Can a Christian Divorce and Remarry?

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Can a Christian Divorce and Remarry?

Post by Admin on Fri Feb 24, 2017 1:57 pm

The subject of divorce and remarriage is one of the most
tendentious issues in Christianity. Nothing inflames
passions more. In his discourse on divorce and remarriage
in Matthew 5 & Matthew 19, Jesus made specific
references to the law of Moses. The Pharisees did too.
Therefore a disquisition on divorce and remarriage without
a historical perspective will be most remiss.
In Matthew 5 we see Jesus focus attention on the abuse of
the proviso on divorce in the law of Moses. By this time the
people had perfected the abuse of the divorce clause. God
had designed this wonderful program called “marriage.” A
critical component of that program is airtight commitment.
Knowing the Israelites however– these were a very
hardened lot, God allowed Moses to provide for an escape
clause. And so Moses inserted a divorce clause into the
law. This wasn’t part of the original plan. (Matthew 19:8
MSG) You will find that escape clause in Deuteronomy
24:1-4. The society being a patriarchy, the clause naturally
leaned towards the man. The man could give his wife a bill
of divorcement but no such provision was made for the
woman: “If a man marries a woman and she does not
please him because he has found something offensive in
her, then he may draw up a divorce document and give it to
her, and evict her from his house.” The word “offensive” in
that passage is the Hebrew phrase ‘ervat davar. It refers in
context to gross sexual impropriety, though it ordinarily
refers to indecent exposure of genitals, like sending a nude
pix to someone. Can also refer to adultery.
Now, under the divorce clause remarriage was feasible.
Another man could marry the woman. The law states that if
the second husband has an issue with her he can also
divorce her, only that the first husband cannot remarry her.
There is no Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton reprise under
the law of Moses. No marital musical chairs.
But it soon became clear the Jews had other ideas. They
turned the law on its head and began to abuse the divorce
clause. They whimsically got rid of their faithful wives, just
to make room for a new wife. There was also serial
cheating. And on top of that, wife abuse. It’s what
prompted Prophet Malachi to write: “Be attentive, then, to
your own spirit, for one should not be disloyal to the wife he
took in his youth. “I hate divorce,” says the Lord God of
Israel, “and the one who is guilty of violence,” says the
Lord who rules over all. “Pay attention to your conscience,
and do not be unfaithful.” (Malachi 2:15-16 NET) So we see
God appealing to the sense of nobility of the men. There
are varied interpretations of this passage because of its
figurative expression. The literal translation reads: “For I
hate sending away, saith Jehovah, God of Israel, And he
hath covered violence with his clothing, said Jehovah of
Hosts.” (Malachi 2:16 YLT98) The Hebrew word rendered
clothing is Kasah. It means to conceal, to keep secret. The
word used for violence is Chamas. It means violence,
oppression, wickedness, wrong. The New Century Version
(NCV) actually reads: “The Lord God of Israel says, “I hate
divorce. And I hate people who do cruel things as easily as
they put on clothes,” says the Lord All-Powerful. So be
careful, do not break your trust.” The true interpretation is
perhaps in the words of Jesus: “Too many of you are using
it (the law) as a cover for selfishness and whim, pretending
to be righteous just because you’re ‘legal.’ Please, no more
pretending.”
1. The only ground for divorce under Mosaic law is
unfaithfulness. (Deuteronomy 24:1-4) What the Jews did
was to ignore the body of the law and concentrate on the
process of divorce – the service of papers. It’s why Jesus
said, “It was said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her
a legal document.’ But I say to you that everyone who
divorces his wife, except for immorality, makes her commit
adultery and whoever marries a divorced woman commits
adultery.” (Matthew 5:31-32 NET) Jesus essentially
returned the people to the original provision of the law,
laying out implications of non-compliance. Where there’s
infringement, all the men involved in the value chain
become liable for adultery. (Matthew 5:31-32 NET) They
automatically become guilty of that which was
circumvented – adultery. The old husband is facilitator, the
new husband accessory after the fact but treated as joint
principal. You can see the problem Jesus has is the cultural
conspiracy of the men in society in their creative avoidance
of compliance with the law, the chauvinistic hypocrisy of
society. He was going after the men, as well as the
Pharisees who devised the legal editing. Don’t forget before
all this he had expanded the definition of adultery to include
lust. (Matthew 5:28) It was aimed at men. By his
extensions, men can be properly guilty of adultery in
Jewish society, not just women. The definition of adultery
under the Ten Commandments had strangely been
restricted to women. (Cf. Exodus 20:14) Remember the
story of the woman caught in adultery? The man who slept
with her was never accused, just the woman. The woman
somehow committed adultery with herself. And now you
understand why Jesus said, Let him that is without sin
among you cast the first stone. All of you are guilty of
adultery he was saying. In the story of the woman caught
in adultery we see Jesus separate guilt from punishment.
Where are your accusers, Jesus asked. (John 8:10) If
there’s no charge there can be no condemnation. No
wonder the Bible says who can bring a charge or
accusation against God’s elect. (Romans 8:33) No wonder
the Bible says there’s no condemnation against us.
(Romans 8:1) There is NO CHARGE! The woman caught in
adultery was a pointer to grace. The law accuses but grace
nullifies the charge.
But the spirit of that perverse misogyny is still present with
us today. It’s in the church. Have you noticed women are
guilty of wearing trousers to entice the men but the men
are not guilty of looking at a woman’s backside during
church service?
The preceding is the historical context that gives us an
understanding of the hard stance of Jesus on the issue of
divorce. He was addressing abuse of Mosaic Law. He was
returning the people to the original law, correcting the
bastardisation. He was restoring the law. But the essence
of his teaching was, marriage is about commitment.
Airtight commitment.
But then Jesus made an interesting statement. When he
laid down the gauntlet on divorce, even his disciples
despaired. They feared being locked down in marriage.
Jesus said: “Not everyone is mature enough to live a
married life. It requires a certain aptitude and
grace.” (Matthew 19:11 MSG) It is this aptitude and grace
Paul was referring to when he wrote the Corinthians,
“Celibacy is not for everyone any more than marriage
is God gives the gift of the single life to some, the gift of the
married life to the others.” (1 Corinthians 7:7 MSG) Paul
was a eunuch. Jesus identified three types of eunuchism –
congenital eunuchism, non-elective eunuchism,
discretionary eunuchism: “There are eunuchs who have
been born incapable of marriage (congenital); and there are
eunuchs who have been made so by men (non-elective);
and there are eunuchs who have made themselves
incapable of marriage for the sake of the kingdom of
heaven (discretionary).” (Matthew 19:12 AMP) Paul
arguably fell into the last category. He was celibate for the
kingdom.
Unfortunately the Corinthian Christians admired Paul so
much they began to desire celibacy too. They saw marriage
as a “step down.” (1 Corinthians 7:36-38 MSG) The married
ones wanted divorce, some going into technical celibacy by
abstaining from sex in marriage. Which is why Paul wrote
that abstinence from sex in a marriage can only be by
mutual agreement, and only for the purposes of prayer and
fasting. (1 Corinthians 7:2-6 MSG) He then instructed that a
wife must not leave her husband and if she does, then she
must remain single, or else be reconciled back to her
husband. And the man cannot put away his wife. (1
Corinthians 7:10-11) Paul would go on to proffer answers
to different scenarios presented, including marriage after
widowhood and celibate virginity. The desire for celibacy is
why the Corinthians asked Paul, “Is it a good thing to have
sexual relations?” So we see the contexts in which Jesus
and Paul spoke about divorce.
BUT, suppose a Christian is in an abusive marriage, be it
emotional or physical abuse, or his or her life is threatened
– can he or she divorce? Truth is, neither our Lord nor Paul
addressed these challenges since their discourse was
limited to specific issues. Jesus addressed abuse of
divorce clause under Mosaic law, Paul addressed celibacy
and divorce. What provision of scriptures then governs
these scenarios? The legalist will of course insist the
teaching of Jesus makes no room for divorce whatsoever,
except for adultery. But we’re “not ministers of the letter
(of legally written code) but of the Spirit; for the code of the
Law kills, but the Holy Spirit makes alive.” (2 Corinthians
3:6 AMP) When pressed however, some legalists concede a
Christian can leave a life-threatening marriage. Yet going
by strict legalism Jesus never made such exception. How
inconsistent then for the legalist to “approve” divorce on
non-legal grounds in one instance, yet deny divorce on non-
legal grounds in other instants. It’s even presumptuous.
Jesus enunciated the principle of compassionate
pragmatism in one of his encounters with the Pharisees.
The phrase he used was, the “greater matter of the law” –
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye
pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted
the weightier, more important matters of the law, judgment,
mercy and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not
leave the other undone.” (Matthew 23:23 KJV) A forensic
devotion to the letter of the law that ignores the principles
of justice, fairness, mercy, compassion and loyalty is the
theological equivalence of filtering a gnat but swallowing a
camel. (Matthew 23:24) These principles are greater than
legalistic adherence, Jesus was saying. If we legalistically
insist a man or woman must stay in an emotionally ruinous
or abusive marriage where then is mercy? And where is
justice? Where is compassion? Where is fairness?
It’s the demonstration of these higher principles that made
Jesus break the law of the Sabbath on several occasions.
(Cf. Luke 14: 1-6) He is after all the Lord of the Sabbath.
(Matthew 12:Cool He is greater than the law, above the law,
he being the author. He can exercise sovereign power over
the law. He has discretionary latitude, which he often
exercised for compassion. Which was why he healed a
certain man on the Sabbath with this justification: “Which
of you, having a son or a donkey or an ox that has fallen
into a well, will not at once pull him out on the Sabbath
day?” (Luke 14: 5) Surely a child of God is greater than a
donkey or a horse. (Matthew 12:12) Shouldn’t a Christian
then be rescued from the pit of a terrible marriage and the
black hole of depression? Shouldn’t a Christian be saved
from certain death? The compassionate pragmatism of
Jesus overwrites the legalism of the law. Jesus the
prophecy says, “will not crush the weakest reed or put out
a flickering candle. He will bring justice to all who have
been wronged.” (Isaiah 42:3 NLT) The idea God will insist a
Christian remain in an emotionally ruinous or unjust
marriage CANNOT be a revelation of the spirit of Christ.
Depression CANNOT be God’s will for his child. Jesus died
to save us from depression. (Isaiah 53:4) How does mental
illness or premature death glorify God? Our jaundiced
legalism and lack of compassion has sent many to mental
asylums, ruined wonderful lives and frustrated the
purposes of God. Some have died. Jesus came to proclaim
liberty to the captives, and good tidings to the afflicted.
(Isaiah 61:1) Marriage as bondage is antithetical to the will
of God.
There are those of course who say that a spouse must
endure abuse and ask for grace to bear it. But that’s
perversity. In the Old Testament cruelty to animals was
forbidden. (Deuteronomy 22:6, 25:4) How is it then that the
abuse of a human qualifies as trial of faith? The Bible says,
“A good man regards the life of his beast: but the tender
mercies of the wicked are cruel.” (Proverbs 12:10) Surely
those who advocate this strange grace are wicked people.
But, does this then mean people can go in and out of
marriage willy-nilly? Of course not! That’s abuse of grace.
Can a Christian remarry after divorce? Even under the law
of Moses a divorcee could remarry. Why force a man or a
woman into non-elective eunuchism?
It is important though to keep in mind the essence of the
teaching of Jesus – loving airtight commitment. Those who
are married should pay heed. They ought to be fanatically
devoted to this principle.
——-
If you’ll like to give your life to Christ please pray this
prayer: “Father, I come to you in the name of Jesus. I know
that I am a sinner. I believe Jesus died for me and that you
raised him from the dead. I confess with my mouth that
Jesus is Christ is Lord and I receive him as my Lord and
my Saviour. I am now born again. Amen.”
©️ #Illuminare | talk2me@lekealder.com

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