Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Myths of Marriage Permanence: “Remarriage” is a Marriage?

On this date (November 18th), twenty-six years ago, I exchanged vows with a woman who divorced her husband. The witnesses, the wedding party, and the parents of the bride and groom believed that God consecrated the wedding ceremony. Both the bride and the groom (me) believed that God consecrated the wedding ceremony.  The pastor who officiated the wedding ceremony believed that God consecrated the marriage. The state of Pennsylvania believed that the pastor’s signature was sufficient to establish the union of marriage.  The government of the United States of America believed that the pastor’s signature was sufficient to establish the union of marriage. However, God did not consecrate the wedding ceremony, nor did He honor the vows. He called this union adulterous. (Mt 5:32, 19:9; Mk 10:11,12; Romans 7:2,3; 1 Cor 7:10,11, 39; Heb 13:4) Was this "remarriage" a marriage? Could I marry a divorced woman and it not be adultery?

Many evangelicals believe that the United States Supreme Court Obergefell v Hodges decision to redefine marriage was the worst thing to happen to the definition of marriage. These evangelicals also believe that this marriage redefinition will put a great strain on those who believe in traditional marriage (one man and one woman), and that this decision brings a serious threat to religious freedom. I tend to agree that the SCOTUS decision will challenge the definition of marriage as the world understands marriage, but what evangelicals fail to understand is that believing the government can define marriage is like believing the government has authority over God. 

I for one, tend to believe that the SCOTUS decision was one of the best things to ever happen to the evangelical church. There are a few reasons for this, for one, this decision made people open their bibles to really see what God says about marriage. Secondly, this decision exposed a very delicate area of marriage that has divided many…divorce and remarriage. In particular, it has really exposed the truth on no-fault divorce, and opened eyes to the evils surrounding unilateral divorce laws. Thirdly, maybe it is time for the body of Christ to experience persecution so that many would repent of believing marriage is anything other than one man and one woman for life.

I think it is fair to say that he evangelicals do defend marriage as one man and one woman. That is not the point.  The point is there seems to be hypocrisy when it comes to defending marriage from the same-sex crowd, but ignoring the very real concerns surrounding divorce and remarriage.  The recent case with Kim Davis was a prime example of evangelicals ignoring the elephant in the room (divorce and remarriage). Evangelicals defending marriage of one man and one woman believe that just because the government validates same-sex unions, God would call these unions’ sinful (homosexuality), and not marriages in the Lord. I would never argue with that.  I would simply point out that those who believe scripture points for the permanence of marriage would say that just because the government validates “remarriages” after a divorce of a living estranged covenant spouse, God would call these unions sinful (adulterous), and not marriages in the Lord. 

The evangelicals seem to come to the defense of divorce and remarriage "claiming" God gave certain provisions (exception clauses) for certain situations. I, and many others will argue that some of these certain situations can always be rectified through reconciliation by way of repentance and forgiveness of sin. If reconciliation of a marriage  is a real possibility in the case of adultery within marriage, then why do not evangelicals fight for the idea that “reconciling” in these adultery cases is a direct affront to God‘s word? If there are exceptions to divorcing, would that mean reconciliation should be excluded for these “exception” verses?

Here is a scenario to illustrate my point:

Joe and Mary enter into a one-flesh covenant marriage. They both exchanged marriage vows in front of witnesses and the wedding was officiated by an ordained minister named Pastor Randy. Ten years into the marriage, Mary has an adulterous affair with Tom. According to this particular “exception clause”, (Matthew 19:9) Pastor Randy says that Joe has the “option” to divorce Mary because she committed adultery against him. Pastor Randy uses the NIV bible in his church. The verse reads:
Matthew 19:9 (NIV) I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

Pastor Randy tells Joe that reconciliation is also a possibility if Mary repents of her adultery. He states that Jesus would have us forgive the sins of others as Christ forgave us.  Joe immediately files for a divorce of Mary because of her adultery with Tom. Joe is convinced that Matthew 19:9 permits him to divorce and remarry another. Mary does in fact plead with Joe to forgive her, as she repents and breaks off all associations with Tom. Joe remains indignant to Mary’s repentance and divorces her through a unilateral divorce law. What must be done here from a pastoral perspective? Does Pastor Randy slowly bow out and let everything to the hands of the state? How should he minister to the repentant Mary?

Is Joe required to forgive Mary, or “must” he divorce her due to her sexual immorality? According to the “exception clause” in the NIV, Joe is permitted divorce Mary, and if he forgives Mary and remains married, he would be contradicting the “exception clause”. The exception clause does not say:
“I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, or if the wife repents of sexual immorality and the husband chooses not forgive her, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

If the scripture permits a husband to divorce his wife because of “sexual immorality”, why would he ever forgive her if she repents? It’s as if this scripture is the only unforgiveable sin. Is that really the case? 

Some will say: This scripture (Matthew 19:9) applies to unrepentant and repeated sexual immorality.
Ok…then why is the husband free to remarry after a divorce? If she is an unrepentant adulterous woman, would not a divorce exclude her from getting married to her adulterous partner?   

If Joe divorces Mary and marries another, why would she commit adultery if she marries another? Also, if Mary remarries and commits adultery against Joe, would not Joe commit adultery against Mary if he remarries?

The problematic verse for men like Pastor Randy is the Matthew 5:32(NIV)…But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

How is it that it is the sin of “adultery” if a man marries a “divorced” woman? If she is divorced, would not she be “single” again? No, if she was “single’, she would be free to marry. According to this scripture, a man who divorces his wife “causes” her to commit adultery. It is simple to understand that the divorce only permits a wife to remain unmarried because a divorce does not end the marriage covenant.When scripture says that a remarriage is not a marriage, it is saying that "remarriage" is adultery, and adultery can never be a marriage.

Paul understood this when he writes : 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. (1Cor 7:10,11)

The command from the LORD for the husband to not divorce his wife would make it much more desirable to eradicate the sin that can lead to divorce. The idea that divorce ends the marriage is completely contrary to the whole story of the Bible. This idea that grace and mercy be extended within the confines of the marriage makes the definition of  marriage much more powerful, if not more believable. It is no wonder that the world calls evangelicals hypocrites on how they freely divorce and remarry...Divorce can only take away from marriage definition, and never would divorce do anything other than take away from the definition of marriage. One man and one woman for life. (Genesis 2:24)

If divorce was a means in which to end a marriage, why have marriage in the first place? If divorce was a means to force reconciliation of the marriage becasue of hard hearts, then marriage is not only meaningful, it is a true reflection of the  power of the Gospel. This is the point that the Lord is making for divorce. If divorce is your option, then, remain unmarried the rest of your days on earth. Death is the only way to end a marriage, and to believe otherwise will have eternal consequences.

In conclusion, my personal experience with marrying a divorced woman was not a wise decision. I believed the majority and ignored clear scripture (Luke 16:18) telling me that I was not to date a married woman, let alone move in with her and then marry her after she filed for a divorce. I have no one to blame but my self for the pain and humility that is associated with divorce. However, God works for the good for those who love Him, for those who are called according to His purpose. I love God and I thank him everyday for what He did for me through the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank Him for what He continues to do for me on a daily basis. I know that He is not done with me. 

I do know that he has given me words for those who deviated from the permanence of marriage. 
I know that this work is for eternal purposes by eternal love, and my prayers are that many will open their eyes to the truth of marriage. I only wish the road wasn't so sad sometimes, I wish the pain wasn't so hard sometimes, but I must hold on, hold on to His promises and trust Him when all seems beyond control. That is why on days like these, when I look back and see my own faults and those who hurt me and deceived me,.. I must keep all things in perspective. I think of  His word and what Joseph endured, knowing that some things happen for reasons beyond my control, and for His glory.
Genesis 50:20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

In Christ's love,


No comments: