Christians Living Like Pagans

The answer to the question, “Why aren’t more nonbelievers becoming believers?” is quite simple really. Why in the world would they want to? When it comes to how people actually live, it seems that Christians for the most part live lives no different than most non-Christians. So why make the move?

Research and anecdotal evidence both confirm this. Christians in the pews tend to live lives which are little different from those outside the churches. US researcher George Barna is just one expert who has documented this time and time again.

And this explains a lot. Why are so few Christians speaking out about pornography? Because so many Christians are caught up in it. Why are so few Christians speaking out against abortion? Because so many Christians are having abortions themselves. Why are so few Christians speaking out against homosexuality? Because so many are abandoning the biblical teaching on the issue, and so many are getting sucked into this destructive lifestyle.

And here is one of the most damning indictments of all. Why are so few Christians speaking out against divorce? Because so many Christians are getting divorced, and seem to think nothing of it. Barna’s research found that evangelical Christians get divorced just as much as pagans do.

So is it any wonder that non-believers are not exactly flocking to our churches? Why in the world should they? They can live the same easy-going, immoral lifestyle as Christians do, and not have to feel as guilty about it. They see no difference in lifestyle, and so wisely stay away from the church.

But divorce is one of the big scandals in our churches today. I am not aware of any believer who does not have a number of acquaintances, friends or family members who have not been involved in divorce. It is a major plague devastating the churches, and most believers don’t even seem to care about it.

Now there is of course a lot of biblical material on this topic which needs to be waded through, and I suppose I will need to write some articles on this contentious subject. But if pressed for a short answer on my views on the matter, I can sum it up like this: Malachi 2:16.

But thankfully I am not alone in my concerns. Albert Mohler penned a piece on this recently and is well worth listening to. He says that divorce is “The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience”. This is especially the case given that so many believers are rightly seeking to defend marriage and family.

Says Mohler, “The real scandal is the fact that evangelical Protestants divorce at rates at least as high as the rest of the public. Needless to say, this creates a significant credibility crisis when evangelicals then rise to speak in defense of marriage.”

He continues, “Tragically, the church largely followed the lead of its members and accepted what might be called the ‘privatization’ of divorce. Churches simply allowed a secular culture to determine that divorce is no big deal, and that it is a purely private matter.”

Indeed, “the Bible is emphatic in condemning divorce. For this reason, you would expect to find evangelical Christians demanding the inclusion of divorce on a list of central concerns and aims. But this seldom happened. Evangelical Christians rightly demanded laws that would defend the sanctity of human life. Not so for marriage.”

We of course must fight against things like same-sex marriage. “But divorce harms many more lives than will be touched by homosexual marriage. Children are left without fathers, wives without husbands, and homes are forever broken. Fathers are separated from their children, and marriage is irreparably undermined as divorce becomes routine and accepted. Divorce is not the unpardonable sin, but it is sin, and it is a sin that is condemned in no uncertain terms.

“Evangelical Christians are gravely concerned about the family, and this is good and necessary. But our credibility on the issue of marriage is significantly discounted by our acceptance of divorce. To our shame, the culture war is not the only place that an honest confrontation with the divorce culture is missing. Divorce is now the scandal of the evangelical conscience.”

Mohler ends by noting a resolution drafted by his own denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, earlier this year. It is general enough to be applicable to all Christians, so I conclude by incorporating this document here:

SBC Resolutions
On The Scandal Of Southern Baptist Divorce

June 2010

WHEREAS, The Bible reveals that marriage is a gospel mystery, pointing to Christ’s union with His church (Ephesians 5:22-32); and
WHEREAS, The Bible teaches that marriage was established by God “in the beginning” to be a permanent one-flesh union (Genesis 2:18-25; Matthew 19:1-9); and
WHEREAS, Our Lord Jesus commands us that what “God has joined together, let not man separate” (Mark 10:9); and
WHEREAS, The biblical story shows us that one of the lamentable aspects of sin is the destruction of marriages and families, a destruction seen from the Fall until this present darkness; and
WHEREAS, The rampant divorce rate in our culture has come with great social and economic cost, with women and children suffering disproportionately in ways that are incalculable; and
WHEREAS, We have affirmed in our confession of faith our belief in the sanctity and permanence of marriage; and
WHEREAS, Some studies have indicated that conservative Protestants in the United States of America are divorcing at the same rate, if not at higher rates, than the general population; and
WHEREAS, Some studies also indicate that areas where Southern Baptist churches predominate in number often have higher divorce rates than areas we would define as “unchurched” and in need of evangelical witness; and
WHEREAS, Even the most expansive view of the biblical exceptions allowing for divorce and remarriage would rule out many, if not most, of the divorces in our churches; and
WHEREAS, The acceleration in rates of divorce in Southern Baptist churches has not come through a shift in theological conviction about scriptural teaching on divorce but rather through cultural accommodation; and
WHEREAS, We have been prophetic in confronting assaults in the outside culture on God’s design for marriage while rarely speaking with the same alarm and force to a scandal that has become all too commonplace in our own churches; and
WHEREAS, We do not serve those who are hurting from divorce by speaking to them only in therapeutic terms rather than in terms of both repentance and forgiveness; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Orlando, Florida, June 15-16, 2010, acknowledge the complicity of many among us for too often failing to show the world the meaning of the gospel through marital fidelity; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we express our conviction that a denomination defined theologically by our belief in the authority and inerrancy of Holy Scripture ought to proclaim the whole counsel of God, especially when the Bible confronts our own patterns of sin; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we express our further conviction that a denomination defined missiologically ought to recognize how damaging Southern Baptist accommodation to the divorce culture is to our global witness for Christ; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we express our further conviction that a denomination seeking God’s blessing in revival and reformation ought to address the spiritual wreckage left in our Southern Baptist churches by our own divorce rates and our silence about the same; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we call on our churches to proclaim the Word of God on the permanence of marriage, and to provide ongoing marriage enrichment opportunities, in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ and God’s abhorrence of divorce; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we call on our churches to unite in marriage only those who are biblically qualified to be married to one another and who demonstrate an understanding of the meaning of lifelong love and fidelity; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we call on our churches in our wedding services to maintain the gravity of the vows being undertaken, not simply as a token of a couple’s romance but as a covenant before God, until death do them part; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we call on our churches to minister to couples and families in crisis through counseling, mentorship, and, where necessary, through biblical church discipline; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we call on our churches to proclaim God’s mercy and grace to all people—including those who have been divorced without biblical grounds—due to the truth that the blood of Jesus can atone for any sin and can cleanse any conscience; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we call on our churches to have special compassion for and energetic ministry to those who have been left in the wake of family brokenness; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we urge all Southern Baptists in troubled or faltering marriages to seek godly assistance and, where possible, reconciliation; and be it finally
RESOLVED, That we pray that the true peace of our Lord Jesus Christ will reign in us such that the next generation will see the gospel not only in the counter-cultural nature of our verbal witness but also in the counter-cultural love and fidelity of our marriages.

[1555 words]