Does a Divorced Christian Have to Remain Single?
People often ask me if a divorced Christian has to remain single. Some Christian churches teach that marrying again is a sin. Many Christian churches do not teach that.
Why the discrepancy? It seems to depend on your approach to the Scriptures. More insight can be gained when we look at the times in which the scriptures were written.
Let’s Look Deeper at whether a Divorced Christian has to Remain Single
Let’s look a little deeper at two verses that bring up the concerns about whether a divorced Christian has to remain single and see what we find out. We’ll start with Matthew 19:8-9.
In this Scripture Jesus answers a direct question cited in Matthew 19:3. Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife for just any reason?
Jesus replied, ‘Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.’”
Jesus was saying that God designed marriage to be a lifetime union. Moses allowed for divorce because people sometimes have hard hearts and fall short of God’s perfect plan. As suggested by the question in verse 3, many men were divorcing their wives for trivial reasons not in keeping with the law, this often left women on the streets. Jesus was saying that for a man to dismiss his wife in a frivolous way that is not in keeping with the law is the same as committing adultery.
The NIV Study Bible says this about the phrase”commits adultery”
This speaks only of the man who divorces his wife unlawfully. In such a case, his remarriage is adulterous. Jesus’s motivation is to re-establish the permanency of marriage.” (NIV Study Bible, notes. P. 1617. Published 2007)
Now let’s consider Romans 7:3
So while her husband is alive, she would be committing adultery if she married another man. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law and does not commit adultery when she remarries.
This passage is actually not about whether a person can remarry. If you look at it in context you’ll realize that it is an illustration. Paul is talking about new life in Christ as opposed to the law.
Verses 4-6 go on to make the point that now we serve God by living in the Spirit rather than by trying to obey the letter of the law as was done in the Old Testament. Notice that divorce is never mentioned here as part of the equation.
Grounds for Divorce in God’s Law
By the way, a commentary on Biblegateway.com, Grounds for Divorce in God’s Law, states,
…a valid divorce by definition included the right to remarry, as is attested by ancient divorce contracts.”
No doubt God wants Christians to have strong healthy Christ-centered marriages. Divorce isn’t a part of his plan. Yet, He realizes divorce happens because as humans we can have hard hearts.
Is your heart hard? Talk with God and ask him to help you find healing. He has a better plan for you than for you to go through life hardhearted.
Is your heart broken? Your divorce may stem from a spouse who has a hard heart in which case you probably have a broken heart yourself. God is reaching out to you and has a plan for you for a future and a hope. Talk with him about healing now. He will let you know in time whether remarriage is right for you.
Our God is of judgement but he is also of grace and redemption. He knows your heart.
My Personal Testimony
A personal relationship with Christ is powerful. God saw me through the heartbreak of divorce. He loved me and nurtured me through the pain. In his grace he guided me to a new life.
There is no doubt in my mind that God led me to my second husband. He has blessed our life together in amazing ways. We have been married since 1987.
God’s hand in our second marriage is evident. His presence confirms to me that marriage after divorce is not a sin. In fact, every day I still feel God is smiling on our marriage.
Four Words to the Wise
- Never take divorce lightly. The Bible makes it clear that divorce should not occur for trivial reasons. Marriage takes work and commitment. Seek professional marriage counseling if at all possible. Even if your marriage eventually collapses you will feel better knowing you gave it your best effort. (That doesn’t mean you should allow yourself or your children to be abused.)
- Make your priority seeking God. If your priority is seeking a new mate rather than seeking God you are likely to run into a host of problems. Only God can truly make you whole.
- Don’t race to marry again. Be sure you take time to heal before jumping into a new relationship. Taking old wounds into a new relationship sets you up for failure.
- God still loves you even if divorce is your reality. God is close to the brokenhearted and heals those who are crushed in spirit. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel like a second-rate Christian because of divorce. I believe God hates divorce because of the pain it causes his children. The Bible never says God hates divorced people.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Goodreads Book Giveaway
Peace after Divorce
by Renee Smith Ettline
Giveaway ends August 29, 2021.
See the giveaway details
Click an Item below to Get Help Finding Peace after Divorce:
- Find a Peace after Divorce Support Group near You
- Start a Group at Your Church (Peace after Divorce groups can be offered in person or virtually by churches.)
- Read the book Peace after Divorce
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This post is modified from a post that first appeared March 9, 2016
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION.
Additional Resource on Divorce and the Scriptures:
Much has been written on the controversial topics surrounding divorce and the Scriptures. There are far too many factors to fully cover here. For a more in-depth study you may wish to reflect on research conducted by Rev. Mike Winger. You can view his video by clicking this link: Divorce and Remarriage: Everything the Bible Says about It.
I had a child when I was 16. He was born aug 1986 and died dec 1986. My boyfriend then turned into my husband and he helped me through that. After we got married in feb 1988, I for pregnant 3 months later and our son was born Jan 1989. Then on my son’s 1st birthday was pregnant again and had a miscarried a couple weeks later. My husband was out to sea. Then I got pregnant again and she was born April of 1991 and died July 1991. The Navy sent him out to see that sept. So we never dealt with her death together. Then a few days before he was sue to ship out I found out that I was pregnant again. after my daughter died and when I found out I was pregnant. the dr told me that I had gallstones. I had morning sickness with the flu and a 4-year with the flu while he was out to see dealing with all this by myself. I didn’t want nothing to do with the baby that I was carrying. in oct I was having trouble and the dr thought the gallstones were moving and I found out at 10 weeks I was carrying twins. they were 11 weeks early. when they were 3 weeks old I had the surgery. then in feb 1994 I had another daughter. I thought if we can go though burying out children that we could make it. I never thought that after my kids reached a certain age (I think he told he had been thinking about leaving since our daughter was 7). that we would grow old together. instead me met someone at work and broke up her 3rd marriage and left me for her. Now they are married. I still love him and want him back. But I don’t think that will happen. I have to focus on me. He left me in july 2011 and that night they moved in together. Our divorce was final july 2013. I am still having a hard time with this. His sister chewed me out and spit me out several years ago. called me all kinds of nasty names. she told me that I was never good enough for her brother and never will be. I keep thinking that all the time. I am having a very hard time letting him go. we were married for 23 1/2 years. this past valentines day would have been 28 years of marriage and I would have been with him 30 years. I felt a little be encouraged the other night. I am glad I am not in this alone like I have been for the past few years. At least I have my 4 children to help me through this. when they first for together. all 4 of them blamed me but the more time that they spent with her the more they don’t like her especially since they got married. Now it is almost begging my kids to see their dad. I ask once in a while but otherwise he is the one asking to see them and they almost always say no. I also lost my other family (his) no one there will speak to me and they don’t want nothing to do with my children unless they are with him. thanks for this class and book. I know someone else who is going through something like this. her divorce is pending.
I have never had a close relationship with god and still don’t. so I am not sure what to do.
Sharon, Growing close to God may be new for you but really it is not a hard thing. In fact, it is a wonderful and life-enriching thing to do. Talk with God as you would a friend. Learn about God. Join a Christian community for education and support. Tell God you need him and trust him. He will forgive you for your mistakes if you ask him. He will give you hope.
thanks. what do I do and how do I do that?
Pray to God. Tell God that you accept Jesus as your Savior if you haven’t already. Ask forgiveness for your sins. Go to church. Join a small group or Sunday School Class at the church depending on which the church has. Read your Bible. Talk with God everyday whenever you can. He is with you all the time. There is a good devotional called, “Jesus Calling.” I highly recommend it to you. It has very short readings (usually just a few paragraphs) that you can start your day with. It really helps you to feel God’s presence.
Thanks. I was divorced for over 16 years and still feel the effects of it. My then wife was accused and refused to denounce her friend ship with her ex boyfriend and her male friends-one of whom almost killed me. Ironically we got married at church and we jumped the broom (it was a traditional African American wedding, I’m African American but I like something different that what some perceived me of). To make a long story short, I lost trust in women after my divorce and since I have been turned down for dates even from those at church since high school in favor of those who are thugs, look tough, have expensive cars, or have a certain look as well as going out to nightclubs or parties. When I think of that I thought of suicide because I thought the world would not accept me for what I am. I was being called gay (I am not) but I was looking at that as an option. I thought of becoming a Catholic priest because assuming that I’m not gonna remarry again away. Even some of my so called friends claim that I won’t remarry and that I ought to go with someone that they recommend (I didn’t because I am concerned about my integrity and my standing with the Lord). Even the black Baptist church I was a member of emphasized families and marriage. But I don’t see any church that would cater to singles or divorced folks as if we have a black mark or some disease. It’s no wonder why many have left the church for other lifestyles just to be loved and accepted. And we wonder why many black men in the inner cities are attracted to Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam because the churches and the preachers cater to women than men anyway, so why bother? I need help to re start my life before it’s too late. THanks
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Suicide is not the answer. If you still feel that way, seek professional help immediately. Divorce can leave people struggling to find their way. There are churches that offer support to divorced people. I don’t know where you live but you can go to a website called The Association of Related Churches and see if they have a church in your community. In my experience, these are life-giving Christian churches that offer hope to all races and men and women alike. Here is their web address https://www.arcchurches.com/connect/find-a-church/ Regarding dealing with divorce, I have an online Separation & Divorce Christian Community peer-support group you may wish to join. To access it you must first have a Facebook account. Here is a link to the group. https://www.facebook.com/groups/448405865220316/ Let me reassure you that God loves you! Seek Him above all else and you will find your way.
I’ve been struggling with this question for a while now & have not been able to get any solid advice from anyone.
I’m currently in my early 20s, and made the commitment a little while back to save myself for marriage. I think there is something so beautiful about couples who both have decided to wait, but since mistakes happen, I didn’t necessarily have a problem with meeting a guy who wasn’t a virgin, just as long as he’s repentant and has committed to Christ in his new lifestyle
Recently, I’ve been seeing a man who is 5 years older &we get along great. However, he revealed early on that he was married and divorced in his early 20s, and has had other sexual relationships in his past. My struggle is this: I know that God forgives, but I constantly question if remarriages are blessed by God? I only want to date with the intention of marriage, which is why I am struggling with this as I don’t want to pursue this relationship if it is sinful to God. Some churches approach divorce in a super legalistic way and state that marrying someone who has been divorced makes you live in a continuous state of adultery, and that the remarriage is not valid in God’s sight anyways because the divorced person is still bound to their first husband/wife, which scares me about my own situation.
Another part of me is also insecure as I am a virgin, and knowing that he’s had so much “experience” makes me wonder if marriage and sex will still be as sacred to him, and also the fear that he may think about what he’s done with other women in the past & compare me with them of I end up marrying him.
He is constantly expressing his interest in me and pursuing a future, but I have still been guarded as I am not sure if this is a relationship I should pour into at all. He’s a great guy, always builds me up as a person, and we had the boundary talk about not having sex very early on. I really do like him, and he has many qualities that I love, but I have been scared to reciprocate any feelings because I am still wrestling with this topic of remarriage.
Lauren, You have a lot to consider and you’re very wise to be cautious. I’ve been through a divorce and am now in a Christ-centered marriage and have been for over 30 years. God has and continues to richly bless our marriage and we were both previously married. You’re right, churches take very different stances on remarriage so it pays to know the position of any church you attend. My experience is that God is full of grace, love, and forgiveness. The question of whether or not you wish to marry someone who has been previously married is something you need to talk with God about. The next question is, is this particular man right for you? I don’t know either of you so that’s another issue for prayer and perhaps even counseling. You ask a very valid question when you wonder if your differences in background will ever become an issue. I wish I could give you a clear answer to each of these questions but I can’t. I can say you are wise to pray about and seek insights into these things. Take your time and think all of these things through carefully because you want to avoid ever having to cope with divorce yourself. God bless you!
I will never let go and get over my divorce. I m fighting against myself , against God and so torn by love and disgust at the same time for my ex husband of 25 yrs. to have been straying, infidelity, abuse and violence and high functioning drinking guy, he did what he could, but noticed , I could not love him as I was physically not attracted to him and not intellectually either. He was smart like a crook but really he deceived me and he ruined and destroyed my life, my relationships with family and friends and he loved to see me being backfired and having downfall, what kind of people are these that they are elated , when misfortunes and tragedies that they caused, hit you??
I am devastated and speechless and in shock, what I as an immigrant woman went through, all alone, no family , old and ill and on the street because of my ex-husband. I don’t like to think of them , but its like an obsession, how she is, how they are towards each other and how they have sex and he doesn’t want to marry the mistress, they live as common-law husband and wife. How can one drop another like a hot potato and abandon and desert?? They both are guilty, but I believe when love is gone , sex is gone, all is gone, there is no way back and it is over. What can I do now, I have been alone and lonely for so long, can’t trust and love anyone anymore.
Oh God , help me. So depressed, sad and unhappy in agony.
I am touched by your profound sadness. Infidelity, abuse, and violence combined with drinking causes hurt on hurt. Your pain is so real. It’s hard but I believe you can move to a place where that pain has no real power in your life. The past doesn’t un-happen but I believe you can learn to let God heal the pain. Marika, I know God has a better life for you. A life of hope, peace, and joy. I believe the key is in deciding that you will in fact let go and get over your divorce. Turn your eyes to God’s Word and promises. God loves you. I believe the book, Peace after Divorce offers much for your situation because it will take you on a step-by-step journey that supports letting go of the past and finding the good things God has for you. “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” John 12:46
you do not mention if your divorce was a valid reason. he cheated on you or refused to stay married to you after you converted to christ or he beat you. i will also need to do more research on the context of romans 7:3. it sounds pretty clear to me. i do know that some scripture is def metaphor but will need to double check that one
Hi Ashley, I don’t get into the reasons for my divorce in this public forum. I will say that I was committed to marriage for life and was devastated. I no longer feel hostility toward my ex and publicly posting about the past wouldn’t be healthy for me or for him. For me this is a very healthy place to be. I will say, he was Catholic and the Catholic church recognized we had a legitimate reason for divorce. Catholic divorce or annulment was pretty rare at that time. Talk with God about your concerns and I am confident He will light the way for you. Thanks for your comments.