Radical Obedience — To What Extent?

When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this.  He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her.  And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”  Mark 10:10-12

Yikes!  Who wants to study out this verse?  It is too hard, there are too many differing opinions.  It makes me emotional as I think of so many divorce situations I’ve come upon through my life.

Do we apply this passage literally, no matter what?  Do we practice radical obedience to it?

That brings up a few thoughts about radical obedience.  I just read a blog by Jonathan Hollingsworth about being a radical Christian —

“When you’re obsessed with being a “real” Christian, you start noticing Christians all around you who don’t seem to fit the bill. And if you’re like me, you start pointing fingers.  I thought I was some kind of prophet, preaching a lifestyle of sacrifice and self-abandon that I expected everyone to follow. But my concern for the suffering was making me insufferable.”

Radical obedience can make us insufferable.  It can make us think we’re obeying in the right way, and everyone else is wrong. .

Here’s an example.  Before we were married, Ken and I attended the small mainline church of Christ he grew up in.  Ken’s parents went to that church as well, and the members there were like family to them.

Ken’s mom had a best friend at church and they had long wonderful conversations every day.  But then, the issue of divorce came up in the church — this very passage.  There was a couple who were members  who had divorced and remarried before they were baptized.  Some people felt that they were committing adultery and should not stay together.  Others felt that it was okay.

My mother in law was on the it’s okay side, and her best friend was on the it’s a sin side.  The church split over this issue.  The best friend and others sent out letters to other churches telling them to not have anything to do with those who thought this couple was okay.  My mother in law was deeply hurt.  Her best friend stopped talking to her.

About 25 years later, my mother in law passed away.  Her former best friend came to the funeral, very sad.  She put a letter of apology in my mother in law’s casket.  But it was too late.  The bridges were burned.

We REALLY need wisdom in our obedience.  We cannot just blindly and rigidly apply verses without regard for situation and circumstances, without compassion, without prayerful consideration, without careful study, without Godly advice.

Because it was not the intention of Jesus to divide.  In Mark, he had just talked about being at peace with one another, about humility and serving one another.

Yesterday I was reading on the ICOC Facebook page a post about one of the forefathers of our fellowship of churches, Kip McKean.  Over and over again, I read how the main issue our church leaders have had against him is that he is divisive.  They quoted this statement from McKean:

“You see we believe our congregation is unique here in Portland. Now I think there are other baptized disciples in other fellowships. But I don’t think there is any other fellowship that is composed solely of sold-out baptized disciples.”

Kip said their fellowship obeyed the Bible better than other fellowships.  Radical obedience can be divisive.  It’s vital to keep this in mind.

Does this mean we start fudging on obeying?  Of course not!  We still need to wholeheartedly follow the teachings of the Bible.

But let’s pray every day to practice radical obedience with wisdom, let’s talk among one another, and let’s be led by grace.  Obedience always needs to be accompanied by humility, love, compassion, an awareness of God’s goodness.  Because without these things, what bubbles up out of our heart is self righteousness, indignation and frustration.

There’s a happy ending to the story of my father in law and the church split.  He remarried, and just a few weeks ago found himself in the position of needing to find a new church home.   Where did he end up but at the church that had separated from his so many years ago!  He thought they would not want him there, but his old friends welcomed him and his wife warmly.  The troublemakers of the past had moved on in one way or another.

God is SO GOOD.  His blessings surround us.  May this direct us in our quest for righteousness.

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”  Romans 14:17

ACTION ITEM:  What is your blind spot when it comes to obedience to the Bible?  Get input from a spiritual friend on something you’re struggling to do from the Bible.

(If you want to study out this divorce issue in depth, here is a great article on this passage by Rubel Shelly.  He does a far better job than I can do.)

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Filed under Having the Right Heart, Mark

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