Probably one of the touchiest subjects that can be brought up in Christian circles is that of Divorce and Remarriage. It cuts rather close to the bone in just about all church communities. We now have millions of Christians who get divorced and re-married. While once the church was distinct from the general culture in this issue, it has now caught up and been mired in the same devaluation of marriage which it once frowned upon.
Getting Real on the Issue
If the church is going to have any hope of finding God’s wisdom on issues where its own values have changed in recent generations, then it must at least remain conscious of the voice of God’s Word. While interpretations, arguments and counter-arguments might rage in certain circles, it would be wrong to pretend that what the Bible says is not there.
Let’s at least acknowledge a couple of facts. The church has moved its goal posts regarding divorce and remarriage, just as society has done. That means we were either not Biblical before or we are not seeing things the same way any more, or something.
Historically the western cultural standards for indissoluble marriage came from the Christian church. More recently the church’s practice of easy divorce has come from the culture. So we have moved from a church which sets social standards to a church which allows the secular culture to set its standards. That seems very much like the salt having lost its saltiness, don’t you think?
The Issue is Discussed in the Bible
This might come as a shock to some people, but the Bible does speak about divorce and remarriage. It has a fair bit to say about it. While the things that it says are challenging, they come from such reliable sources as the mouth of our Lord Jesus Christ, and from the Apostle Paul, who gave us most of the New Testament theology and practice.
While there is a nice thought in today’s church world that just about any kind of remarriage is OK, there are a number of comments in the Bible which clearly indicate that remarriage constitutes adultery, at least on some occasions.
That link between remarriage and adultery has caused the church to give a very high regard to marriage, to publish marriage banns, to insist on time for the couple to be sure of their choice, and to apply marriage vows that are very binding on the couple.
Today, however, there is a sense that marriage is a more casual commitment, it can be entered into just on the basis of emotional confidence and it can be thrown away if it doesn’t work out. With that, too, comes the idea that people are entitled to a second go if their first try didn’t work out as well as they hoped.
All of that brings disrepute to marriage.
The Unspeakable Link
The problem for the church today is that just about every congregation, denomination and group has people as members, leaders and heroes who have also been divorced and remarried. To make matters worse, it seems a bit tough to go to the heathen who are quite entangled in divorces and remarriages and entice them with such heavy-handed messages as “Your Remarriage is Adultery!”
It’s just not politically correct to discuss such things. So the link between remarriage and adultery is one of those “unspeakable” things.
But sociologist, Gerard Egan, suggests that “undiscussibility” in an organisation is an indication of ill-health. So if the church cannot discuss this topic, then the church has become unhealthy as an organisation.
So allow me to press your boundaries a little by simply putting on the table the fact that the Bible makes a clear link between remarriage and adultery, such that Jesus Christ tells us that (at least in some cases) remarriage is adultery.
The suggestion that remarriage may represent something evil is frowned upon, since it might reflect on someone who is a respected church leader or pastor. So the church has become silent on the subject. Thus it is interesting to see that Jesus was not silent on this topic.
To be politically correct, let’s not make anything of what Jesus said, but just have a little peep at it. All we want to do is acknowledge that Jesus linked remarriage with adultery. That is not to say that He did so in every case – but He at least did so in some cases. So too did the Apostle Paul.
Let’s just do a quick skim of those references and leave the implications for some other time, a l-o-n-g time from now. That way it can’t really be too much harm to look at what the Bible says.
All I want you to acknowledge in these quotes is that Jesus and Paul do actually make a link between divorce and remarriage – at least in some cases. That’s all we’re looking at here.
“But I say to you, That whoever will put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causes her to commit adultery: and whoever will marry her that is divorced commits adultery.” Matthew 5:32
“And I say to you, Who ever will put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and will marry another, commits adultery: and whoever marries her which is put away commits adultery.” Matthew 19:9
“And he said to them, Who ever will put away his wife, and marry another, commits adultery against her. And if a woman will put away her husband, and be married to another, she commits adultery.” Mark 10:11,12
“Whoever puts away his wife, and marries another, commits adultery: and whoever marries her that is put away from her husband commits adultery.” Luke 16:18
“For the woman which has an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he lives; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.” Romans 7:2,3
“And to the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.” 1Corinthians 7:10,11
A Consistent Theme
I don’t know whether you noticed, but the connection between remarriage and adultery is made in those verses a total of nine times. That means it has more direct Biblical emphasis that being “born again”.
Note also that it is consistent. Christ taught it and so did Paul. Christ made his statements in the context of upholding what God created in Eden (Matthew 19:4-8). Paul and Christ gave special emphasis to the lasting quality of the bond that God creates for the couple when they are married. That bond is the reason why future divorce and remarriage is seen as adultery by God, Christ and the church.
So, What are You Saying?
At about this point someone will be jumping up and down accusing me of saying things I haven’t said. Read my lips! I am simply getting YOU to read what the Bible says. What you do about it is your business. What the broader church decides as its theology on the issue is the church’s business.
But if you blithely head off into a course of action based on what is culturally popular and you have not stopped to look at the words in red in your Bible (assuming you have a Red Letter edition with the words of Christ in red ink) then you are in danger of coming to conclusions which Jesus may wish to talk with you about.
I am not your judge. I would be in danger if I were to make judgements. I’m just a regular Joe who thinks we need to remain at least Biblical, whatever else we decide to do.
Now, class dismissed!