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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Teen Stresses: Divorce, New Testament Reflections, Remarriage

    If a person has really been forgiven of involvement in a divorce, why doesn’t the church think that that person can marry again? Well, I can’t really speak for any specific church or group of individuals, but I can tackle your question from what I see the Bible saying and what a dear lawyer friend shared with me concerning the matter of re-marriage. I’ll begin with a quick summary of Bible passages that have already been cited earlier in this series so I will not belabor the point by repeating the exact verses. If this is your first view of this post and you are interested in knowing the exact verses or wording, just go back a few posts and start at the beginning of the series. (The link is below, for your convenience.)

     The Bible shows us that it is not permitted for the first husband to re-marry his first wife, whom he divorced, should she become available again through another divorce or the death of her second husband. However, if the woman has no children and is all alone after her husband divorced her, she is permitted to be received back in the home of her father, even if he is a priest. She is not cast out but is allowed to eat of the consecrated food of a priest’s family so God didn’t bounce her out of her family because she was given a divorce from her husband. Jesus said the divorce was allowed on the grounds of adultery only, not just because they could not get along. In addition, the divorced couple was not to remarry as long as the former spouse lived. In fact, to do so, would cause the individual to commit adultery and, the Bible says, that will prohibit the person from entering the Kingdom of God. In addition, Jesus told us that it was not just the act of adultery but the attitude of adultery that would convict us of sin. To think about the woman with the desire to commit adultery is the same as doing it. The Bible also says that adultery is a sin. If we will repent of that sin, confess the sin and ask, Jesus will forgive our sin, restoring us to the pre-sin state, without condemnation.

     So, if we have been forgiven and Jesus has restored us, the Bible says it is as though we had never done it. If the slate is washed that clean, why couldn’t we get re-married? A good question. Paul addresses it in the next chapter, I. Corinthians 7. It should be remembered here that Paul was a very active missionary teacher, on the move all the time… as were many others in that period of time. They were under heavy persecution for their faith so times were very difficult for Christians. (As it is in many parts of the world today, actually.) Paul thought it better for everyone to be single so as to be totally available to the Holy Spirit’s call. Paul begins his words considering those who have never been married.

“Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for a man to remain as he is. Are you pledged to a woman? Do not seek to be released. Are you free from such a commitment? Do not look for a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.” (I. Cor. 7:25-28)

     So, what Paul has said is that it is better to not marry at all. But, if you have never been married and do marry, okay. If you have made that commitment, keep it; stay married. If, however, you are no longer married, you should not go looking for another wife. Paul realizes that the single life is not for everyone and that, while a man may not purpose in his heart to go find another wife, he may just meet someone he develops a close relationship with and wants to marry her. Paul is saying, go ahead then and marry her. It’s not a sin to re-marry. It’s just that Paul knows the married life brings with it its own trials and can be distracting from the work of the Lord. He tries to explain his rather unorthodox position at the end of the chapter, verses 32-35.

“I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs —how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.”

     I put this passage in because it, not only explains a little of Paul’s reasoning for his stand, but also shows us that not only is Paul addressing the issue of unmarried men but also of unmarried women. Note that it says “an unmarried woman or virgin” is concerned about the Lord’s affairs…” so, obviously, a divorced woman or man is still in relationship with the Lord and doing His work, as any other person God has forgiven would be.

     The first set of Scripture verses from I. Corinthians 7 above was shown to me by a lawyer friend in the early years of his law practice. He was, as he still is, a committed Christian and wanted to be sure he was answering questions for his clients correctly. He sought the Lord for the answer to the question about re-marriage. According to the Scriptures, the lawyer believed the Lord showed him that a divorced individual should not head out on a search for a mate. However, should the individual meet someone and diligently seek the Lord’s counsel concerning the relationship, they will not sin if they do marry. This has been his counsel, and mine, for 37 years.

     Again, the issue is one of heart attitude. We have a loving, tender-hearted Father God who, certainly, understands his creation a lot better than we understand ourselves. Yes, God has laws and rules and we would all do better, live happier lives, and just plain know a deeper peace if we would not stray from God’s ordinances. However, we are earthly, carnal beings who are trying to follow God’s leading as best we can. We do mess up as we grow. Our understanding God made a way of forgiveness for us, through Jesus, and He is faithful to forgive us, helping us not repeat the sin, if only we would commit to His help. Still, He is ready to forgive again and again and again. What God wants of us is the desire to do our best not to sin and to come with our hats in our hands to ask forgiveness again if we fail. He will always help those who truly want forgiveness and help. God knows the difference, though, because He knows our hearts. If we are not seriously wanting to follow God’s laws, He will know it.

     God is there to forgive, heal and restore anyone who has suffered the pain of a divorce. It is not God Who has rejected us but imperfect people. While we are all learning, let’s remember to forgive all who have wronged us or hurt us by their actions or words. Divorce is one of the most painful injuries to an individual and those near the involved parties. No one wants to go through a divorce but it happens. When the support is most needed by Christian friends, it is often given the least, while rejection and condemnation are handed out instead. Come to Father God and be healed in Jesus name. He won’t reject you.

Link for beginning of series: Teen Stresses: Divorce, Biblical Reflections
****Light-hearted Guest Post coming tomorrow.

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