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Wendy Francisco has been involved in youth, pastoral, and music ministry for over three decades.  She is a songwriter and recording artist who travels internationally with her husband, Don Francisco, and daughter, recording artist Annie Brooks.  In addition to music and ministry, Wendy is a published illustrator and artist.  She oversees an independent record company, designs and publishes several websites, raises Andalusian horses, loves to cook, and can't stand housekeeping.  Wendy is currently co-writing a book with Bonnie Duell on women in the Body of Christ.

"God has given us all many desires and talents.  Mine were bottled up until I realized that God's call to women is the same as His call to men.  The pressure I felt to stifle myself was not from God, but from religious culture.  God gave us all wings so that we could fly." - Wendy

Below are four short articles on divorce by Wendy Francisco.  We recommend that you read them all.   The fifth article is by Don Francisco.  You can go directly to each article by clicking on the titles.   They are:

Why Are Divorce Statistics So High?

By Wendy Francisco

Pam sat at home and thumbed through the marriage workbook that she had been given during a pre-marriage counseling session at church.  She was horrified.  Shaken and in tears, she called her fiancÚ and cried, "Mike, I cannot do this!  Maybe we shouldn't get married!  There are exact roles for me in here--but it's not me at all!"

Statistically, Christians have the highest divorce rates in the United States.  We are at 27 percent according to George Barna.  This is a statistic accounts even for people who live together unmarried outside Christianity.  We have higher divorce rates than all other religions, including atheists, with the next highest stat being 24%.

Most Christian leaders blame people within the Christian Body for this embarrassing gap.  Well, there is a saying, "The proof is in the pudding." Our pudding is burnt.  Atheists have better pudding.  It's time to take a second look at our recipe and stop trying to blame the poor people who are trying to eat the pudding.

In recent decades, there has been a proliferation of "family ministries." These ministries have exact teachings for everything from family roles to how to put on your socks in the morning.  Churches have become bent on forming cookie cutter families that fit the mold.  There are multitudes of heavy teachings on "Biblical order," and submission, and blood covenant, and duty, and death to self, and being the perfect wife and husband . . .  etc., etc., ad nauseam.

The church has become very legalistic concerning roles in marriage, and divorce issues.  The attempt to control families and keep marriages together by legalism is cultish and is backfiring terribly.  This is the reason that we have the highest divorce rate.

It is unacceptable to place the blame on individual Christians by calling them "lukewarm." Leaders need to grasp the Biblical truth that the law kills, but the Spirit brings life.  Leaders have been heaping dump trucks of man-made doctrines on the Body, which violate the core relationships of couples and families.  We have placed laws over love.  Marriages should be based on and grounded in love.  We know love is the greatest, yet the church does not take love seriously.  We have called love wishy-washy and undependable even though the Bible says that love never fails.

The Bible says that the Law failed.  Yet, the basis of most Christian marriages is law rather than love.  Even those movements which base their doctrines on God's grace are still largely just changing the word "law" to "roles." Functionally, there is no difference.  Dishing out prefab roles in the name of Christianity is destructive to marriages because every marriage relationship is unique.

The church unintentionally flattens marriages.  Our divorce stats are high enough, but we also have other high stats.  Christians have very high incidences of domestic abuse.  As many as one quarter of people who sit in pews on Sunday are giving or receiving physical, spiritual, or emotional abuse.  The percentage of "intact" Christian marriages in which the actual relationship is dead or going through huge struggles is sky high.  Yet, sermons on these subjects are extremely rare.

Many Christian leaders have changed the original enlightened Biblical message of equality in marriage to one of hierarchy and false submission.  Thus, we have separated two who God intended to be one.  God's idea of oneness does not mean the front end and the back end of a jackass.  But, that's exactly what our recipe calls for.  The world is laughing at us, and they ought to be.  American laws protect women better than "Christian" marriage doctrines do.  Why would married non-Christians want to become born again, assume an unnatural hierarchy, and increase their chances for divorce??

In order for our divorce statistics to go down, the first step is to begin to change our focus from laws to love.  We need to talk more about what it takes to nurture and encourage people to grow to be unique individuals, rather than religious slaves.  We need to talk about the fact that abuse in any form is not acceptable.  We need to make people realize that marriages are breakable !  A bowl made of plastic is unbreakable, and therefore, may be kicked around.  A fine porcelain bowl is breakable.  Therefore, it is treated with care and respect.

Sadly, as divorce rates continue to rise, the church gets more condemning.  The language of legalism intensifies.  Perhaps, we just need to realize that we have concocted an impossible recipe for marriage.  Perhaps, the weight of our doctrines is causing the increase of Christian divorces.  The Bible says we should need no humans to teach us because of the powerful presence of God within each of us.  Jesus said to consider no human your teacher except the Teacher Himself.

If you find that certain doctrines are creating tensions in your marriage, then how good can those doctrines be?  God's Word tells us to love each other, and to express that love by gentle service and encouragement.  That one simple precept is enough to revolutionize every relationship you have.  However, we keep picking it apart and examining it so that we never actually have to DO it.   At the center of today's teacher-based Christianity is a monumental avoidance of God's most basic and important precepts.   By leveling heavy marriage doctrines, the church has robbed many people of the life, uniqueness, creativity, joy, abundance, fulfillment, and love that marriage was intended to bring.

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Does God Really Hate Divorce?

By Wendy Francisco

The widely-used verse in Malachi, where God states that He "hates divorce" has been grossly mistranslated.   What God hates is literally "the putting out" of a woman.

"Putting out" is altogether different than divorce in Jewish culture.  A man would dismiss a wife, denying her the Jewish divorce certificate.  This woman would still be legally married but with no home.  The husband would retain her dowry and children.  She would have already surrendered her virginity to him.  She would be ineligible to remarry, since technically, she was still legally bound to her husband.  Further, her culture would label her as an adulteress since she did not have a valid divorce certificate.  And, this lady couldn't just rent an apartment and get a job teaching kindergarten--there was no place for a put out woman in Jewish culture of that day except prostitution.  Since the marriages were most often arranged, this whole horrible chain of events would have been completely out of her control.

The husband, however, was free to marry again and to do this as much as he liked.  That is why Moses required a divorce certificate to be given . . . so that the marriage was legally, fairly, and religiously terminated, and the woman would be free to remarry and go on with life.

For more info about this topic, do a search on the word "agunah." That means "chained women." The act of putting a woman out is still happening and today there are thousands of "chained women" in Israel!  A Jewish divorce certificate is now so valuable that often after a man puts out a woman, he will legally obtain the certificate and then sell it to the highest bidder.   "Agunah" is one of the greatest problems faced by Orthodox Judaism today.

All over the Bible we have ignorantly and clumsily translated "put out" as "divorce." This has caused many errant doctrines to be formed and made a terrible mess out of millions of people's lives.   The toll in human suffering because of our ignorance is overwhelming.  The Bible simply does not say that God hates divorce.  It says that God hates the putting away.  When a Christian leader says, "God hates divorce" in a bold and forbidding tone, he is revealing that he has not done his homework!

In the New Testament, Jesus continues to address this cruel breach of human rights.  Nearly all of the verses translated "divorce" in the Gospels actually say "put away." It is a completely different situation for which we have no equivalent.  Of COURSE, a man will commit adultery if he marries a "put out" woman-- she is technically still married!

The worst result of this mistake is that when a marriage does break down, people will often believe that God rejects them, and they will lose their faith just when they need it the most.  They face the exact agony that God was trying to AVOID in Malachi, enforced singlehood after a broken marriage.

There are myriads of reasons why marriage relationships break down.  God hates it when a heavy, inflexible grid of legalism is imposed on people and they are broken and turn away from Him as a result.  It is obvious that marriages are intended to be lifelong.  However, in this imperfect world, God's provision of divorce is vital, and can be lifesaving.

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Is Divorce a Sin?

By Wendy Francisco

God has been through divorce.  That's right.  Check it out in Jeremiah 3:8, "Lo I had put her out and given her a certificate of divorce . .". He is speaking of Israel.

Whether you consider this scripture as referring to a literal divorce or not, if ALL divorces were a sin, you can bet those words would never have escaped Him.  There is no place in the Bible where God Himself states, "Lo, I committed adultery with her," or "Lo, I lied to her," or "Lo I cheated her."  That's because those things are sin - all the time.

Both marriage and divorce can be sinful, depending on the circumstances.  In an absolutely perfect world, the union between a man and a woman would be perfectly initiated by God without any destructive forces tearing at the bond.  Marriages would never break down.

But, this isn't a perfect world and some marriages become so emotionally, spiritually, and/or physically destructive that divorce can be lifesaving.  That is why it is dangerous to slap a grid of legalism onto yourself or others.

We do not believe that the Bible forbids divorce, but we do believe that God calls us to examine our hearts and to follow His specific leading.  God wants us to live abundantly in His blessings.  He will not entrap or force us to stay in our own traps to uphold an institution.  The institutions of our loving God are never more important than the people within them.  If He directs you to restore your marriage, then He has in mind a complete restoration of your relationship so that you can grow together and even exceed the love you had when you first met.  Most marriages that fail do so for silly reasons when an attempt to reconcile would bring overwhelming healing, health, joy, and strength.

God's idea of restoration is not just that you stay in the same house miserable so that things look good on the outside!  God's idea of a marriage is an active thing where both people support, build, cherish, and nourish each other in Him.

Galatians states that we are no longer under law, but under grace.  It is monumentally unhealthy to contend for a marriage on the basis that it is the legalistic and religiously correct thing to do.  The greatest reason to contend for a marriage is that it is a love relationship.  What we want is not so much to keep a marriage intact to outside appearances but to genuinely heal the love.  Then, we want to guard against that love being attacked and torn down again.

Churches should not be controlling people's decisions about marriage and divorce.  Leaders should not be enforcing heavy loads of false doctrine they have no part in carrying.  As a Body, we should support our close friends and help each other make honest decisions.  In troubled times, it's a good idea to get feedback from those who know us best and to seek God's leading.  Ultimately, the decisions are up to the individuals involved because they are the ones who will have to live out what they set up for themselves in the future.

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Except in Cases of Adultery

By Wendy Francisco

In the book of Matthew, Jesus makes the comment that divorce is only acceptable when adultery was committed by a spouse.

The problem is that isn't what He said.  What He said was that "putting out", i.e., dismissing a wife without giving her a divorce certificate, was only acceptable in cases of adultery.  This is because a woman who had committed adultery and was brought before the courts for a divorce proceeding, could be stoned to death.  That is why Joseph, being a righteous man, "put out" Mary secretly.  His action was considered ethical and appropriate.  Please refer to the article "Does God Really Hate Divorce?" for a more detailed explanation of what it means to "put out."

Infidelity may indeed make a marriage relationship impossible . . . but many great marriages have weathered this storm and come out stronger on the other side.

Every marriage situation is vastly different.  The main message of Scripture is that we can each have a personal relationship with God and hear His voice and follow it.  No matter how bad the situation appears, if we can follow His specific leading, we will be blessed.  God speaks to ALL of His own.  It takes a bit of time to become accustomed to hearing His voice.  But, when you spend time with God, you become confident in His leading.  He always leads with wisdom and compassion for everyone involved.

This may be surprising to some, but God just isn't legalistic.  He loves people, and He wants them to live abundantly.  God isn't interested in marriages which stay together for legalistic reasons.  He is interested in people who have cultivated their love for each other.  God isn't asking us to live a terrible life so that we can uphold an institution.  He is asking us to be wildly in love with Him and to follow Him.

The question, "can I get a divorce if my spouse commits adultery?" is based on a misunderstanding of Scripture and a legalistic orientation to Christianity.  Every situation is different.  That is why it isn't appropriate to seek a legalistic out, but instead to pray and follow God's leading, remembering that He loves everyone involved very much.

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