Hi dear readers,
I’m starting something new, by striving to answer hard questions on my blog through new posts, as a lot of my content is thought-provoking, and may require further clarity. I’m starting with a series of questions by Dina on remarriage. You may post questions as comments in relation to posts you’ve read, and I’ll do my best to do justice to your inquiries, if a simple reply just won’t cut it.
I hope you find this new approach encouraging and edifying!
I skimmed through your blog and I must commend you for your work. It is truly inspiring to see someone dedicate her life to helping others!
I did have a question on an idea I saw in one of your articles. I may have misunderstood, but it seemed to say that divorce and remarriage constitute adultery. The Hebrew Bible allows for divorce and remarriage, as in Deuteronomy 24:1. In Deuteronomy 22:19, 29, we see that a man who raped a woman must marry her (if she consents) and then may not divorce her as long as he lives, implying that in other cases a man may divorce his wife. The Hebrew Bible also warns not to change its laws (Deuteronomy 4:2).
In light of that, how do you as a Christian reconcile this with the idea that divorce and remarriage constitute adultery?
Also, is a Christian woman expected to stay chained to a man who beats her, whether by staying with him or whether by leaving him but never being allowed to remarry? If he beats her and her children, is her first responsibility to the marriage or to keep her and her children safe?”
I think you did misunderstand the message in the article. I believe the article in question is the one titled Is Adultery An Unforgivable Sin? It was necessary for me to explain what adultery is, but the bottom line of the article, (which I believe you would agree with me on) is that though adultery is in fact an abomination, it is forgivable nonetheless. I don’t know if you still stone people to death who are caught in the ‘act of adultery’. I really don’t know how modern Judaism operates.
My understanding about adultery is drawn from two things. The first is Jesus’ teaching that anyone who lusts after someone who is not their spouse has committed adultery in their heart (Matthew 5:28). The second is the teaching from Deuteronomy (24:4), where God forbids that a divorced couple should come together again, after one or both of them have remarried. This shows me that adultery is not the same as sexual immorality or fornication. Adultery is actually the severing of the marital bond by acts of infidelity (sexual or otherwise).
Now, what I said about remarriage was that it is the seal of adultery – being the evidence that the previous marriage has been severed beyond reconciliation. This is similar to how pregnancy is the evidence of sexual immorality, even though not all sexual immorality result in pregnancy. Remarriage is not a new act of adultery, it is evidence that adultery has taken place, and it is grievous to God, who would rather reconciliation between spouses. Therefore, God would always prefer for couples to separate to pray and fast and work on coming back together again. But if they cannot, and remarry, then that is the final judgment on their union. The adulterous process is complete…a new creature is conceived!
Note that in the case of a married couple, pregnancy is not illegitimate. Similarly, not all remarriage is evidence of adultery, as in the case of widowhood.
There are many relationships that are still existing even after adultery has been committed by one or both partners (maybe because of their resilience or their graciousness to forgive and restore their marriages). Adultery can be so subtle that it can go unnoticed for years, until one of the partners declares they have had enough and pursues a divorce, and subsequently remarriage. But, we are prone to throwing stones at those whose infidelities are exposed, mostly sexual infidelity, and make it harder for these couples to work on preserving their unions. I think that is why Jesus said to the accusers of the woman caught in the act (as recorded in the Bible), that “let him without sin cast the first stone!” (John 8:7)
Jesus’ revelation did not change the law or seek to change it, but expanded our understanding of the law! Jesus said to his followers that unless their righteousness exceeds that of the pharisees, they can not inherit the Kingdom of God (Matthew 5:20)! Jesus taught that beyond the letter of the law, there is a Spirit of Love. So, instead of an eye for an eye, turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:29). He said that Moses permitted divorce because of the hardness of their hearts, but that was not what God intended (Matthew 19:8). God’s perfect will is reconciliation and restoration. God is gracious, forgiving and long suffering, and we are to be perfect like Him (Matthew 5:48). He used Hosea to illustrate the extent of His endurance with an adulterous nation (Israel).
Jesus also came to show us the extent of God’s graciousness by laying His life down for us. He gave us what He called a NEW COMMANDMENT. He said “As I have loved you, love one another” (John 13:34). This type of love is not the type of love that divorces a spouse, even for sexual infidelity. That is why I have a different understanding of Jesus teaching in Matthew 19 about divorce, remarriage and adultery. Jesus didn’t say that sexual immorality is the only acceptable reason for divorce. I believe that He said that apart from causing your spouse to commit sexual immorality, you also commit adultery and cause them to commit adultery (Matthew 19:9).
It is for this reason that Christians are called to follow a higher law of love, and not to divorce (even their unbelieving spouses) (1 Corinthians 7:10-15). However, if their unbelieving spouses divorces them, they are free from that union, and may even remarry in the Lord (read my post A HARD TEACHING, which deals with 1 Corinthians 7 in detail). Christians are commanded to be long suffering and be open to reconciliation, if they should ever separate from their Christian spouses. In regards to other situations that cause marriages to breakdown (like domestic abuse), separation is definitely encouraged and advised. But I won’t give permission to divorce and remarry. I won’t permit others to sin, even if I have sinned and been forgiven. All I can say is, God is gracious, and no matter how great the fall, God is in the business of reconciling us to Himself. We need to be sincere and contrite.
Thanks for giving me a chance to say more on this. I hope it has helped others too!
God bless you.
Photo credit: http://www.truewoman.com
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