Watermark’s Pastoral Statement On Marriage, Divorce And Remarriage

MARRIAGE

God is profoundly serious about the sacredness of marriage, and as His followers and servants it is our privilege to share this high view. Every passing year has brought a steady increase in both the numbers of, and ease with which one can file for divorce in our land. Therefore, it is more important than ever to reiterate the wisdom and goodness of God’s plan for marriage.

As a result of the constant increase in the number of relationships ending in divorce, we are compelled to reassert a biblical view of marriage, divorce and remarriage that we prayerfully hold to based on our understanding of God’s Word. The Bible clearly teaches that the Lord, in His creation of Adam and Eve as husband and wife, so designed that marriage should be lifelong, covenantal, monogamous and between male and female. In addition, Scripture explicitly commands that a believer is not to be “joined together” with an unbeliever.

Conclusion: Marriage was uniquely created by God for the display of His glory and is a portrait of God’s relation to His people and Jesus’ love for the church (and therefore how the church is to be devoted to Christ).

Suggested Scripture Study: Genesis 2:18-24, Malachi 2:14-16, Matthew 19:3-6, Romans 7:2, 1 Corinthians 7:39, 2 Corinthians 6:14, Ephesians 5:22-33

DIVORCE

Few life experiences are more painful personally or destructive societally than divorce, so it is unsurprising to find that God hates it. God hates divorce because He loves people, including those who have been through the divorce process.

Just as the pain of divorce permeates our culture, it likewise permeates the church, and so with sensitive hearts, we weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn as a result of divorce. Given the tremendous emotional pain involved with this topic, we seek to be clear, compassionate and careful when sharing our convictions. Our heart is to be faithful to God’s Word and loving to God’s people. Consistent with the core values of our body, we want to be firm where the Bible is firm and flexible where it is flexible, remaining vigilant in our responsibility to shepherd well the flock of God among us while appropriately trusting each individual’s convictions to our Father.

It is the collective belief, of the elders of Watermark Community Church, that divorce was never intended to be part of God’s design and is always costly to the divorcing parties, connected children and society. While God hates divorce, He does not hate divorcees. Divorce is not the unforgivable sin, but it is a result of sin and hardness of heart. Divorce is never God’s best, and anyone who loves God and knows of His goodness would never consider it without broad input from community and spiritual counsel. Even when divorce is necessary to protect individuals from danger/abuse, it is to be done as an expression of love and in hopes of producing repentance in the guilty party that leads to healing and reconciliation. Even in these extreme cases, divorce is never to be considered as the end to a relationship, but only a severe mercy that will ultimately lead to less sin and eventual restoration of the relationship.

Whenever discussing possible situations that might allow for divorce, it is imperative that serious believers continually reiterate their desire and deep conviction that the hopeful resolution to all marital strife is reconciliation (restoring a marriage, of course, depends on two tender hearts). In other words, just as we never encourage anyone to rush into marriage, we likewise never encourage anyone to rush out of marriage. Forgiveness and reconciliation are clearly near to the heart of Jesus’ life and message. That said, after many years of extensive study, thought, prayer, dialogue and debate, the elders of Watermark Community Church and community understand that God’s best for this body of believers is to handle the difficult topic of divorce (and subsequently remarriage) as follows:

 

Sexual Immorality: The “exception clause” for divorce (Matthew 19:3-9) which mentions sexual immorality (porneia) is not a permission slip or loophole which would allow or in any way recommend divorce as an appropriate action for an offended Christ follower. Just as God’s gracious covenant of love ultimately overcomes Israel’s infidelity (Jeremiah 3), the covenant love modeled by God’s people can, and should, overcome the immense pain and hurt of infidelity. As a result, where a spouse has been unfaithful, we are committed to counsel the faithful spouse to uphold the sacredness of the marriage covenant and to pursue and exhaust every means necessary to grant forgiveness and reconciliation (rather than expeditiously pointing he or she to the exception). The expectation of Scripture is that followers of Jesus first and always be for genuine repentance and restoration of the marriage by calling the unfaithful spouse to be reconciled to God.

Conclusion: There is a broad call on the believer’s life to a ministry of reconciliation and this certainly includes the Christian marriage. Even in cases of adultery in the marriage, divorce is never the first option and rarely the final option. We are fully committed to wisely and cautiously counseling toward repentance and restoration of the relationship. Though the humble work of forgiving, peacemaking and reconciliation may not be easy, the effort is worth seeing God glorified and His children walking in the light.

Suggested Scripture to Study: Genesis 2:18-24, Malachi 2:14-16, Jeremiah, Hosea, Matthew 19:3-9, Mark 10:1-12, Luke 16:18, 2 Corinthians 5:11-21, Colossians 1:19-22

 

Abandonment: A tenderhearted marriage consisting of two Christ-followers is always God’s “ideal.” Hard hearts cannot support a marriage, and it is not uncommon to find a hard heart in the midst of a “mixed” marriage (i.e., one composed of a believing and an unbelieving spouse). Though Scripture suggests that a “mixed” marriage, once it exists, is preferable to divorce (1 Cor 7), the Scripture allows for divorce when an unbelieving spouse insists on divorcing a believing spouse.

Conclusion: Though the “mixed” marriage may end in divorce, the believing spouse is not given permission to initiate divorce. Rather (as mentioned in the sexual immorality conclusion above), the faithful, believing spouse should grant forgiveness, work through difficult circumstances and push for reconciliation.

Suggested Scripture Study: 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, 14-16, 1 Peter 3:1-2

 

Abuse: It is never our counsel to recommend to a spouse to stay physically present in a physically abusive situation. Additionally, in a home where there is physical abuse and physical danger to children, prudence (Proverbs 22:10) demands action. Where obvious danger exists for either a spouse or child, we support the execution of all appropriate means to bring the abuse to an immediate halt including separation, church discipline, police action, a court order and other kinds of intervention by church members, family and friends. When all means of biblical intervention have been deployed and yet denied by the unrepentant spouse, he or she will then be treated as an unbeliever. Should the unrepentant spouse (unbeliever) “force the issue” by insisting on divorce, Scripture calls the offended spouse to allow for divorce that is clearly initiated by the unrepentant spouse (unbeliever).

Conclusion: Though we realize that extreme cases of abuse may escalate to a level where an unrepentant spouse (unbeliever) abandons the offended spouse (believer), we stop short of stating that physical abuse, without appropriate biblical intervention, justifies divorce. Even in cases where divorce (legal action) is the only loving recourse to protect the sinning party from continuing in his/her sin, any action taken by the believing spouse is to be done with a heart toward eventual healing and reconciliation as God allows.

Suggested Scripture Study: Matthew 18:15-17, Romans 13:1-5, 1 Corinthians 7:12-16, Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3: 12-17, 1 Peter 3:1-2

REMARRIAGE

While there is a broad range of convictions on the issue of divorce among serious students of Scripture, there is an even greater variety of positions when it comes to remarriage. We are continually devoting ourselves to struggle in prayer on how to best honor Jesus and glorify God in our teaching/convictions on this issue. After carefully reading through the sexual immorality, abandonment and abuse sections above, an obvious “guiding principle” at Watermark Community Church is our call to a “ministry of reconciliation.” Before we ask when/if remarriage after divorce is permissible, we must first ask if reconciliation is a viable option. Even in the most heartbreaking cases of sexual immorality, the most perplexing cases of abandonment and the most gut-wrenching cases of abuse, as long as the former spouse has not remarried or is not deceased, we believe that reconciliation is a viable option. While in a season where the possibility of reconciliation exists, we believe it best honors Jesus that one should remain single or be reconciled in marriage to the ex-spouse.

Conclusion: Freedom to remarry is not determined by the guilt or innocence of either spouse, whether either spouse is a believer or not, nor by whether divorce happened before or after either spouse’s conversion. It is our humble conviction that freedom to remarry is to be considered permissible only when the former spouse is deceased or has entered into a marital covenant with another party.

Suggested Scripture Study: Deuteronomy 24:1-4, Matthew 19:3-9, Mark 10:1-12, Luke 16:18, Romans 7:2, 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, 15, 39

 

Given the above convictions before God, we, as elders of His church at Watermark Community Church, do not have conviction that it is honoring to God for any ordained or commissioned leader of our body to officiate a remarriage of an individual whose spouse is not either deceased or already remarried. Likewise, we do not believe it is appropriate to use the church’s facilities for a marriage in these circumstances.

We encourage our members to practice chastity and live a life of devotion and singleness, fully depending on and deepening in relationship with their Lord while they prayerfully wait for Him to win their separated/divorced spouse to Christ and then begin the process of restored trust and eventual reconciliation. Given the difficulty of absolute dogma on this issue, we extend grace and respect the individual believer’s right to understand God’s revealed Word to provide broader freedom. In these cases, we may, for the sake of the ministry (2 Corinthians 6:3), ask that these individuals not serve in ministries related to marriage, but will not consider them deserving of church discipline when great reverence for God’s Word, caution and humility before the community of God’s people is modeled.

We ask that grace and understanding is expressed toward our position/conviction even as we will extend and offer that to our brothers/sisters who find a broader freedom before the Lord. We pray that the love, care, sensitivity and humility we have sought in writing this document would be evident to all who read it and are affected by our leadership. It would seem appropriate to conclude this statement by expressing our gratitude that the cross of Christ is sufficient to cover all of our sin, and we pray with you that His Spirit continually guides us into all truth.      

Wagner Email Bag: Does Watermark Have A Plan For A Global Crisis?

watermark-church-global-crisis

From: XXX
To: Todd Wagner
Subject: Question for Todd regarding Preparedness as a ChurchHi Todd,There is something my wife and I have talked about a number of times, and we discussed in Community group our last meeting, regarding what should our response and game plan be, as a Church, to if things in this country go downhill quickly.Matthew 24:
36 “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.

37 “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. 38 In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat.39 People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.

40 “Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left.

42 “So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. 43 Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. 44 You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.

Since America is not mentioned in prophesy, its reasonable to assume that somehow America will go downhill, or will taken out before the end-time events begin rolling.

Obviously we don’t and can’t know what this will look like for us, here in Dallas. Maybe it will be a gradual decline, or maybe its a sudden one (solar storm, major terrorist attack, nuke, or something else.) And with the events of ISIS, reports of them being on our border, and the rising threat of terrorist attack (Great Britain raised its security to Critical level), plus the instability with Russia, I think its not far from reasonable to consider Matthew 24:32-33 :

32 “Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near. 33 In the same way, when you see all these things, you can know his return is very near, right at the door.

I know that being ready begins with having our hearts ready, being in right standing with the Lord, and being about His business…. right now.

But as Church, as Watermark, should we have a game-plan? Is it prudent to discuss these sort of things as a body?
First, as individual Christians, what’s our response in crisis… and then collectively and in unity as the Church?
For example, if there was a major incident that wiped out our infrastructure and communication, without internet or phone service we would be all scattered. But if we had discussed prior to this a possible game plan (such as all of us gathering at Watermark campus) we would be more prepared.

I don’t think I’ve heard you discuss any of these things in detail, but as the shepherd that you are to this flock, I wanted to hear your thoughts on this– first, if this is something the follower of Christ should be spending any time thinking about, and then if there should be a game-plan of sorts communicated.

Thanks Todd!

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To: XXX

From: Todd Wagner

XXX,

Thanks so much for your question, never a bad idea to think these things through.

We all believe that the best way to care for each other in moments of crisis is neighbor to neighbor within the smaller communities we are constantly advocating. If the communication grid is shut down any social media or other means of communication would be prohibited, so word of mouth and person to person care/contact is required. Though that could certainly be appropriate at some point, we don’t foresee a need to predetermine a time (other than what may be obvious gathering times already) for us to meet corporately.

As needed, I am sure many would make their way to local campuses to care for each other and share necessary resources as we are able. Ultimately, it will be the job of smaller communities in each and every area to cling to the Bible, sharpen each other, and serve one another (as we are prayerfully equipping every member to be able to do now while we do have the privilege of gathering during times of freedom/prosperity).

There is no organized effort for the larger Watermark community to be stockpiling resources or provisions on any central campus, so there will be no need to meet there for distribution, etc. Each family should be prudent/wise in any such preparations, and ultimately those preparations should not only be for our own good but also for the care/provision/love of others, for the glory of God, in a time of need.

The very context of the passage that you shared from Matthew 24 is a reference to what Israel is to do during the coming time of great persecution. Specifically, they are not to linger around or accumulate more resources, but run quickly to the hills where ultimately God (and those who can, see Matthew 25) will be the One who provides, just as He did for the nation previously when they were in the wilderness.

I’d love for you to listen to this message given at Watermark several years ago that I think will encourage you.

Again, very grateful for your question Christian and the chance to prayerfully process these things. Hope this is helpful and praying with you that we are ready in every way that the Lord intends.

2 Timothy 4:2,

Todd
www.twitter.com/wordsfromwags
pastoraloffice@watermark.org
www.watermark.org
214-239-8809

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From: XXX
To: Todd Wagner
Subject: Re: Question for Todd regarding Preparedness as a ChurchThanks for the reply Todd,
I am looking forward to listening to that message. Just the title of it sounds very relevant to my questions.

The idea of “within smaller communities” sounds good, but for example in our group, we don’t really live very close to each other, so it might be a challenge. I think especially when it all goes down, the key will be dependence on the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and on the truth God has been working into our hearts. I like the idea that God is preparing us in times of peace for when the storm hits, so that when we are hit, we are standing on the Rock.

Thanks again,
XXX

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Be sure to also check out the Real Truth. Real Quick. episode: If Everything God Created Is Good, Where Did Evil Come From?

Wagner Email Bag: How Do You Know When You Love A Girl?

how do you know when you love someone

To: Todd

From: XXX

Todd,

I know this is probably pretty random and doesn’t rank very high on a priority list. But I don’t know any who seems to know, and I’ve asked. No one in my family has ever had a successful marriage. So I don’t really have a frame of reference. I have paid careful attention to your example, but I just had a quick question.

How do you know when you love a girl?

No rush,
XXX