An Unforgivable Sin
“You want me to join you in Holy Matrimony? A divorced man and a divorced woman?” The Pastor’s voice boomed across his antique mahogany desk and stabbed at the hearts of the young couple seated in front of him. “Curtis, we just got over all that sticky business of your divorce!”
The Pastor’s defiant, icy glare bore the legalistic conviction of a man who had filled the pulpit for most of his life, defending the faith, leading, exhorting, and admonishing. Mostly admonishing.
Curtis stirred uneasily in his chair. He glanced at Robbie. She was pale and visibly shaken. Curtis cleared his dry throat and spoke in a soft, controlled voice, as diplomatically as possible: “Uncle, let’s be reasonable about—”
“Reasonable!” The Pastor’s voice boomed again. “It’s absurd! Out of the question!” His face was beet red and an eyelid twitched, as always happened when he was agitated. “I’m a third generation pastor, and neither I nor my father nor his father before him ever performed the sacrament of marriage involving a divorced person—certainly not two divorced people! Not one time in all my years as pastor of this church has such a sacrilege been suggested, let alone performed within these sacred walls. And as long as God holds me personally accountable as shepherd of this flock, such a travesty will never be permitted. Never! Do I make myself clear?”
Curtis felt hurt and anger swelling up within his heart.
Robbie bit her lower lip to keep from sobbing. She took a tissue from her purse and dabbed with little effectiveness at tears that refused to be held back. She brushed back a shoulder length lock of auburn hair that cascaded over her eyes.
Curtis was proud of her. Despite the highly-charged emotions of the moment, she sat straight, prim, and proud. He mustered the courage to try once more to reason with his uncle: ‘’Sir, I know what your policy is against divorce—”
“My policy?” interrupted the Pastor. “It’s not ‘my policy’; it’s God’s policy. You would know that if you would spend some time in the Word. Anyone who even casually reads the Bible will tell you that God hates divorce. It’s a sin—and so is remarriage. It’s a plain and simple, black and white, clear-cut issue with no room for compromise. Don’t you have any regard at all for the integrity of scripture and this ministry?”
Curtis’s knees trembled from anger. He glanced at Robbie for reassurance. “I’m—I’m not in total agreement with your interpretation of scripture on divorce, Sir.”
“Is that so?” asked the Pastor, condescendingly. “Now you are telling me that in the two short years you attended seminary you became such an authority on scripture that you are qualified to sit in judgment of my exegesis?”
The Pastor smiled a twisted, sarcastic smile that was all too familiar to Curtis. "What I mean, Uncle—“
“But, of course,” continued the Pastor, “it is within the realm of possibility that I, having earned two doctorates, that I, in my lifetime of studying God’s Word, preaching, teaching and writing a handful of best selling Bible commentaries, just might have overlooked some profound verse of scripture that does, indeed, sanction divorce for a church leader.”
For many years Curtis begrudgingly condoned his uncle’s intimidation, but now the time was at hand to stand his ground and speak his mind and defend his beliefs. He leaned forward in his chair and said, “I know where you’re coming from, Uncle—Paul’s teaching that a deacon should be the husband of only one wife. But Robbie and I meet the biblical conditions for permissible divorce and remarriage. It’s not God who objects to our getting married, it’s you!”
“Curtis!” Robbie cautioned in a whisper.
The Pastor banged his fist on the desk. “This is the most outrageous—”
“Why can’t you put aside your idealism?” Curtis interrupted. “Why must you force your legalistic expectations on me? I made a mistake and it ended in divorce. God has forgiven me, why won’t you?”
The Pastor slumped back in his chair and looked at Curtis with sad, moist eyes. “Forgiveness is not the issue. It’s a matter of obedience to God’s Word. You take it so lightly. Your whole generation takes obedience too lightly. Understand, Curtis, that I have devoted my life to try my best to humbly and obediently follow our Lord’s commandments.” His voice was low and deliberate, feigning deep-felt hurt. “And you—a self-appointed judge of my spirituality and exegetical integrity—accuse me of behaving in a misinformed and unchristian like manner.”
In years past, Curtis would have fallen for the diversionary play on his sympathy, but over time his uncle’s dominating and intimidating charades had become too painfully familiar: The disarming appeal for sympathy, the dramatics, the evasiveness, the guilt trips he laid on people—all sorts of mind games and power plays.
Curtis reached out pleadingly to his uncle and said, “All I’m asking is for you to listen—an uncle to his nephew—and to understand.”
“And what I’m trying to get through to you,” insisted the Pastor, “is, indeed, understanding—understanding of a very simple theological imperative! Divorce is sinful! And for a divorced person to remarry is to commit adultery!—To heap one sin upon another!”
“I’m sorry you see it that way, Uncle.”
“Well, let me remind you: Your job is to solve problems for this ministry, not create new ones.”
Curtis threw up his hands in frustration. “You know what the problem is with this ministry, Uncle? Huh? Do you? I’ll tell you: You are the problem!”
The Pastor bounded from his chair, incensed with rage. All he could do was sputter and shake an admonishing finger at Curtis. The protruding veins on his reddened forehead and neck seemed about to burst. “Not only...not only are you...are you spiritually immature and foolish, you are...you are impertinent and...and grossly disrespectful!”
Curtis got up from his chair. “C’mon,” he said to Robbie, “let’s get outta here.”
Continue to Chapter 4 >
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