Divorce for Christians

It’s sad that “divorce” and “Christian” are ever in the same sentence. It’s sad that divorce ever happens, of course, but it’s particularly tragic when one or both spouses profess Christianity.

The good news for Christians is that it has been shown that an active faith actually does reduce divorce rates. Couples who regularly attend church together, and especially who participate in religious activities through the week (such as prayer and Bible study) have statistically significant lower divorce rates than the 50% average. Biblical behaviors like staying virgin until marriage and not cohabiting prior to marriage (particularly more than once or before commitments are made) are also factors for lower divorce rates.

Sometimes relationships face crises, however, and it can be very difficult to know what to do. Since some particularly conservative churches teach that all divorce and separation is wrong, and secular society allows divorce for pretty much any reason, these muddy waters can be difficult to tread.

God Hates Divorce

Divorce only happens because of sin. It ends the covenant relationship of marriage that was originally instituted by God when He gave Eve to Adam, the way a father gives away his daughter. In Malachi 2:16, God unequivocally states that he hates divorce.

Obviously, we should avoid sin and things God hates. It is not that God will hate us, any more than he hates us for any other sin, but it does mean that divorce — and the things that lead to it — are things we really should avoid. We should definitely not enter into divorce lightly or without trying to first work things out.

So, when is divorce permissible?

Adultery

Like many Christians I know, I subscribe to the A’s of divorce. Adultery/sexual immorality is the most obvious of these. In fact, it is the only one that Jesus explicitly gave as justification for divorce (Matthew 19:9).

Adultery/sexual immorality does not have to result in divorce. It is possible to reconcile and rebuild the marriage, if the adulterer is repentant and their spouse willing to try to work things out. The victim of the adultery does not have to pretend that the offense is any less serious than it is, but can still extend the offer of reconciliation with that understanding.

Reconciliation after adultery takes work, and almost always requires counseling, preferably from a Christian source. Putting boundaries in place to help prevent future adultery is important as well. Most adultery starts on an emotional level — too close of a relationship with (usually) someone of the opposite sex, which develops over time into a physical relationship. Even where this isn’t the case, reasonable boundaries can be very helpful in protecting the relationship. Getting one or two mature Christians of the same sex to go to with problems and frustrations is also both safe and helpful, so that an inappropriate friendship with someone of the opposite sex isn’t established when in a rough spot.

However, with unrepentant adultery, especially repeat adultery, the victim of the adultery is permitted to seek divorce.

Abandonment

Sometimes, your spouse just won’t stay in the marriage. You have the responsibility to be the best spouse you can be, but you can’t force them to do anything. This is especially true when the spouse isn’t a Christian and therefore can’t be subjected to church discipline. (1 Corinthians 7:15)

Of course, it is wrong to be such a terrible, unrepentant spouse that you drive your husband or wife away. That is abusive and sinful, and you are then also at fault and guilty in the divorce.

Abuse

I don’t limit abuse to physical/sexual abuse, but those are certainly the most dangerous. That’s especially true if children are involved.

Since abuse is not explicitly listed as a cause for divorce in the New Testament, as the above two A’s are, some believe this to not be a case in which divorce is permissible. I disagree, as marriage is not supposed to be a trap in which someone — usually the wife — is horribly mistreated over and over. God never intended that for marriage, and remaining in such a situation enables the abuser to remain in sin.

In cases of verbal or emotional abuse, the victim should stand up for him/herself, seek resources for help, and perhaps separate until the abuser attends counseling and shows change.

I do think that, like anything else, abuse doesn’t have to result in divorce. Sometimes an abuser will repent and change. If physical abuse, especially repeat abuse, is an issue, I would urge a woman to get herself and her children to safety and submit her husband to legal authority. He should be submitted to church authority if he is a Christian as well — a church that actually will call him to repentance and protect the wife and children. Between these two consequences, and the counseling he can receive from them, he may be repentant. If not, the wife does not have to put herself and her children in harm’s way.

If a woman truly doesn’t feel like she can biblically initiate divorce in such a situation, she doesn’t have to. Maintaining her safety by separation and submitting him to legal and church authority will likely cause an unrepentant abuser to initiate divorce, sooner or later, and she will then be without fault through abandonment. I don’t personally think that a person who initiates divorce with an unrepentant abuser is in the wrong, however.

Addiction

This one is largely included because it usually results in or includes other A’s, to some degree. An addict may put the family in danger, or sleep around when under the influence, or abandon his or her family to pursue the addiction of choice. Addiction can even be a sexual addiction, falling under and/or leading to the first A.

Like the others, addiction doesn’t have to be the end, but should be treated with all the seriousness it deserves. An addict needs help if they decide to quit, whether it’s porn or drugs, because simply stopping the habit rarely lasts and doesn’t get to the underlying issues. 12 step programs, redemption groups, Christian counseling, and accountability partners can be vital.

Seek Reconciliation

In all instances, reconciliation should be a Christian couples’ first choice. It’s not an easy choice. Sometimes, it’s not possible, usually because one spouse refuses to or only pretends to. But when it’s possible, it’s the best choice. No-fault divorce simply isn’t a reality for Christians.

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Being A Paleo Christian

I eat Paleo.

Or at least I do in theory. Pregnancy and such got my husband and I out of the habit, and I’m starting to get us back on track. But we have been fairly strict Paleo in the past, and got great results.

What is Paleo?

Paleo is a diet lifestyle. Not a diet like something you do but hate and give up on easily. It’s a sustainable way of eating that fuels the human body well, can be kept up long term without feeling deprived, and tends to get good results not only in achieving a healthy weight, but for health in general.

Paleo focuses largely on meat, produce, and natural fats. Grains and highly processed, sugary foods are the main foods that get eliminated.

Why is it Controversial for Christians?

The name Paleo comes from the word Paleolithic. Paleo and other “ancestral” diets (which tend to be very similar overall) are based largely on the idea of eating what we’ve evolved to eat, all the way back through the chain of hominids that human beings supposedly descend from.

Obviously that is a problem for most Christians, even those who aren’t strictly young earth creationists (I lean toward old earth creationism myself). Macro evolution is something that most of us outright reject, or are at least extremely cautious with — and for scientific reasons as well as our beliefs, if we’ve done research.

Obviously, a way of eating that so openly embraces macro evolution and common descent of humans from hominids is something that Christians will balk at. I don’t, for a number of reasons.

We Were Made to Eat What God Provided

God provided produce and animals from the beginning. The Bible doesn’t record God telling us to eat meat right away, probably because there was no death in the Garden, but He had provided animals. He had given Adam dominion over them from the beginning. A natural, whole foods diet based on meat and produce is not antithetical to the Bible or to how God created mankind.

On the other hand, working the ground to get bread was part of the Fall and the curse on Adam. Also, the bread we get in the grocery store tends to be very inferior nutritionally to what earlier agricultural societies would have had.

The Same Conclusion Can be Reached Without Evolution

A great example of this would be  Gary Taubes’ book “Good Calories, Bad Calories.” He reaches very similar conclusions regarding a healthy diet without having to appeal to hominids and macro evolution, using thorough science.

Examination of each type of food that is included and each type that is excluded is also revealing. Even if macro evolution were true, it would be silly to take lessons from those distant ancestors if they were barely making it on substandard fare. However, there is good science showing the desirability of the included foods and the drawbacks of excluded foods.

For instance, wheat had gluten, which has ill effects even on largely tolerant individuals. It also contains anti-nutrients, and stimulates excess insulin production, which has its own host of problems. Excess glucose from excess carbs also tend to be stored as fat, and raise triglycerides.

Meat, on the other hand — particularly ethically raised — has positive effects on cholesterol, contains essential vitamins (many in large amounts), provides the body’s best fuel source (natural fat), provides protein for muscles and cell repair, and requires very little insulin to process.

Paleo Supports Ethical Agriculture

A lot of the ethical problems surrounding agriculture, primarily animal agriculture, is how the animals are treated.

Christians don’t have to be vegetarians. God gave us animals. Jesus himself at least ate fish; probably mutton, too, in his culture. But we were called to be stewards of creation.

Paleo encourages purchasing food that has been raised sustainably and ethically, including animals. For instance, we prefer grass fed beef and dairy (for those who eat dairy). Grass fed beef means that the cow was allowed to be in a field with grass which it freely ate. If you’ve ever seen Food Inc., you know how much more desirable and healthy that is than the way they are often raised for mass production.

There are many answers to the problems our agricultural society has. Not only does going vegetarian or vegan but necessarily make those problems go away, it’s also not necessary. The Paleo community tends to care about finding answers and supporting those farmers and producers who implement them. I’m all for being a good steward of the earth God gave us.

Paleo Can Help Major and Minor Health Problems

The USDA brought the food pyramid to you courtesy of controversial and largely unsupported science that became a political issue without ever getting the supporting science first. America became a giant health experiment, and it has failed.

As I said before, the foods either allowed or cut out on Paleo have scientific backing completely apart from anything so controversial as evolution. While it would be great to see some large scale studies as well, there are plenty of reasons to believe — based on science — that Paleo and similar lifestyle diets are ideal.

The anecdotal and experiential evidence bears this out. Many people with serious health problems have, if not reversed them, at least gotten them under control for the first time in their life. The average person sees great benefits as well.

Take me for example. I wasn’t in need of any serious weight loss, but I did lose a couple of pounds, and it was distributed perfectly. I kept my womanly curves, while fitting into the same size I wore in high school. I had a 25″ waist. I wasn’t even working out regularly to get that result. I also had less fatigue problems, and my hair and nails were healthier than before.

Many other ways of eating, even some of the better ones like clean eating, fail in their examination of the best foods and the science. While people will be healthier while, say, eating clean than they will be eating like most Americans, there are many people who will still suffer from ill effects of some of the foods that are allowed and even encouraged. For example, legumes are allowed in clean eating, but they cause indigestion in many people, myself included.

It Tastes Great

It takes some time, research, and preparation to fully transition to Paleo, especially successfully. Deciding that Paleo is eggs for breakfast and chicken with broccoli for dinner pretty much every night is not very exciting and fulfilling. Getting rid of non-Paleo foods and replacing them with tasty Paleo meals takes a little effort, such as finding a good assortment of recipes.

When you do take some time to get a good assortment of meal options and recipes, it can be very very tasty. I’ve got a gain-free bread called Maple Banana Spice Bread from the cookbook Primal Cravings just out of the oven, and it is yummy.

It Conquers Cravings and Addictions

My husband is a pizza and pasta guy. He craves then frequently. He can eat unholy amounts of refined carb foods. He also puts weight on easily, so this is obviously especially not good for him.

Knowing this, I had a strategy when I implemented Paleo. First, I stopped replacing the unhealthy foods when they ran out. Second, I made sure to find tasty recipes that I knew he would like — not too hard, since he really likes meat too. When you’re being fed food you like, you don’t think too much about other food you’re just eating. It didn’t take long before he wasn’t craving those foods anymore. Finding that those foods also made him feel bad after having eaten better for weeks went a long way as well. Before I knew it, his requests were pretty much always Paleo.

Being very low sugar and without refined carbs, it’s a satisfying way to eat that successfully kicks cravings for and addictions to such foods. The transition can be rough, especially if you were eating very badly before, but the results are certainly worth it.

In short, there are plenty of reasons for embracing a Paleo (or similar) diet that don’t in the least require Christians to embrace the idea of macro evolution as well. And if it really works (it does!), it might just be worth a try.

I’m Hateful for Believing in Hell

Oh, didn’t you know? It’s very hateful to believe that there will be ultimate justice for all wrong. And that those who never loved or wanted Jesus in this life won’t be forced to in the next. How horribly bigoted of me.

The people who tend to think that it’s hateful to believe in and especially to speak about hell tend to fall into two categories.

The first is non-believers (who are offended by something that they don’t even believe in). The people of whom Jesus said, “whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:18)

Either one of two things will happen for people who don’t believe. Either they’re right, and had nothing to worry about, and us believers are misguided. Or, they’re wrong, and they’re being offended by the truth, which is not a good thing to be offended by.

They’re often offended because they know they fit into the category of who the Bible says will go to hell. No one ever wants to be told they’re facing eternal torment. And believers shouldn’t want them to end up in eternal torment, which is why we warn them and urge them to believe in Jesus. It is a hard reality, but one consistent with a just and perfect God. We all want justice until it’s us receiving it for the things we’ve done wrong — like rejecting the perfect Creator and breaking His commandments.

The second category is Christians — and so-called Christians — who either don’t believe in hell or think it’s unloving to teach about it.

I guess Jesus, who talked about hell more than anyone else in the Bible, was super unloving.

Either that, or he didn’t actually mean that there’s an eternal or literal hell. If you believe that, you should probably read “Erasing Hell” by Francis Chan.

The Bible, often from Jesus’ own teachings, says repeatedly that there is a hell and that people who don’t believe in and follow Jesus will not have everlasting life. Jesus says that he is THE way, THE truth, and THE life, and that no one comes to the Father except by him. Someone who follows and trusts Jesus and accepts the Bible as the inspired Word of God believes this to be true.

And if we, as Christians, believe it to be true, the most unloving thing to do would be to never say anything to non-believers and prospective Christians about it. Letting them think that they’re okay and its all good when the Bible says they’re headed for eternal torment is not loving. It’s like believing someone who is about to step off the sidewalk will be hit by a car because there’s traffic, but not saying anything because they think it’s okay and you don’t want to make the person feel bad or scared.

And what’s with this, “Don’t teach about hell because that’s just trying to scare people into believing” shtick?

I’m sure there are churches that over-preach hellfire and brimstone and over-emphasize even to believers that sinners go to hell and get people all scared, but don’t teach nearly enough on the love and grace that saves from hell. Sure, shame on them. They’re missing the good news part of the, well, good news. That’s as bad as the other extreme of not telling people what they’re saved from by the grace and love of God.

The reality taught in the Bible is that we are all sinners. A perfect and just Creator would have to ignore justice and accept serious imperfection into His presence in order for us to have eternal life on our own merit, which would be completely inconsistent with God’s nature. And what sort of heaven would be filled with sinners like all of us anyways? He certainly has no obligation to do so, especially for those who don’t even believe in Him!

“Dad, I’m going to act like you don’t even exist and break your rules at least occasionally, but you should still give me everything because I’m at least usually not a bad person.”

Right.

Thankfully, God is not only just and perfect, He is also merciful and giving. So merciful and giving that He gave His Son, Jesus, who is the second person in the trinity, to pay the penalty for our sins and give us the opportunity for eternal life if we are willing to believe. Justice and mercy met at the cross.

If we believe, Jesus’ righteousness becomes ours, we are made spiritually alive, and we can have eternal life, restored to the perfection God originally created mankind with.

If we do not believe, we remain sinners under the wrath of a righteous God whose commands we have broken no matter how good we are and whose very existence and truth we deny.

It is true that we cannot always know if someone really is a believer, and it won’t ultimately be up to us to make that judgment.

But the Bible is clear on hell, who goes there (non-believers/false believers), and how to not go there. And yeah, that can be scary. Yeah, it is enough of a sobering thought to make many stop and rethink their beliefs because they realize that, if hell is real, they really don’t want to go there. I certainly don’t.

If you care about people, wouldn’t you want to warn them about the oncoming traffic they’re about to step in front of? And if you’re doing the stepping, wouldn’t you want someone to warn you?

Pregnant Body

Let’s be honest; pregnancy is hard on a woman’s body, even if she’s healthy. And security in a baby body can be hard.

I don’t have it bad so far, and probably won’t. At 33 weeks pregnant, I have no stretch marks on my stomach. My mom never got any on her stomach, so I’m hoping I’ll have none or maybe a couple small discreet ones. I do have them on my breasts, but they’re not in an obvious place and aren’t dark, so they’ll probably be hardly noticeable after the initial craziness of nursing and after some weight loss.

I’ve gained fat where I’m supposed to gain it, but it’s still fat. After a lifetime of never setting higher than about 125 on the scale (and that was when I was out of shape and needing to eat better; I like being 5-10 pounds less than that), seeing the numbers inch up over 140 is hard. I was never less than about 60 pounds lighter than my husband until a couple months ago.

Being genetically prone to dimples on butt and thighs when they get a bit of excess fat doesn’t help the situation. I know I’ve put on fat where I’m supposed to as a woman carrying a child: I have a bit extra in my breasts, stomach, butt, and thighs. But I don’t like how my butt and thighs look. I probably won’t like my post-birth stomach for a while either.

But I, and every other woman who is taking care of herself and still experiencing some less than thrilling baby body changes, just have to remember a few things.

First, stretch marks happen. Taking care of your skin and not gaining excessively can ensure that you don’t get them worse than necessary, but when things grow, stretch marks often happen. Genetics play a role beyond our control. These marks prove we grew a person. They are our battle scars. And why should we feel so bad about them? It’s not as if we failed in something by getting them. Quite the contrary; we made a human. And it’s certainly not as if most other women don’t have them! Unless, of course, they paid for removal. But not all of us are rich models, and we shouldn’t pretend like we have to look like we are without the surgeries and treatments they often have.

Second, the fat gain is not only normal, it’s necessary. Every woman has somewhat different needs for gaining during pregnancy, but virtually every woman should. Fat is the body’s ideal energy source, so the body prepares for the rigors of birth and the need to fuel breastfeeding by storing extra of this during pregnancy for later use. That means that first you lose the weight from baby, placenta, fluids, maybe some fat, etc. at birth and the first couple of days immediately after, but then you start losing fat just by feeding your baby! Add in a healthy diet and, when cleared, some exercise, and its possible to lose all or most of the baby fat within months; certainly in a year. Of course, an unhealthy lifestyle and/or getting pregnant again quickly will probably inhibit fat loss.

Finally, if you’re staying relatively healthy, don’t sweat it so much. Men often find pregnant women attractive, especially if it’s his baby. You know, proof of virility and all that. And a realistic, loving man isn’t going to expect you to look like a porn star or Victoria’s Secret model during or after pregnancy. Face it, you probably didn’t look like that before anyways, and he knows that. And why should you have to look like that? Most women can’t look like that and still be healthy. Value your health over your stretch marks or how quickly you lose baby fat. Frankly, if you focus on your health, not only will you probably have more peace with and appreciation for your body that can create new life, it will probably also end up looking healthy too. And both you — and a worthwhile man — will love a healthy you.

The Bible and Marriage: The Proverbs 31 Wife

I’m going to speak to wives right now, because I am one. I can speak to wives in ways that I can’t with husbands.

Probably the most thorough — and beautiful — part of the Bible regarding wives is in Proverbs. You may expect it to be misogynistic if you have a negative perception of the Bible’s treatment of women, but look again.

Proverbs 31:10-31 ESV

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.  The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.  She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.  She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.  She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar.  She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens.  She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.  She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.  She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night.  She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle.  She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.  She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet.  She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple.  Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.  She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant.   Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.  She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.  She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.  Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:  “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”   Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.  Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates

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Think about this. Look at all those positive descriptions. Her husband trusts her. Her children praise her. She’s strong, hard working, and skilled. She is generous and wise. I fail to see misogyny in this.

Ladies, don’t you admire and look up to women who are similar to this? Are these not all good things? Why in the world would we think that being this sort of woman is lesser, negative, or otherwise undesirable?

I’ll tell you why. Because our feminist society says so.

When I speak of feminism, it’s not the sort that simply demands equality for men and women in things like the law, education, being paid according to experience and education regardless of gender, and value. Those are all good things. What I’m talking about is the sort of feminism that tries to make women not only equal to men, but just like them. The sort of feminism that looks down on traditional marriage roles no matter how practical they may be for many couples, that feminizes men, that objectifies women. The kind that rejects biblical teachings. The kind of feminism we see way too much of.

Wives and Careers

Consider this. The Proverbs 31 wife is very hard working, but her work seems to be largely focused on her household and done at home. It’s all useful, requires skills, and her cloth-making ability even brings in money, but she works from home, and much of her work goes towards her household first. She does not have some career requiring her to work out of home and pay others to raise her children.

Today, this is often seen very negatively. It doesn’t matter that a housewife/stay-at-home-mom is her family’s chef, nutritionist, nurse, day care provider, teacher (even if the children attend school), event planner, chauffeur, housekeeper, etc is not good enough. She should be able to have a career and bring home a paycheck, too.

Quite frankly, ladies, men simply cannot take over some of our very important roles. They cannot carry and bear children. They cannot breastfeed. They are not biologically designed to provide the same sort of care and nourishment to children in their first few years that we women can. We even have a biological response to a child’s cry that men don’t. So why in the world are we trying to take over or be included in every possible role, to the detriment of the roles that we truly can do best?

Further, why aren’t we showing more respect for the roles men are best suited for? Men tend to be hardwired to thrive on respect and achievement. On doing. They are physically capable of types of work that most women aren’t. These things are often found through providing and protecting. When women try to take that over, especially to the point of forcing a husband out of that role, he no longer gets the things that make him feel most useful, needed, and fulfilled.

In fact, studies and surveys have shown that marriages are happier when the husband is the main or only provider, and that even many career-minded women will stay home with their infants and toddlers for more than a couple of weeks of maternity leave if they can. Many take a time out from their career for a few years when they start having children.

Nor is going to work when children are young profitable in many cases, particularly if the husband’s wages are sufficient. Many women get work that doesn’t make up for the added expenses of quality childcare, transportation, taxes, etc., and that’s usually not because they’re not paid what they’re worth.
So ladies, why do so many of us fight against being the household-focused Proverbs wife? How does that make any sense? You don’t have to give up education: the Proverbs wife was smart enough to be involved in real estate purchases. You don’t have to give up acquiring skills: excellent wives and mothers tend to do a lot of acquiring. You maybe don’t even have to give up bringing in some money: the Proverbs wife used her skills that she had learned for taking care of her household and expanded them into selling cloth. You don’t have to try to do something like that, of course, but the option is there.

Her Relationship with Her Husband

Notice anything about this wife’s interactions with her husband, and the results? It doesn’t go into a whole lot of detail on this, but we can get some idea of what kind of wife she is to her husband.

For instance, she supports his career. She makes sure the household is taken care of, so he can go fulfill his responsibilities without worry. He trusts her in this. He is obviously successful, since they can afford servants and purple clothing (purple dye was the most difficult and therefore expensive) and real estate investments. He sees to their provision, and she sees to the home and children. Both receive praise and respect as a result.

She is also wise, and involved in decisions (like buying land), so it’s reasonable to assume that he trusts her in giving him counsel and expressing her opinions. Her husband does not oppress or ignore her; he values her as his partner, in part because she has shown him that she’s trustworthy in such things. A woman who nags, gets into debt, or is otherwise a burden rather than a helper to her husband makes it difficult for him to show her trust and involve her in decisions. Obviously, the Proverbs 31 wife is not like that, and her husband responds accordingly.

She also does him good in all things. She fulfills her responsibilities, shows him respect, is a good mother to their children, and probably even enjoys a good sex life with him. That’s a good marriage. That’s a fulfilled husband. And he responds positively, with praise and trust. Likely, he probably also responds practically, showing her love and fulfilling her needs for security (one of the main needs for women in a marriage).

Fear of the Lord

The big key to her being a good wife is her fear of the Lord. Her virtuousness makes her worth much. Her attraction is based in something lasting — her beliefs lead her to live in a consistently good, loving way.

Ladies, if you live consistently in Christian beliefs — if you apply biblical living daily — you can be like this skilled, praised, useful, beloved woman. Fulfillment is not really gained the way feminists say; it’s gained the way the Bible says, and its a far better way.