Archive for the ‘divorce’ Tag

What’s So Wrong with Second Marriages?   8 comments

The churches of America are fraught with blind spots — new “theologies” that blind us to God’s will. One of these blind spots is the idea that if one marriage fails, there’s nothing wrong with marrying someone else. While, it’s wrong to commit adultery with someone while you’re married to another person, once you’re divorced, it’s fine to remarry someone else.

When Amy Grant announced the breakup of her first marriage and began appearing in public with Vince Gill, many wondered whether she and Vince had committed adultery while she was still married to her first husband. Amy strongly denied committing adultery and insisted that she and Vince had just been very close friends until after her marriage ended. She and her fans apparently agreed that it would have been bad for Amy to sleep with Vince Gill while she was married to someone else. She and most of her fans also agreed that it wouldn’t be so bad for Amy and Vince to get together once the divorce was final.

But what does Jesus say? “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery“ (Mark 10:11—12).

Oh-oh! That sure looks like Jesus said if someone divorces without biblical grounds and remarries, it’s beside the point to ask whether there was adultery before the divorce. The decision to find a new mate is itself adultery. Jesus said that.

In 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul acknowledged that there may be marriages where husband and wife are so at odds with each other, so fed up with each other, that they can’t live together, let alone have loving sex together. In such cases, separation might not be as bad as daily strife. Separation may be the lesser of two evils, but even if separation is considered necessary, that does not make it moral to get a final divorce and find a new spouse. In 1 Corinthians 7:10—11, the Bible says to Christian couples, “A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband.“ The ideal is not to separate at all, but if you feel you must live apart, you have two choices: stay single or reconcile to your spouse.

Speaking pragmatically, if remarriage were not an option, there would be far fewer divorces in the first place. A great many marriages would not come to an end and a great many wounded relationships would heal if the only choices were to reconcile or remain single. Many people would rather struggle in a hard marriage than be alone. But when the possibility of finding someone else and remarrying enters the picture, there’s much less incentive to do everything possible to save an unhappy marriage. Sometimes a marriage breakup is a direct consequence of adultery by one partner. But even when adulterous acts haven’t yet occurred, just the thought of finding someone who could make you happier than your present spouse can weaken your resolve to keep your vows.

Amy Grant is a prominent example of this problem. She denied committing adultery with Vince Gill and said her friendship with him was not the reason her first marriage ended. She said: “I didn’t get a divorce because I had a great marriage and then along came Vince Gill. Gary and I had a rocky road from day one. I think what was so hard—and this is what one of our counselors said—sometimes an innocent party can come into a situation, and they’re like a big spotlight. What they do is reveal, by comparison, the painful dynamics that are already in existence. Through all of that process in my life, Vince was a friend of mine.“

Take a closer look at this statement. Amy said she didn’t really know how bad her marriage was until she became close with someone else, made a comparison and decided the grass was greener on the other side of the fence.

It’s important to remember that Christian marriage is not a contract between two people. It is a covenant between each partner and God that results in a covenant between the two partners before the church. The 10 commandments make it clear that God is a jealous God who wants no competitors and the New Testament teaches us that marriage is a metaphor for the Christian relationship with God. Part of the traditional marriage vow includes the words “forsaking all others.“ That’s not popular language among modern marriage counselors, but it fits biblical teaching. When you marry somebody, you forsake all other prospects for marriage. If you don’t forsake all others and disallow all possibility for a new and happier marriage, that “escape clause” is like acid eating away at your present marriage.

Whether or not hopes for a happier second marriage hasten the end of many first marriages, the fact remains that Jesus says, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her“ (Mark 10:11). Jesus also says, “Anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery“ (Matthew 5:32). Unless the divorce fits the biblical exceptions, remarriage violates the way of Christ. If you decide to divorce your spouse, it is adultery for you to remarry. Even if you don’t want a divorce but your spouse divorces you, it is adultery for you to remarry unless a biblical exception is involved. I’m speaking to Christians here. Please understand that.

This means that if a husband chooses to end a difficult marriage, the wife can’t say, “Well, I didn’t want the divorce, but now that it’s come to that, I’m at least free to find a new man.“ A man who meets the newly divorced woman can’t say, “Great! She’s available, and I want her.“ If a marriage ends simply because of incompatibility, it is adultery to remarry. Christians, here that!

There are two biblical exceptions which would allow divorce and remarriage. The first exception is if one spouse is already guilty of sexual unfaithfulness. In that case, the one-flesh union has been violated. Jesus allows (but does not require) the betrayed spouse to end the marriage and to eventually remarry someone else (Matthew 5:32, 19:9). The second exception is when a non—Christian spouse abandons a spouse who has become a Christian.

In 1 Corinthians 7:12—16, Paul discussed this scenario. At the time the New Testament was written, you could get in big trouble for becoming a Christian, and your spouse might be persecuted along with you, even if they didn’t share your faith in Christ. If they didn’t want to face the trouble, they might want to get out of their marriage to you. It could also be just plain upsetting to a pagan for a spouse to suddenly become a follower of Jesus. This happens even today. I know a few divorced friends whose spouses left them for becoming Christians or for renewing a long-dormant faith. In Paul’s day, some non-Christians chose to abandon and divorce spouses who had become Christians. Paul, speaking in the authority of Christ, said that these Christians were not bound by their previous marriages. This freed them to start over in a new marriage to a fellow believer.

Still, in cases where the unbelieving spouse was willing to continue the marriage, the Bible says that the Christian partner must not seek a divorce. If there was a choice to end the marriage, it must be the unbelieving spouse, not the follower of Jesus, who sought the divorce. “But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound is such circumstances“ (1 Corinthians 7:15). The phrase “not bound“ is, in the original language, a technical term for being free from a marriage and available to remarry.

God permits you to divorce and remarry if you spouse has been sexually unfaithful or if your spouse rejects your faith in Jesus and abandons you, but if you divorce for any other reason, then to remarry is to commit adultery.

I can think of at least five remarried couples who are Christians in my church alone. What do you do if you remarried under the mistaken modern belief that it was okay and then find out that it’s not okay with God? Is it ongoing adultery to remain in the second marriage? Must you leave the person you remarried?

There’s a saying — two wrongs don’t make a right. You can’t undo one wrong by committing another wrong. If you’ve remarried and made Christian vows, keep those vows. Be the best spouse you possibly can in your new marriage. But don’t pretend that your decision to divorce and remarry was just fine if the Bible says it wasn’t. Admit your sin to God, and ask Him to forgive you for the sake of Jesus’ blood. Press on to do God’s will from this point forward.

There is a temptation here that you shouldn’t fall into. Christians are forgiven of our sins and we can ask Jesus daily to remove the sins we collect along the way, but knowing, deliberate sin not part of God’s will, Christians. It’s not okay to decide to end one marriage, remarry and then ask God’s forgiveness for your adultery and continue forward as if it was fine. That’s a soul-killing game to play. If you harden your heart to Jesus now, how can you be sure your heart will soften later? The gospel of forgiveness is good news, but it is not a guarantee that you can do as you please and get away with it. “Without holiness no one will see the Lord“ (Hebrews 12:14).

I don’t want to minimize the pain of difficult marriages. No doubt there will be those reading this who will say what I’ve written is legalistic and cruel. My aim is not to open old wounds or to heap guilt feelings on people for past sins that have already been confessed and forgiven. I want God’s Word about divorce and remarriage to be clearly understood. The world is watching us, Church, and when we act as if God’s will is subject to revision by cultural norms, then we change Who God is for them. We turn Him into a god of our own design, nothing more than the idol they think He is. If God is Who we say He is, then He doesn’t change with the times and we Who have accepted His grace do not have the option of changing His mind for Him. Once His will is understood, we must seek not only God’s forgiveness but also His cleansing and his power to obey.

For the Love of Happiness   Leave a comment

Blind spot ignorance causes a lot of car accidents and they’ve wrecked many a Christian life. The blind spots that are common among the churches today involve sexual immorality, including adultery.

Make no mistake. God makes a Christian marriage and when both partners are Christians, there is no divorce recognized. You can dissolve the human contract, but not the covenant made between you and God.

Amy Grant exhibits the blind spots of our modern society as it affects the churches and so, it may seem unfair, but she’s the example we’re going to use. When Amy divorced Gary Chapman, she explained that she didn’t take divorce lightly. They’d been through lots of marriage counseling and it just hadn’t produced what she had hoped it would produce. Chapman didn’t want the divorce, saying he was an old-fashioned guy who believed marriage ended with death do us part – a quaint notion found in Romans 7:2-3. “By law, a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adultress.”

Chapman held to this standard, believing it to be spiritually healthy, while Grant felt the main point of marriage is thriving together and enjoying one another. She quoted a counselor who told her that “God didn’t create this institution of marriage so He could just plug people into it. He provided this so that people could enjoy each other to the fullest.” Grant took this as permission to end her marriage.

Removing the marriage as a pathway to happiness for the individual sounds like really pragmatic advice, until you look at the facts. Large scale studies have compared unhappy spouses who divorced or seperated with unhappy spouses who chose to stay in unhappy marriages and found no great difference between the two groups in terms of happiness.Researcher Maggie Gallagher observed:

[M]ost of the unhappy spouses who avoided divorce did not stay trapped in misery. Two-thirds of unhappy spouses who stayed married ended up happily married five years down the road.” Most unhealthy, unhappy marriages heal and become happy only if both spouses are committed to hang in there long enough to work through their differences.

The counseling profession includes some compassionate, wise, Bible-based therapists, but (my observation based on 15 years in the field), many counselors do more harm than good. Some see divorce not as a problem but as a normal event.

“It is time to move beyond thinking about the divorce rate as an indicator of a social disorder that must be reduced. Divorce should be regarded as one of the “normal social events in the life course of modern families.“ (William Pinsof, a marriage therapist and editor of a journal on family counseling)

Such thinking is too common among marriage counselors. Maybe that’s why marriage counselors themselves have a divorce rate that is higher than almost any other profession. Why work to preserve a marriage if you see divorce just one of those “normal social events“ that modern families ought to expect?

Christians should know that God hates divorce, but do we understand the full reason why? It’s not because divorce is painful  to spouses and children. It is! My husband went through five divorces with his parents. Trust me, it’s painful! But that’s not the reason why God hates divorce. Remember, He is more interested in your character than your comfort.

God hates divorce because divorce defies God’s commands and breaks a solemn covenant designed to demonstrate God’s own faithfulness and love of Jesus Christ for His church. Marriage is about more than helping two individuals flourish and be happy together. That’s a side blessing when and if it happens.

Marriage is about being faithful to each other no matter what, out of obedience to God and a desire to reflect His faithfulness in our own lives.

Therefore, a marriage is not finished just because one or both spouses is unhappy. It’s not done because a number of counseling sessions occurred without doing much good. A marriage begins with a vow before God and with two bodies becoming one flesh. God designed the one-flesh union of sex and He expects us to take it seriously.

“What God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:6 – that’s Jesus speaking). God takes sexual union seriously. He also takes promises seriously. “It is better not to make a vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it. Do not protest. My vow was a mistake. Therefore, stand in awe of God,” (Eccleasiastes 5:5-7)

If marriage is just a matter of happiness and friendship, then why bother promising to be faithful “for better or for worse, till death do us part“? Why not say instead, “I promise to stay with you as long as you make me happy and we feel like friends, and as long as we don’t have problems too serious for counseling to cure.“ If that’s how we really see marriage, then we should say so and not make false vows. We should say what we mean, and mean what we say. If we promise “till death do us part,“ we had better mean it.

The modern mentality, fostered by many counselors and therapist, says that marriage should continue only if both partners are enjoying each other and flourishing together. In this mentality, we assume that the only way a marriage can last is if it brings enough happiness and doesn’t bring too much struggle. We also assume that if we do have trouble and spend some sessions with a counselor, then we’ve done just about everything that can be expected, and if we’re still not happy, it’s time to end the marriage and move on. This mentality is a huge blind spot for many people. It’s out of tune with God.

Sexual Immorality in the Church   2 comments

This is going to hurt, but it’s for your own good.

How many couples in your church are divorced and remarried?

I’m not talking about your pastor (although that is also an issue today), but about the people sitting in the pews.

In his first (extant) letter to the Corinthian church, Paul was very clear on this. Remarriage is not allowed in the Christian churches. Read Chapter 7, he’s clear that this is not a command from Paul, but from God. Remarriage following divorce is not allowed in the Christian churches.

No, I didn’t write “divorce is not allowed”. Paul wrote that there were circumstances where Christians could divorce. If a partner became a Christian and the other did not and the non-Christian left, the Christian was free to remarry. The reason for that is simple. God covenants with a man and with a woman separately to make a marriage. They then covenant with one another before a body of witnesses. Non-Christians lack the ability to make covenants with God. So a marriage between a Christian and a non-Christian is not a godly marriage and the covenant is one sided. The Christian is required by God to hold to the promise they made to God, but the non-Christian is not, so when the non-Christian leaves, the Christian (having fulfilled their promise to God) is now free to marry, though Paul is clear they should only marry Christians.

The other circumstance is if a Christian couldn’t stand to live with their spouse any longer (as happens in cases of abuse or unremittant adultery), they may elect to separate, but they are to remain unmarried unless reconciled to their spouse.

There are no other alternative excuses for divorce or remarriage.

No – the “God wouldn’t want me to be unhappy” argument is not found in the New Testament. God is more interested in your character than your comfort. Human marriage is meant to reflect the marriage relationship between Jesus and the Church. Paul sought to teach the Corinthian church (which existed in a society with similar sexual attitudes to America and Europe today) how it might reflect its relationship as the Bride of Christ through how its members conducted themselves in their marriages.

Yet, today, divorce and remarriage statistics inside the churches are not substantially different from what they are in secular society. Woe unto us, Church, and until we get that straight, we really have no business pointing a finger at the world about its sexual immorality.


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