Issues of Life

Reader Questions: Dina on Remarriage


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!

_____________________________

Dina asked:

“Hi Ufuomaee,

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?”

_____________________________

Hi Dina,

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.

Sincerely, Ufuoma.

Photo credit: http://www.truewoman.com

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7 replies »

  1. Hi Ufoma, great post. I remember always thinking to myself that if anyone gets divorced and remarried, does that mean he or she is constantly living in sin? If someone gets divorced and they fall in love again, does that mean they cannot remarry because if they do, they would be going against God’s word? I guess it’s a tough position to be in and I don’t wish this for anyone

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Dina. I am responding on my blog, where I published this post for the benefit of my readers.

      Dina Wrote:
      Hi Ufuomaee,
      Finally getting back to you. Thanks again for taking the time to write about this. First, we do agree that adultery is forgivable.
      My Response:
      Thanks for responding. I’m glad that we agree on that. I hope you don’t mind if I address the other issues point by point. Cheers.
      Dina Wrote:
      The Bible teaches that your sins are wiped away, that you are forgiven, as soon as you turn away from your evil ways and pursue acts of righteousness, charity, and justice (Ezekiel 18 and 33).
      My response:
      It would really help if you quoted exact verses to support your statement, instead of whole chapters (unless the whole chapter deals with the issue, e.g. 1 Cor 13 on love).
      I believe Eze 18:21 (“But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die”) is the verse of interest. Likewise, Eze 33:15 and 19. I agree with your understanding of these verses, that God forgives the repentant, who walks in righteousness. However, the Israelites were commanded to sacrifice lambs (or turtledoves) for their sins in addition to turning from their evil ways (sin offering). Am I right? This is part of keeping ALL God’s statutes.
      Dina Wrote:
      This was the case 3500 years ago and it is the case today. You wrote that you don’t know how modern Judaism views this teaching; traditional Judaism today is no different from its ancient counterpart.
      My Response:
      May I ask, do you still offer animals as sacrifices for your sins? Do you have a High Priest who makes annual sacrifices (for unintentional sins) for you and all your people and for himself (Num 15:25)? Are these not also the statutes the Lord commanded that you keep ALL, so that you should not die in your sins?
      Dina Wrote:
      In fact, I would like to quote what you wrote: “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.”
      It is hard for me to believe that you don’t know that we don’t stone people for adultery, or for anything else, for that matter. That’s a rather shocking statement!
      My Response:
      Please do not be shocked about my ignorance for your practice of your religion. I know my Bible well, and what I know of Judaism is what I read in it. Though we believe in the same Bible, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, Catholics and Protestants all understand the scriptures differently, such that their practices and beliefs appear to be completely different religions. I couldn’t tell you what some of them truly believe or practice today. I can tell you what I believe about Christianity, and I appreciate your clarifications on things that may be common knowledge to you, but unclear to me.
      You can understand why I would think you were ever in the practice of stoning people to death. God did command that it be done in many places, and there is at least one account of stoning to death for breaking the Sabbath Law (Num 15:32-26). If modern Judaism is NO DIFFERENT as you say, why have you stopped stoning people to death (or at least, not do so as much)?
      Dina Wrote:
      Since you know so little about Jews and Judaism, please allow me to give you a little background. Stoning people for adultery was an impossibility even in ancient times, because for death penalty cases the Bible requires at least two eyewitnesses. And of course, who commits adultery in front of witnesses?
      My Response:
      I don’t see why it would be an impossibility as you say. People get caught cheating all the time. Someone could have spied them from a window and called others to the scene before breaking them up. Even before the age of the camera, sins were obvious and were found out, when people’s suspicions were raised, with a little snooping.
      Dina Wrote:
      According to our received tradition, there were many other hurdles to overcome in order to sentence someone to death because of our dread of executing an innocent person—so much so that the Talmud records that a Jewish court that carried out an execution once every 70 years was viewed as a particularly harsh court.
      My Response:
      I am glad to learn that it wasn’t so rampant.
      Dina Wrote:
      Furthermore, I would like to set the record straight on how we understand the Bible we personally received from God.
      My Response:
      Your claim to ‘personally’ receiving the Bible is as good as mine. There’s no one living who personally received the scriptures. You can claim receipt by tradition or even heritage, but you did not personally receive the scriptures. And if you are not a Jew by decent, I doubt you can make such an authoritative claim in any case.
      Dina Wrote:
      You wrote that Jesus taught a higher law of love, as opposed to an eye for an eye. Jews have never read this passage from Exodus 21 as a law of vengeance to literally take an eye for an eye and so on. What we have understood—and which you will see if you read the verse in context (verse 18, for example, explains the context)—is that a person who is injured in any limb or organ is due monetary compensation for that loss.
      My Response:
      I don’t see how verse 18 explains the context. It sounds like you’ve got a watered down understanding of these scriptures, so that you can make Judaism more acceptable to modern sensibilities. You keep saying that we are not to change God’s laws, or add or remove from them, but that is what you are doing with your ‘understanding’ of these hard scriptures.
      It’s kind of like when you wrote: “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”. I almost gaged when I read that. I had to re-read the scripture to be sure, but certainly, it doesn’t say “if she consents”. That is your modernised understanding. Do you think that the phrase “if she consents” was also implied when God gave permission to Israelite men to take wives among their captives, after giving them a month to mourn? (Deut 21:11-13).
      Dina Wrote:
      This is social justice plain and simple and prevents anarchy from taking place. A person who has his eye put out can seek redress in a court of law, where a judge will demand that the perpetrator pay the victim compensation.
      My Response:
      This is in fact the true context of the famous phrase “an eye for an eye”:
      “If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely, but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise” (Ex 21:22-25).
      It is so very straightforward, just as the verses you used to say that this is all about monetary compensation where straightforward. Yes, it is about monetary compensation, when no bodily part is harmed. Except for slaves, who get their freedom from the loss of an eye or tooth, but if they lose their lives, the worst their masters can expect is punishment and not death (Ex 21:20-21).
      Dina Wrote:
      This also becomes more obvious in light of Leviticus 19, which forbids us to take revenge or bear a grudge (verse 18). Personal revenge is forbidden, but redress for wrongs in a court of law is another matter entirely. This must be so to maintain order in society and prevent anarchy.
      My Response:
      I agree with your understanding here. When the matter is agreed in court, and it is found that you are due monetary compensation, or an eye or tooth, then you are right to demand and receive it according to Exodus 21. Otherwise, you would not be justified in taking matters into your own hands, if the court was not in your favour.
      Dina Wrote:
      Please realize that the same Torah that taught this rule of law also taught us to love your fellow as you love yourself (Leviticus 19:18), to help your enemy (Exodus 23:5), not to hate your brother in your heart (Leviticus 19:17)—a high law of love indeed.
      My Response:
      The law of love is the highest law, and has always been taught in the Bible, beginning from the Torah. However, there are gradients of love. The higher law of love I was talking about is the sacrificial love that Christ showed us by laying down his life for us. He said GREATER LOVE has no man than to lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). Which is why He gave us a NEW commandment to love others AS HE LOVED US (John 13:34). That is more than being gracious. It is about being sacrificial. It isn’t enough to love others as you love yourself. Love them as Christ loves you! We turn the other cheek, we go the extra mile and we give without strings.
      Dina Wrote:
      As for my question on the contradiction between the Jewish Bible and the Christian one on divorce, I do not understand your answer. You wrote that Jesus didn’t change it, he simply expanded it. This is what I don’t understand.
      My Response:
      How is it that you do not understand that Jesus made clear God’s true intentions for marriage, when you are so easily able to explain your modernised understanding of God’s commandments regarding justice and marital relations? Aside from your Torah, I understand that you have an accompanying book which gives guidelines on how to keep the commandments of God, even to the point of not moving a chair across the room on a Sabbath. You have found many ways to customise God’s words, but when the Authour of the Law comes and breaks it down for you, you claim that He has changed it. It is simply the false traditions that you have received that have blinded you from seeing the truth, in the same way that it blinded the Pharisees in Jesus’s day.
      Dina Wrote:
      The Hebrew Bible allows for divorce and remarriage (except in the case of a husband who wants to remarry his ex-wife who has been remarried and divorced). The Christian bible calls this adultery.
      My Response:
      The Christian Bible doesn’t say ‘divorce + remarriage = adultery’. It is as though you did not even read my post. You initially said your ‘skimmed through’ my site. Please read the post. Adultery can happen, as you know, even before divorce (like the woman caught in ‘the act of adultery’). There are many such acts, not limited to sexual infidelity, that break the marriage covenant. However, pregnancy is to fornication what remarriage is to adultery. When someone remarries, whose ex-spouse is still living, then it is clear to all that the first marriage covenant has been severed – adultery!
      Dina Wrote:
      This is to me not an expansion but an outright, direct change. But even if it were a mere expansion, the Torah forbids adding on (expanding) or subtracting from the law. Therefore it would still be a contradiction.
      My Response:
      Be careful how you judge, because what I have done is shown you an understanding based on scripture, and knowledge of the Spirit of God. You also have expanded on scripture by revealing your understanding of passages, which translates differently from how they have been written. The Spirit of God must be discerned, which is why you have the Scribes and Pharisees to shed light on the meaning of certain laws and how to observe them. I believe Jesus’ insight is superior and accept it as THE WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE (John 14:6).
      Dina Wrote:
      In a case of domestic abuse, you wrote that you can permit the couple to separate, but not to divorce and remarry. This is a contradiction. It is a change. You may argue it’s a change for the better (I would disagree, and so would the victims of abuse). But God said we may not change His decrees. For these reasons, I do not understand why you say that Jesus changed nothing.
      My Response:
      I do not permit anything. God is the One who justifies and sanctifies. You say that because I do not condone divorce nor encourage remarriage that I am in contradiction of God’s Word. Let me ask you, do you condone slavery? Do you encourage and uphold the death penalty? These were both commanded and legalized for Israelites.
      Dina Wrote:
      I hasten to add that Judaism does not encourage divorce, of course! Traditional Jewish communities are known for their strong, stable family units and very low rate of divorce.
      My Response:
      This is also good to know.
      Dina Wrote:
      I hope I have enlightened you on Judaism and I hope you can further clarify what still seems to me to be a contradiction between the Torah and the teaching of Jesus.
      My Response:
      I hope I have done that. If not, I do not know how I can be clearer. However, I honestly can’t say I have a deeper understanding of Judaism as it is practiced now.
      Dina Wrote:
      Thanks again for your time, patience, respect, and courtesy.
      My Response:
      Thanks for the same. Wishing you all the best!
      Dina Wrote:

      Peace and blessings,
      Dina

      My Response:

      Sincerely, Ufuoma.

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