Taking her to court
1 Corinthians 6:1 - “When you have something against another Christian, why do you file a lawsuit and ask a secular court to decide the matter, instead of taking it to other Christians to decide who is right?” New Living Translation © 1996 Tyndale Charitable Trust
So you know that divorce is the only satisfactory action left. You’ve been to counseling, prayed, become more attentive to her wants, changed your own lifestyle and behavior, and nothing influenced the brokenness in the relationship. She won’t accept legal separation (closer to what the Word indicates that Christians should do instead of divorcing) or you live in a state that does not allow this. As you file the petition for divorce, a verse that you remember reading but didn’t think that it would apply to you comes to mind. And now you are not certain what to do.
Paul wrote the first few sentences in 1 Corinthians 6 to point out weaknesses in the Kingdom Walk of the members of that segment of the Body. Clearly, each was looking to all avenues to seek his or her own will against others. This was certainly within each person’s rights, but Paul wrote to get the Christian to think about the image or witness that lawsuits before nonbelievers presented. Here they were, projecting that they were characterized by love and forgiveness, but the lawsuits still rolled on. Seems a bit hypocritical (certainly modern American), right? And what about all of this stuff that the Lord is the Christian’s Protector and Avenger? Paul reminded them of the practical implications of what Jesus said in Matthew 5:40 were to be the actions of the Christ-follower when being sued. Yes, the Christ was talking to the one being sued in that passage, but Paul was expanding the concept to the mentality that both parties exhibit in a lawsuit. He also provided specific application of the disciplinary protocol that the Lord established in Matthew 18:15-20.
These passages and concepts occupy your thoughts and cause you to have misgivings about proceeding with the divorce. A guy could feel pretty confused or at least bewildered. What is the action that the committed Christian man should take and be consistent in Walking? Are there alternatives that allow the divorce to be completed, but are consistent with Paul’s inspired writing?
Fortunately there is an option to be explored. These days, in order to reduce the demand on the Courts, all states have allowed mediation to be used to come to an acceptable settlement to “no fault” divorce suit (15 states only have “no fault” as an option). In my state, most counties have made mediation mandatory. This is a process where there really isn’t a judge as such, but a mediator who job is to allow the parties and their attorneys to focus in arriving on a satisfactory resolution to property and debt separation/distribution. Once the negotiated division of debt/property agreement is signed, one of the attorneys will file the document with the Court and the Court will issue the decree. In the case of mediation, there is no judge, no one making decision and ruling as far as equity or fault. It involved two people coming to an agreement. There are law practices that specialize in mediation for Christians in divorce actions (Christian Divorce Services is an example of one such service) and the intent is to allow the couple to divorce and maintain compliance with Paul’s injunction.
You try mediation and she won’t agree to a settlement. Well, at this point, there really are not many options remaining. In many ways, this is the situation where the commitment to Christian principles is tested. Though this does run against commonly held (and felt) notions, the actions as described by Our Lord are the best way to behave. Yes, there are people (both pagan and Believer) who will think that you are crazy, being a wimp, poor steward, but ultimately, what we know from Paul’s writing is that it is the consistency with a Spirit of Love and Grace that is the ultimate goal for the Christian man. Perhaps, the best way to think of your sacrifice by letting her punish you through the Courts is that this is your final sacrifice for your wife, as Christ sacrificed for the Church.
Doing all that you can to avoid appearing before a judge will seem strange to many of those around you, but the net result is that you can indeed say that you did all that you could to exhibit the same manner of Love and Grace that Kingdom-livers are to show.
“Lord, we pray that You open the hearts and minds of these ones who are ending their marriage. Let each respond in a manner that recognizes that in all things, Love is to prevail. We also ask that You grant peace in the lives of all effected by the participation in the legal process. In Your Son’s Name, amen.”