All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor. Eat anything that is sold in the meat market without asking questions for conscience’ sake; for the earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains. If one of the unbelievers invites you and you want to go, eat anything that is set before you without asking questions for conscience’ sake. But if anyone says to you, “This is meat sacrificed to idols,” do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for conscience’ sake; I mean not your own conscience, but the other man’s; for why is my freedom judged by another’s conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I slandered concerning that for which I give thanks?
Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved.
– 1 Corinthians 10:23-33
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.
– Ephesians 5:16-33
“Standerinfamilycourt” has never been one to belong to dozens of social media sites and pages, being extremely selective and purposeful about which ones merit THE LORD’S time which has been entrusted to advance the kingdom of God. This balance of time is certainly going to look different from disciple to disciple, depending on the particular assignment we’ve been given in these last days. The half-dozen sites SIFC has committed to membership in generally serve these main purposes, consistent with kingdom assignment:
(1) plug into high-quality scholarship of others so that 7 Times Around the Jericho Wall and Unilateral Divorce Is Unconstitutional can be as reliable as possible in dividing God’s word (and on the flip side, promote respectful avoidance of misusing the word of God)
(2) provide a trustworthy connection point to refer opposite-sex individuals who contact our pages seeking to be ministered to deeply — which should be done by a same sex person who is spiritually mature.
(3) extend the reach and circulation of our posts so that the stander community is aware of, and connected with, other voices and communities who are our natural allies in the righteous, interdependent quest to abolish unilateral divorce and clean up the apostate churches to the extent possible.
(4) keep tabs on what satan is up to these days in opposing God’s kingdom. He loves to send in intruders and hang out on standers’ pages, too, while constantly shifting his ugly tactics.
Many covenant marriage standers will belong to an astounding number of sites and seem to be online “contending for the faith” all day and night. Knowing firsthand how addictive social media is, especially to isolated and often-alienated standers, one has to wonder how much time is being truly spent in intercession for the rebuilding of our torn up families, pleading with the throne of heaven for the soul of our estranged one-flesh partners, and praying protective hedges around our impacted loved ones, especially given satan’s particular rage against us. Not a few in the marriage permanence community, if they were completely honest with themselves and others, have seemingly given up expecting the Lord to restore their holy matrimony union (if they haven’t instead come out of an unholy matrimony union). Some, wrongly in my view, see Paul’s instructions in 1 Cor. 7:11,
“remain unmarried [celibate] or be reconciled…”
as “either / or” instead of “both / and”, and this is reflected in how they spend their time and emotional energy. I pray that the Lord will greatly surprise these folks one day.
A well-run site for covenant marriage standers (and for others with hearts open to the truth of marriage indissolubility), will have ground rules that look something like this:
– this is not a dating site
– name-calling, gossip, personal attacks and bad language will not be tolerated here
– off-topic posts and those pushing divisive, controversial ideologies not essential to inheriting the kingdom of God will not be allowed in our space, nor will debate on them be permitted
– promotional posts for unrelated ministries, products, etc. will be removed as spam
It is not typical at the present time for most pages which are geared to a doctrinally pure, continuously-maturing covenant marriage stander or repenting prodigal membership, to have more than a few hundred members or followers, nor rapid net growth (joiners far exceeding the unjoiners). Yet when one gives this reality some reflection, such small following is still equivalent to a small-to-medium-sized church congregation. Given the other reality that in a lot of cases, a particular site may become the church-surrogate for an unfortunate number of standers, the integrity and consistency with which the rules are applied takes on a sobering importance. Everyone in this marriage permanence community has recently had a front row seat for the sad spectacle of what happened under the cronyism, carnality and lack of accountability in Greg Locke’s brick-and-mortar church. Though virtual fellowship is not typically a matter of financial stewardship, the situation might not be too different in some of the stander sites in many other important respects, complete with defecting sheep who fall into carnality because the responsibility for discipling the members wasn’t quite what it should have been in some sites where the defectors were hanging out. When a standers’ site is growing at megachurch pace, it doesn’t hurt to take an objective look at what might be driving that aberrant pace and be a bit wary of failure to consistently apply the site’s own rules.
SIFC joined a fast-growing page recently that seemed to be well-run, at least as it appeared from the outside. Its owner is an organizer of weekly conference calls of very high quality, good attendance, and excellent guests. The live streaming of these calls had just become available on that site, with convenient playback. Despite misgivings some months earlier about the pushiness of the owner in posting the call notices on several restricted-topic sites and being rather obstinate about respecting those owners’ reasonable requests not to do so, SIFC began to join these conference calls on a fairly regular basis due to the quality of the speakers. Site membership had grown to about 1300 with a dozen or so new joiners weekly to site membership. At first it appeared this site would nicely meet all three of SIFC’s top desired purposes for joining, as described earlier, and for committing to being a contributing member of helpful standers’ group. Some of the handful of soundly-based groups that had been fruitful a year or two ago had gone fairly inactive, so the time seemed ripe.
After two or three weeks’ participation, SIFC has come away feeling as if comments in response to some of the posts had invited everyone there to a dinner party where, unknowingly, there had been meat sacrificed to idols served, which offended some guests of weaker faith. Let me explain.
At the time point of joining, there was quite the conversation ongoing on about a male stander who had fallen prey to a heretical remarriage apology page, but had simultaneously been a member of this particular group, from which he evidently pursued several female standers (as confessed by one of them) before selecting a another stander to “marry” while his covenant wife remains a living prodigal. To-date, two of our blog own posts have early-flagged and discussed the role of this man’s profuse legalistic ideologies which directly contributed to his moral fall, and (likely) to the ongoing depth of estrangement from his true wife.
Against this unfortunate backdrop, it was incredibly disheartening to see legalistic and dogmatic posts by one of the page’s moderators in the next two weeks on all of the following off-topic issues that drew contentious debate:
– the alleged”corruption” of attending a flesh-and-blood, brick-and-mortar church that has an appointed pastor or pastoral staff
– the alleged “pagan-ness” of Valentine’s Day celebrations
– the alleged “impropriety” of addressing anyone, great or small, by a title
This appeared to be the only type of post ever observed being made by this gentleman in that time frame. Not only were the moderator-poster’s extrabiblical biases being promoted, but anyone not practicing them was being overtly condemned. SIFC’s first appeal to observe the site’s own posted rules was made to the owner in a comment on the post. The site owner publicly commented that he agreed with the legalism complained of, and would therefore allow the posts to remain for the heated and unseemly discussion that ensued. SIFC challenged the moderator-poster on all three of the above distractions, a man whose “story” hadn’t been revealed in SIFC’s short sojourn on the site, but his faith background can likely be guessed from the ethnicity of his name and the apparent appeal to him of these particular dogmas. One of SIFC’s challenges was quickly deleted by somebody with access to do so, and SIFC received two PM’s from the site owner claiming that the dissenting comments constituted “name-calling”. (Apparently because SIFC used the “L-word” as a descriptor). In a display of spiritual maturity, this fellow removed himself for a morning from the page membership, then the next thing SIFC knew, the page was “no longer available”. Not only was I removed, but evidently also blocked from the page.
This site had all of the ground rules described above in place, and then some, as follows:
“This is NOT a dating site. There is ZERO tolerance for name calling, gossip, slander or profanity. If you do not answer questions, you will be ignored, and you and your posts may be deleted. Posts of false doctrines or false teachers will be deleted. This is not a debate forum. Keep posts focused on [marriage, adultery, divorce and remarriage].
DO NOT POST VIDEOS BY UNAPPROVED SPEAKERS. APPROVED SPEAKERS HAVE THEIR WEB SITES LISTED AND/OR ARE MODERATORS. VIDEOS SHOULD BE APPROVED PRIVATELY BY A MODERATOR PRIOR TO POSTING ON [site name].
(Examples: types of baptisms, tongues, women head coverings, dress or other topics that Christians have been divided on hundreds of years) Not a place to advertise your business. Violators and their posts will be deleted without warning.”
These were indeed enforced against infractions committed by non-cronies of the page owner, as SIFC observed on one occasion when a lady was admonished, not for a post but for a question she raised about a legalistic and divisive doctrine. On the other hand, outright slander against a very effective and godly pioneering marriage restoration ministry was actively defended by the site owner when interjected by another commenter, interfering as she was with help SIFC was attempting to provide to a new member in the crisis of his wife leaving him. Nope, this site is clearly not safe for referrals from Unilateral Divorce is Unconstitutional as originally hoped.
Reflecting on this incident in its aftermath, several thoughts come to the surface that (at least in SIFC’s estimation) if heeded will help keep the looney-tunes “cult” perception, not to mention actual stander defections from biblical morality, at bay so that the marriage permanence community as a whole be taken seriously by people who can potentially help us make a difference for families, a goal I’m certain this site owner shares.
Many years ago, SIFC and spouse were trained in our charismatic, nondenominational church, which practiced a plurality of pastoral leadership as modeled by the 1st century church, into a 13-week course for house church leaders called “The Maturity in Christ Series”. We weren’t very chronologically mature at this time in the early ’80’s, but we then went on to teach this course together to new leaders a couple of times after that, while we co-led a house church with a seasoned couple who were both bible college grads. Without denominational leadership and sound doctrine, the atmosphere was ripe for every kind of lunacy to be tracked in from outside, and indeed, we observed much during this time that was successfully resisted by the framework that the leadership had proactively established and the careful grooming and monitoring of the lay leadership. On one occasion, there was an administration of (Matthew 18:15-17) public church discipline to a male house church leader who had become romantically involved with a troubled female in his charge. This man was put out of the church for refusing to terminate the immoral, extramarital relationship.
In those days, marriage permanence was preached from the pulpit of that church. Unlike the affluent Methodist church downtown, the number of remarried divorced pairs could be counted on the fingers of one hand. The typical dogmas and distractions that regularly surfaced were very similar to today’s virtual communities of believers: dress and makeup legalisms, Sabbath disputes, head coverings, holiday observance, homeschooling, women working outside the home being likened to “streetwalkers”, legalism about pursuing college at a secular institution, order in using the gifts of the Spirit, and so forth. Similar to our virtual communities, people were being born again after spending their upbringing in churches with autocratic authority structures and some clearly pagan or extrabiblical practices, and these folks tended to backlash in the opposite direction of whatever they have grown up with until a period of responsible small group discipleship had brought them into better balance.
But what happens when a stander or repenting prodigal is persecuted in their traditional church, or even worse, put out of it for being outspoken about remarriage adultery being a hellbound sin? The discipling processes can be short-circuited in some cases before a person has matured spiritually. They can easily become distrustful of all traditional churches, due to the widespread apostasy over the remarriage issue, and assume all pastors are incorrigible and all churches apostate. However, it doesn’t stop there. Instead of becoming spiritually secure individuals, it becomes necessary to disparage and accuse anyone who is attending an actual church and attempting to influence their pastor toward scriptural faithfulness. This was indeed the tone taken in one of the posts by the page moderator, who appears from this behavior to have come out of a faith tradition where church leadership is deemed “infallible” and not to be challenged. Only, who’s there and qualified to disciple him in the virtual church? Who’s properly trained and willing to do so? Only somebody who can see (or has seen) where the man’s error is taking him!
Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”
– 1 Corinthians 15:33
There’s a key reason why SIFC opted for an open community page instead of a closed group – lack of time and biblical qualification to act as a de facto pastor. There are just over 600 self-elected followers to Unilateral Divorce is Unconstitutional, none of whom are very likely to mistake the page for a suitable church substitute.
(By contrast, a community page started four years earlier, similarly targeted as ours, but which doesn’t call non-covenant “marriages” adultery, doesn’t seek to reform the laws, and doesn’t write about things like hell, toxic Calvinism, and the corruption of our contemporary bibles, has eight times as many page fans.) Even so, ministry, prayer and referral (as appropriate) takes place behind the scenes upon request on UDIU, and there is a comfortable margin of time for this to occur with good handling while maintaining the page, and while assisting on a couple of other pages. People don’t (normally) get insulted, protest loudly and huff off on our page — which I’d say is good for public decorum. They simply “unlike” and “re-like” our page.
Were there 1300 group members to deal with, coming and going through a page-owned gatekeeping process, that’s equivalent to a fairly large church, and maintaining this administratively pretty much requires a staff, as indeed this page has appointed its moderators. The site owner told me he works the page himself an average of eight hours a day.
An overseer, then, must be…. and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil.
– Timothy 3:7
Page owners in the marriage permanence arena must understand that their page is a pseudo-church (unless the following is very small or unless they regularly and sincerely urge participation in a real church or house church fellowship wherever possible), and they must understand that the shared leadership of that page are indeed pseudo-pastors, at least to a portion of their members. Is this page owner therefore willing to qualify these folks serving as his moderators according to Paul’s guidelines in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1? If not, what unction do they really have for criticizing the qualifications of a non-widowed remarried pastor? If they don’t consistently “police” the lunacies and heresies surfacing on their page, are they any better than Paul found the Corinthian church to be when he rebuked the leadership for tolerating similar lunacies and heresies in his first letter? If they have defectors who go into immorality, is this not a potential sign of pastoral deficiency?
And what is their strategy for discipling and counseling the women in their virtual congregation? There are one or two virtual marriage ministries that have addressed this issue thoughtfully and made effective provision for it. At least one of the leaders of this particular page, however, claim there’s something wrong with a female Christ-follower if, deprived of the covering God expects from her absentee husband, she therefore decides to be under the covering of a traditional pastor. Yet her critics on the page really don’t have anything superior to offer her in the alternative. What then happens in the vacuum is (unfortunately) that some can be preyed upon by insiders and outsiders alike.
Here’s a quick reminder of a few of the substantial benefits someone who can’t or won’t attend a flesh-and-blood fellowship miss out on:
– communion (the taking of which just might be felt by our absent one-flesh partner)
– anointing with oil when ill
– meals brought over when ill
– small helps in severe situations they are unable to do themselves
– opportunity for mission trips
– opportunity to mentor young people
Surely, the Lord would not have His sheep criticized in this fashion for being a part of a congregation that provides things which He clearly intended for us to have that the alternative gatherings, real or virtual, can’t necessarily provide? I think of an isolated late middle-aged woman who died alone in her house in our neighborhood several years ago who wasn’t even discovered until a part of her roof fell in due to heavy snow, and whose out-of-state children then had to be tracked down. How incredibly sad, and I’ve often wondered if she had been a stander.
Let’s face it: we standers tend to be a mess emotionally, and long years of standing don’t normally make it any better. These online groups tend to be a magnet additionally for wounded people who, for whatever reason, reject having spiritual authority over them, who bristle at the idea of tithing (one legalism they do agree not to tolerate), and at other disciplines they shouldn’t be finding excuses to avoid. Often this behavior and mindset is due to being raised in a church that was pompous in requiring the use of titles, and in declaring individual leaders “infallible” while promulgating the traditions of men that contradict the word of God. Standers’ groups should be safe havens for those who have been involuntarily rejected or persecuted by their brick-and-mortar church. But bad behavior that is harmful to the others on the group page should never have a safe haven. Response to this behavior should follow a Matthew 18:15-17 process with no favoritism shown. “Excommunications” should certainly follow this process, and should be done with correct motives which are soul-related. “Excommunication” should never result from other members pouting at being admonished.
For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. – Corinthians 12:14-18
Another thing typically happens in large, virtual pseudo-churches. All of the usual functional and spiritual gifts have a tendency of showing up in the group’s members and manifesting in posts and comments on the page. One of the key pieces of leadership training my honey and I received “way back when” was instruction in what some of these gifts look like in their actual exercise in a group, including both the strengths and the weaknesses of each kind of person so gifted. However, many standers have always been taught some measure of cessationism, so this conversation could not even be had on this particular group page, according to the stated rules. One is perfectly free on this page, therefore, to hyper-apply Matthew 23:1-12, according to the YouTube video of some self-appointed “theologian”, but God help anyone who dares exercise the gift of, say, discerning of spirits in that group. That “passed away” with the Apostles, after all. Unfortunately, satan doesn’t spare the marriages of charismatics any more than he does the marriages of the “Reformed” or the Baptists. Pretending within a group of Christ-followers that the functional gifts don’t exist doesn’t make them “poof” go away. God certainly knows that a body can’t function without a nervous system, so chances are that an “excommunicated” nervous system just might grow back through another member. Successful groups, flesh-and-blood or virtual, learn how to benefit from the functional gifts in an orderly fashion.
I do not share my written perspective on this to get back at the group, for if so, I would name them. I also do not write this out of any desire to rejoin, based on what I so quickly learned about how its governance stacks up with my pre-contemplated desires for investment of time in such a group. At best, rejoining would fulfill only objectives (3) and (4) – not good enough to compensate for the much greater downside, as it currently stands. I will probably not repost this blog to Unilateral Divorce is Unconstitutional, because a portion of that diverse audience is best not exposed to petty squabbling and (actual) cultishness in the body of Christ. I blush that the poor man who was a new joiner seeking help for a horrible family crisis was exposed to it that day, and can only pray he wasn’t so turned off that he won’t follow up on the good referrals he was given. My main hope is that this post will trigger the marriage permanence community to reflect on what they hope to achieve from group membership, and for the many others administering marriage permanence pages to prayerfully gut-check their own priorities and objectives, responsibly considering some of the eternal implications for running their page.
Surely, making one’s own decision whether to be part of a traditional church or observe Valentines Day are both lawful, according to the Apostle Paul, and whether or not they are both profitable depends on the circumstances involved, which are not for a third party to judge in any event. Similarly, Jesus did not forbid a disciple from voluntarily addressing someone by their title. At least that was the interpretation of the Shepherd of Hermas (addressing an angel sent to him in a dream):
““And I said to him, ‘Sir, if any one has a wife who trusts in the Lord, and if he detect her in adultery, does the man sin if he continues to live with her?’ And he said to me, ‘As long as he remains ignorant of her sin, the husband commits no transgression in living with her. But if the husband knows that his wife has gone astray, and if the woman does not repent, but persists in her sin, and yet the husband continues to live with her, he also is guilty of her crime, and a sharer in her adultery.’ And I said to him, ‘What then, sir, is the husband to do, if his wife continues in her vicious practices?’ (The Shepherd, Second Book, Commandment 4:1)
Rather, Jesus taught that it was presuming upon the glory of God to insist that others address us by a title. Someone of weaker faith might not see one of these issues as the scripture intended, and someone of the weakest possible faith will have issues of conscience over the shallowest reading of scripture or every suggestive, but ill-researched teacher they encounter. I humbly suggest that such folk are not yet ready to teach others if they elevate such things to a heaven-or-hell gravity.
My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. – James 3:1
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