...in the pulpit
Another week, another person leaving their wife and moving in with someone else. Oh yes, and did I mention this was an evangelical vicar?
And then a thought process.
A couple of weeks ago I spoke to the women in our church from Colossians 1. The aim was to remind us all of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. I spoke from the heart about my failure to keep Jesus commands, specifically about adultery and murder.
Woah! Have I committed adultery and murder?
Matthew reports that Jesus said:
So, in that case then, yes. Guilty as charged.
When I spoke to my ladies, I was hoping for a sombre tone. I was imagining that they would be convicted of the sin in their hearts.
But they laughed.
Repeatedly, through that whole part of my talk.
When I asked (from the front!) why, the answer given was that they identified exactly with what I was saying, but the laughter came from the shock of someone standing in front of them and admitting it. Admitting to the deep darkness in my heart, the desperate need for a saviour, because on my own terms I will never come close to the standard of love of God or neighbour that He requires. And no-one had heard this coming out of the mouth of a preacher before.
So when I hear about a vicar leaving his wife for the church secretary, although one of my first reactions is JUDGEMENT, what comes afterward is the memory that I said to my ladies "If I had the opportunity, would I?"
Have you already?
Are you a pastor, or pastor's wife and have already taken a step towards this?
Have you made someone an idol? Have you compared them with your spouse and thought that actually, that other person would be much better for you. They would treat you as you deserve. They would respect you. They would love you unselfishly. They would love you in the way you need, which apparently your spouse hasn't noticed you need. Perhaps they seem to love Jesus more than your current spouse does. They don't have the struggle with sin that your spouse does, and would be so much better for you. They'd help you in your relationship with God. Perhaps God wants you to be with them instead? Because then your relationship with God would be better...
If these things are going through your mind, can I urge you to bring them out into God's light. Tell Him. But please also realise that these are lies.
Whoever we marry will fail us. Perhaps a new spouse would love us in better ways, but they would also, inevitably fail us in some other way.
I have come to realise over the years of wrestling with my heart that anyone else I give the above characteristics to is imaginary at best, or an idol at worst. The person who I build in my head doesn't really exist on earth.
But He does in the heavenly realm. He is my beloved, and I am his.
Jesus is better for me. He treats me far better than I deserve. He loves me unselfishly. He loves me in the way I need. He certainly loves me more than Nick does (and, incidentally, even more so, he loves Nick more than I do). Jesus doesn't struggle with any sin, and he is so good for me. He helps me (oh, my intercessor!) in my relationship with God. And in the end, on the last day, when we live in a time when marriage no longer exists, he will replace my husband, and be my eternal groom.
When you're tempted, as we are, to replace, mentally or actually, your spouse with an idol, please remember that you would be replacing one sinner with another. Wait for that glorious day when we will all be joined to the bridegroom.
Then, remember your vows. I promised to love, for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness or health. And in the presence of God I made that vow. My commitment to Jesus needs to be reflected in faithfulness to the promise I made in his sight.
And bring it to the Lord. Fuming at him, crying to him, calling out in desperation to him at a time in your marriage when you are just at the end of wanting to be there is a precious gift. There is often nobody else we can go to, but He should be the first.
Pastors. Please. Preach from your heart and be honest with your congregation because they (we!) need to know that they are not alone, that we all struggle with sin, and here, in the gospel of grace, is the answer.
And if you're on the verge...please tell someone, and tell yourself the truth.