Mark 10 says that a divorced man who remarries again commits adultery…but what if that husband was left by his wife?”
(Question about Christians and divorce from a reader in the Philippines.)
You’ve asked a most excellent question. Scholars have debated issues related to divorce throughout the ages, back to the time of Jesus and before. Even now, different Christian churches teach different things about whether a person can marry again after divorce.
Back in the Day…
When Jesus was asked by the Pharisees about divorce, it was a test. (Mark 10:2 and Matthew 19:3) At the time a woman could be divorced by a man for any and every reason he wished no matter how trivial. In his answer, Jesus attacks this casual approach to divorce and speaks to two things:
- The sacredness of marriage (Mark 10:9)
- The grace of God – Moses indicated that divorce was allowed with a certificate of divorce. (Mark 10:3-5)
Are the words of Jesus still relevant today? Absolutely. Read on for better understanding.
Jesus makes it clear that…
- First priority and God’s plan is for you to make your marriage work. Give it every effort.
- Moses allowed for divorce because “your hearts were hard.”
- Divorce is not to be taken lightly.
I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery,” says Matthew 19: 9.
Does Jesus literally mean that a person who marries again commits adultery or is it an overstatement to make a point about the seriousness of marriage? Good question.
In Mark 9:43 Jesus says, “And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.” Does he mean for you to really cut it off or is he making an overstatement to say that we need to make a serious effort to stop sinning?
I think in both cases Jesus is making an overstatement to make a point. (This is called hyperbole.) I believe he is saying that divorce is not a part of God’s plan and that divorcing on a whim and marrying another person is as bad as committing adultery. (This is called a metaphor.) Divorce is not to be taken lightly. Remember, at the time a man could divorce his wife for a trivial reason. Jesus is standing firm for marriage and for women.
In 1 Corinthians 7:15 Paul says, “But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances…” Some believe this means that an abandoned believer is free to remarry. (Some say that anyone who abandons a marriage is an unbeliever.) NOTE: The person who files for divorce is not always the person who abandoned the marriage.
One thing I know for sure is that God’s grace is awesome. If your partner breaks the marriage vows and remains unrepentant over time it may be necessary to divorce. Or, you may have been abandoned and be divorced even though it was not your choice. Either way, I believe, as many churches teach, that you are then free to marry.
Choose a path of healing…
- Honestly ask God for forgiveness for your part in the divorce. Repent.
- Accept God’s grace and forgiveness.
- Seek renewal from Christ.
- Forgive yourself.
- Walk with Christ from this day forward.
An Unforgivable Sin?
Christ died to redeem us from our sins. By earnestly accepting him as our Savior we have forgiveness of our sins. To say you are not allowed to marry after divorce would be to make divorce an unforgivable sin. Divorce is not an unforgivable sin. Jesus never said it was. Therefore, I agree with those who believe you are allowed to marry.
On a Personal Note
I have experienced divorce. I have experienced the grace of God. I have now been happily remarried for 28 years. We walk with God daily and he loves us as he loves you.
One More Thought
Being free to marry after divorce doesn’t necessarily mean you are ready to remarry. Rebound romances are dangerous. Remarrying before you heal from divorce and learn from your past mistakes just sets you up for failure.
Spend time intentionally working to heal from divorce and learning about healthy relationships before you remarry. Seek guidance from those who know about divorce recovery. Seek strength and wisdom from God as you make this journey. Find your wholeness in Christ rather trying to find it in a new mate.
The time you invest will pay big dividends and increase your chances of a healthier future marriage.
Talk with God
What is God saying to you about whether or not you should remarry? What is he saying to you about whether or not you are ready for a new romantic relationship?
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
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Do you Need Christian Support for Moving Past the Pain of Divorce?
Read Renee’s book, Peace after Divorce.
Start a Group at Your Church: You can also start a Peace after Divorce Workshop group ministry at your church. Click to learn more about starting this group ministry.