Have you ever wondered if God can use you? Maybe I am not smart enough, or bold enough? Maybe that sin that I did in my past is too terrible? Or conversely, maybe my life story is not dynamic enough? Maybe I have had it too easy?
Do you love God and want Him to use you? Have you repented of your sins and decided to let God’s word stand as authoritative over your life? Then the answer is simply, and resoundingly,
In which facet do you desire to be used? There are a few times in Scripture that we have outlines for the characteristics of leaders. Deacons (people who serve the church), elders (Spiritual leaders and advisers for the church), and pastors do have “qualifications” if you will. The characteristics are quite similar:
It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach. Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things. Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households. For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
– 1 Tim 3.1-13
These qualifications essentially establish that one must be mature and of good reputation. There is one issue that presents itself as difficult from this passage for many churches, and that is the statement, “The husband of one wife”. Many people who love the Lord have taken this statement to mean that one who has been divorced can never be used of God in these positions of leadership in the church. Divorce has become for them the unpardonable sin.
God created marriage, and God hates divorce (Mal 2.16). There is no question about it. And while it is true that divorce is against the heart of God almost always a sin,, there are often times unwilling participants in divorce. If a man has a family and his wife leaves and files for divorce, most states in America leave him with no options legally. The new “no-fault laws” keep partners from assigning blame and allow for people to separate from one another without the consent of the their spouses. Paul, the very same author of this passage outlining the qualifications of leaders, states that one who is abandoned as such is free, without sin (if he has managed his emotions and reactions honorably), and is not “under bondage” (1 Cor 7.15). He may remarry.
Let us consider the character and heart of God for a moment. He sent His son, Jesus Christ, to live a perfect life on Earth to redeem sinners unto salvation through His death and resurrection. He paid the penalty and debt of sin of which we were guilty so that we might become His righteousness, His children, and spend eternity with Him in Heaven. When we repent of our sins, does it then follow that He would consider the repentant one condemned for the sin of divorce alone? Would he say, “I forgive you, but you cannot serve me”? David, the man after God’s own heart, had an affair, killed the man and married the woman. He was the only man in the Scripture known by this title, and that was attributed to him after the affair, murder and cover-up. But in his repentance, God used him mightily. God is able to used a repentant divorced person. Even if he was the one who sinned in divorcing his spouse.
I once heard a testimony of a couple who had married young before they knew God. They were married for years, but came to a breaking point and got divorced. While they were separated they both heard the story of Jesus, repented of their sins and came back to one another and remarried. They lived a dynamic life of service and leadership within their church and desired to be international missionaries, but the mission board to which they applied denied them because they had been divorced. Years before. Before they were Christians.
This is wrong. Was their divorce sinful? Yes. But Jesus redeemed them and paid the penalty of that sin on the cross. And they, after being saved, repented and returned to one another. There is therefore now no condemnation, and we put ourselves in a precarious position to condemn such a one (or couple) where God does not (Rom 8.1)!
How then do we know if one has repented? Has the divorcee sought restoration, forgiveness and submitted himself to the word and authority of God? Then he has repented. If he still justifies his sinful decision, or refuses the authority of God over his life and relationship, he has not. And this is most evidently seen in his conduct. This is why Paul clearly outlines that one must be of good reputation (within the Church) and able to manage his own household well. Therefore the “husband of one wife” must refer to his moral and sexual purity. The term is literally, “a one woman man” in the Greek: not having multiple wives or sleeping around.
Perhaps you have not been divorced. Perhaps you had an abortion when you were a teenager. Perhaps you molested a child or raped someone. Perhaps you embezzled money from your company or robbed your neighbor. If you have confessed your sin and repented, that sin is covered. No matter how grave you might believe your sin to be, God Himself died, conquered death and rose again in your place. Jesus’ worth is infinitely more weighty than the punishment of your sin. And He covered it, definitively. Do not let anyone tell you God cannot use you. There are examples of almost every sin we can imagine within the patriarchs and those people whom God chose to use mightily.
Have you repented?
Have you confessed your sins?
Have you made restitution?
There is therefore now no condemnation, and you are in Jesus Christ!
The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama has written an in depth outline of the Biblical statutes for divorce. While it is simply entitled, “The Gospel and Divorce“, it is thirteen page graciously and lovingly written document that I recommend to you for further research and insight into the topic.