can disconnect and become more productive in the process. She shows how devoting more time to one’s personal life helps accomplish more at work. Rest and focus on our personal lives are beneficial to our bodies as well as to our professions. When we rest, we are enjoying the fulfillment of God’s promise, “I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14, Matthew 11:28) The benefits of waiting on the Lord are even more. When we wait on the Lord, we are renewed in our strength. We soar like eagles, high above our problems, and our problems don’t weigh us down (Isaiah 40:31). When we wait patiently for the Lord, he listens to us (Psalm 40:1). When we wait for the Lord, He acts on our behalf. (Isaiah 64:4) May God grant us the grace to slow down, rest, and wait! Joseph Devadason is currently the VicePrincipal of Kodaikanal Christian College (KCC), Kodai. He is married to Hannah and they are blessed with a daughter.
ANGEL INVESTORS FOR MISSIONS Anina & Joseph Oommen Acts 9:26,27
But his (Saul’s) followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall. When he (Saul) came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. ew men held tightly to the rope attached to the basket in which Saul was being lowered. They took the full weight of Saul on their hands, shoulders and legs. They coordinated carefully between them every movement of the rope till the basket rested on the ground and Saul escaped from the conspiracy of death. Little did they know at that point of time about who this person would become and how God will fulfill the words spoken about him: “This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.” They only knew that the man who caused havoc in Jerusalem among those who called on the name of Jesus was now proving convincingly that Jesus was the Messiah.
Angel Investor is a term used in the capital investment world for affluent individuals who provide capital for a business startup. My definition: Angel investors in missions are individuals who in their personal capacity are lead to invest in mission/ ministry startups. Angel investing in missions involves more than regular giving to the ministry. It is a personal long term commitment and engagement to the brother or sister to journey with them through the development of the ministry. It is a commitment to face difficulties, challenges, uncertainties, rejoicing, persecutions, disappointments, victories and failures... everything together. It is a
commitment to put the need of the mission above personal plans and it includes significant monetary support. It is accountability to one another—to pray, to encourage, to correct, to guide, to warn each other. It is a commitment to God to obey what He tells you to do for this ministry. It is so personal that it is on one’s heart every day to think, pray and intercede for this ministry. When Paul was extended the right hand of fellowship by Peter, James and John (Gal. 2:6), they were effectively saying to him, “We give you the authority, the honour, to partner or unite with us in the gospel.” In a similar manner there is a ‘right hand of fellowship’ between the investor and the mission partner. It is a partnership for the gospel of Jesus Christ which is built on trust and longterm commitment. God will send out workers into the harvest field and some of them will be new mission startups. They will have a vision and calling, but fully trust in God for the realization of this vision. They need monetary support, fellowship, encouragement and people to rally behind them in their labour in the harvest field. In the year 1999 I was approached to support a missionary and his family who were moving to a new location to start a mission work. I was led to start supporting this family and thus began an exciting journey of investing in missions. I had no clue on how this would evolve and develop. The only assurance I had was that I was obeying God and God would work out the plan and details. In the last 15 years this mission has brought the message of salvation and hope to people who have never heard the gospel. God Almighty blessed the work resulting in several thousand people being added into the kingdom of God, several churches established in locations where there were none, several hundred groups of believers meeting in homes every
week, education to the needy children, healing to the sick, social outreach work, social upliftment... all of this to the glory of Jesus. During this period God gave me the privilege to continue to be a part of this ministry and allowed me to experience His mighty and powerful way of fulfilling His will on this earth.
Matt 6:20&21 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Over these years I have learned the following truths:
John 14:21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.
God is the owner of all things Psalm 50:9–12 I have no need of a
bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the insects in the fields are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it. Psalm 24:1 The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;
He is the full owner of all the things I have today and will have in the days to come. It is not my hard work, connections or mental acumen that has allowed me to have them, but it is purely a gift from God. His expectation is that as a faithful steward I will use these gifts as he commands me to. It is His and He has the decision rights. He is able to take the little and multiply it many times.
The Day of the Lord is REAL; Eternity is REAL
2 Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.
The day of our Lord’s return will happen for sure and if He comes today, then all my physical belongings and investments on this earth will be burned up. Therefore I should invest in things that will last forever.
Love for God, the Father; God, the Son; and God, the Holy Spirit
My love for God is the primary reason for my obedience to God and as a result of my obedience I want to remain in His love all the days of my life. It is not out of fear, a sense of duty, an obligation, a bargain of give-andreceive that I should obey God. If I truly “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” as Jesus said, then giving to God and His people gets easier.
Love for my family—brothers and sisters in Christ James 2:15-16 If a brother or sister is
naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? The demographics of this missionary family were exactly like mine—size of family, ages of adults and children. Hence when I heard the requested monetary support I was shocked. This family’s total expense budget for a month was the amount of money I was spending on just milk, eggs and basic provisions for my family every month. There was nothing extra for education of children, medical benefits, house rent, telephone bills and vehicle allowance which I was enjoying in my corporate job. If my answers were, “God will provide, I will pray for your needs; have faith!” am I truly loving
my neighbor as myself as per Mark 12:31? Is this the love God has poured into my heart through His Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5)?
This is a 100% safe investment as I am giving to God who is the owner of all things and the only person whom I can fully trust. In this world this is the only financial instrument (giving back to God) which is zero risk.
Prov. 30:7–9 Two things I ask of
you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die: keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches,but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, “Who is the Lord?” Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonour the name of my God. I realize that the term living modestly can have a wide range of interpretations in the context of different cultures. Seeking God in spending decisions, differentiating wants versus needs, seeking different alternatives, what is the right choice, timing, etc, have always yielded the best results and a modest lifestyle. A few years back I started seeking God for another opportunity to invest in missions and through His divine appointments He brought the right individual into my life. God gave me the ability to recognize the grace given to this brother and so was able to extend again the right hand of fellowship. I believe there are many similar needs in this world. Will Christian brothers and sisters step up to the role of Angel Investors for Missions?
Joseph Oommen & Anina. Joseph works with a reputed MNC abroad and his wife Anina is a full time home maker. They are blessed with two boys.
riage, it is good to share the thought with a senior couple and take their advice. The senior couple should facilitate the process of decision making on both sides. While elders facilitate and guide, the responsibility of the final decision has to be solely that of the individuals.
To Date or Not to Date
Practical guidelines for youngsters contemplating marriage J S A Julius Learn Before You Leap
The youth of today believe that they know everything about marriage. As a result, they proceed on whatever they think is right. While we appreciate the confidence of today’s youth, it is imperative that they know what the Bible says on different aspects of marriage. All young believers preparing for marriage should study the bible sincerely to learn the principles of marriage. The Bible has enough material on the purpose of marriage, criteria for a prospective spouse, and the master design for building a Christian home. Study of the principles of the Bible should be paired with systematic prayer and willingness to obey the direction of God’s Spirit. It is wise to attend some premarital counselling seminars and programs on Christian Family which will help shape their perspective. Apart from this, there is enough literature written for Christian youth on the entire subject. Reading a couple of books from your church library or a personal library of a senior Christian couple will be very helpful at this phase.
First Things First
Young people today tend to mix well with the opposite gender while studying or at the workplace. In the process, they develop infatuation and start thinking of marriage. While it is essential to relate well with the opposite gender, a believer in the Lord should understand the issue of compatibility as given by the Scriptures. The Bible is explicit in giving us clarity that a man should marry a woman and a believer should marry a believer (2Cor. 6:14–16). In my 40 years of experience involving in the marriage of youngsters, I have seldom seen a nonbeliever getting converted after marrying a believer; instead, I have seen multiple instances of believers back-sliding completely after marrying nonbelievers. When a proposal comes, the first check is whether the person is a believer or not. If the proposal is not of a believer, the matter can be closed and it cannot be taken for any consideration. On the other hand, if the proposal is of a believer, the person should pray and seek God’s will and should not leave the decision to the pastor, parent or any other leader.
Say it Out Loud
At multiple instances, we have found that young people do not share all their criteria of the person they would like to marry. After the proposal has been shared, issues such as colour, caste, educational background, mother tongue, etc are brought out as reasons of rejection by the person. Had they communicated these preferences at the beginning of the process, the elder would explain the lack of relevance of such criteria for Christian marriage and help the person to build clarity on biblical principles of marriage. Hence it is very helpful if the person writes down and discusses all the criteria with some senior couple who has a clear value system and be willing to realign if required.
Don’t Be in a Hurry
Another common mistake young people make in the fellowship/church is directly expressing their desire to marry a certain person. We are expected to treat everyone in the fellowship as brothers and sisters. In case, a person wants to consider someone in the fellowship for mar-
The issue of compatibility has become the sole basis of secular match-making today. So, the world encourages today’s youngsters to ‘go on a date’ to find suitable life partners. Young people, in their pursuit of checking compatibility, end up getting emotionally attached to the person they are exploring much before understanding God’s will with respect to the person. This has to be avoided as it can lead to the person getting married outside God’s will. The Bible emphasizes complementarity and not compatibility. Given the enormous differences between man and woman, family and upbringing, language and culture, it is impossible to identify someone who is equal in every aspect. The only compatibility the Bible talks about is on the issue of believer/unbeliever. Every other difference is to be celebrated and the husband and wife should look to complement each other with their unique attributes.
Keep in Mind
Pray and consider the proposal seriously, one at a time. Some people consider 3 or 4 proposals simultaneously. It is not possible to find God’s will if you consider more than one at a time. Have a clear deadline to find God’s will. If needed revisit the deadline. Some people go on postponing without any deadline, declaring that they are praying. Meet before making a decision. One boy (highly qualified and a member of a Christian fellowship) and girl(also a believer) liked each other over facebook and expressed willingness to marry each other as they felt it was God’s will. Based on their decision, the parents decided to meet in my presence. Once the boy saw the girl (for the first time!) he developed a disinterest in her since he found her to be overweight. The meeting came to a very unpleasant/
unchristian end with the boy saying that the parents did not like the girl. Therefore it is good if youngsters meet personally before taking a decision in a common place like the elder or mentor’s home. But once you have known each other’s spiritual stand, they should avoid getting emotionally attached to the person till they find God’s will individually. Clarifying issues is fine but avoid continuous contact over phone/chat/ video etc before taking the decision. It is best to express the final decision to the mentor/elder/pastor instead of directly communicating it to the person. Make your own decision. Young people should not leave the decision to their parents/elders even if they are believers. If parents are believers, it is good to consult them and keep them informed so that they can also support you with their prayers and counsel. They should not depend on the senior couple who have brought the proposal for the final decision. Ownership of final decision based on God’s leading should be squarely on the individuals. Share your spiritual stand with your parents. In another case, a girl from a non-Christian background was attending a church without the knowledge of the parents. The pastor of the church she was attending brought a proposal to her. The girl immediately went and told her father who got very angry and slapped her. The reason for the father’s fury is difference in religion, caste and education. He put all restrictions on her movements and prevented her from going to any church. If the parents are not believers, it is very important to share about one’s spiritual stand with the parents before sharing anything about marriage. The youngster should not keep them in the dark and try to marry without the knowledge of his/her parents. Once the youngster has prayed for some proposal and taken the decision, he/she should take the help of a senior couple to share the proposal with parents. The youngster should have introduced the senior couple as mentors and well-wishers well in ad-
vance. When they object to considering a Christian, you should gently make your stand clear and wait for a reasonable time for their approval for marriage. Keep elders involved in the process. Once the parents agree, it is wise to call for the meeting of the elders from both sides to decide the date, venue and other details. Keep the senior couple who have been involving in the proposal and helping you to take the decision be part of the elders’ meeting. Their presence is very important so that the talks may go smoothly and not end up in division. Sometimes, instead of parents, uncles and aunts who sit for marriage talks open the topic of caste, dowry and customs to be followed at the time of the marriage celebrations, who should spend the money for marriage expenses, etc. The mentors can help ease out of difficult situations during the talks. In everything, give all glory to God. We came across a case where both the boy and girl coming from nonchristian backgrounds decided to conduct their wedding as per nonChristian rituals in order to please the parents. The youngsters in such scenarios should take a stand to exchange vows in the presence of God with the witness of godly people. It is not only important whom one marries but also how one marries. While planning the celebrations of marriage, one should adjust with the culture of the place where God has placed the person, as long as it does not clash with the principles of the Bible. All celebrations should be simple, economical and decent. It should not be lavish and a show off as per local perceptions. The entire event should bring glory to God.
J S A Julius is an active graduate involver and former president of the UESI movement. He is actively involved with various mission movements in various capacities. He lives in Bangalore with his wife Renuka. They have three children and four grandchildren.
The Law of Possession Peter Premkumar
Sam K John
marriage vows reflect this commitment—“To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” True love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1Cor. 13:7.
Love is Self-Giving
e all know that LOVE is the basis of all human relationships. Especially in a marriage, love between spouses is an indispensable virtue. In Eph. 5:25 Paul admonishes, “Husbands, love your wives…” Some think it is a specific command given only for husbands, but when we read Eph. 5:1–2, we realise it is a virtue that needs to be found in both husband and wife. When we talk about love in marriage, it is important to realize the difference between true love and romance. Let me illustrate. When a person buys a brand new car and begins to drive it, the whole experience seems so good and pleasant. The interiors, the acceleration, the braking system, the flawless body... everything about the car is so good. That’s when people blurt out, “I love my car.” Let’s fast-forward ten years down the line; the car now begins to get old... the pickup is gone, the brakes are tentative, the interiors are looking shabby and soiled, the body is full of dents and the shine is gone. Imagine what the owner of the car will feel now; perhaps, “I hate this car.” What was an object of love ten years ago has now become an object of hate. The nice feeling about the car is gone. Likewise, romance is a pleasant feeling or emotion which changes with time and circumstance.
If love between husband and wife is nothing but a sweet feeling (romance), it will vanish after a while. Feelings or emotions are bound to change with times and circumstances. Someone said, “Marriage is a story where Mr and Mrs Romance die in the first chapter.” A husband visited a marriage counsellor and said, “When we were first married, I would come home from the office, and my wife would bring my slippers and our cute little dog would run around barking. Now after ten years it’s all different; I come home, the dog brings the slippers and my wife runs around barking.” There is nothing wrong with romance. In fact, romance is needed to spice up every marriage. However, it is important for the newlyweds to know that their initial romantic feeling for each other is short-lived. It is bound to go down as real life catches them with its pressures and responsibilities. Can love between husband and wife last for a life time? Can it go beyond the romance of the honeymoon season?
What is REAL LOVE? Love Never Fails
Paul in 1Cor. 13:8 writes, “love never fails.” In the marriage context, love is a lifetime commitment that is made between husband and wife. Christian
Eph. 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Worldly love demands, “What can I get? What will I profit out of this marriage? What can I get out of my partner?” Whereas, true love asks, “What can I give? What can I offer to my partner? What do I carry into my marriage?” If married people are able to have the same attitude of Christ—willing to give oneself for the sake of the other—there is true love.
Love Accepts One Another
Eph. 4:2 Be humble and gentle in every way. Be patient with each other and lovingly accept each other. When two people come together in marriage, there will surely be differences. The reason is simple—two different people are coming together in marriage—people brought up in two different places, two different cultures, two different homes, two different temperaments, and two different expectations. Perhaps, husband and wife will be spending their entire lifetime in discovering each other’s differences. However, these differences need not become stumbling blocks in marriage. True love is willing to accept people as they are. Unfortunately, we all want our partners to change and become like us. We forget the fact that our partner also is thinking on the same lines. Someone said, “A woman marries a man expecting he will change, but he doesn’t. A man marries a woman expecting that she won’t change and she does.” Surely there is a place for correcting each other within marriage... but it needs to be done in an environment of love and trust. Rom. 5:8 states, “he (Jesus) loved
us while we were yet sinners.” True love accepts one another as they are.
Love Forgives and Forgets
Eph. 4:32, Forgiving each other as God forgave us in Christ Jesus. The greatest problem in today’s families is this: people who are unwilling to admit their mistakes, and people who are unwilling to forgive their spouses. We all can make mistakes. One of the important marriage-saving words is ‘sorry.’ There is nothing unbiblical or uncivilised about saying sorry (Matt. 5:23). Do not allow your ego to come in the way. We should also learn to forgive others. 1Cor. 13:5 states that love keeps no record of being wronged. Col. 3:13 says, “Bear with each another and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” A couple married for fifteen years began having more than usual disagreements. They wanted to make their marriage work and agreed on an idea the wife had. For one month they planned to drop a slip in a ‘fault’ box. The boxes would provide a place to let the other know about daily irritations. The wife was diligent in her efforts and approach: “leaving the top off the cookie jar,” “wet towels on the shower floor,” “dirty socks not in basket,” on and on until the end of the month. After dinner, at the end of the month, they exchanged boxes. The husband reflected on what he had done wrong. Then the wife opened her box and began reading. They were all the same; the message on each slip was, “I love you!”
Sam K John lives in Bangalore with his wife Jiji and two children Kripa and Kevin.
Marriage is the highest form of friendship and this relationship has greater depth than any other relationship. God felt the loneliness in Adam as he was living among animals and saw that he needed a friend for an intimate relationship. So God said it was not good for Adam to be alone and that He would make him a suitable helper. Before bringing Eve to Adam and giving her as his wife, God asked Adam to name all the animals. It would have taken Adam many days and months to name all the animals. As he was naming them God brought Eve and presented her to Adam. When Adam saw Eve, he was immediately roused into excitement and fell in love with her. He began to sing a love song for her (Genesis 2:23), “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh;” Through the love song he gave a message to Eve: “You are mine and I am yours; you own me and I own you; you are made for me and I am made for you.” There was a sense of ownership. Marriage is all about owning your spouse—He/she belongs to me. ‘I am hurt when she is hurt,’ ‘if he is having head ache, she should feel the pain’—such intimate is the relationship— “indeed a mystery”. You nourish and cherish your spouse’s body as your own (Ephesians 5:29). Today, marriages are not about owning one’s spouse but about owing— unrealistic expectations from the spouse, demands of dowry, cash, salary figures and wealth. Adam did not demand anything from God or Eve. He simply accepted Eve as God’s gift to him. Neither Adam questioned God about Eve’s background, prospects, colour, contour (curves, figure, size, height or weight) charms or commodities; He simply accepted her as God’s gift because God said he would present him a perfect fit (Suitable partner —the best). God always gives you the very best. Adam believed God’s word. Your spouse is God’s gift to you—do not doubt God or question His will for you. Accept them with their background, past experiences, their parents, failures and weaknesses. Respect and honour them for he/she is made in the image of God. Own your spouse—love them more than the things that you own—people are to be loved and things are to be used. Do your God-given role and responsibility conscientiously. When you start owning something dear, you love it, you cherish it, you protect it and never want to part with it. Cherish your spouse! This is the LAW OF POSSESSION.
Peter Premkumar and his wife Sally Peter are involved in building Christ-centred families through their ministry called FACT based in Pondicherry. They travel extensively to speak in seminars and training programs.
Talking Your Way Through Marriage Capt. Jose Palamootil Oommen
isha and John were married for a year when I met them. They are well educated, with management degrees from a reputed institution. Before marriage they were in college together. They shared a lot of things, spoke about many things and had good fun together. After graduation, they landed jobs in different IT companies. They decided to marry and there was happiness all around as the families too felt that they were a great pair. They went off for a short honeymoon trip and were soon back in their jobs. They both liked the competition in their respective work places and thrived in it. They went all out to achieve targets. This, most of the time, meant that they would have to spend long hours working even after they returned home. They had a big home, with all the helpful gadgets in it. But they enjoyed their home rarely together as they had a lot of travelling to do. There were many instances when they would catch up on each other in airports. During the rare days when they were both at home, they would be engrossed in their respective jobs and even started communicating by writing on slips and sticking them on the refrigerator. I am sure you, as a reader, would have realized the direction in which the relationship was headed. Sure enough, they soon met with a counselor and asked whether they were actually incompatible and hence separation was the answer. How had this relationship gone from a great one to a poor one?
Well, this is not an uncommon story in post-liberalized India. So is there no hope? There can be if couples learn, struggle, and re-learn to communicate. There are some things that I have learned through my own experiences and interactions with people:
Virtual talking is no talking. We live in an age where communication is by virtual means to a large extent. I know of families who share many things through social media and, of course, through email. There was a time when my wife and I were faced with some issues and we used email to communicate. It was compounded by the fact that I was outside the country. I soon realized that it wasn’t a successful exercise and decided that the only way to resolve the issue, which was threatening to grow larger, was to return home and resolve it face to face. But we don’t have to do it only when things seem to go out of control. One of our family friends is a great example of good communication. Ravi and Rupa, after putting their children to sleep, talk to each other for at least an hour every day, even if it means that they sleep late. They share a cup of coffee as they sit together and discuss the day. They are determined to make their marriage work. They know that God has a greater purpose through them and they pray, discuss everything and are in the business of making a difference in many lives together. The best way to communicate is to intently make time for each other, get relaxed,
share the day, pray and make plans for the family and for the world around.
Allow ‘gravity’ to affect your negative emotions. One of the
things that I have often noticed is that deterioration in communication leads to communication going “through the roof.” I have known people throw things and shout and scream at each other. The ‘post-fight’ scenario is one, in most cases, of cold silence. The temperature just doesn’t seem to come down quickly. One couple for a very trivial matter did not speak to each other for more than two decades! It is an extreme example, but there are other examples, which, though lighter, leave a great impact on the marriage relationship. During times of extreme emotions, one of the spouses, at least, needs to deliberately back off and allow temper to experience ‘gravity’ or a ‘cooling off ’ effect. Taking a step back is an act of maturity and need not be evaluated in terms of victory or loss. The biggest gain of the momentary backing off is the realization that the conflict-producing matter has reduced in intensity! Later, with a maximum gap of a day, talk to each other, find out where things went wrong, apologize and agree to resolve the matter together and calmly.
Not just doing things together, but also doing things for each other. I have read many articles
that speak of doing things together which help in building relationships. Now that’s a great thing. Doing things together will always help in creating a good and united working relationship. I have another thing to add to this. Don’t just do things together, but do things for each other. It’s a nice way of saying, “I love you.” My co-brother has been a great model. During the week, my sister-in-law has a tough time as she manages the entire household. My co-brother eases that situation for her during weekends. He wakes up a little early and makes the morning cuppa and also breakfast and, at times, lunch as well. Now that’s his way of telling his wife that he cares
for her—by doing something for her. It’s not a one-time activity but a regular one. I come from a home where men are not welcome in the kitchen. But I have decided that I will enter the kitchen and help in washing dishes. Even now, this shocks my mother, but I keep doing this. There are other things too that can be done. Being innovative helps. Do something for each other often; surprise each other—it’s just a way of communicating love.
Restore your first love. Intimacy does not happen automatically, it is created. All of us have seen young couples before marriage and in love. There are long periods of silence as they gaze into each other’s eyes. They don’t have to talk love; they experience it. How often do we see this happen amongst married couples? I think the answer would be “none” or “rarely.” We are good at having activity-based conversations, but there are not many moments of “experiencing” love. Hey, don’t be embarrassed—go ahead, call your spouse and say that you just want to look deep into his or her eyes! You will find that you have communicated more than you would have done through words. When I was getting to know my wife we went out on long bike rides and enjoyed each other’s company. Some years later, all that was forgotten. We did many things for the family but were steadily feeling the impact of being less intimate. It has taken us effort to regain that. We seized on an opportunity to go out on a bike ride while we were on a speaking engagement in Panchgani. We biked our way to Mahabaleshwar sight-seeing and also enjoyed having some strawberries in fresh cream at a farm! It was wonderful. Hold hands, take a walk together, have some fun together—leave the responsibilities and issues behind. You will come back rejuvenated ready to face all situations together. Nisha and John worked on their relationship. They decided that their joy was in their relationship and not in achieving great things in their work places. They worked out certain things which would help them in their jobs, but most importantly, in their marriage. Little Diya has added to their joy!
Don’t just do things together, but do things for each other. It’s a nice way of saying, “I love you.”
Capt. Jose Palamootil Oommen (Retd.) along with his wife, Grissil, have been involved in counseling young couples and individuals. They have been part of a family ministry called Urban India Ministries. Grissil and Jose share a passion of seeing families united and happy, who will know God’s purpose for their marriage and lives.
Handling @ Finances home
The Urban Challenge: Raising Our Kids Debbie Sunil
rbanisation is growing at a rapid pace. The rural culture is rapidly being replaced by the urban culture. Many from non-urban areas are setting up their homes in the urban areas. India is at the most prosperous phase in its entire history now and hence there is a lot of growth opportunity and access to money in the system. Nevertheless, urban lifestyle throws up several challenges to Christian families. One of the biggest challenges is with regard to raising our kids.
Make time for your kids
The tendency to live up to a certain urban lifestyle is forcing both the spouses to pursue their respective careers with equal vigour. This pursuit of career growth by both the spouses puts a lot of stress on the family, especially when the kids are small. Parents are unable to give valuable time to their kids at this very impressionable age (Deut. 6:1–9). Dependence on maids and crèches to take care of kids has become the norm. Sad to say, urban children today spend more time with maids and ‘aayas’ instead of parents. Once the children are in their teens they need parents as their confidants and friends. If they can’t find parents in this role, they will find
someone in their peer circle or some unknown mentor and we would be helplessly watching every value they espouse in the years ahead.
Engage with your children
Parents tend to send their children for tuitions very early on in order to keep them busy lest they disturb them in their pursuits. No tuition teacher can replace the parent in understanding the innate potential of the child. Since most urban parents have had decent schooling, it will be very effective if fathers and mothers spend time teaching subjects, especially those the child dislikes, to their children. This will create an excellent bond between the parent and child when together they track the performance and progress in those weak subjects through the academic year. Another challenge for urban parents is to help children understand real-life activities such as helping in the kitchen, garage, gardening, shopping etc. This will help children unglue themselves from the gadgets at home. Parents should encourage children to be active in outdoor sports—more so boys and even girls which will help them in their overall growth (Proverbs 22:6).
Forsake not the family altar
With multiplicity of roles to perform, the urban couple has the potential to lose sight of the spiritual disciplines that he/she once practised with great passion. Practice of the family altar and introducing children to daily Bible reading and prayer according to their age are essential aspects of Christian nurture. There is enough material available to get for kids of different age groups. This will give them a foothold in this post-modern world which says truth is relative.
Don’t spare the rod
Given the very limited time parents have for children, they are very happy to give the children whatever they want. This is done more to ward them off from demanding too much time. In such an atmosphere, disciplining becomes a casualty. Disciplining children needs time and special care which the parents are not keen to offer. The Bible says that he who spares the rod hates his son (Prov. 13:24). Urban parents struggle to manage this aspect of disciplining children when they are young. In today’s credit card culture, most young kids think that they can get anything they want. Many a parent has heard their child tell them back ‘but you have the card’ when told that we don’t have the money now to buy a certain item. Hence imparting the value of contentment and delayed gratification becomes a responsibility of parents in this surplus urban culture.
Parents should help children build relationships with grandparents and other relatives in their native towns and in other locations. Occasional vacation trips to meet relatives will help children understand the importance of the larger family. Such trips
Children are a gift from the lord; they are a reward from Him. Psalm 127:3 will also help them to appreciate the beauty of the countryside and the richness of life beyond the urban malls they are familiar with. In the corporate culture of performance and rewards, there is a constant urge to calibrate oneself with peers in terms of promotions, key roles and assets built/developed. To say no to a ‘key role’ in order to give time to a child in a critical year will require a lot of gumption and courage. Breaking the prevailing corporate growth culture to choose roles that can have larger Christian impact also calls for the ability to discern the mind of God on a regular basis. Psalm 127:3 says, “Children are a gift from the lord; they are a reward from him.” As parents we are stewards of our children and as stewards it is our duty to help our children grow up and fulfil their God-given plans and purposes.
Debbie lives with her husband Sunil in Bangalore. They are blessed with two boys Joshua and Daniel.
Give, and it will be given to you... For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Luke 6:38). Whatever may be your earning, do not hesitate to give to the Lord a portion of your earning. This is not meant only for those who earn and have a regular income. It also applies to housewives and children. Never think that when I earn such and such an amount, I will give. Giving should be a part of your nature. For It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). When your earning increases, your giving to the Lord should increase proportionately. Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the lord your God has blessed you (Deut. 16:17). God is the resource of all our earnings and therefore it is amicable to give to the Lord.The Financial Management at home should begin by giving to the Lord. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver (2Cor. 9:7).
Pray for all your earnings before making any expenditure. Whatever you receive you may commit it in the hands of the Lord just like the five loaves and two fish which fed the multitudes. It is not the number of digits in your income that will
meet your expense, it is the Lord Jesus who will maximize your resources. These days we do not get a cheque or cash in hand as our monthly salaries. Our salaries get credited directly to our bank account. As husband and wife make it a point to pray as soon as the salaries are credited. Pray for your expenditures. Ask God to provide you best deal when you go shopping. You will be surprised to find great discounts even without so called ‘Sales Offer’. Pray while making every purchase that the goods you buy may last long and turn out to be of good quality so that your investment pays you for a longer period. Pray while buying your monthly provisions that every food item you consume may be worth the amount spent and that you will be able to provide to those who cannot afford. I have seen my mother provide ration out of her monthly quota to families belonging to economically weaker section of the society. Such a home will never lack food. God will never allow the oil to run out or the jars to be empty.
There is a difference between hoarding and saving. Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise… it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest (Proverbs 6:6–8). It is wise to save a little bit for a rainy day. In situations of unexpected expenditure, it is good to withdraw from your savings rather than taking a loan. Housewives learn to set aside
something from monthly expenses. It is not necessary to spend all that you receive. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard (Prov. 31:16). Surprise your husbands by buying household items for which you both have been waiting for. Teach your children to put change in their piggy banks. Once it is full, buy something for their birthday or some celebration. See how happy they feel for the savings they have done. God enables you to save not just for your need but for His children who are in utmost need using you as a channel of blessing. Therefore, if you have some savings and your brother in need wants to borrow from you, do not turn away. God watches over His resources stored with you. God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them (Hebrews 6:10). My colleague’s 7-year-old child underwent a major surgery. They lost all their savings but God provided for them marvelously. They received support from an anonymous donor, and were able to pay off huge medical bills. All our savings can be worthless. God is our ultimate provider.
The credit card companies are bombarding us with silver, gold and platinum credit cards. They are pushing us to buy more, more and more. In this consumerist world, we are easily trapped, yielding to temptation. Never buy things that you do not require. Do not covet owning things just because your neighbour has them. Many of our friends are suggesting we buy a car. But we are two and we can very well manage on a bike. As a family we have decided to place all our desires, needs, and wants before the Lord and seek His guidance before we invest in any small or big thing. We need to manage our expenses within our resources. Even when we can afford it, we need
to pray whether God wants us to have it. Every good and perfect gift is from above... (James 1:17). While seeking a job, let not monetary benefits be the only reason. Whether you earn five thousand rupees or fifty thousand rupees, it will never be sufficient when you start splurging. Seek for the benefits that cannot be measured in terms of monetary benefits alone. In our family, we always seek a job with Saturdays and Sundays off, so that we have the weekends to be involved in various ministries, attend fellowship meetings, visit orphanages/families. God expects not only our tithes and offerings but also our time. Choose to spend time with your own family; do not indulge yourself in professional life so much that you miss out on the loving moments of being together with your family. What God has put together let not your jobs separate them. Better a little with the fear of the lord than great wealth with turmoil (Proverbs 15:16). Ultimately, Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (Phillipians 4:6) and our God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19)
Indira Kurupati. Indira works for CMAI. She is married to Edwin and they live in Delhi.
ONCE MARRIED, ALWAYS MARRIED? What Does the New Testament Teach? Sam K John
WHAT DID JESUS TEACH? Divorce on fairly trivial grounds was common in the time of Jesus. It is understood that divorce was legally permitted on the grounds of infertility, sexual unfaithfulness, material or emotional neglect, etc. The Mosaic legislation (Deut. 24:1–4) was mostly misrepresented as a sanction for divorce rather than regulation. Divorce was seen as morally right and lawful. The only concern was about the certificate of divorce (Matt. 5:31). Moreover, instead of death, divorce had become the socially accepted punishment for adultery. Hence, divorce was even considered as mandatory by some during Jesus’ time.
Teachings in Matthew 19:1–12, Mark 10:1–12 & Luke 16:18
The two major passages containing the teaching of Jesus on divorce and remarriage are found in Mark 10:1–12 and Matthew 19:1–12. The question the Pharisees posed to Jesus focussed on the significance of the Hebrew phrase erwat dabhar (translated as ‘some indecency’) found in Deuteronomy 24:1. There were two extreme rabbinic schools—the Shammaites and Hillelites. The Shammaites, named after Rabbi Shammai, understood erwat dabhar to be a sexual offence which fell short of adultery or promiscuity. The Hillelites, named after Rabbi Hillel, by contrast, understood indecency as anything. Their view permitted divorce for even petty reasons. For instance, a husband could divorce his wife if she spoils a meal. The Pharisees wanted to force Jesus to choose between the two schools so that they could use His answer to accuse Him either of laxity or narrow legalism. Jesus chose not to take sides. Instead, He answered by calling attention to God’s
original plan for marriage. He said, “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female,” and added, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Matt. 19:4; cf. Mark 10:6–9). Divorce is clearly condemned as an act against God’s original plan of marriage. Jesus quoted Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 to the Pharisees before making His statement on divorce (Matt.19:4–6). The unity of husband and wife is Godordained and it is referred to as ‘one flesh.’ Moreover, Jesus affirmed that it is God Himself who actually joins together a couple in marriage and what God has joined together no human being has the right to separate. This is a categorical statement and not an opinion. It is noteworthy that Jesus used this image of spiritual unity to argue that marriage should not be dissolved by people, not to argue that it cannot be. In Luke, the teaching of Jesus on divorce is placed in a different context (Luke16:18), but the message is the same. Luke’s thrust is on remarriage but he incidentally speaks of divorce too. Therefore, as far as Mark and Luke are concerned, Jesus clearly forbids divorce and remarriage on any account. There is no exception whatsoever. Jesus reveals the permanence and true spirit of God’s law by condemning divorce and remarriage as a sin of adultery. Jesus’ main point in these statements is that divorce is contrary to God’s plan for marriage and should never be taken lightly. John Stott puts it aptly, “The teaching is unambiguous. The marriage bond is more than a human contract: it is a divine yoke.”
Jesus’ Explanation of the Mosaic Law
The Pharisees were not content with Jesus’ explanation. They challenged Jesus with another question: “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” (Matt. 19:7). They were trying to find fault with Jesus for overruling the Mosaic Law. To this Jesus replied, “For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so” (Matt. 19:8; cf. Mark 10:5–6). By this Jesus implied that the Mosaic permission was occasioned by the stubbornness of the Israelites and not God’s original plan. The regulations given by Moses were to rectify perverse situations and not to abrogate the divine institution of marriage. Stott calls the Mosaic provisions as a concession to human sin and not divine approval for sinning. Therefore, according to Jesus, the Mosaic Law cannot be taken as God’s approval for divorce. Any reference to divorce in the Old Testament should be seen as a corrective or regulative step and not as divine sanction for divorce. Women were treated badly by men. Carl Laney observes, “Men were divorcing their wives for a ‘weekend fling’ and then taking them back again when the dirty laundry had piled up and the house needed cleaning.” In order to prevent hasty divorces and protect the rights of women, strict legislation was necessary (Deut. 24:1–4). The view of the law, as we see in the book of Deuteronomy, clearly shows that there was no legislation whatsoever to enable divorce, and there were only laws to restrict the ability to divorce. David Atkinson comments, “Divorce in the understanding of Deuteronomy was a kind of amputation, though permitted, it could not happen without damage to both partners.” The Mosaic concession does not alter God’s original plan for marriage to be a sacred and permanent covenant. It simply provides protection for the divorced wife when sinful men violate God’s plan for marriage.
Matthew’s Exceptive Clause
There is a crucial difference between Jesus’ teaching given in Matthew’s gospel and others. Matthew’s account has an ‘exceptive clause’ in both Matthew 5:32 and 19:9, (“I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness...”). The Greek word used here for marital unfaithfulness is porneia. Like the Hebrew word erwat dabhar in Deuteronomy 24:1–4, this word too is much disputed. Historically, porneia has been used with wider and narrower meanings. The wider meaning includes unlawful extramarital sexual intercourse such as prostitution, fornication, and adultery. The narrower meaning can refer to sexual aberrations such as homosexuality (Rom. 1:29), incest (1Cor. 5:1), and unlawful marriages within the forbidden degrees of relationship (Acts 15:20,29). Since the Greek word used normally for adultery is moicheia and not porneia, some have concluded that the exceptive clause does not mean adultery at all. And there are those who think that this exception applies only to illegitimate unions, a view held by the majority of Roman Catholics. Some scholars limit the exception to sins of incest, fornication and even spiritual adultery. However, the New Testament sense of the word can take wider meaning; not just adultery, but every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse (1Cor. 5:1, 6:13, 15:16, Matt. 1:18,19, Rom. 1:26–28). Unfortunately, some have used porneia’s wider meaning to include offences like cruelty, domestic violence, and incompatibility and so on. It is not hermeneutically possible to do so.
Summary of Jesus’ Teaching
The above discussed arguments establish the truth that Jesus permitted divorce only on the ground of sexual immorality because it violates the ‘one-flesh’ principle. This does not contradict his stricter view that divorce is sinful. Rather, it is consistent with God’s action (His divorce of Israel) as seen in the prophetical books of the
Old Testament. However, Jesus did not make divorce mandatory. Gary Collins makes a crucial observation, “Even when unfaithfulness is involved, divorce is not commanded, it is merely permitted. Forgiveness and reconciliation are still preferable to divorce.” The overarching teaching of Jesus is consistent with the rest of the Bible— God always hates divorce (Mal. 2:16) and the exception is only a hesitant concession. Therefore, divorce, as such, is never justifiable even for marriage unfaithfulness.
APART FROM ADULTERY, IS THERE ANY OTHER GROUND ON WHICH DIVORCE IS PERMITTED BY THE BIBLE? Paul’s teachings on divorce and remarriage are most significant since they represent the earliest Christian interpretation and application of Christ’s teaching to specific situations. Paul’s major contribution on divorce comes from Romans 7:2–3 & 1Cor. 7:10–16. Here, Paul might have been answering some of the problems raised by the believers in various churches. He addresses four scenarios.
Death of a Spouse
Marriage is to be considered a permanent union that is severed only by death of a spouse. “For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage” (Rom. 7:2).
Divorce Between Believers
Paul’s direction to Christians married to one another was in line with Jesus’ teachings (Mark 10:2–12); as a rule, no divorce (Matt. 5:32). Therefore, when problems occurred in a Christian marriage, the resolution was to be sought in reconciliation (Eph. 4:32), not in divorce.
The Divorce of a Believer and an Unbeliever
The next issue referred to Christians who were married to non-Christians. Jesus never had addressed this issue
(1Cor. 7:10,25). Here, Paul does it as the situation requires, with no less authority (1Cor. 7:25). Some divorces may have been initiated because of the command of Ezra to the Israelites in Jerusalem after the exile (Ezra 10:11) to divorce themselves from pagan spouses. Similarly, the new believers might have tried to develop a new identity by changing the conditions under which they lived. A Christian wife would have wanted to get away from her unbelieving husband and vice versa. Paul affirmed that even in a believer-unbeliever marriage, as a rule, there should not be divorce (1Cor. 7:12–14). Paul’s principle was, “Each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him”.
The Pauline Privilege
When one party in a pagan marriage is converted to Christ, he or she must not desert the other. But if the other insists on leaving the Christian, “a brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases” (1Cor. 7:15). This is termed as Pauline Privilege by Bible scholars. This, then, is the second ground of divorce permitted by the Bible other than adultery. Nevertheless, one should keep in mind that the divorce initiative here comes from the unbelieving partner and not from the believer. The reason Paul allowed this to happen is summarised in v15—God wants peace and not dissension. Women in the first century in Greco-Roman culture demanded their dowry back during the time of divorce. If it was not returned, then under Roman law, 18% interest on its value was charged until
the husband complied. If the woman wished to leave because her husband was a Christian, then no obstacle was to be placed in her way, eg. withholding the dowry. Certainly withholding it, however well-meaning, would ultimately result in the unhappiness of court proceedings. God did not want this to happen; therefore, Paul allowed divorce when desertion happened. Hence, Paul’s teaching is consistent with the rest of the Bible that God hates divorce. The early church held firm to these apostolic teachings.
WHAT ABOUT DIVORCE ON NON-BIBLICAL GROUNDS? There is no end to the number of excuses by which individuals divorce their spouses today. Some excuses are silly and even funny. On the other hand, there are excuses which seem to be valid and invoke our sympathy. For instance, there are wives who live under abusive and intimidating husbands. Moreover, people in their marriage, come across circumstances like incompatibility, childlessness, physical abuse, terminal sickness and ‘death of real love.’ Some in situations like this seek divorce. They base their arguments on human logic and pragmatic reasons. Some arguments by which people justify divorce are: “What is worse? The sin of divorce or the sin of hate?” “I simply cannot put up with my partner another minute,” “Our love for each other is gone forever,” “We are incompatible,” “God told me I had an
Think about it... Love seems the swiftest but it is the slowest of all growths. No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century. Mark Twain
To keep your marriage brimming with love in the loving cup, whenever you’re wrong, admit it; whenever you’re right, shut up! Ogden Nash
A cord of three strands is not easily broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12
exceptional case,” “Our marriage wasn’t made in heaven.” Although some reasons may sound reasonable, the mandate of the Scripture should precede all decisions. Although the civil laws of various nations permit divorce legally on many grounds, the Bible does not permit a Christian to practice it apart from the exceptions mentioned above. Some argue that the exceptions given in the Bible are not exhaustive and they are time-bound. Hence, they claim that God would approve divorce if it is for the right reasons, though not categorized in the Bible. It is true that the Bible teaching did not anticipate and address all the modern-day family problems, but that does not nullify the overarching teaching of the Bible on divorce. For example, today, incompatibility is seen as a major reason for divorce. While Paul addresses the same issue in Corinth, he does not advocate divorce (1Cor. 7:10–16).
HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND TO DIVORCES AMONG CHRISTIANS? Divorce is a commonplace event today. Christians, including pastors, are no exception. Further disturbing is the fact of remarriages and repeated divorces. The church cannot remain silent.
First, the Biblical teaching should be upheld over all matters regarding marriage and divorce. Divorce is sometimes seen as a natural development of the modern world system. However, this worldly thought should not be allowed to take over the church. The ministers of God must recognise divorce as a sin against God and preach condemning it. The fact that some in the church are divorced today should not hinder the condemnation of this sin. The church should teach believers the New Testament teaching on marriage, singleness, family, sex, roles of spouses and prepare them for life-long marriages.
Second, the church should involve more and more in serving its people by giving the right kind of pastoral care. Educating and seeking to change public perceptions are not enough. Married couples today undergo tremendous pressures because of the fast paced world and its demands on them. Moreover, there is a constant pull from the world to compromise on Christian values. Therefore, caring fellowship groups should be initiated; elderly and matured Christians should be allowed to mentor young married couples. When friction and difficulties arise within marriages, the church should be in a position to minister to them and bring about reconciliation between partners. Moreover, when a married couple begins to contemplate divorce, the church should appoint qualified counsellors to help them evaluate their marital situation realistically and if needed, help them to admit and confess each other’s mistakes.
Third, divorce should not be viewed as an unpardonable sin. Like any other sin, God does forgive the sin of divorce if a divorcee genuinely asks God for forgiveness. Therefore, divorced people should not be viewed as untouchables or eternally-condemned sinners. The innocent partner of the divorce must be helped to overcome the pain of divorce and failure. Divorcees need compassion, guidance and support to cope with post-divorce emotional turmoil. We should not forget that although God hates sin, he loves the sinner. The same attitude is expected from us towards the divorced. The biblical teaching on divorce is consistent and straightforward. God instituted marriage. He desires that a man and woman will find fulfilment in marriage and it will be an exclusive, loving and lifelong relationship.
Sam K John is a Bible teacher and itinerant preacher based out of Bangalore.
Dr Adalyn George
od’s call is always special and
when obeyed, it proves to be a blessing to the one who obeys and those around. The call to stay single— for a long time or permanently—is not different. Some are born single, in the sense they do not have the inclination to enter into marital relationship. Some choose to be single and happily remain so. Some have singlehood thrust upon them. Whatever category one belongs to, it is imperative to find out what God has intended for the individual. It is good to submit to God’s wisdom early in life and offer oneself to live for the Lord, whether single or married. In an age that glorifies romance and marital intimacy beyond reality, singlehood may appear devoid of security, identity, fun, love, joy, togetherness, and hence seem frightening!
BUT we know the Kingdom perspectives are different. Paul writes, “Sometimes I wish everyone were single like me—a simpler life in many ways! But celibacy is not for everyone any more than marriage is. God gives the gift of the single life to some, the gift of the married life to others” (1Cor. 7:7 msg). Paul’s priority is (and ours should be) to please the Lord: “I am saying this… that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord (1Cor. 7:35). Jesus came to give life “in all its fullness” (John 10:10). But our experiencing of it is determined by our personal perception of who we are. If we see ourselves as worthless, we do
not use what God offers, and our basic needs of significance and security are not met. The consequent emotions will be sadness and fear accompanied by anger, loneliness, anxiety, jealousy, attention-seeking, power-mongering, unhealthy competition and such. We can accept ourselves only when a significant someone outside ourselves accepts us. So it is great news to us, believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, that we are accepted and loved unconditionally by God Himself. He enters into a relationship with us and calls Himself Father (Isa. 9:6), Friend (John 15:14), Husband (Isa. 54:5), Brother and Son (Matt.12:50). This knowledge liberates one to joyfully accept oneself, to be authentic, to love and be loved. One’s security and significance is rooted in the Lord. This “fully alive” person will be a good spouse but it is not marriage which makes him/her, so and hence a single person is not deprived of these. “God, not your marital status defines your life” (1Cor.7:17 msg). Such a person soon finds that God has “a specific vocation or mission in life.” Devotion to this life-task gives “meaning.” Without this there is the danger of seeking for sensations to break the monotony that sets in. The roles and duties in the family do not add to the “meaning”. Whether married or single, an individual is accountable to God on an individual basis. A single person’s God-given needs for sexual fulfillment, caring and sharing in mutuality with the spouse, and the joy
of belonging in a biological family will remain unfulfilled. But the person has a sense of belonging to the larger human family. “...‘Shout for joy you who were never in labour because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband’ says the Lord” (Isa. 54:1). The world has been enriched by many singles. From scientific inventions to spreading the gospel, their contributions have been great. The Society for Promoting Female Education, England, sent more than 150 single women over a period of 40 years to educate children in the East. Amy Carmichael had the courage to disrupt the evil practice of an alien culture. Handel, the great composer of the Hallelujah Chorus felt he had “no time for anything but music.” Watchman Nee was a spiritual father to more than one lakh Christians in China. The Wright brothers were unrepentant bachelors who gave their undivided attention to the “flying machine.” Mother Teresa, Sir Isaac Newton, Florence Nightingale, Mary Slessor… the list will never end. Yes, as Luci Swindoll says, “God has wonderful things in store for us singles when we let go and get involved with the richness and rhythm of life.”
Dr Adalyn George, former professor of English, Women’s Christian College, Nagerkoil.
C2C Call to Consider
Call To Consider (C2C) is a discipleship-level one-day seminar tailor-made for Christian youth groups. C2C with its three main teaching sessions and related activities will challenge the participants to consider ‘the call and cost of Christian discipleship.’ C2C’s main objective is to motivate young Christians to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and surrender their lives wholeheartedly to do His will and purpose. C2C seminars are available in three languages: English, Malayalam and Tamil.
Day of Discovery
Do you long to know what God is doing in the world? Do you like to hear about God’s mighty acts in history? Do you want to discover the meaning and purpose of your life? Do you want to impact the world through your life? If your answer is yes to all these questions, this program is just made for you! This one-day mission-awareness program is very ideal for young adults & teens. This program is available in English, Tamil and Malayalam.
Merely reading the Scripture and studying what someone else has said about it cannot satisfy your hunger and thirst to know God and His Word in a deeper way. You must interact with the text yourself, absorbing its truths. L2S is a Bible Study workshop which helps you to acquire Inductive Bible Study skills through teaching and learn-by-doing sessions. This program is ideal for small groups of 15–20, who can spare a weekend (Friday evening to Sunday evening). L2S is available in English and Tamil.
Learn to Study L2P Learn to Preach
At a time when Word ministry is sidelined, the need for reviving authentic Biblical preaching is a high priority. Preaching (Homiletics) is both an art and a science. It is both a gift and a skill. L2P is a workshop to train young people in the art and science of preaching. This workshop combines teaching sessions, video presentations and exercises. L2P program requires a minimum of four days. We also have a special component in L2P on evangelistic preaching. L2P is available in English and Tamil.