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The Crisis of Divorce Pt. 2

Matt. 5:31-32; 19:9-12; 1 Cor. 7:10-16

The crisis of divorce is a highly emotional, yet significant matter we must consider as thoughtfully and lovingly as we can. Most of us approach this subject with mixed feelings, because it is almost impossible to address without inflicting further hurt on some or arousing the wrath of others. The subject is too important, however, for such risks to keep us from sensitively giving attention to a biblical perspective on divorce and remarriage.

To bring some personal focus to this biblical perspective, we will address three groups of people: the divorced, the married, and the single. Some will fit into two of these categories.

  1. The divorced. To those of you who have been caught in the tragedy of divorce, it is essential you know that in the church you will not be categorized as "second class citizens" in any way. Your past should not be classified any different than anyone else's. You are not an embarrassment to the church. You will be loved as much as any other person. We want you to know that—and feel safe and loved by us.

    Thinking about this subject may actually reawaken some pain and questions from your past. The last thing we want to do is to inflict you with more hurt. We do, however, have an obligation to speak the truth about this matter, for your sake and so that we may prevent others from getting caught in the same tragedy. Listen carefully, then, to what is said in this second session and evaluate your own situation in the light of Scripture. The biblical perspective will not attempt to answer every question you may have, so listen closely for the principles and apply them as they are needed.

  2. The married and remarried. If you are married or remarried, this perspective is also addressed to you. Don't allow yourself to get caught in a trap, feeling like you don't need to hear this. You are caught in a culture that loves marriage. More are marrying than ever before, yet this society is not committed to the sanctity and lifelong commitment of marriage. It is difficult to not be affected by popular attitudes regarding marriage (mainly that incompatibility and loss of love are the criteria for ending your relationship). In Christ, there is no good reason to find yourself incompatible and out of love with your mate. If that happens, however, realize you have a storehouse of resources and help available to you as a child of God that can put your marriage together again—even better than the original.

    Marriage is very important to God. He chose it as the one relationship to depict the union between Himself and His church, and it is the building block and preserver of society. So, as we saw in part one, the question for believers is not "how or should I get a divorce", but "how can I, by God's grace, live in such a way that I will bring ultimate happiness to my mate and in the process, bring glory to God." If we own an accurate theology of marriage and—by the strength of God—live by its principles, we won't need to deal with the question of divorce in our lives.

  3. The singles. We do not consider singleness a deficit. It seems silly to have to say that, but in some church communities, singleness is seen only as a temporary state on your way to marriage. We don't believe that. Singleness is not always a prelude to marriage, and is not for the purpose of bringing us to marriage. A person is not more complete, more Christian, more anything (other than being more in debt) after he marries. Nor does the Bible say you must be married to have or appreciate ministry. Paul, in fact, indicates just the opposite, that singleness can free you to be even more effective and undivided in your ministry (1 Cor. 7:25-35). Some of the greatest authors of the Christian faith, including its Founder, were single people. A single person should not think he/she would be much more valuable married.

    The statistics,however, show that many of you will marry, so listen closely and prepare yourself for that potential if you choose it.

  4. The word to us all. Regardless of your marital state, understand the issues and solutions to divorce and remarriage. We are all responsible to minister the truth and understanding of Scripture to those with whom we come into contact, so for the sake of your friends and those God may bring to you for ministry, take to heart these two lessons.

     


We concluded Part One with a warning: Beware of hardness of heart. We were also encouraged to soften our hearts. Whether we are married, divorced, or never married, the basis of all marriage and relationship problems is hardness of heart.

What softens the heart is recognizing our inability to handle any situation and thus relying upon the wisdom and love of God. Hardness of heart is a selfish attitude determined to go its own way and do what it desires to do. So—the encouragement comes again—we must soften our hearts before God and pray for that for each other.

In this session, we want to return to Jesus' teaching in Matthew 19:9. With verses 3-8 as a foundation, Jesus answered the original question of the Pharisees in verse 3—"Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?"

v. 9—I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.

Jesus had already told them that the reason for all divorce is hardness of heart, but now added that the primary result of hardness of heart is marital unfaithfulness. (See also Matt. 5:31-32.) The word for "marital unfaithfulness" is "porneia" in the Greek. It's the word from which we get our word "pornography," and is a broad term encompassing adultery, incest, bestiality, homosexuality, prostitution and any other area of sexual perversion. It refers to a lifestyle of sexual promiscuity of any variety.

There is a very practical reason why this nullifies a marriage relationship. Jesus has already taught that when we are married, we become one flesh. That "one flesh" relationship is symbolized and communicated at the physical level in the sexual union. This is very significant because

 

  • Men and women are God's only creations that have the option of communicating their love through a sexual practice, because all animals breed by instinct with no love involved. The frightful thing is that when we step into sexual promiscuity, we deny our true nature—as those created in the likeness of God—and regress into pure animalism. Romans 1:27 verifies this degradation, because the words used to describe a man and woman in a state of sexual promiscuity are those used only for animals. God steps back and allows man to move into an animalistic state.
  • Ideally, married couples are brought together in such an intimate fashion through sexual intercourse that when the marriage is consummated, the Old Testament uses the Hebrew word, "to know." It means that when you come together at a sexual level, you have come to know one another; you have become one flesh. There is something beautiful and spiritual that happens at that moment in marriage that cannot be denied.
  • Men and women, on the other hand, are not built so that they can promiscuously act as animals. It is so much against our physical nature, that it is a sin which will destroy our physical bodies. We cannot live that way without paying a terrible price... it goes against God's design.
    1 Cor. 6:15-20—Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, 'The two will become one flesh.' But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit. Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.

    Unfaithfulness, then, is the one thing that will rip a marriage apart, because we can't be one with two people at the same time. This teaching dealt a death blow to polygamy. It elevated the woman so that devotion to her was to be exclusive—one wife for a man's entire life.

    If we heard what Scripture said and followed its instruction, we would not only live more intelligently and practically, we would also avoid sins against the body as well as the wrath of God. Obedience to Christ's commands will reap an eternal life of fulfillment and blessing; the pleasures of sin are only for a season. The choice is ours!

     

Jesus said "porneia"—any sexual promiscuity or perversion—is grounds for divorce. He did not say that when "porneia" occurs, the only answer is divorce. Someone in that situation does not have to get a divorce. Jesus was saying that if there was unfaithfulness, the sinful relationship had to cease. He made it clear that divorce can be allowed for adultery, but that isn't the only solution.

Jesus is able to heal any hurt or failure we can mention, if we give Him a chance. As we said in our last session, Jesus can heal each partner and then bring them back together for a new beginning. Divorce is definitely not God's way of resolving marriage problems.

 

The Bible does not present divorce as an option, but as a last resort, if not a last rite... Stanley Ellisen, p. 48.

The following quote will sum up the issue and the need for the counterbalance of grace.

 

The tragic sin of extramarital sex is so devastating in God's eyes as to signify the death of the marriage. The permissive attitude of our age is entirely foreign to the Bible. Both Jesus and Paul stressed the enormity of the crime of marital unfaithfulness, as already emphasized throughout the Old Testament. No Bible writer ever suggested a compromise in this regard. Fornication is the one cause Jesus recognized as legitimate grounds for divorce (Matt. 5:32; 19:9). Paul, in fact, saw it as tantamount to marriage to the harlot (fornicator; 1 Cor. 6:16). Where such infidelity has taken place, then, it is a call for separation or for bringing the issue to a head. God does not tolerate such immoral relations, and the other partner is likewise not to put up with it. Allowing it to continue without confronting it is to condone what God hates. The law is to be laid down with righteous indignation.

Having noted the need for laying down the law, however, we should also remember the counterbalance of grace. Although the words of Jesus give strong evidence that fornication is legitimate grounds for complete divorce, reconciliation is not to be ruled out. For the believer who has tasted of God's forgiving grace, reconciliation with the erring partner should still be sought. Such forgiveness and reconciliation should be extended only on the basis of proper repentance and a sincere reaffirmation of faithfulness to the marriage vows. Without these the reconciliation is a farce and a prelude to further failure"—Stanley Ellisen, Divorce and Remarriage in the Church, Zondervan Publishing Co., pp. 96-97.

We see in verse 9 not only the primary cause for divorce, but the primary caution for remarriage. Jesus said, "I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another, commits adultery." This verse indicates that remarriage can result in adultery. We must be aware that divorce and remarriage not based on biblical grounds is adultery in God's eyes. We are not free to end a marriage because of any whim, or incompatibility. Many Christians today, either ignorantly or willfully, are committing adultery in their remarriages because they have misunderstood or ignored this verse.

Comparing this passage with Matthew 5:32, we see that divorce not granted on these biblical grounds also causes two others to sin—the divorced wife and the one who married her. The caution for remarriage is obvious to anyone involved in a divorce, or marrying one not divorced on biblical grounds.

We can remarry only under extremely limited conditions, and one of two possible exceptions is listed here. "...except for marital unfaithfulness..." The exception applies not only to the divorce, but also to the remarriage, so if we have valid biblical grounds for divorce, there are valid grounds for remarriage. Remarriage may not be your best option (1 Cor. 7:8-9,32-35,40), but if you are biblically released from a marriage, there is potential for remarriage

  • in the Lord
  • to another believer who is likewise free to marry—2 Cor. 6:14-16b
  • in God's timing—Eph. 5:17

Where do we get this idea, that the biblical grounds for remarriage is the same as the biblical grounds for divorce? Doesn't it specifically say that if we remarry, or marry a divorced person, we commit adultery? If we look closely at the text, we see the exception clause: "Except for marital unfaithfulness..." placed within v. 9 and set off from the rest of the sentence by two commas. This sentence construction inserts that exception, grammatically, into the entire verse. We are to stay married unless that relationship has been broken by adultery—"porneia"—and we are not to remarry unless the divorce was granted because of adultery!

 

Adultery then has the effect of aborting or dissolving a marriage union in the eyes of God. Though the marriage was designed by God to be permanent or lifelong, the act of adultery breaks the one-flesh union of husband and wife in defiance of the will of God. As Paul said, "the one who joins himself to a harlot is one body with her" (1 Cor. 6:16, NASB). This being true, the other partner is not guilty of adultery when getting a divorce. Adultery in that case has already been committed, and has severed the union by the breach of faithfulness and a new physical union. Stanley Ellisen, Ibid, p. 52.

If you are caught in the backlash of someone's sin, in that your marriage partner is having an illicit sexual relationship, according to this exception clause you are free to get a divorce and to remarry. (See Appendix on Questions and Guidelines for Remarriage.) Let me caution you, however, not to approach remarriage with smugness or hardness of heart. You must recognize that at least in measure, no one is totally innocent in a relationship and marriage breakup. With a soft, repentant heart, approach God and seek His face as to what you should do. Above all, don't be foolish and jump quickly into another relationship just because you believe you have the right. I can promise you it will likewise end in disaster or severe trial.

With that in mind, let me offer a strong word to those who are looking for a way out of a messy marriage. Make sure you approach divorce and remarriage with honesty and integrity, and on biblical grounds. I have heard Christians say, "If you don't like your present mate, divorce him or her and get married again. Even if it is wrong, God will forgive you if you ask Him to, and you can just go on and enjoy the new union." The attitude behind that statement is bothersome, because it treats lightly what God views very seriously.

That kind of statement reveals little or no concept of a holy and righteous God. If you profess salvation but the previous statement is your view, I doubt very seriously if you are presently experiencing a vital relationship with the living God. You are lightyears away from what God intends for your life, and you are also presuming on the grace of God. I plead with you, don't play with the mercy of God. "God forbid that you go on sinning that grace may increase," Rom. 6:1. (This applies not only to the one who willfully disobeys God's plan for marriage, but every other command of God too.)

Jesus' teaching not only left the Pharisees with their mouths open; it caused the disciples some frustration, too.

 

v. 10—The disciples said to him, 'If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.'
Their comment in essence was, "If that is what marriage is all about, we're better off single." This frustration often occurs when people fully understand what marriage is all about; they see it as impossible to achieve. This teaching cuts right through popular opinions and reveals the heart and intention of God. No wonder the response is, "How can I live up to this standard?"

Jesus answered them with a great response to those who are unmarried.

 

vv. 11-12—Jesus replied, "Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it."

Jesus was saying that not everyone will need to be concerned about marriage, because some have not been given that gift. Notice the categories of celibacy:

  • Some are eunuchs because of birth; they are incapable of sexual relationships.
  • Some are made that way by man; maybe because of a tragic accident.
  • Some have renounced marriage; they have taken a vow of singleness in order to give themselves to kingdom business.

Jesus did not separate the subject of singleness and celibacy—to Him they were a single subject. If you choose a single lifestyle, you have to come to grips with celibacy, for the two subjects are are not separated in the Christian life. They are totally separated in the world, but not in Christ's view. The world says to the single, "Be as promiscuous as you want to be." The Lord says, "If you are single, that means you abstain from all sexual activity and you must live a celibate life until you are married or die."

When Jesus summed it up, "The one who can accept this should accept it," what was He saying to the single and married? Here's a paraphrase of the command: Be honest in your estimation of yourself. If you can accept a single life and have the Spirit's enablement to live it, then do so with confidence and rejoicing. Give yourself to the kingdom of God. Don't let anyone pressure you or make you feel incomplete, if this is your stance. If you are being led to marriage, or are you are already married, rejoice, too!

If we add these last two verses to all the others here, there are some implications for singles that we should note.

 

  1. He makes the sexual intimacy an exclusive act within marriage. In fact, He makes it as an expression of marriage. It is not the only one, but an exclusive expression of marriage.

     

  2. He does not acknowledge either the validity of or the possibility of meaningful sexual relationships outside the covenant of marriage. We have a high individualistic view of our rights and our drives, but Jesus is saying that to have sexual relationships outside of marriage is meaningless. It does not express anything. The best it can be is physically pleasurable because of the chemistry and biology of it, but it is utterly bankrupt in terms of meaning. Sex outside of marriage expresses selfishness... no matter how close you may be to that person in terms of commitment or friendship.

    Unless a commitment between two people is finalized in the covenant of marriage before God, any sexual relationship is without meaning and is sin. It will also ultimately be destructive. Please understand, this instruction is not some narrow, puritanical interpretation. It expresses a biblical restriction based on who God has created us to be. Remember, all of God's commands are for our provision and protection.

     

That concludes Jesus' teaching on the subject, so let's turn to one more key passage in the New Testament that has bearing on the subject of divorce and remarriage. Let's look at

The Teaching of Paul

Sexual promiscuity is not the only grounds for divorce. Scripture gives one more provision for separation and divorce for the believer. Here are a number of questions that are often asked and need some answers.

 

  • If a believer has acted in a loving and kind way toward his/her unbelieving mate, seeking to win him or her over to Christ without a word (1 Pet. 3:1-2) and that unbelieving mate desires to leave, what should the believer's response be?

     

  • If the believer doesn't drive the unbelieving partner away because of his/her unloving actions or attitude, but of his/her own volition the unbeliever deserts his/her spouse, what should the believer do?

     

  • If one member of an unbelieving couple becomes a Christian and the other remains an unbeliever, should the believer seek a divorce?

     

  • If an unbeliever desires to stay married to a believing spouse, should that marriage continue?

     

Paul's primary teaching on this subject is found in 1 Corinthians 7:10-16. Let's look at a couple of these situations and seek to apply this passage.

 

vv. 10-11—To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.

These verses states for us God's idea of marriage: it is to be a lifelong commitment with no divorce intended. On the surface, this verse does not even seem to provide an exception for this ideal. As we read the context, however, we see that in the next few verses an exception to this statement is given.

These two verses are God's ideal for all marriages.

  • If you are married, you should not seek a divorce.
  • If you divorce, you should remain single, because to remarry is to commit adultery.

That is the general principle for all believers, but how about marriages where one member is a Christian and the other is not? Obviously, we need further information. This clarification is given under the inspiration of the Spirit, in addition to what the Lord taught.

 

vv. 12-13—To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him."

As we saw in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9, there is an exception to the general rule, but here it is stated separately from the ideal situation of verses 10-11. These verses are answering the questions concerning one partner becoming a Christian and the other remaining an unbeliever. Is this a union that ought to be terminated by the believing partner? The answer is clear.

 

If the unbeliever wants to remain married, then the believer is not to seek a divorce. If the unbelieving mate is willing to live with the believer, then the teaching of Paul; not to 'be mismatched with unbelievers,' (2 Cor. 6:14) does not apply. Elsewhere Paul explains: 'Everyone should remain in the state in which he was called' (1 Cor. 7:20)—Larry Richards, Remarriage, Word Inc., Waco, Texas, 1981, p. 123.

Why is the divorce prohibited? Notice the reason given in verse 14.

 

v. 14a—For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his believing wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband.

This is a fascinating verse, but for the sake of brevity, we need to limit our discussion. What does this mean? Sanctified means, "set apart." Therefore, the testimony of the mate sets the unbeliever in a place where God can speak to him/her and convict him/her of sin. Because he/she is joined with a believer, a powerful witness is taking place. God often reaches an unbelieving marriage partner through the believing partner—often without a word. (See 1 Pet. 3:1-2.)

 

Note: Many religious cults say that unless your mate submits to the teaching of that cult, you are to divorce him/her and marry someone within the cult. Put that down as not being the teaching of the Bible.

Another reason to avoid divorce is in the next verse.

 

v. 14b—Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

This tells us that the children are not the reason to seek a divorce, because if the believing mate is living in a godly way, he/she is also positively affecting the spiritual nature and perspective of the children. In other words, even if you are married to an unbeliever, the children need not be affected in a negative way. You can live in that environment and raise your kids in such a fashion that they are powerfully drawn to Christ. There is no reason to worry about negative influences from the unbelieving mate, if you live a godly life. Your children and your husband will be better off if you remain married!

What happens if the unbeliever desires to depart? The answer is in the next verse.

 

vv. 15-16—But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

Here we see that if an unbelieving mate is not provoked by the believing spouse and yet decides to leave him/her, then the believer should let him/her go and not be tormented by doubt as to whether he/she sinned. Notice specifically, the passage says, "the believer is not bound in such circumstances." Only hardness of heart would cause an unbeliever to react negatively to a believer's love, because the godly mate is giving him/her every reason to stay married. (See 1 Pet. 3:1-6.)

The word "bound" might be paraphrased "to be in a continuing state of bondage." Paul's point is that the marriage to the unbeliever no longer continues. Because the marriage bond is broken, the divorced believer may consider himself unmarried, because God has called us to live in peace.

Does this mean that the believer is free to remarry? This Scripture is not totally clear as to if, and when, remarriage should take place. Waiting will not necessarily bring your partner to the Lord, according to verse 16. On the other hand, a quick divorce and remarriage totally closes the door to reconciliation. Therefore, I believe the possibility of remarriage must be decided between the believer and God.

 

"Certainly, if sexual immorality is engaged in, or if desertion is so prolonged as to give no prospect of reconciliation, a de facto divorce will have to take place, whether or not it has been sought or granted"—Stanley Ellisen, Ibid., p. 57.

You will remember from our study of the Old Testament passage Deut. 24:1-4, that if divorce did take place on biblical grounds, it was understood to open the door to potential remarriage.

I hope what has been established in this: Divorce is basically allowed because of hardness of heart. Even if we are the victim of someone else's sin, then, we must be careful about having even a measure of hardness of heart. This hardness of heart is displayed in two ways that will end a marriage in God's eyes. These are the only two exceptions in Scripture to God's ideal of marriage. If unrepentant sexual immorality occurs in one mate, or if desertion occurs by an unbeliever, then the Bible indicates that the marriage commitment ends. At that point, remarriage in the Lord and in His time is a potential. This is, of course, after all possible means of reconciliation and forgiveness have been pursued.

For those of you who are presently married, whether or not your divorce and remarriage was on Scriptural grounds, God makes it very clear that you should remain married to that partner. (See 1 Cor. 7:17,20,27.) There is an unscriptural teaching that says if you are remarried, you should divorce your present mate and return to the former one. Deuteronomy 24:4 and 1 Corinthians 7:27 make it clear that is wrong and an abomination to the Lord. That isn't an excuse or endorsement of the circumstances that brought about your remarriage, but if you are remarried, by God's grace and in His love you are to make that the best possible relationship and marriage.

 

The Teaching Applied

How should the church respond? Let me make some general comments and applications to us as a church.

The Questions

There are a number of questions we should ask.

 

  1. How should we respond to people who are divorced and remarried, sometimes many times, before they become Christians?

    For some churches this isn't even a question, because it doesn't matter what a person does—each one is free to choose and act as he or she pleases, regardless of what Scripture says. As for other churches, the distinct impression given to the divorced and remarried is, "You can come and sit in our pews; we'll even take your money, but don't open your mouth, because you're a second class citizen."

    If a person has committed a crime and served his time in the penitentiary and in that prison received Christ, how should we respond if he gets out and wants to come to our church? In many places they'd put him on the platform and make an evangelist out of him. "A crime to Christ testimony!" Others would at least allow him in some setting to give his testimony of how God has saved him and forgiven him.

    What do we do with the person who has never bothered to get married and yet lived promiscuously all his life, and he/she desires to come to Christ? We rejoice at his/her salvation. So it is not appropriate to show a double standard to the person who has been divorced and remarried and then come to Christ. When someone comes to Christ, old things are passed away and all things become new—2 Cor. 5:17. If Jesus is your Savior—even if you have been a murderer, a prostitute, a thief, a self-righteous Pharisee, or a divorcee—you are my brother or sister. You have a new nature, so let's start there.

    Notice how Jesus responds to the sinner. How about the woman at the well (John 4:4-42)? By God's Law she was an adulteress—divorced five times and living with a sixth man. By God's grace, however, she was forgiven and used by Jesus to start a revival. How about the woman caught in adultery (John 8:2-11)? By God's Law she deserved punishment, but by God's grace she was not condemned.

    Our model as a church will be Jesus'!

     

  2. How about Christians who have been divorced and remarried and come to the church? How do we respond to those who know better and yet have violated the Word? Should we back them up to where they ought to be and get them out of their present marriage? How do we undo people's pasts? How do we go back again when a professing Christian blows it and gets a divorce and is remarried? How does someone relive or undo a life that has failed?

    Without condoning or in any way affirming their sin, we must take divorced believers where they are and love them into right standing with God. If we can't love them and lead them to forgiveness and repentance, they may not find any other place! If we can't accept sinners, where are they going to go? Where do we refer them? Do they deserve the love of Jesus? Yes, as much as any of us do!

    We as a church will be like Christ, who intersected people on the garbage heap of their lives and led them to repentance and forgiveness! I know there are those who will take advantage of that grace and love and will use the forgiveness of God as an encouragement to go and do what they want and then come back and ask for His forgiveness. God will deal with them. I believe we have no choice, though, but to joyfully open our arms and lead the person whose heart is broken by his/her sin to true repentance and forgiveness. (See 2 Cor. 7:8-13 for a description of true repentance.) These people have been hurt enough. Let's just love them!

     

Summary Statement for Hillcrest Chapel, Bellingham, WA.

Without Jesus, we always wreck our lives, but somewhere there has to be a spot where we can come and lovingly be encouraged to start again. I'm not liberal in my view of marriage and divorce, nor is this church. We do not recommend divorce; in fact, we discourage it in every way we can. I don't believe it is a valid back door to any marriage, except for the two exceptions we have mentioned. The solution to any problem is Jesus.

At the same time, we are obligated by the love of Jesus to receive anyone Jesus sends here, even if they are not where they should be in their spiritual life.

No matter how sinful a person's past has been or their present state, we are compelled by the love of Christ to take all sinners and lead them to right standing with God! That's why we are here. We will be a healing community of love, acceptance and forgiveness.

 


Appendix

If you had a bad marriage and are now free to remarry (your divorce was on biblical grounds), then let me encourage you to consider the following guidelines and questions.
  1. Have all possible means of reconciliation been exhausted?
    1. If your mate has remarried, no reconciliation can or should be sought, regardless of your feelings or the feelings of your former mate—Deut. 24:1-4; 1 Cor. 7:20,27.
    2. If your mate is living in an adulterous relationship, or is an unbeliever and has purposed to not live with you, if sufficient time has passed to indicate to you he/she is rejecting you and the marriage, then reconciliation is unlikely—1 Cor. 7:15.
    3. If, however, your partner is not remarried and not living in adultery, then prayerfully you should approach the possibility of reconciliation. Remember, in Christ you can see incompatibility end and love restored. (See Rev. 2:4-5 and do what it says in your marriage.) Seek counsel from your pastor if you have questions about this!
  2. Is it God's will that you marry again?
    1. In some cases it would be better for you to remain single and devote yourself to ministry within the kingdom of God—1 Cor. 7:32-35; Matt. 19:11-12 (especially 12b).
    2. If your divorce was not on biblical grounds (adultery or desertion), then you should not even consider a dating relationship until you are free under the above exceptions, and attempts for reconciliation have been exhausted—1 Cor. 7:10-11; Matt. 19:3-9. To get remarried before you are free in God's eyes is to commit adultery, and it causes your new partner to commit adultery as well—Matt. 5:31-32.
    3. If reconciliation is impossible, you should come to God in sincere repentance for any hardness of heart on your part. (See Matt. 19:8 and 2 Cor. 7:8-12 for an evaluation of your repentance.) Even if you are the victim of someone else's sin, make sure that no hardness of heart, like bitterness or revenge, affects you.

      If the divorce was unwanted and at the initiation of your mate, and if it was not on biblical grounds, you should remain single until such time as one of the two exceptions applies. For instance, if your former mate remarries, or is living in a continuous adulterous affair, then you are free to consider remarriage.

       

    4. It is wrong to remarry, however, if one of the following conditions exists. (Adapted from Marrying Again, David Hocking, Revell, 1983, pp. 29-34.)

       

      • It is wrong to remarry if your past problems have not been resolved.
        • Have you confessed and repented of your activities that led to your divorce, when you had no biblical grounds? (See 2 Cor. 7:8-12 again, for evidence of true repentance.)
        • If you have not faced the past, seeking to resolve past conflict and wrong decisions, do so immediately. Don't carry those problems ahead with you, because you'll only be hurting yourself and everyone you come in contact with.
      • It is wrong to remarry if you do not have a clear conscience about doing so.
        • If you have a doubt, don't do it. (See Rom. 14:22-23.)
        • This is not doubting your ability to make someone happy; this is doubting whether marriage is right for you. It's better to wait for a green light.
      • It is wrong to remarry if you do not have a strong desire to do so. (See 1 Cor. 7:32-35.)

If the above questions have been answered, remarriage should be approached under the following guidelines:

 

  • No serious dating should take place until you are sufficiently healed of the hurt and trauma of divorce. A minimum of a year is a good guideline and often recommended by marriage counselors. If you don't wait long enough, you will be reacting to your former mate and marriage. You may even eventually marry someone who is just like your former spouse. This is not my observation alone, but a common opinion of those who have entered into remarriage too quickly.
  • Be involved in active service and ministry to others. Often, the best therapy in overcoming previous hurts is to become actively involved in giving yourself to ministry. This is also a good attitude and mindset, in order for God to direct you to the right relationship. Study the story of Ruth to see how God directed a moving servant.
  • You may need to study the subject of marriage again. I recommend you study in depth Christ's explanation of marriage in Matthew 19:4-6 and Paul's teaching on marriage in Ephesians 5:21-6:4. There are also a number of excellent books written on the subject. Choose from the Bibliography at the end of this study.
  • You should only date believers and never even consider remarriage unless that person is a strong believer—2 Cor. 6:14-16.
  • Your potential partner should be a maturing believer and so should you. Be careful about marrying or seriously dating new converts. Their faith and commitment to Christ has not been tested, and it's possible they are still struggling with temptations you know nothing about. The most consistent mistake of remarriage is in this area. What a person says and the way he/she acts, is not a final indication of the depth and longevity of his/her faith.
  • The following are a few reasons why you and your potential partner need to be mature Christians—not spiritual infants.
    1. Infants are easily jealous, and quarrel a lot—1 Cor. 3:3.
    2. Immature leaders and mates become conceited and are unaware, or don't acknowledge, their personal weaknesses—1 Tim. 3:6-7.
    3. Immature Christians haven't yet developed right motives, so they quarrel and fight to get what they want—James 4:1-3.
    4. Immature Christians don't know good from evil in many cases, because they are not acquainted thoroughly with the teaching about righteousness—Heb. 5:13-14.
    5. Immature believers have not had their faith tested sufficiently to know how they will stand in persecution and trial—Luke 8:4-15 (especially vv. 13-14).

     

  • If children are involved, on either side of the remarriage, think through carefully the implications and how you as a couple will respond to this joint responsibility.
  • The timing of your dating and eventual remarriage is almost as critical as the people involved, so prayerfully consider the right time for a new relationship and remarriage—Eph. 5:15-17.
  • If God leads you positively through the above questions and guidelines, then with joy and without any guilt or shame, approach your marriage with rejoicing. Take the lessons learned and the comfort you have received from God (2 Cor. 1:3-4) and apply them to your new marriage. Purpose before God that you will love, accept, and forgive your new partner in the same way God has loved, accepted, and forgiven you. "Praise be to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort" —2 Cor. 1:3.

     


Bibliography

  1. Barna Research Group. "Christians Are More Likely to Experience Divorce Than Are Non-Christians," December 21, 1999. Published at www.barna.org.
  2. Cook, Jerry. Love, Acceptance and Forgiveness, Regal Books, Ventura, CA, 1979.
    Note: Jerry has been my mentor in so many ways. His tapes and personal conversations concerning this subject and the whole area of ministry have been invaluable to me.
  3. Chapman, Gary. Hope for the Separated. Moody Press, Chicago, IL, 1982.
  4. Ellisen, Stanley A. Divorce and Remarriage in the Church. Zondervan Pub. House, Grand Rapids, MI., 1980.
  5. Hocking, David. Love and Marriage. Harvest House Pub., Eugene, OR, 1981.
  6. Hocking, David. Marrying Again: A Guide for Christians. Fleming H. Revell, Old Tappen, N.J., 1983.
  7. Juroe, David J. and Juroe, Bonnie B. Successful Step-Parenting. Fleming H. Revell, Old Tappen, N. J., 1983.
  8. Lewis, Margie M. The Hurting Parent. Zondervan Pub. Co., Grand Rapids, MI, 1980.
  9. Richard, Larry. Remarriage: A Healing Gift from God. Word Books, Waco, TX, 1981.
  10. Small, Dwight H. Marriage as Equal Partnership. Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI., 1980.
  11. Stedman, Ray C. Caution: God at Work! Discovery Pub. Co., Palo Alto, CA, 1975.