Saturday, February 14, 2015

When Marriage Doesn't Work Out

While many sweethearts are finding romantic ways to show their love for one another on Valentine’s Day, not all couples are doing so at this time of year. A recent NY Post article pointed out that the number of requests for divorce lawyers spikes dramatically around Valentine’s Day compared to the previous six months. On average, the increase is around 40 percent, according to Mark Britton, founder and CEO of Avvo, a site that offers ratings and profiles for lawyers and medical doctors. This has become a new trend in the past few years.

In fact, even in the church it has become common for people to get divorced, which is so sad. This of course raises the questions about remarriage afterward, so we really need to know what the mind of God is on this matter. For that we turn to the Word of God, because the Scriptures are our source of truth, wisdom and guidance on divorce. One passage of Scripture that addresses divorce is found in Mark’s gospel.

Some Pharisees came up to Jesus, testing Him, and began to question Him whether it was lawful for a man to divorce a wife. And He answered and said to them, "What did Moses command you?" They said, "Moses permitted a man TO WRITE A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY." But Jesus said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. "But from the beginning of creation, God MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE. "FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER, 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." In the house the disciples began questioning Him about this again. And He said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery." (Mar 10:2-12)

Let’s look at this passage verse-by-verse.

Is it lawful to divorce your wife?
The Pharisees wanted to know if it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife. Jesus answered with a question. He asked them what Moses commanded, and they replied with a quote from Moses. So they felt that they had established a legal right for this practice.

Hardness of heart
Jesus explained that the only reason Moses wrote this was due to the hardness of men’s hearts. It was not the original plan of God. So when a man or woman files for divorce, it reflects unwillingness on the part of one or both parties to reconcile or resolve the conflicts. Jesus referred to this as hardness of heart.

Incidentally, hardness of heart is not compatible with new life in Christ. Rather it is associated with rebellion (Heb 3:7,8,15). We are to be tender hearted, forgiving, and resolve all conflicts with one another (Lk 17:3-4; Mt 6:14-15; 18:15-17; Eph 5:32). Therefore, no disciple of Christ should claim his own hardness of heart as an excuse to divorce.

God’s original intention
Jesus went on to explain that what Moses wrote was not a command but rather permission he granted, if they remained hard hearted. Yet God’s original intention for man was that he would leave his parents and become one flesh with his wife. Paul’s statement to the Corinthians makes clear the meaning of "one flesh." He wrote:

"Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, 'THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.' " (1Co 6:15-16).

My friend, Jim Garrett, made an excellent point about this when he commented, "Here Paul states that when one has sex, he becomes one flesh with the one with whom he has sex. Thus, a man who is a fornicator is one flesh with a lot of women – what a mess. In such a situation, a man becomes one flesh with a woman and there is no covenant (at least objective intentional covenant) involved."

This reminds me of a medieval practice in England, known as Drawing and Quartering, which was used as a punishment for treason. The person's four limbs were tied to four horses. Then as the horses moved away from the person, the poor soul was torn apart. That's what it's like when you join yourself to multiple sexual partners and there is no covenant to keep you together. The Lord intended to protect us from such a situation with His plan for one man and one woman to become one flesh together, and remain together for life.

Let no man separate
Once you begin to get this picture of what really happens to the people involved when a one flesh relationship is torn apart, you can better understand the heart of God regarding separation. You can look at the Greek all you want and try to get around it, but the Word of God from the mouth of Jesus was “Therefore, what God has joined together, let no man separate.” In this sentence, He affirmed that it’s God Who joined the married couple together, and He further affirms that no man should separate them. That’s pretty cut and dry, plain and simple. It’s not complicated at all, unless you try to make it that way. His main point was that it’s not God’s will for married couples to separate, in spite of the fact that the Law of Moses permitted it.

The apostle Paul later reiterated this when he wrote to the Corinthians, “But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.” (1Co 7:10-11). Again, this is very plain. The wife should not leave her husband and the husband should not divorce his wife.

Marriage after divorce
The disciples further questioned Jesus about this later in the house. His reply was, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery.” In another passage, Jesus taught that if you divorce your spouse and they remarry, you are causing them to commit adultery. He said, “but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (Mat 5:32). Notice he said that the one who initiates the divorce makes the other person commit adultery. At the most basic level, it’s clear that there is a problem – a sin committed – when a person divorces his or her spouse and marries someone else. The reason a sin is committed is that man separates what God has put together, and then man joins together with another spouse.

To put it differently, God does not want man separating the married couple, since He has joined them together as one. And when man does this and then marries another, God sees it as adultery. How could it be adultery, if they have a legal certificate of divorce, which proves they are no longer married? It’s adultery because God still sees the original couple as one flesh. How else could it be adultery? Adultery can only occur when a married person enters into a sexual relationship with someone who is not his or her spouse.

There are basically three parties who end up committing adultery following a divorce: the person who initiated the divorce proceeding, the spouse who was subject to the divorce, and the person who marries the one who was divorced. So if God considers remarriage after divorce to be adultery, then it’s not desirable to do it. It should be avoided!

The apostle Paul reiterated this when he wrote to the Corinthians, “A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband." Paul’s teaching agrees with Jesus by instructing us not to get remarried after divorce, but rather be reconciled with our spouse.

There was one instance where Jesus acknowledged the legitimacy of divorce and that is where there has been unfaithfulness, otherwise known as unchastity or sexual sin (Greek, porneia). Many people have analyzed this and tried to determine what constitutes unfaithfulness. Obviously if one spouse commits sexual sin during the marriage, such as adultery, then that is unfaithfulness, which is grounds for a divorce. It does not mean that God requires the couple to divorce, because if there is repentance on the part of the offending spouse, then this can be forgiven and they can be healed and go on together. That is, provided the offender does not continue in this sin of adultery afterward. So when there is unchastity, God allows the two to become divorced.

One situation that Jesus did not address explicitly is desertion.  When one spouse deserts the other, he or she suddenly separates from the other, and this can sometimes happen without any prior notice or explanation.  The sudden and unexpected disappearance of a spouse can be devastating to the one who remains, especially when the remaining spouse was faithful.  And in some cases, the one who departs moves far away to another geographical location.  What is the remaining spouse to do in such a situation?  Obviously, the first step is to pray and seek reconciliation with the offended party.  But what if the offended party refuses all attempts at reconciliation?  These are the types of things that are not explicitly addressed, but we know that the Lord commands us to forgive and to love.  He teaches us how to resolve conflict.  So as we read the Word and pray through such situations, the Lord will give direction.

The apostle Paul describes one such scenario where one spouse is a nonbeliever. He says, “But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.” (1 Cor 7:15). In this case, if the nonbeliever leaves, the believing person is no longer bound to stay married to the nonbeliever. He or she is free.

There are all kinds of scenarios in life that can happen, and it’s not my intention to analyze each one. It’s best for you to search the Scriptures prayerfully yourself, reading the passages where Jesus and Paul taught on divorce, and ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you clearly through the Word. You have got to hear from the Lord on this matter. Afterward, you may sit with a mature believer who is impartial, such as a Bible-believing pastor or elder, and work through your situation with his counsel.

Forgiveness
I want to stress one very important thing. While divorce leads to adultery, which is a sin, it is not the unforgivable sin. If you have done everything to seek reconciliation with your spouse, and in the end, you find yourself divorced without intending to be, there is still hope. If you can still reconcile with your former spouse, you should do so. You should seek reconciliation very diligently! It may require a long process to work through issues with the help of a third party. It will require great mercy, forgiveness, love and patience from both spouses.

A great movie that portrays this is Fireproof. In this movie, the wife has decided to divorce her husband. But he decides to love her unconditionally through it all. He asks her to forgive him for the ways he has offended her. Then patiently waits for her heart to heal and turn back. She eventually does turn back, forgiving him and being reconciled to him once again.

But there comes a point where that might not be possible, due to the hardness of the other person’s heart. In this case, you should just forgive, seek the Lord for help, and cast yourself upon His mercy. Seek His forgiveness for any part you played in the divorce. And then receive it.

In some cases, people were divorced before they became a believer in Jesus Christ, and they cannot go back and change that situation. Sometimes their former spouse is already remarried. This is also portrayed in the movie Fireproof, in which a Christian man had been divorced before he came to know Christ. He is happily remarried, but he has remorse over the fact that he helped bring about a divorce between himself and his former wife before he knew the Lord. Once he came to know Christ, he wanted to reconcile with his wife, but it was too late. She had already remarried. This is another example of a situation that happens.

I would challenge anyone in such a situation to search the Scriptures and find the verse that allows them to be remarried, because God will hold you accountable for it.  I cannot think of any verse that would directly allow for remarriage in such a situation, as long as the person's former spouse remains alive (Ro 7:2-3). So let's open a discussion about this in the comments section. You will have to give an account for every action before the judgment seat of Christ (Rom. 14:10; 2Co. 5:10). I suppose some possible Scriptures a person might possibly rely on in such a situation to indirectly give them hope would be those about God's mercy and grace. But they must still reckon with Rom 7:2-3. I will cover this in more detail in the next two sections of this article below, as well as the section on divine revelations.

If you have been divorced and are unable to reconcile with your spouse after all your attempts to do so have failed, the worse thing you can do is go out and try to fill the emptiness by finding a new mate. You need to get healed first. It could take a year, two years or more. You should allow the Lord to do a work inside of you, before you consider ever getting married again. The reason is that your own dysfunctional behavior may have contributed to the divorce. Allow the Lord to search your heart and show you how you may have helped bring about the demise of your own marriage. It’s so important that you identify where you need healing and get it from the Lord before you consider a new relationship.

If you seek the Lord first and seek to be healed, He will fill your being with his love, His joy, and His peace. Find other ways to occupy yourself for the Lord through worship, Bible study, and service in the kingdom. And do this with the attitude that if you must stay single for the rest of your life, then you will do so. If you feel an overwhelming need to be remarried, then cry out to the Lord with that need. Every time it seems to overwhelm you, get on your knees and bring it to the Lord, even with tears if you need to. He will hear and answer.

Restoration and remarriage
I would like to address the matter of restoration and remarriage, but only for those who are in very specific and limited scenarios where that is allowed by God in Scripture. Paul says to those who are unmarried, “Do not look for a wife.” (1 Cor 7:27). That means exactly what it says.  Don't look for a wife. And for women, don't look for a husband. You need to lay that on the altar unless the Lord decides to give you another spouse.

In my humble opinion, if the Lord eventually shows you that it’s His will to grant you a second chance in His great mercy, then accept it. But seek godly counsel throughout the whole matter. Don’t enter into any new relationship according to the flesh. You don’t want to make another mistake! The person must belong to the Lord or else you will be unequally yoked together (2 Co 6:14).

Bathe it in prayer, and keep the relationship holy and chaste. Ask God to confirm everything to you and take it slowly. Make sure you know this is God’s will for your life. If you have both received confirmation from Him that He is putting you together in marriage, and other mature disciples agree, who are in a position of oversight and care in your life, then go forward with the Lord’s blessing. You can know that when God forgives, it is complete.

When the Lord chooses to give you a second chance, receive it with gratitude. But be careful not to take it lightly or abuse his grace and mercy.

Remarrying Your First Spouse
The ideal situation is to be reconciled with your first spouse and get remarried to that person. Simply repenting for committing the sin of divorce and not going back to your spouse is not enough. You must make restitution!

However, if your first spouse has already been remarried, I do not see any Scripture that allows you to remarry that person. Even if their second spouse divorces them or dies, the Bible teaches that it is an abomination for your to remarry your first spouse once they have been married to someone else.

"When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house, and she leaves his house and goes and becomes another man's wife, and if the latter husband turns against her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her to be his wife, then her former husband who sent her away is not allowed to take her again to be his wife, since she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the LORD, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance.” (Deu 24:1-4).

Likewise, the Lord declared through the prophet Jeremiah, "If a husband divorces his wife And she goes from him And belongs to another man, Will he still return to her? Will not that land be completely polluted?" (Jer 3:1)

Therefore, the only scenario in which Scripture allows you to remarry your first spouse, in my opinion, is when neither of you have been remarried after divorcing.  In fact, if you have been divorced and neither you nor your spouse have been remarried, you should certainly repent and remarry your spouse if he or she is willing to do so. However, there is no biblical basis for remarriage to one's first spouse after divorce and remarriage has already occurred. Doing so would violate the Word of God, and teaching people to do so would nullify one of God's commandments.

Our Lord said, "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." (Mat 5:17-20)
Inevitably there will be someone who will say that my position is invalid, because it is based on Old Testament passage of Scripture, even though the Lord said He did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets.  However, to those who may do so, I kindly refer you to my articles, The Ways of Life, The Law of Christ and Law of Love in the New Testament

Other Scriptures About Divorce
Here are some additional Scriptures about divorce to prayerfully consider.

"For I hate divorce," says the LORD, the God of Israel, "and him who covers his garment with wrong," says the LORD of hosts. "So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously." (Mal 2:16)

"It was said, 'Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce'; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (Mat 5:31-32)

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." (Mat 19:3-9)

"For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man." (Rom 7:2-3)

"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals..." (1Co 6:9)

"Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge." (Heb 13:4)

"But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her." (1Co 7:12)

Also see Deu 22:13-29.

Thus says the LORD, "Where is the certificate of divorce By which I have sent your mother away? Or to whom of My creditors did I sell you? Behold, you were sold for your iniquities, And for your transgressions your mother was sent away. (Isa 50:1)

"And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also. (Jer 3:8)

Divine Revelations
I would now like to share some divine revelations on the topic of divorce for you to read and evaluate prayerfully.

Michael Thomas Sambo
As I have written in my article Michael Thomas Sambo's Revelation of Heaven and Hell, my friend Michael Sambo received a revelation in 2003 from the Lord. He died and experienced heaven and hell. He told me, "In my encounter with Jesus. A man came to the gate of heaven having married and divorced his wife. But was later permitted by his church to remarry. The angel of the Lord told him in heaven he is known as an adulterer." This is a serious warning, since no adulterers inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9), so let us take heed.

Samuel Oghenetega (Ogenetega)
Near the end of June 2013, a fourteen-year-old boy in Nigeria, named Samuel “Tega” had a visitation from The Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy and Righteous One, as I documented in my article, Visitation of Jesus to Samuel Oghenetega. The Lord gave him a revelation with many warnings, one of which was a warning to those who divorce: "People who divorce do not enter my kingdom." (Listen to his video on You Tube for more details).

Emmanuel Samson Jude
A Nigerian teenager named Emmanuel Samson Jude, claims to have had a revelation of hell in August 2014.  He states:

I saw a man in hell fire, being in great agony and pain, in great torment, he stretched forth his hand if he could be delivered, but a demon was climbing on his back, cutting his head with an axe. I asked the man the reason why he ended his life there, he told me "I divorced my wife, I chased her out because I didn't have interest in her anymore. I got married to another woman. That is what brought me here. I blame myself. I am very sorry" (1 Cor 7:10-11).

Putting it all Together
The Scripture is clear that it was never God’s intention for married couples to become divorced. From the beginning, God intended the husband and wife to be one and never separate. So those who are married should not divorce. While it may break the legal union in the civil sense, the couple is still one in God’s eyes. That’s why divorce leads to adultery if the divorced person gets remarried. Those who are committing divorce need to know that it’s an abomination in the sight of God. Jesus hates divorce!

We know that Moses permitted divorce due to the hardness of man’s heart. So there are cases where divorce may be necessary. But if you leave your spouse, you must remain unmarried.

The Lord takes unfaithfulness very seriously. When one spouse is unfaithful and unwilling to reconcile, then the Lord allows for divorce. And when a nonbeliever chooses to leave a believer, then the believer is no longer bound to that person. The believer is free.

But those who are unmarried should not seek a spouse. They should call upon the Lord in their distress and allow Him to meet the need. A great deal of healing is needed after divorce, and this must happen before entering into any new relationship.

I caution you with reservations, if you have a second chance to marry, because yours is one of the scenarios that God allows and says you are free, and the Lord confirms that He has brought you together with a believing spouse, then treat it like your last chance. And when you get married again, make a commitment before the Lord to be together for the rest of your lives.

If you have never given your life to Jesus as your Lord and Savior, then you are missing the most important key to a loving marriage. Without Him in the center of your life and your marriage, you cannot experience marriage to the fullest like God intended for you.

DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this article shall be construed as advising anyone to get a divorce or to remarry after divorce. This article was written to the best of my ability based on the Word of God with much thought and prayer, as well as advice from wise and trusted brothers. However, we only know in part, and prophesy in part, so my humble opinions, where stated, could be wrong or incomplete. Therefore, the Holy Scriptures must take precedence over anything I have written, where there appears to be any apparent contradiction.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like Adultery According to Jesus, A Warning for Married Christian Couples, A Trip to Hell, The Forgotten Sin of Worldliness, Ezekiel Moses Testimony of Heaven and HellIs Obedience Optional?, Holy Living in a Perverted World, Is Contraception a Sin? -- a Divine Revelation, Avoid Becoming a Corrupted ChristianSins That Will Keep You From Heaven, Restored Truth, Testing the Spirits of False Prophets, A Warning to the Nay Sayers, The Ways of Life, and the other posts on the home page. You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
_________________________________________________

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

No comments:

Post a Comment