March 2, 2003


After Jesus called Matthew to discipleship, Matthew invited Jesus to a feast at his house, and invited many of his friends who were also tax collectors like himself. Luke's account in Luke 5:27-39 shows that the question regarding fasting was asked on that occasion. It has even been suggested by some scholars that the day on which Jesus was feasting in the home of Matthew the tax collector may have been one of those days set aside by the Pharisees as a day of fasting. At any rate, the Pharisees and even the disciples of John the Baptist, were disturbed that Jesus and His disciples feasted more and fasted less than was thought proper by the religious elite of that day.

Jesus answered them in the form of three brief parables. First, the friends of the bridegroom do not fast while the bridegroom is with them. Jesus' disciples would fast and mourn when He was taken away from them by crucifixion, but not while He was with them.

The other two parables are recorded by Mark in Mark 2:21-22. (1) "No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; or else the new piece pulls away from the old, and the tear is made worse." (2)"And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins."

The primary lesson in these two parables is that Jesus did not come to reform Judaism. He came, not to patch up the religion of their ancestors, but to replace it with a fresh, new order, a better covenant, established on better promises, Heb. 8:6. The Hebrew writer, speaking of the first or Old Testament as compared with the second or New Testament, says, "He takes away the first that He may establish the second" (Heb. 10:9).

Of course, Jesus knew human nature well enough He was not surprised that the Pharisees misunderstood and rejected His mission upon the earth. In elaborating on the parable of the new wine, He recognized that many who were satisfied with the old covenant would not be willing to accept the new. He said, "And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, 'The old is better'" (Luke 5:39). This, of course, is the primary reason Jesus met so much opposition from the devout religious people in His day, and it is also why many in our own day are not willing to consider departing from the traditions and dogmas handed down in their families from generation to generation, even when confronted with the fact that these human traditions often flatly contradict the words of the Lord Himself. It is still much as it was in the first century as John records in John 1:11-12, Jesus "came to His own and His own did not receive Him. But as many as did receive Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God." 

--Clarence R. Johnson


The gavel falls. The sentence is for life. The words seem simple enough, but their full impact is yet to be felt. "Divorce Granted" often means spouses and children doomed to suffer hardship and trial, perhaps for life. When God's design for the serenity and success of the home is disregarded, the casualties are frightening. Nowhere can the words of Benjamin Franklin be more accurately applied: Sin is not hurtful because is forbidden, but is forbidden because it is hurtful. God's laws of marriage may seem stringent, but the testimonies of scripture and society make it clear that they are strict only for our benefit and protection.

God designed the family to succeed as a blessing to all. Careful adherence to His principles will promote solid families. If there was anything to be learned from experience, we should trust God's methods simply because we know He is always right. In this case, however, the tragic consequences of man's ways are visible all around us.


The pain of divorce is almost beyond description. The empty feelings, rejection, insecurity and failure can often destroy one's self-confidence, promote mistrust of others and challenge the faith of the strongest of saints. Even the best-adjusted adults can be rocked to the core by the trauma of divorce. Studies on the effects of stressful events on physical health have concluded that divorce ranks second only to the death of a spouse as a cause of stress. Most people can even handle the death of a close family member better than they can face divorce. In short, destroying a marriage is one of the most injurious things one person can to another. Is it any wonder God called it a treacherous and violent act (Mal. 2:13-16)?

The effects of divorce are seldom limited to discarded spouses. There are other victims. Children of broken homes see affection, closeness and love displaced by tension, guilt and uncertainty. In our divorce-filled culture we see the struggles of older children who may, at least partially, comprehend what is happening. The challenges of growing up are often multiplied when children must weather the storm of an eroding family.

Ongoing studies, however, challenge the idea that younger children are somehow insulated from such consequences by their naivete. Researchers are making a persuasive case that the separations and disruptions which accompany divorce can have lifelong effects on the youngest of children. Parents are instructed by God to "train up children" (Prov. 22:6) and "bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4). Broken marriages often involve an abandonment of this duty which can have disastrous results -- in this life and in eternity.

In the worst cases, it may contribute to the development of psychopathic personalities devoted to sinful pursuits of the nature described in 2 Tim. 3:1-9.

Experts on child development explain that the interruption of normal attachment and bonding cycles can leave children unattached, and consequently without a normal sense of conscience and accountability. Such people are, indeed, likely to be disobedient to parents, brutal, headstrong, etc. Many marriages are strained with the result being divorce and the toll on our children is astounding. Twelve million children under eighteen now live in homes marked in some way by divorce. Many of these children have been found to have lower academic scores, problem friendships and emotional turmoil lasting years, even decades, beyond the initial separation. It has been estimated that, at the present rate, approximately 40 to 50% of all children will experience a single-parent family in the next few decades!


This is not a simple problem, and its solutions are not painless. The reversal of a trend which destroys the fiber of the home and corrupts the morality of our children is not going to be easy. It must start in your home, and in mine.

First, we must make our marriages work. Men must take the lead in maintaining solid homes. For the sake of God, your wife and your children -- not to mention your eternal soul -- be a faithful and responsible husband and father.

Second, we may have to make the best of undesirable circumstances. It is sad but true that some fine people are faced with the difficulties of broken marriages, perhaps through no fault of their own. If you are already beyond the point of saving a marriage, your plight is frightening but not impossible. Build your house on the Rock. More than ever before, the trials you face demand your full commitment to God. Single parents will have to work extra hard to compensate for the absence of partners. Mothers will need to instruct and discipline, fathers to nurture and cherish. In the midst of these challenges, find the strength in God to resist the temptation to rush into remarriage. Even if you are certain of Divine approval for another marriage, adjustment to a step family may complicate an already difficult situation.

Third, we must consider all aspects of our responsibilities as we learn and obey God's will. As long as divorce is socially acceptable, there will be cases of necessary divorce. Men and women will come to an understanding of truth and consequently realize that they must end their adulterous unions. Such divorces will be painful, but they do not have to be as traumatic as the treacherous divorces described above. If you must divorce to be acceptable to God, that does not mean you must abandon your children. Adulterous cohabitation must cease, but godly parents can still share in rearing their children. Let your children see that your divorce is not an act of treachery, but of tremendous love -- love for God, love for the person you must leave to allow both of you an opportunity to enter heaven, and love for the children who deserve the example of parents who place God above all else. Nor do such divorces demand mistreatment of the unlawful spouse from whom you separate. The relationship is changed when sin stops, but the selfless love expected toward others will still motivate us to seek the best for that person.

Fourth, and perhaps most important, we must teach our children the absolute standard of God's laws for marriage. While relaxing Divine restraint may seem to be a kinder course in the short term, it will only add to the misery of subsequent generations. William R. Inge was right on target when he said, "The proper time to influence the character of a child is about a hundred years before he is born".

Our children -- and grandchildren -- deserve better than the sentence of misery so often inherent in the decree of divorce.

--Dennis G. Allan, 1989, Is It Lawful?



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Hyde Park, PA

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Susquehanna (Marietta), PA

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John Focht

It is not the whistling that makes a locomotive go; it is the silent steam.


Clarence R. Johnson
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