I led a workshop at a retreat this weekend. It was awesome. I want to do this again. Several times a year, ideally.
I had someone in my workshop ask a question. A really good question. “Let me get this straight,” she said. “I’m divorced. If I remarry, I’m committing adultery?”
Well, a seminary student and I disagreed on that point. I have a book by a scholar who understands Jesus’ words in the original Greek a whole lot better than I ever will who says the original speaks of implied adultery. Don’t divorce for no good reason, because it makes your former spouse look like he or she’s committing adultery when she or he remarries. So he or she appears guilty but isn’t actually guilty, I argued.
He argued that if you’re divorced and remarry, you are guilty of adultery, period.
He won the argument for the same reason I’d have won the argument if the question was about computers. Though I still know I’m right. Just ask me.
What’s inarguable is that the cause of the sin lies with the one who initiates the divorce, and Jesus had pretty stern words for those who cause others to sin.
“So if I remarry, I’m going to hell? I have a hard time believing that,” she said.
As she should.
The last two years my dad was alive, he never went to church, largely because he’d spent the prior ten years hearing from church people that he was going to hell for one reason or another, whether it was because he believed the wrong thing about one doctrine or another, or because of something I did or my sister did. (I never did figure out what the things I did or my sister did had to do with Dad–you can raise your kids right and they’ll still do stupid things. If Dad went to hell because of the things I did or my sister did, then I don’t want to think about how many pastors are in hell.)
Here’s Christianity’s dirty little secret, and it seems to be a really well-kept one: Christianity, when you boil it down, is just the answer to one question: Why are we worthy to spend eternity with God? And the answer to that question is one word: Jesus.
Charlie Sebold and I don’t agree on much. We probably differ more than any other Christian I’ve ever met. But we agree on that point. Either I’m wrong about 98% of Christianity or he is. All that means is that one or the other of us could be a lot healthier on this earth than we are. But we’re going the same place, because we both know the answer to the question.
Now, I know in the United States, everyone thinks the unforgivable sin is committing adultery. Or something resembling adultery. I think some people think if you’ve ever seen a copy of Penthouse you’re going to hell. I’m sure if you told those same people that you’ve actually bought a copy, they’ll tell you God will find a way to send you to hell twice. That Puritanical belief is a lie from hell. (So are a lot of their other beliefs, but we won’t get into that. They knew the answer to the question too, so a lot of them are in heaven even though they spread a lot of lies.)
The only unforgivable sin is unbelief. The thief on the cross did nothing worthwhile with his life, that we know of. He knew that. That was why he was crucified. But in his final hours of life, he realized there was something to this Jesus who was dying next to him. For all we know, he broke all 10 commandments every day in his life. But in the end he believed. And Jesus told him explicitly he’d be in heaven. If He ever told any of the 11 surviving disciples that explicitly that they’d be in heaven, His four biographers didn’t see fit to record it. (John did see fit to tell you and me that explicitly though: Check out 1 John 5:13.)
Aside from unbelief, sin is sin. Some sins hurt more people than others or lead to more sins than others. But some sins lie along the path of most resistance. Being divorced and remarrying can prevent future sins. It can improve your life. So if you go into it asking God to help you get it right this time and sin against this person just as little as possible, no, God won’t send you to hell for it.
So while we need to consider our actions and ask whether they hurt God and others, we also need to consider what lies down the alternate road.
And we need to realize that in the case of believers, hell rarely lies down the alternate road.
And for pity’s sake, never, ever tell another believer he or she is going to hell. I’ll hit you with a broom if you do. Unless you’re a girl. In which case I’ll get another girl to hit you with a broom.