“If It Don’t Work Out…”?

As with most Nebraska farmers, I grew up on country music. In my teens, however, I had a conversion experience and pop music won the day. Today I listen to contemporary Christian music. But that doesn’t keep some of the old tunes and lyrics from escaping the memory vault and floating back through the floorboards of my mind. Sometimes, in spite of myself, I even hum the tune. Here is a recent example:


Kiss me each morning for a million years,

Hold me each evening by your side,

Tell me you’ll love me for a million years,

Then if it don’t work out,

Then if it don’t work out,

Then you can tell me goodbye.


So what’s the problem with those lyrics?

For starters, the grammar is terrible. Unfortunately, poor grammar has become part of our everyday language. Sometimes I wonder whatever happened to that good old contraction, “doesn’t.” Mrs. Oak, my freshman English grammar teacher, would wince to hear us say, “He don’t wear shoes” and “it don’t matter.”

Yes, I suppose you could call it poetic license. And I do understand that “doesn’t” adds another syllable and is more difficult to sing. And besides all that, lyricist John D. Loudermilk did just fine with his 1962 release without bothering to consult me.

Actually I have a much deeper problem with his lyrics. Kissing a person each morning for a million years and holding them each evening by your side sounds like marriage to me. It sounds like a genuine commitment, until we add the disclaimer, “If it don’t work out, then you can tell me goodbye.”

The lyrics reflect our times. Contemporary marriage ceremonies often become mere celebrations; the solemnity of the covenant is lost. The wedding vows often seem to reflect a choice of staying married until one or the other mates has a change of heart. No fault divorce has replaced “till death do us part” with something like “if it don’t work out.”

I remember when divorce wasn’t so easy. One of the married partners (then it was always a man and woman) had to prove just cause to be granted a legal divorce and to nullify the covenant that had been made before God and friends as witnesses. Now it’s nobody’s fault, and any old reason is sufficient to break the covenant.

If it don’t work out….

Tragically, the church has been caught up in that destructive cultural current. Fearing pushback or creating offense, many pastors choose to tiptoe around the whole subject of divorce. To do so, however, is to ignore God’s Word and the clear, specific teaching of Jesus Christ. For pastors, it’s a question of whose opinion matters most: God’s or contemporary culture’s.

Yes, divorce is a sad, ever-present reality on this broken world of ours. It has always been a problem—even among God’s people. Moses had to deal with it as did the prophets. Listen to God’s words through the lips of Malachi, explaining why God no longer accepted the priests’ offerings.

“Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and the wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union?” (Malachi 2:14, 15; emphasis mine).

God charged the priests with having divorced their wives in order to marry younger, more attractive women—perhaps even from among the Canaanites. To do so was to defile their priestly garments with violence. Sounds very serious, wouldn’t you agree?

Note the two truths in verse 15: God had made them one, and the Spirit was involved in sealing that union between the man and his wife. If that means what it seems to be saying, how sacred is the marriage bond! “…A portion of the Spirit in their union….” With God that deeply involved and invested in something, how could we ever be so casual about it?

Divorce always affects more than a man and his wife. The Spirit of God has been violated! Divorce is the death of a relationship. It is like decapitating a head from a body. And if there are children, they also become collateral damage—often being shuttled between parents. Every holiday and family celebration tends to be painful, like picking a scab before the wound has healed.

In a word, there are no easy, painless divorces. Even divorces that are justified because of abuse and adultery are painful.

Yes, God will forgive a divorce, just as He forgives all our sins. The church must extend grace and support for the wounded and come alongside the single parent trying to be both bread-winner and nurturer without their covenant half.

So what’s the take away from this article?

I am asking churches and pastors to squash once-for-all the devil’s deceptive words: “How can it be wrong when it feels so right?”

How can it be right to casually dismantle a family unit? How can it be right to justify leaving one’s mate because someone more exciting (at the moment) has entered the stage? I have actually listened to professing Christians trying to convince me, their pastor, that God “brought” the other person into their life because He wants them to be happy. Whatever happened to being called by God to be holy as He is holy? To do the right thing because it is the righteous response? To do the noble thing. To keep a promise?

In his timely book, The Storm-Tossed Family, Russell Moore shares a story about a celebrity musician’s wife. When asked by a reporter for the secret of staying married so long, her response was stellar: “The main reason is that neither of us has died.”

For her, divorce was not an option.

“If it don’t work out” was just bad grammar in a silly lyric.


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