We have actually reach 9 parts of the MDR series, and the 10th is coming here. It means we have covered some ground, both of matrimonial contract and divorce. What I see we haven’t cover so much is remarriage, as we now are going to take a closer look at, what the Bible is telling us about this question. Let me first put some light on some peoples mind and thoughts of what they use to come around this questions about remarriage.
Our marriage was not in God’s plan! – Annulment! – It’s not bigger sin that it can be forgiven!
I have heard from some, even from church leaders, stated that it maybe was not God’s plan or meaning with them as couple anyway, and thus legalize the divorce, and then again accept remarriage. Whatever if remarriage is ok or not, their thinking is totally unbiblical and will not find any basis to state this on. Teaching like this may need to that Christians lay lid on their feelings and creates a false God given gift; “those who cannot live single, can neither live in a marriage”.?? They simply forget and don’t see Gen. 2:18 who says “It is not good for the man to be alone”.
We are going to take a closer look at this. To say ‘it was not in God’s plan or His meaning with them as couple’ will be as the Chatoloc Church where divorce is not allowed, but have instead introduced ‘annulment’ by illegal marriage. Philippines, where I live, is one of the countries who are strongly influenced by Catholicism, and it is not allowed to divorce there. But you can find a way out of your marriage by annulment of your marriage. After many years in marriage, and find out you don’t want to live with your partner anymore, you simply go to a lawyer and make a annulment case under Psychological Incapacity, which is:
— “A marriage contracted by any party who, at the time of the celebration, was psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential marital obligations of marriage, shall likewise be void even if such incapacity becomes manifest only after its solemnization.”
This means that the husband or the wife is psychologically incapable of complying with the essential marital obligations, which will render the marriage void from the beginning. It is important that this incapacity was already present during the celebration of marriage.
In other words, and as I see in practice in Philippines, is almost everything can be pushed through. To try find excuses like ‘it wasn’t in God’s plan with the couple’, or push cases where almost everything can go trough, then we are come back to the pharisees’ ‘any cause’-practice where you could be divorced because your wife burned your food. (Read MDR4).
Since many believe that one cannot divorce other than by sexual immorality, remarriage are considered infidelity and a sin, and those who marry those who are divorced are also considered sinners. This may seems “reasonable” on the surface but only if the Biblical texts are taken out of the context, and its historical context is omitted.
As in my and my wife’s case, we also were confronted. If we got married, it was to committing a sin, since I myself was divorced. I was not and still are not affiliated with any institutional church, therefore, for me it was no drastic indirect actions, or restrictions placed on me. But my wife had to accept to resign from her service in church’s sunday school. The strange thing is that she did retain the membership in the church. ??
This might seem natural to not make a persons “sinful” act visible for children – but when, the decision to let her retain the membership will be contradictory. How? Well because, by their own traditional mindset, we are here talking about sin, and such a decision would then not be Biblical, and here is the answer:
“But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother (or sister*) if he (or she*) is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not” (1Cor 5:11 ESV) (*my addition).
To not seem too hard, I think it was said that this was ‘no greater sin than can be forgiven’. But if this is forgivable, why don’t they give my wife the offer to come back to Sunday school service? This is a circle that never sees its end, and I think this is a capricious decision, and action which they neither know what they are doing or shall do.
There is a very big problem with a thought that says ‘this is no greater sin than that can be forgiven’, and I shall now try to explain this a bit further before we dig deeper into what Paul says about remarriage. But let me first list six passages that address the issue of remarriage.
• Matthew 5:32 — Jesus’ summary about the moral purpose of the law
• Luke 16:18 p.m. — Jesus’ summary about the moral purpose of the law
• Matthew 19: 9 — Debate between Jesus and the Pharisees
• Mark 10: 11-12 — Debate between Jesus and the Pharisees
• 1 Cor. 7:15 — Guidance from Paul
• 1 Cor. 7: 27-28 — Guidance from Paul
No matter how we interpret these texts, it emerges quite clearly that their are against divorce, but note that four of these allow exceptions.
In Mat. 5:32, 19: 9, Mark. 10: 11-12 and Luke. 16:18, Jesus warns that he who remarries commits adultery. If Jesus meant this literally, it means that remarriage, the new marriage (union), will be an uninterrupted infidelity since sin occurs in every sexual act. Be aware, it is not the actual wedding ceremony that is a sin, as many apparently sees it; the wedding ceremony is sin while the life you live the days after is not a sin. Forgiveness will not work here, when the sin is repeated again and again deliberately. A remorse is needed, and in a remorse you turn away from your wrong actions. Do you now see why I think ‘this is no greater sin than that it can be forgiven’ is capricious and highly unbiblical?
If we want it to be like this, we should not only prohibit separated church members to remarry, but we should regard their marriage as a united infidelity, and thus try to break up their marriage, and that although their marriage took place before their conversion to christianity (see also MDR7 where we se Paul talk one flesh with a prostitute before conversion).
The question I ask now is, whether to forgive a sinner who sin repeatedly and do not want to change their way of life? Is this ‘no greater sin than one can be forgiven’? Biblically, those who were remarried, or married to previously divorced people, not only lose the church “service”, but also be banished from the church because they live in sin (1 Cor. 5:11), this according to their traditional thought.
As previously part of a leadership, I can just imagine what scenario it would become by following this principle, and I have compassion for them. We would be obliged to advise remarriage couple to break up their marriage and live either single or return to their former spouse – and thus create even one more divorce.
Strange is it also that Paul didn’t even taught this for the Corinthians. For by what we know today, where many of the converts in Corinth already married before their conversion. Should these Christians, who were remarriage before their conversion sleep in separate rooms for not committ sin? To divorce is also wrong if we follow the traditional thinking. Again, the devil is chasing you in a ring.
The problem in the question in the view of ‘remarriage as adultery’, is whether the person is still married to his or her original spouse in the eyes of God. – Therefore, where Jesus allows divorce in cases of spouse’s infidelity, we must also allow the innocent party to remarry later, since the divorce is valid and the person is no longer married to the unfaithful spouse. No monogamy law allows remarried without a valid divorce; therefore, a valid divorce by definition gives a freedom to remarry (often clearly expressed in divorce contracts).
Since the New Testament don’t says much about remarriage, and Jesus seems to condemn remarriage, the question of remarriage is a little tricky, but we have found that Jesus only condemned remarriage after a invalid divorce. Paul on his side was very quiet about the case, but there are still two good reasons to believe that he (Paul) allowed remarriage.
We see that all the first-century thought and believed that divorced people may remarry. Actually, they were taught that they should remarry, and Paul, he does not say anything that might indicate he is opposed to this doctrine. We shall also see while Paul literally don’t says – ‘divorced can remarry’ – he bases his teaching on assumptions that they can, but first …
A bit background information.
You maybe didn’t know we have found the divorce-papers to Mary and Joseph? This document is dated to year 72 A.D … Yes, you maybe realized now that there is not document to thee Mary and Joseph. They would have been about 100 years at the year 72 AD. But still, many divorce documents are found and these documents tell us a lot about the culture and tradition at the time the documents are from.
The document to Mary and Joseph follows, as all other divorce documents that are found, the same traditional word-setting in a divorce document, even the words that were only compulsory in a Jewish divorce certificate: “You are free to marry whom Jewish man you want.” Jews added ‘Jewish’ in to the text to remind ex-wife that she had to marry within the Jewish faith, which was important for the Jews. This wording is also found in Greek certificates, well, except of the word ‘Jewish’ logically enough. The legal principle that we find in the Old Testament (Exo. 21: 10-11, Deu. 24: 1-4) is strongly in presence also in this documents. It is a reason for this principle and wording; the reason why divorce certificate was given to a woman was to make her able to remarry.
In the time of Jesus and Paul, all agreed that divorced had the right to remarry, and Romans had this even written down in their own laws and wanted no restrictions around this. A Roman citizen would for example be prosecuted under a law, which Augustus adopted in year 18 BC, if he didn’t married again after 18 months as a divorced status (or two years if their partner had died).
Augustus was concerned that many young men omitted marriage by divorcing the wife that the parents had arranged for them, for so being able to live a ‘worry free’ and ‘riotous’ living. This concern was genuine enough, it was verging on it was not born enough children to become Roman citizens. Therefore he (Augustus) wanted the young Roman men to remarry and have more children. (We see similarities in our own society today where many choose not to marry in the faith that they want a ‘worry free’ life. Nor will it be born enough children for the society to become sustainable).
We can’t even find groups among the Jews, who were allowed to keep many of its own laws under Roman rule, who forbade re-married as far as we know. Similar to Romans, the Jews also believed that the divorced should marry again, and especially those who was childless, because they had not yet fulfilled the commandment in Exo. 1:22: “Be fruitful and multiply”. The Jews saw this as their duty, and every Jewish man should have at least 2 children. In fact, we see that both, Romans and Jews, had the same thought that the divorced should remarry.
Another interesting Roman law was their divorce law. It is a law we can say was a very simplified law, and that they called tis law – ‘divorced by separation’. This law “said” that they only needed to leave the house if your partner owned it, or tell your partner to get out of your house if you owned the house – thus you was divorced. There were in other words no reason to end a marriage in an orderly manner, and by being ‘separated’ / kicked out you were legally divorced. (Very strong similarities also here in today’s society). It seems that humans always trying to find easy solutions if they want to get out of a marriage.
We have looked at the Pharisees’ ‘any cause’-divorce, and here the Romans’ ‘divorced by separation’-divorce, and we know how our own society is where one doesn’t need any reason to divorce. None of those need a real reason.
With this background, we shall see in the next post that Paul did comment much of this in 1 Cor. 7.
– MDR stands for Marriage – Divorce – Remarriage. A shortcut I choose to use on this series where I deal with some christian problems in the questions of marriage, divorce and remarriage.
– Bible Verses are from NASB, unless otherwise noted.
What do you think?