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Responses to “A Meditation on “My Wife Has Tattoos: Marriage, New Birth and The Gospel.”

wedding rings sxc hu smallIn my recent post, “A Meditation on “My Wife Has Tattoos: Marriage, New Birth and The Gospel,” I sought to counter what I perceived a certain naiveté.

As the father of four and one who has done pre-marital counseling, I thought this article needed a little wisdom and some theological tweaking. [Not twerking… though I can’t believe I need the caveat.]

I wanted to officially address one response. The reaction, while emotional, does get to the heart of something important.

She writes:

“Whether it’s what you meant to convey or not, as a previous ‘bad girl’ your post confirms all my suspicion and worst fears – that yes, God forgives me, but Christians/the church never do – not really. Your post confirms that I am being judged – you are warning your sons they can do better and to think hard before getting involved with me. Maybe you’re even telling your daughters I’m a bad influence – ‘be careful/choose your friends wisely. Your post confirms that I am right to be afraid to be real in church – because if they really know me, they’ll reject me… So what should I do? Never marry? Lie? Pretend? Stay away?
Lloyd Legalist tweeted a really good tweet ‘May you be filled with the joy of knowing God has forgiven and forgotten your sins, and with the fear that He’s put me in your life to do neither’. Your post hurt me. I think I will just stay away.”

While I am always concerned when people are unintentionally injured by my words, in truth, I never said any of these things, nor did I imply them, nor did I even think them. This women read her own anxieties, fears and issues into my words—A common communication problem on the reader’s/listener’s part.

To this I reply, “It’s not personal… It’s just wisdom.” Channel Don Corleone.

Even in the church, wisdom is little tolerated and even less understood. Our public narratives tend to thrive on describing things contrary to reality, as if, by doing so, we make it so, but wisdom confronts the real world with all its mixed baggage… wisdom knows the theological and practical difference between the glories of justification and the struggles of on-going sanctification.

The tendency when carrying on a wisdom conversation is for some to try to think of an exception… any exception… usually only imagined… and to use a singular case to eradicate general truths. Most envision themselves the exception.

“89% of the people who do XYZ die horrible deaths… but you know, I once read an article about a boy who lived (No, not Harry Potter, another one) so you saying XYZ is dangerous is judgmental.”

Truth: Wisdom is about observing and confronting patterns… not merely absolutes.

Truth: Marriage is hard… some things make it harder.

Truth: It is always best to enter into a marriage with your eyes open and to confront head-on as many of the things that will cause trouble before vows are made.

Couple A: A Richie Rich of a girl who never had to wait a day in her life for anything her heart desired [Horses? Cars? Vacations? No problem my little Princess!] was marrying a hard working lower-middle class blue collar man who was determined to make his own way in the world. Both loved the Lord. Both loved each other.

What does a good pre-marital counselor do? Say, “Oh happy day! They love each other! They love Jesus! All will be well!!!”?

No. He goes after the disparity, anticipating the end from the beginning, hoping for the best, but preparing the couple for the likely reality. This is wisdom.

Couple B: The young lady who gave the above reply [a sordid past and present dedication to Christ] wants to marry. She is outraged at the very suggestion that her justification did not include instant sanctification. (Even though she must know it’s true.) She is hurt that anyone in the church would hint that her sordid past, while forgiven, still has fallout, left her bereft of discipline or leaves her struggling forward in a paucity of divine wisdom.

What does wisdom dictate we should do?

Should we all say, “Oh, well, not a problem. Christ has forgive you. Past is past. All is thrown into the sea of forgetfulness…” [my favorite pseudo-biblical Christian invention] “All will be well! Nothing to see here folks!”

No!

Wisdom dictates that the harsh realities of the past… those things that shape character, that filled the formative years… that will plague the dynamic of a marriage…(and every other relationship) be confronted and gradually overcome with Scriptural instruction and life training. This is wisdom. This is discipleship.

Should people with a past not marry? Of course not.

Are they unworthy of love? Of course not!… don’t ask ridiculous manipulative questions.

Should a person’s past ever be considered in dealing with them in the church? Absolutely. This is part of discipleship.

Would you allow a repentant pedophile to do nursery? What should be done about new Christians who had sex-change operations before being saved? Does a newly born-again homosexual suddenly go heterosexual in his or her inclinations? Does a person with a long history of violence stop struggling with temper issues because they came to Christ?

I would like to ask my respondent what she would say if her daughter came home announcing her engagement to a man with a long history of addictions, a prison record for domestic violence against a few past spouses, and several children whom he also abused. Would you smile and say, “Praise you Jesus!” just because your daughter insisted that past was past, and that Jimmy Joe here was now a Christian, 1 year saved? 2 years saved? I seriously doubt it, but if you say, “Yes, that’s what I’d do!” then you are a fool.

Truth: Justification is NOT sanctification. Deal with it.

Truth: Mentioning that fact is not a failure on my part or anyone else’s part to be forgiving or loving; it is simply wisdom confronting reality.

2 thoughts on “Responses to “A Meditation on “My Wife Has Tattoos: Marriage, New Birth and The Gospel.”

  1. Samuel says:

    EXCELLENT… I think sometimes we focus so much on God’s redemptive power through Christ, you know, the “anyone who is in Christ is a new creature… old things have passed away…” verse which is true, that we neglect to teach “Here is what you do NOW once you give your life over to Christ.” The answer is not to take away from the message of past sin forgiveness and new life beginning, but to ADD TO that the message which makes it complete: Here is how you deal with the mess you caused yourself and others by your past. This is not an issue of forgiveness, rather, of how you are supposed to live from that point on.

    1. Amen. Thanks for commenting. Hope to hear more from you going forward.

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