One of my favorite illustrations of the divorce issue rests in the plight of an elected official years ago. This lawmaker was a ‘tough guy’ on the issue of child support. He bucked and stomped in our Indiana Statehouse, calling for toughened penalties against those men and women who were involved with the system. When non-custodial parents would come to the statehouse to express their views on the unfairness of the laws that lawmakers created, he objected the loudest.
Until. Until HE went through a nasty divorce, lost access to his kids AND was put on the hook for extensive child support. Soon, he lost his bid for re-election. A few months later he wound up marching WITH the very protesters he railed against. When asked by a reporter why he was protesting, the lawmaker said the current laws for non-custodial parents were too harsh. THEN he realized that HE had to live under those same ‘tough’ laws which he helped to craft. He also realized that divorce could happen to anyone, at any time.
Moral of the story? Eventually, those lawmakers who helped to create a ‘tougher child support payment’ system ‘to help the children’, have to live under the monster they helped to create.
LET US GET DOWN TO THE NITTY-GRITTY ON DIVORCE:
First, I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. That is what the KJV Bible maintains, and that is where I’m coming from. Thus this ‘cobbling’ of laws to reflect the ‘whims’ of small segments of society who want to ‘experiment’ with their warped view of marriage--along with the courts and lawmakers who support such idiocy--are not a part of my focus.
Second, I am not too happy with the lawmaker and courts crowd when it comes to the ease with which the laws have been changed to allow for ‘No Fault’ divorce in all fifty states. This is another innovation that has come back to ‘bite’ society in the butt. I realize that many may not know this upcoming fact, but there have been instances since the 1990s where more women have filed for divorce than men…thus causing a very noticeable rise in the number of single-headed households with MEN at the helm. Of course, when the women walked out on the marriage to ‘find’ themselves in the workforce, they were hit with HUGE child support obligations, as the payment system is based on dollars—not gender. This is not a part of my focus in this column.
Third, during the mid-1980s the child support system was quietly merged with the welfare system. Thus—to keep the money flowing into the federal coffers—those women who were getting all the goodies from the welfare system had to name a man—any man—with whom they ‘may’ had gotten pregnant, in order to keep the welfare ‘bennies’ in their pockets. The child support system was weaponized and aimed at all divorce cases. This is not a part of my focus of this column.
Fourth—and this is the shocker—I’m not even going to bother to go into the unfairness of the child custody and visitation system. A non-custodial parent can be paid up to date (in compliance) in the eyes of the court; yet many courts will not bother to hold the custodial parent to the same compliance standards of maintaining visitation. Thus, a custodial parent can spin lie, after lie, after lie to the children about the non-custodial parent NOT wanting to see them for a number of years and the custodial parent is RARELY held accountable. Time missed between non-custodial parents and their children can never be recovered…but as long as the money keeps flowing’, the court is ‘satisfied’. However, this is not a part of my focus.
I am zeroing in on the elephant in the room. The ‘dirty little secret’ (DLS) rarely discussed? The hurtful treatment of the divorced--and in some cases divorced and remarried individuals--by their local churches. It still appears--at least in more than a few churches--that those Christians who have divorced and/or have been blessed to marry again STILL are being treated as second classed citizens in their houses of worship; good enough to pay their tithes and come to services, but NOT ‘good enough’ to lead ministries IN their church where they attend.
BUT FIRST--THERE IS ANOTHER ISSUE:
Since we are heading towards the holidays (or, in some cases, have been through the holidays because of the Wuhan Virus) I have a bone to pick with those 18 years old and up. Society, because of your age, has stated that you are a grown man or woman.
Act like one and reconcile with your non-custodial father or mother. As long as you don’t, you will rue the day that you didn’t take advantage of spending time with BOTH of them, regardless of the situations which lead to the breakup of your home. Part of being an adult is learning how to make the tough choices in life.
I’ve spent a lot of years working in the juvenile justice system. I also have an anti-gang ministry I head which celebrates 15 years in service as of 2021. You would NOT believe the conversations I have had with prideful teens and bitter exes. During my Probation Officer days, one parent and teen duo—a mother and son—still stick in my mind. They sat in my office one day to go over court orders. Standard procedure held that I had to get the phone number of the mother’s ex and the teen’s father to see IF they ‘got along’ well enough to bring the teen to his probation visits in case the mother was unavailable to do so.
I asked the mother: “If you were unavailable to do so, would you allow the boy’s father to bring him to his office visits?” The bitter mother said, in front of her son, a firm “NO”. Less than thirty days later, the mother was shot dead with her boyfriend—by one of the boyfriend’s drug gang rivals. The mother’s ex sat in my office with a social worker and his estranged son. Truly, tomorrow is NOT promised (Hebrews 9:27 KJV). That mother and son found out the HARD way that keeping a teen away from, or, encouraging a teen to not have contact with their non-custodial parent—because of pride—could be a fatal mistake.
The fifth commandment is clear in the Old Testament: “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee (Exodus 20:12 KJV).” In the New Testament, it is clear as well: “Honour thy father and thy mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth (Ephesians 6:2-3, KJV).” Clearly stated: Fathers and Mothers are to be honored by their children REGARDLESS. Rule of the street: How YOU treated YOUR parents is going to be how YOUR children will treat you. Rule of the KJV Bible: The child who does NOT show reverence or respect or reconciliation with their parent is NOT long to live very long on this earth nor have much in the way of God’s peace in their lives.
THAT is part of the package when the Bible says that the fifth commandment is a commandment ‘with promise’. God is NOT going to ‘overlook’ your disrespect of your parents.
“Well, they didn’t try to reach out to me,” I’ve heard various teens mention over the years. News flash: IF a custodial parent had a no-contact order out or chose any of a hundred other legal/illegal ways to keep the non-custodial parent away from the kids, it is the duty of the grown child to discover the truth and love BOTH parents. THIS is what God commands. The Ten Commandments are NOT the Ten ‘Suggestions’. This is especially true for those who have become Christians since the breakup of their home. Seek reconciliation.
Let me also add something for the Christians who have good marriages and stable homes. Do NOT let the pride of what you have be ‘held’ over other Christians who have gone through the Divorce Valley. Just like my lawmaker at the beginning of my column, you could quickly find yourself given your court papers, and dealing with lawyers. Pray for your OWN marriage. Love and support your spouse. Use compassion with those who don’t have what you have.
THAT is the mark of a true Christian.
THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH ALSO NEEDS TO RECONCILE:
In closing, on behalf of the divorced and the divorced and remarried in many churches, just a few pieces of advice for Pastors and church leadership. One—divorce is NOT an unforgiveable sin. It IS forgiven once a person takes it to the Lord and asks HIM for forgiveness. Yes, there ARE consequences—but that is NO concern of the Pastor or church leadership. What is under the Blood of Christ has a ‘no fishing sign’ attached to it. Church leadership also has NO room for pride—and we DO know how God feels about pride!
Two—divorced and/or divorced and remarried people are NOT ‘second class’ Christians. They are Christians, period. Three—the divorced and/or the divorced and remarried can work IN church ministries as LEADERS, not just CLEANERS. Amen? IF Pastors and church leaders have the guts to approach divorced and/or divorced and remarried members for tithes and offerings—and NOT invite them to help out in church ministries…well, don’t expect them to stay and pray for the success of your church as they will be out the door in short order!
Over the years, I have listened to church leaders and Pastors ‘whine’ about ‘not’ being able to find congregation members to ‘help out’ in leading or serving in church ministries AND I have seen these same individuals ‘look down upon’ the divorced and remarried. News flash: Other than the offices of Pastor and Deacon, divorced and remarried individuals CAN serve in a variety of ministries (I and II Timothy and Titus)! Lastly—and this is critical—how you treat the divorced and/or divorced and remarried people DOES impact upon your evangelism efforts! Sometimes the Lord puts those who need the most comfort RIGHT in front of you, church! Right in front of you, Pastor! How you treat the LEAST of these who have tasted of God’s forgiveness and restoration AND are carrying a load of consequences is also a dead giveaway as to how (or if) your church is going to be blessed with growth and/or expansion.
Pastor, IF your denomination causes you to look down upon, marginalize, or minimize another brother or sister in Christ, perhaps YOU need repentance and deliverance and another denomination with which to associate. This is NOT the day, nor the hour, to lift the denomination OVER biblical truth! As a Minister myself, I know of a variety of Pastors and church leaders who have had their OWN extended family ‘bitten’ by the divorce bug—and are the FIRST ones who want silence or compassion for THEIR family members. How about putting some of that love on those in your OWN church family? Who knows? You may be amazed at how much God will bless you for your obedience to His Word.
Mike Ramey is a Minister, syndicated columnist and Modern Street Gangs Consultant who lives in Indianapolis, Indiana. “The Ramey Commentaries” is one of a variety of his written works appearing in cyberspace. To drop a line—or a whine—the address is still the same: firstname.lastname@example.org. ©2020 Barnstorm Communications International.