There is a fact that cannot be ignored in today’s society. A lot of people have been divorced, and quite a few have remarried. Not the ideal situation by any means, but still this is the reality in western culture. More often than not, it is the children, not the parents, who end up being the victims in these divorces, which I believe is a big reason God hates divorce.

But there are some today who, in their zeal to enforce biblical standards, have gone too far, and in some cases we are talking “Pharisee far”. They would say, based on an encounter Jesus had with the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 19, that in order to be saved, a married couple where one or both were previously married and divorced for reasons other than adultery must divorce as part of the repentance process. Otherwise, it is argued, they are in a perpetual state of adultery and will be lost. 

Well let’s take a look at what is recorded in Matthew 19, and also look at another passage where Jesus actually engages in a dialog with a divorced person and see what we can glean from it. 

Matthew 19:3-12

Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” They *said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give her A certificate of divorce and send her away?” He *said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

The disciples said to Him, “If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry.” But He said to them, “Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.”

First of all, in context, Jesus is answering a question specifically about the Law of Moses that was put to him by the Pharisees. His answer is specific to the Law and the covenant which they were under at that time. If we can’t use the thief on the cross to discuss salvation because it was said under the Old Law, then we can’t use this, either to condemn those whose marital lives have been marred by the pain of divorce. Furthermore, NOWHERE in the New Testament does Jesus or any of the Apostles tell someone to get a divorce prior to baptism or else they could not be saved! To add that as a requirement is to add to the Scriptures! 

Rather than use Matthew 19’s conversation with the Pharisees, let’s look at an episode where Jesus actually addresses a divorced person’s life situation and see what he says to her! 

John 4:16-18

He *said to her, “Go, call your husband and come here.” The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus *said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.”

In this woman’s life, she had been married five times, and was now cohabiting with a sixth man. Now according to the modern day legalists Jesus would have told her to be a eunuch for the kingdoms sake and never remarry. In their view, she would be an adulteress to remarry because God doesn’t recognize divorces that don’t involve sexual immorality, and she would in effect have five husbands simultaneously. But notice carefully what Jesus says to her. “You have had five husbands”, not you “have” five husbands. Jesus, who only said what the Father said, addressed her as an unmarried woman. He spoke nothing of perpetual adultery, a phrase unknown to Scripture. 

We’re some of her divorces due to immorality? Possibly, but we cannot read into the Scripture something that is not there. Such practices are dangerous and hermeneutically unsound. No, Jesus met her where she was at and talked about a new life. 

The Roman world was replete with divorce and remarriage, and yet the Apostles, who earlier had witnessed this encounter in Samaria, never once told someone to divorce their spouse prior to baptism. Not one single time in Acts or in the Epistles! That is a fact that is significant by its absence. Do we really want to imply that murdering your spouse is preferable to divorce because then you are free to remarry?

So what do we say to those who have gone through the pain of divorce and have remarried? We should live them and point them to Jesus. Make disciples and show them how to pray and study the Word of God. But to tell them to divorce will bring shame and disrepute upon the name of Christ, as we gain a reputation for splitting up families. If they are now married, they should pray and discern whether or not they have the ability from God to stay single for the Kingdom, or to remarry. But support their decision and don’t attempt to persuade them either way to violate their renewed conscience. 

  

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