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9th March 2014

Your Wife Divorced You WHY??

by Norman Walford   

“My wife divorced me because she said I wasn’t spiritual enough.”

Wintering in an Alpine ski resort has given me opportunity of meeting all kinds of
interesting people who have made their homes here temporarily or permanently.
Some of these I meet in our little Anglican Church congregation and some out in the
wider community. In the old days ski bum was the preserve of the teens and
twenties; now you get them in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. They all have a story to tell,
and perhaps even a skeleton or two in the cupboard.

The above-quoted remark came out casually from a church member. It surprised me
because up to then I’d thought him if anything a bit too spiritual and “churchy” for
my taste. But there it was. The casualness of the remark obviously belied a
considerable underlying pain, and sensibly enough he’d decided a change of scenery
would do him good. Now he drives a shuttle bus between the airport and the resort,
spends his days off skiing, and generally seems to be recovering well.

I have no idea of the exact nature of his ex-wife’s complaint of “not spiritual
enough”. Personally I don’t really go for people who wear their spirituality on their
sleeve, and he had seemed a bit like one of those. His wife had thought otherwise,
obviously. I guess we all have our own ideas about what constitutes “spiritual”. My
first thought was, she must be from some sort of rigid works-based congregation
somewhere, where spirituality is measured in legal terms. You still find such places.
But no, quite the opposite. She was actually a member of large and well-known chain
of charismatic evangelical churches that most people would probably place if
anything at the more easy-going end of the spectrum. OK, I suppose no harm in
saying “Vineyard”.

Very strange! He was by his own account an active member of the church. He’d
been instrumental in the conversion of an old run down building to function as the
church auditorium, since that was what he was good at—I hope we can all recognize
converting buildings as being just as much a spiritual activity as anything else. She
had been equally active and committed in the things she had seen as her spiritual
calling—tithing, spreading the gospel, doing charitable stuff and so on. And yet,
somehow she’d come up with the idea that her husband lacked spirituality, and that
the right and Christian thing to do was to divorce him.

My first reaction on hearing the story was mildly condemnatory. I think a lot of
listeners would react that way. OK, strike out the ‘mildly’. I was probably just
No! This is just WRONG! This is NOT Christianity!

My second reaction as I left the building a few minutes later was, Interesting though.
Clear Pharisee angle—I wonder if I can make it into a story.

My third reaction as I started up the road for home was, Wait a minute! Haven’t I
just done a story on this, or at least touched on the subject? Like, LAST WEEK!

At which point I realized that it wasn’t quite as simple as I had thought.

Last week I wrote a piece called
Oh Juno! … What Have You Done?  In it I described
how the founder of my publishing company had got herself caught up in a legalistic
Pharisee-type cultic church. As a consequence she had over a period of about 12
years lost (in worldly terms) pretty much everything she had, including her house,
car, children, money, business—and her husband. I didn’t go into detail about how
she lost her husband in this process, so I can explain it now. Briefly. She had divorced
him. Why? Because she decided he wasn’t spiritual enough.

See now why it’s not quite that simple?

Of course there are significant differences between the two situations. Juno had
divorced her husband on the advice of her pastor, who had quoted bible verses to
explain why she should get rid of him. The husband hadn’t given up his faith, just
become disillusioned with that particular church and decided to leave it (from the
pastor’s point of view the same thing). Juno’s decision, but perhaps mitigated by the
pressure from the pastor.

I don’t know whether the wife of our shuttle bus driver (I’ll call him Dell) ever
discussed her decision with her pastor. Had she done so, I’m guessing he would have
discouraged her. Probably it was her decision and hers alone. So it’s not quite the
same situation.

Nonetheless the core essentials are similar. Two women divorcing their husbands for
being not spiritual enough—and the one I’m classifying as the tragic victim of a
Pharisee conspiracy, while the other  I’m tending towards viewing as a legalistic
hypocrite. So who’s the real Pharisee out of all this?

I’ve got a nasty feeling it may be me.

Because when at the end of my deliberations and attempts to rationalize the
situation I finally get round to the question I should perhaps have asked myself at the
beginning, it looks a bit different. That is …
What would Jesus have done? How would
he have reacted to such situations?

The only real parallel I can think of in the gospels is the story of Jesus and the woman
at the well in John chapter 4.  In this story Jesus meets a woman who’s got rid of no
less than four husbands. We’re not given the reasons for these separations, but I
don't think it was on account of their lack of spirituality. Probably things much more
frivolous than that. Juno and Dell’s wife have in common that they were at least
trying to do the right thing, even if their logic was a bit mixed up. The woman at the
well seems to have had no such pretensions in her actions.

And what did Jesus say to her? NOTHING! Not a single word of condemnation,
anyway. As I understand it, all he says or implies is,
I know your situation. Nothing is
hidden—from me or from God.
And that’s it. There’s no word of criticism of her from
Jesus in the entire story.

So … if I allow the least trace of condemnation or judgment into my heart when I
think about these two stories—then the real Pharisee must be me. I’m the one
who's most out of tune with Jesus, more than them.

There’s generally a logic to our sinning. In one sense we’re all victims. We get
deceived in our hearts—by the Enemy, by other people, by the convoluted
machinations of our own though processes. That’s why we sin. At the time it seems
the rational and sensible thing to do. That’s how it seemed to Juno, and to Dell’s
wife, at that particular moment. And if Jesus chose not to pass judgment in such a
situation, then it’s not for me to pass judgment either.

It’s for God to judge, or not judge, as he sees fit. And it’s God who forgives, even
Pharisees like me.

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Februrary 2014

Oh Juno! ... What Have You Done??

January 2014

A Tale of Two Churches: St

Universalism - Did Paul Believe in Hell?    

Universalism - Did Jesus Really Believe in

A New Beginning - Is it REALLY That

November 2013

The Green eyed Monster  

One Church or Two - How Many do I

If I'd known how difficult it was going
to be, I don't think I would ever have
become a Christian, but I didn't so I did,
That was in November 1969.

I've not had too many problems with
God, once I understood what it was
about, but with the church I've had
plenty. Its the community you can't live
within and you can't live without. It
was the struggle to resolve this
paradox that led me to write my book
How To Survive in the Pharisee Church
in 2009.

Now in my blog I write about issues of
practical Christianity  in general,
including most recently a satirical bent
as in
The Chronicles of the Pharisee
Church of St Gregory-the-Try-Harder
, a
semi-mythical (but mostly real)
Anglican church on the island of
Singapore, where I live.