Ask the Bald One - What about Divorce and Remarriage?
A few months ago I requested help in making this blog more relevant. I suggested the possibility that on Fridays that I might dedicate the blog to answering questions with a weekly addition called, “Ask the Bald One”. Occasionally my children jokingly addressed me this way, “Oh bald one”, so it seemed fitting. I thought it might be fun. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any questions. Today that changes! I have a question from Pepper.
Pepper, I owe you a prize for helping with this first “Ask the Bald One” blog. Thank you!
Here is the question first and then the Scripture that prompted it.
She asked, “Always struggled with this one. I dare say many women do, if we are among those who walked away from an adulterous husband. And later, I remarried. So how do we deal with this "sin" we have committed?”
The passage that prompted the question was from our daily reading.
10 And he arose from thence, and cometh into the coasts of Judaea by the farther side of Jordan: and the people resort unto him again; and, as he was wont, he taught them again. 2 And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him. 3 And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you? 4 And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away. 5 And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. 6 But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. 7 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; 8 And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. 9 What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. 10 And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter. 11 And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. 12 And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.
I will try to answer today with what the Bible actually says. I have heard views on this subject that spend a lot of effort on cultural context at the expense of the Scripture itself. I have found that usually the simple explanation is the best one. Here is my attempt.
First, I must point out the need for all of Scripture to get a full perspective on any passage. There are four gospels for a reason. Each gospel writer was speaking from a different perspective, to a different original audience and with a different goal in mind. All four gospels together give the complete picture. Matthew tells us something about the view of Jesus on divorce that Mark doesn’t tell us. Just as an accurate profile picture of me might miss that one pointy Vulcan ear that I have on the other side of the head, so just one gospel might be accurate but still incomplete in it’s perspective. By the way, for those that have ears to hear, live long and prosper.
Here is an important part of Jesus’ teaching that Matthew alone recorded,
Matthew 19:9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.
Jesus said that divorce is permissible in cases of fornication. The word translated “fornication” means, and is used in reference to, all manner of sexual sin, adultery being one of them. In other words, if a spouse cheats, then divorce is allowed. I think it is important to point out that “allowed” and “advised” are two different concepts. Jesus allowed for the possibility of divorce, he doesn’t necessarily advise it. Many a marriage has survived the pains caused by infidelity. Thankfully, repentance and forgiveness are available options. The point being, if repentance and then forgiveness is not possible in a specific circumstance then Jesus has considered the damage done by sin and made provision. Mark may have not been inspired to address this portion of the previous teaching of Christ but thankfully the Lord made certain it was included in the whole council of God.
Now, if we go back to the question we were asked, I think we have dealt with a few of the greatest concerns. Here is the question again, “Always struggled with this one. I dare say many women do, if we are among those who walked away from an adulterous husband. And later, I remarried. So how do we deal with this "sin" we have committed?”
I don’t believe that an act that Jesus permits is sin. Adultery certainly fits within the exception for divorce that Jesus allowed so that a spouse that divorces in this case is free to move on and is not sinning in this area.
God certainly does not want a wronged spouse to live with perpetual guilt on top of heartache. He wants them to get past the hurt and live a life of spiritual abundance.
I began with what Mark didn’t say, but have not really addressed what he was inspired to say. It is obvious that Jesus considered marriage important. Marriage between one woman and one man was the original plan of the creator. His intent was for them to stay together for life. Why is marriage so important? The book of Ephesians tells us that marriage in this life is a picture of something greater. It is an illustration of the relationship between Christ and his church (Eph 5:32). It is unfortunate that many a marriage vow has been broken and left unfulfilled and sin has marred this very important picture. The good news of the gospel is that “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound”(Rom 5:20). If a person has not followed God’s plan and broken their vows, if a person has walked away from God’s first human institution without proper cause, if a person has given into temptation and provided proper cause for a spouse to walk away, Jesus offers forgiveness and grace. He offered a woman in John 4 living water knowing she was living in adultery. He paid for that living water when he said, “I thirst” while on the cross. Come to him just as you are, let him take care of the past and commit your present and future to him.
I know this is incomplete but I hope it helps a little.
PS – Pepper, the prize for first question answered will be determined later but is coming. ;-D