As Baptists we have, over the years, taken a firm stance on divorce. We have, in effect, treated it like the unforgivable sin. We have run from men who have divorced when it comes to them serving as a Deacon. The traditional position has been absolutely negative to them serving. The passage cited is 1 Timothy 3:12. Some versions read “husband of one wife” while others read “faithful to his wife”. Thus, we have had a conflict of praxis concerning deacons and their service if a divorce is in the past.
Whenever we have one verse on which we place an entire position we find ourselves on narrow footing. In order to give it proper review there are a few things to consider:
- Original Language – the Greek text is the original in this case at it strictly reads, “one woman man”. From this alone we cannot determine exactly what was meant without regarding the next 2 parts or infusing personal opinion.
- Original Context – The culture and morality of the day lent itself to polygamy and multiplicity. The Christians of that time struggled with false teaching and wayward living as they tried to mature. Paul encouraged Timothy to remind those he led that leadership needs to show stability. They were to be focused on the one to whom they were married.
- The Whole of Scripture – The very character and Word of God comes into question if we are not careful. By saying that a divorced man cannot serve we hold a certain grudge. We hang a scarlet letter on him and say “not forgiven”. How can we do what God does not? He forgives. He casts sin to unreachable places. He moves forward. The character of God in light of scripture informs us that God forgives and so should we. Further, God’s choosing of men with questionable backgrounds is many. One does not look far to see Him forgiving and using flawed people with difficult pasts.
In light of these 3 basic positions, divorce, with remorse, does not preclude a man from service. There are those in your church right now with such history. May we not hold against them what God has already relieved.