THE PERIL OF O E'S PERSO AL E VIRO ME T BY FRA K H.

DECKER

Mat. 13 : 24-^, Mat. 13 : 36-42, Mat. 5 : 43--48, Mat. 10:2-12, Ro. 12:18-21, I CJor. 4 : 10-16

In the Parable of the Tares a single peril to which the Kingdom of God is exposed is strikingly illustrated and emphasized. The wheat and the tares are growing together in the same field, the tares imperilling the wheat. Here we are brought face to face with the question of the possibility of living in imion with God while at the same time maintaining close relationship with those who are opposed to that union. Take the case of a Christian woman living with a husband who is out of harmony with God. Can they live together in the intimacy of the marriage relationship, the wife maintaining her conscious union with God through obedience to His will, while the husband lives a life of disobedience to that will? Can she continue in the right while he [141]

CHRIST'S EXPERIE CE OF GOD does wrong? Can she fulfill the law of truth while he violates it? Can she increasingly practise the law of love which he constantly contradicts? Can the two walk together when they are not agreed? Will not his unrighteous life choke her righteous life as tares choke

wheat? Or, consider the case of two men in the close relationship of a business partnership, one a child of God, the other without any such relationship to God. Can one persist in obedience to the law of righteousness, the law of truth, the law of love, while the other is disobeying these laws? Or make the field broader and extend the application of the problem to the whole political and social order. Can such a union of the children of God and the children of the world long exist without the chUdren of the world so affecting the chUdren of the Kingdom as to interrupt their fellowship with their Heavenly Father? We have said enough to indicate the problem and the peril pointed out by Jesus in the Parable of the Tares, a problem which every child of God has to face, a peril which every child of God has to meet. "Shall we gather [142]

PERSO AL E VIRO ME T up the tares in order to save the wheat?" Is it not necessary that the wheat be separated from the tares? Is not such a separation a condition of salvation? This question has been answered in the affirmative by some who have ttK.ught they were interpreig the teaching of Jesus Christ, and multitudes of devout souls have sought to escape the contaminating effect of the world by withdrawing themselves from the world. But Jesus did not fall into their error. "Let both grow together," he said, "imtil the

harvest." Let no separation be effected on the ground that such separation is necessary in order to preserve and fulfill the possibilities of the wheat. Indeed, he went further, and said that such separation would prove fatal to the wheat : that it would result in its being pulled up by the roots ; that the destruction of the tares, instead of protecting the wheat, would result in the destruction of the wheat, both wheat and tares perishing together. In his judgment, and his judgment was just because it was the judgment of righteous love, it was absolutely necessary that the [148]

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CHRIST'S EXPERIE CE OF GOD wheat and the tares should remain together until the time of harvest. And his judgment has been confirmed in every ease when men have sought to sanctify themselves by withdrawing from the world. All such withdrawal on the part of men seeking to perfect their own characters has exposed them to a deadly peril of Pharisaism, a peril infinitely greater than the one which they have sought to escape. The wheat, also, has always been pulled up by the roots when an attempt has been made to pull up the tares that imperilled its growth. ot by separation from association with sinful men has God ever perfected His saints. ot by such separation was the Captain of our salvation made perfect. Companionship with

men who are not in union with God need not prevent the Christian's union with Him. ay, it may strengthen it, as one feels more keenly his own need for such a imion. Should there then be no divorce of those who have been joined in marriage in the name of God. Every Christian minister should refuse to give divine sanction to a union of persons in marriage who are unfitted to fulfill [144]

PERSO AL E VIRO ME T the higher responsibilities of that sacred relationship. But what is to be done in the case of those who are joined in marriage where either party is unfaithful to the marriage covenant, where the imion is one of discord and strife, where there is aversion instead of affection ? Shall they live together without love ? By no means. Shall they separate because they do not love each other? o. What then? Let them love each other. If they are Christians it is their duty to do so, regardless of the sins of which either party may be guilty. But what if one is not a Christian? What if the im-Christian husband lives a life of falsehood, neglect or even adultery? Shall the Christian wife continue in her relationship to him, or not? The wife must not lose her love for her husband. If he hates her, still she must continue to love him. If he despitefully uses her, she must pray for him. If he says all manner of evil against her, she must maintain an imchanged attitude of love toward him. If he should prefer another to her, she may not free

him on that account from his sacred obligations to her. If she is in close imion with [145]

CHRIST'S EXPERIE CE OF GOD God it will not be a burden for her to do this. If she has God's spirit in her she will be able to grow in His grace while she abides in union with her unfaithful husband. Her attitude toward him will be God's attitude toward him. Her union with God may prevent her from breaking her imion with her imspiritual husband. For the fruits of her imion with God are all of such a character as to enable her to live with peace in her soul, even in the midst of the affliction that she must experience in living with one who is out of harmony with God, and so is out of harmony with her. Her growing imion with God should mean growing influence over her husband. Her attitude of love toward him should never change. Her motive of good- will for him must ever remain. She will never be compelled to Uve a loveless life with him, because by abiding in union with God she is able to maintain her love for him. The fruit of her union with God enables her to forgive him seventy times seven a day, and that tends to prevent the imion from being broken. Then she grows increasingly unselfish and courteous and thoughtful of his inter[146]

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PERSO AL E VIRO ME T ests as the result of her ever-increasing union with her heavenly Father. Her patience and humility and gentleness and other fruits of the spirit of God are of such a character as to enable her to escape the necessity for divorcing her husband, from whom she might otherwise be compelled to separate herself. All these help her to abide in union with him, and they give her hope of ultimately winning her husband to the life that she is living with Christ in God. In this union which she maintains with an unspiritual and unholy husband she may feel that God is with her, and that He will cooperate with her as she seeks to win her husband to Him, calling him to pass through such experiences as shall water the seed of her love and cause it to bring forth fruit. She should not desire to free herself from the marriage relationship with one whose sins and neglect wound her to the quick, since, as a true Christian, she abides in it with the hope that finally, either in this life or in the next, she will see the travail of her soul, in the complete cleansing of her husband from all that makes union with him painful. For [14,7]

CHRIST'S EXPERIE CE OF GOD this joy, that God sets before her, she endures her cross and despises the shame of her married life. Many of the divorces I know could

have been avoided if the innocent party had maintained Christ's experience of God, — a growing experience of love and truth and righteousness. So with all the relationships in which Christians are united with imbelievers. It is the duty of the true Christian to live the life of Christ so fully as to win if possible to that life those with whom he is in close relationship. The attitude of Jesus toward the woman taken in adultery should be the attitude of everyone toward anyone found guilty of that sin. He declared that no man should condemn her who was conscious in his own soul that he had committed her sin. one of these men who accused her could stand that test. The thing for a Christian to do, who is closely associated with one who is living a corrupt life, is the thing that Jesus did in his association with his disciples. As they seemingly grew worse, association with him increasingly revealing their sins, he grew better. As he f oimd [148]

PERSO AL E VIRO ME T it impossible to have feUowship with them he did not separate himself from them, but sought closer fellowship with God, so that he might hold them to him, ''Being in an agony he prayed more earnestly." Let the better half of aU partnerships do that. If the guilty one seems to be growing worse, let the other grow better, in hope of saving him. Let the sins of her husband drive the Christian wife to a closer imion with God, and as a result

she shall have more of God's love for him. Let the mother whose children's faults wound her soul, let the Christian employer, or pastor, or ruler, do the same, "praying more earnestly." In his union with God Christ found the love and faith and hope that enabled him to keep in imion with his disciples, one of whom he knew would sell him to death, another of whom he knew would deny that he had ever known him, and all of whom he knew would desert him. The Master's growing experience of God finally enabled him to change all of these men into his own likeness, and so it became possible for him to have harmonious fellowship with them. He did, indeed, suffer [149]

CHRIST'S EXPERIE CE OF GOD crucifixion and death because of his refusal to separate himself from close fellowship with those whom he loved, while they were living a sinful life, but he finally won them all from everything that marred their union with him. He tasted death for every man, and for that reason he predicted that he would draw all men unto him. One who will love as he loved will save as he saved. One who will be crucified for those with whom he is closely associated may say, "I will yet have eternal imion with them." Let the wife of the unfaithful husband abide in imion with her husband as long as she has hope of saving him. Let her hope to the end that she shall reap in due season, if she faints not, all that she plants in her hus-

band's life; and let her know that all that she suffers in seeking to save her husband will result in enriching and perfecting her own life. When she is persecuted for him, if she endures such persecution in love, let her leap for joy, for great is her reward in heaven, for heaven's greatest reward goes to the person who suffers most to save a soul from sin. [150]

PERSO AL E VIRO ME T The most hateful union a Jew ever experienced was that which he was compelled to endure when a Roman soldier forced him to accompany him, bearing his burdens without compensation. It was a union into which the Jew was unjustly forced and in which he was cruelly compelled to go a mile with one whom he hated. From such bondage every Jew escaped at the earliest possible moment. one ever thought of going a step further than the law required. Jewish theology did not teach a Jew to abide in such a union after he could break it. one but Jesus ever intimated that one should go a step further than he was compelled to in such service with an enemy. But Jesus, said, "Whosoever shall compel you to go a mile, go with him two." Emphasize that word, "Whosoever." It includes the innocent party in every social relationship. It requires the Christian to continue in a painful xmion after the law has freed him from the necessity of so doing. It requires him to have the interests of his enemies at heart and not to break away from them so long as he has any hope of spiritually helping them.

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CHRIST'S EXPERIE CE OF GOD To the spiritual wife of an unspiritual husband, Jesus would say, "Don't break with him with whom union is painful and shameful, so long as there is hope of redeeming him," Let the wronged wife, who has full legal right to obtain a divorce from her husband, with whom she has gone a long weary mile, not break her union with him now that she has the legal right of freedom. Let her go another mile. That second mile is the one in which she may hope to win her husband back from all that mars their union, since it will reveal her love for him as the first mile could not possibly reveal it. As she clings to him when he knows she is free to leave him, her love for him will be more clearly revealed to him. All Christians must follow Christ's teaching and example in clinging to the sinful partners of their social business and political unions in hope of saving them from their sins. They must go the second mile with them in such love as will ultimately bind them together in the eternal fellowship of the Holy Spirit. There may needs be separation, for a sea^son, of mar[162]

PERSO AL E VIRO ME T

ried persons, but not divorce. There should never be remarriage, making it impossible that the relationship should be fulfilled later. The door of return should always be kept open for the guilty party, who should never be freed to^ZZr. Let th«n grow together until the harvest. And then what? Eternal separation, the tares being destroyed? I think not. Rather let us believe that when the final harvest comes every child of God will reap, from those with whom he has dwelt, all that he has sown of God's love and righteousness and truth. There is one condition upon which men who are in union with God may dwell safely with those who are opposed to God's righteousness and love. If the attitude of Christian men toward those who are not Christian is one of positive effort to win them to God, their presence will serve only to strengthen the Christian's fellowship with God and all the evil results that might otherwise ei^sue will be overcome. It is never safe for a child of God to be closely associated with men who are living an unspiritual, imrighteous life, except as [IM]

CHRIST'S EXPERIE CE OF GOD he has in his soul a pennanent purpose to win them from their sins. But here we must emphasize two words of caution. First the Christian must not sacrifice his fellowship with God for the purpose of maintaining his fellowship with those who are

out of fellowship with Him. ever. If his ever-increasing loyalty to the will of God means that those to whom he is related forsake him, then he must consent to be forsaken as his Master was. He must never consent to practise falsehood, or unrighteousness, in order to keep himself from separation from his social partners. As a Christian grows in grace he may experience growing opposition from those with whom he is associated. They may hate him the more because of his growing righteousness as it interferes with their selfish practices. So it was with Christ. But, like his Master, the Christian must not break with God to keep in union with men who are not in union with God. If the wife or business or political partner will not abide in imion with the Christian as he practises obedience to the will of God, the

PERSO AL E VIRO ME T Christian must endure separation from them rather than separation from God. He cannot possibly live with them in any consent to their sin. He cannot have feUowship with them in carrying out any imholy plan. The wife cannot Uve in the marriage relationship with one who is living in that relationship with another. She will have to separate from one who will not separate himself from those things that make it impossible that she should properly nurture her children. And let the church stand by its member, who in her obedience to its teaching remains in the marriage relationship with one with whom she is unable to have spiritual fellowship. It is the duty of the

chiurch to make up to her, so far as possible, the loving care that her husband denies her. It must come closer to her because of his spiritual distance from her. It must make up to her much of the love that he denies her. It must share her biu*dens as she bears the burden of her husband. For the church condemning divorce to fail to do this is criminal; and yet what is the state of the noble women who are Uving in the name of Christ with [165]

CHRIST'S EXPERIE CE OF GOD cruel, brutal and unholy husbands? What is the attitude of the church toward them as they fulfill her teaching concerning divorce. Little comfort do such wives get, I fear, from those who should give them the warmest possible support. A ca^ie in point comes to my mind, of a pure woman whose life with a drunken husband was most painful. She clung to him and saved him, and now for many years she has had a most beautiful fellowship with him; but in her time of need her church gave her little financial help and less tender, appreciative love. I doubt if a single member commended her holy eflForts to save her husband. Oh, the shameful humiliation she endured as she was sent to charitable societies and by them to the overseer of the poor, with the result that their total gifts left her rent unpaid and with a writ of ejectment hanging over her poor head! You must not divorce him, the church said to her, while at the same time it utterly

neglected to stand by her, with needed financial and moral support. Let the church teach that there shall be no divorce only if the chiux^h [15«]

PEESO AL E VIRO ME T is prepared to stand by those who practise her tJchig. Another word: — Jesus' saying that the least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than John the Baptist is at last perfectly clear. John's life, apart from close association with men, was the very contradiction of the life of Jesus Christ. The Kingdom of Heaven is a double relationship ; the relationship of a man who is related to God as Father and to men as his brothers. The least of these who conquer the world while closely associated with it is greater than the greatest of those who seek to escape the evils of the world by secluding themselves from it. The least in the Kingdom, — in fellowship with God and also in close relationship with those who are not in fellowship with Him, — ^is greater than the greatest of those who seek fellowship with God without seeking fellowship with men. o one is in the Kingdom of God on earth who is not in this double relationship, which we find illustrated in every parable of the Kingdom of God. The fact is, God cannot give His love increasingly to men except [ i«7 1

CHRIST'S EXPERIE CE OF GOD as they minister that love to one another. Let it be clearly understood that what I have written on the subject of divorce refers only to those persons seeking to fulfill their fellowship with God in all their relations with men.

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