Monday, September 25, 2006

Question about divorce

I received the following question by email from someone from another church who has granted permission for me to post the question and my reply:
"I have consulted my pastor and other pastors concerning our Baptist teachings about divorce and remain confused. I am divorced. I made an oath at my wedding of "til death do us part" and finished with "so help me God." Even though adultery entered my spouse's life, do I remain bound by my oath? Did you do a blog on this topic? Or, better yet ... will you do one and let me know."

Dear Friend,
I understand that you are already divorced, apparently because of your spouse's adultery, and your question is, "do I remain bound by my oath?"
It appears there are two parts to your question. First, the question of whether your divorce was permissable, and second, the question of whether you are free to remarry. So let's take the two issues separately:
1. The question of permissable divorce. According to Jesus' statement in Matthew 5:32, adultery is a permissable reason for divorce. Thus if your spouse committed adultery, you did have biblical grounds for divorce. The other biblical ground for divorce is found in 1 Corinthians 7:15, when one spouse is an unbeliever and leaves.
(I would caution readers, however, that just because your spouse commits adultery or leaves you for a time does not mean that you should rush into a divorce. If at all possible, you should seek a counselor and seek restoration in your marriage. I have known couples who suffered adultery and other problems in their relationship who were able to experience repentance, forgiveness and restoration.
The second caution I would give to readers is that if you are suffering physical abuse or severe verbal abuse, you may need to separate for your own safety. Remember, this separation is with a goal for restoration if possible, not divorce.)

2. The question of remarriage after divorce. You mentioned "our Baptist teachings about divorce." While I am glad to be a Baptist, we must make certain that our teachings come from the Bible, not Baptist tradition or any other tradition that contradicts scripture.
Jesus recognized the fact that the woman at the well had five husbands, although she was cohabitating with the man she was with at the time she met Jesus, and that man was not her husband (John 4:17-18). By this statement, Jesus recognized each of these five marriages as true marriages.
A common "Baptist teaching" about Matthew 5:32 is that it bans remarriage after divorce, because it says that anyone who divorces his wife causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.
However, the New Testament Greek verb used in the original text used the passive voice, which means the subject receives the action, rather than causing the action. In other words, divorce is a stigma that the husband puts on his wife by divorcing her. It is something the first husband does to the woman and the man she remarries. The stigma is being divorced and being married to a divorced person. Notice in the verse that the stigma occurs whether or not there is ever a remarriage, because it says "anyone who divorces his wife... causes her to become an adulteress." Notice he causes the adultery before any remarriage. It could be translated, that he adulterizes her. This is referring to the stigma of divorce.
I recognize that this is a controversial passage, and there are differences of opinion about it, but I do not think the scripture teaches that remarriage after divorce is automatically a sin.


Bloodiest of Ladies said...

Broher Bob, I realise that you likely didn't do this on purpose, but it was probably bad positioning to put the suggestion to seperate with the intention to restore just after the suggestion to seperate for safety if one is involved in an abusive relationship.

Or did you mean that one should be attempting to restore an abusive relationship? :)

Brother Bob said...

Perhaps my wording was not clear, but I did mean that one should attempt to restore an abusive relationship, if possible, but if it is abusive, one will need to remove oneself from the danger first by separating.

Colin Lamm said...

I appreciate your brief but seemingly well-thought-out perspective. Too often we tend towards the extremes of either legalism or license. The fact is that God hates divorce, we can never get away from that, or gloss it over. This doesn't mean, however, that we condemn individuals who have unfortunately undergone a divorce. On the other hand, when evangelicals are just as likely to divorce as any other segment of society then we have some serious questions that need to be addressed.

A.W. Tozer when asked what the one thing the church in his day needed replied, "discernment". I'm not sure it is 'the one thing', but it is definitely 'one thing' we could use more of -- especially as it relates to issues such as this one.

Bloodiest of Ladies said...

I understand what you mean, and you know how badly I want to make a three page observation on that, but I think this debate is overdone. I will suffice to say that statistically it's a bad idea to restore abusive relationships.

Bloodiest of Ladies said...

Colin, I think if people had to choose one thing discernment would be a good one.

Anonymous said...

awesome blog, do you have twitter or facebook? i will bookmark this page thanks. jasmin holzbauer

Dr. Bob Rogers said...

Jasmin, I'm on Facebook under my name Bob Rogers, and I'm on Twitter @DrBobRogers