Monday, April 30, 2012

The Bible On Divorce & Remarriage - Seven (and final)

God's ideal for marriage is one man and one woman living in complete faithfulness to each other for life.

In the Old Testament Law God set up regulations for divorce, evidently as a substitute for the death penalty (Deuteronomy 21). It is clear that the divorced man and divorced woman could then marry other people, with a few restrictions. They couldn't marry each other again after being married to someone else, and priests could not marry a divorced woman or a woman who had been a prostitute. The divorced woman is considered defiled in the Old Testament because the assumed grounds for divorce was sexual immorality.

When Jesus is teaching about divorce and remarriage in Matthew, he makes several new points.
  1. "Whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery" (Matt. 19:9). In this case the man has no legitimate reason to divorce his wife, so he is committing adultery against her.
  2. "But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery" (Matt. 5:32). This woman has been divorced without legitimate cause. The verse assumes she will remarry, but says that in doing so she has been pushed into the arms of another man.
  3. "Whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery" (Matt. 5:32 and Matt. 19:9) This applies to the woman who was unjustly divorced by her first husband. In this case, the next man who marries her is committing adultery with her in the sense that they are breaking the sanctity of the first marriage.
  4. "So He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery"(Mark 10:11–12). This presupposes the "except for sexual immorality" clause. In this verse we see that both husband and wife can be the instigator of the adultery.
These teachings are a very serious matter indeed. Jesus is not replacing the Old Testament law, but clarifying it. Divorce that is for any reason other than sexual immorality grows out of and into adultery. "No fault divorce" is completely foreign to God's original design for marriage. The hypocritical Pharisees thought that by divorcing a wife before getting another wife they were obeying the seventh commandment - "You shall not commit adultery." But Jesus says they are still committing adultery - first by looking at another woman with lust, and then by divorcing in order to marry another.

But what about where a divorce IS the result of "sexual immorality?" Divorce that results from one partner's adultery leaves the innocent person as free to remarry as if the adulterer had died. If this were not the case, Jesus' words, "except for sexual immorality," have no meaning. The adulterer is defiled, but the other person is not.

Life is complicated. Marriage is hard work. Adultery is a terrible betrayal. Divorce is allowed, but not required. Reconciliation might be possible. A marriage is worth fighting to preserve! But when you have done all you can do, you might still find yourself divorced and your former spouse lost to you in an adulterous relationship.

Remarriage is not required, but it is allowed. You should definitely not date until your divorce is final. You should probably wait until all possibility of reconciliation is past. Even then, you might be better off to remain single, if you can. But it was our Creator who said, "It is not good for man to be alone," and who designed marriage as the answer to that problem.

The secret to a successful marriage is that our commitments to each other grow out of our absolute commitment to the Lord Jesus. We are all sinners. We let each other down. We are weak willed. We are easily flattered, discouraged, angered, or embittered. Jesus taught that adultery is only a glance away. Pursue Jesus Christ with all of your heart and obey Him in your treatment of your spouse.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was only sort of glanced off it in Four...but aren't you going to make a clearer stand against divorce in leadership? Is it just Pastors or deacons too?? Why don't all your other reasoning apply to them. What if those things happened in their lives before they were Christians or
called to ministry?

AND...I still, after reading all this, have trouble pulling out rebuttals to the nastiness of those who disagree with this view. The issue that I've had trouble discussing recently is...that people who were divorced before salvation are okayed (accepted)... while those who divorce and remarry afterwards aren't.

And what about where one partner has been divorced and the other hasn't.

I guess...this is really academic....and I'm having trouble making it practical to my real life situations.