Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Redemption After Divorce

There has always been a stigma about divorced people within church walls. There is a certain logic to that stigma as divorce is not God's dream come true for intimate relationships. Many Christians have believed divorce to be the death knell for people - a straight ticket to Hell.

However, there is a certain illogic to the stigma as well. To believe that God damns people for a failed relationship is to avoid the redemptive flow of God's relationship with people. I don't think that there is anyone out there who would say that divorce is something to strive for. Even divorce "advocates" would say that a good marriage is better than a "good divorce."

What believers in God need to do is to be tough on divorce and gentle with divorced people. People experiencing a divorce have been through enough already. What they don't need is an assault from the people who are supposed to be on their side.

God's approach to divorced people is redemption. On some rare occasions, divorced people remarry the people they divorced and the second time around goes pretty well. That is a very special kind of redemption, but not the only kind.

Other divorced people find someone else to marry and it goes well. They have learned a great deal from the past and apply those lessons in the new relationship. They have greater patience and tolerance for what might have ticked them off in their first marriage.

Still others find redemption in the single life. Though these people may long for a relationship, but they find that their time is best utilized in service to others. They invest in their friendships or ministries and realize that they have found their place outside of marriage.

God works through a larger redemptive movement rather than in the holding a failed relationship against a person eternally. Of course God never wanted the divorce and yes, God hates divorce. But God does not hate divorced people. Big difference. God never hoped for a divorce. But when divorce happens, God is interested in what He can do in your life now in the given situation. Holding that sin against you does not promote His mission on this planet. Jesus died for that sin if it was even a sin at all, so we all need to get over it.

Yes, we still need to support struggling marriages and not throw in the towel too sin. Hear me, I am against divorce and you should be too. However, there are times when it is necessary and then there are times when it has happened when it was unnecessary, but too much water under the bridge. Where are we going is more important than where we have been.

God works through divorce if that is what He is given to work with.


Piper said...

You state that divorced people find someone else to marry and it goes well. Is that not adultry when you find someone else? In Mattthew 5:31-32, it states "what God has joined together, let no man put assunder." And, whoever shall put away his wife except for fornication and marry another committeth adultry."

My feeling is that the Bible is the truth. The above passage and many others also state that fornication is the only reason for divorce.

So in order to have redemption after divorce, one must not sin, which is to avoid adultry which is to return to your spouse or not marry again. Death is the only way to break the marriage bond.

In Matthew 5:31-32, What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder. We stand in front of God to be married give Him our word, but run to man (the court system) to say never mind when God is the only one that dissolve the marriage bond.

So, redemption after divorce? Yes, if you do not commit adultry (remarriage or being active sexually). Marriage bond is only dissolved by God and that is thru death, not the court system, which is man.

You state Water under the bridge. That is no reason. God gave us a word that is to be taken very seriously. That word is FORGIVENESS and build on that.

Yes, it is important that where we are going is more important and than where we have been. However, if one continues in the sin of adultry (6th commandment) it does matter.

Fajita said...

Piper, thanks for coming to visit Smart Stepfamilies blog. Redemption is what God does with our mess, not what we can do with it.

I also believe that the Bible is true, so we agree on that. How it's true we might differ on.

From the context of the verse and other verses in Matthew, Jesus is addressing beliefs and false beliefs people had about the Law of Moses. I don't think that this verse is settig up a person for permanent sin.

Again, I do not advocate for divorce. It's always a mess and often a sin. But a person's sin is something Jesus took care of already. Either His death on the cross meant something or it didn't. I might even agree with you that it is sin to remarry, but does that mean it is not forgiven? If it does mean tha this sin is not forgiven, then we ahve a very, very serious problem to deal with here. What other sins does God refuse to forgive? Selfishness? greed? Lust? We're going to get into trouble if we start picking which sins God refuses to forgive.

I would be interested in hearing more about your view.

Piper said...

I am sorry that you have the impression about picking and choosing sins or about permanent sin.

Yes, I agree with you that you are not advocate divorce and it is always a mess.

Redemption is what God does with our mess thru us.

I feel that forgivness, true forgiveness, is from trying not to commit the same sin again after you have asked for forgiveness.

God does not set us up to sin. It is our choices that do that. Once we recognize that we have sinned, we must truly ask for forgivness and stay the course on working to not sin again after asking for forgiveness.

All sins are forgiven but we cannot use the "God is in my back pocket" idea that he will for forgive us even through we realize we are sinning but continue to do the same sin after asking for forgiveness. We must truly ask for forgiveness and along with that request, not repeat the same sin.

There was a time in my life, that I realized my sin. God only knows how much I prayed, cried and asked for forgiveness. This forgiveness process did not happen over nite. There were days and nites, as the Bible says, pray constantly, that I did. I asked for forgiveness. Then one day, such a feeling or sense came over me and I knew that I was forgiven. It is such a feeling that no one can imagine.

I am not saying that people should do what I did above. That was my way of asking for forgiveness for that particular sin.

Ever since that day, I truly knew what God's words mean that he will erase the sin to the ends of the world. I can't remember that exactly what the words are that are in the Bible.

So, again, my point is that you must recognize sin, truly repent it, and truly avoid that sin again in order to have forgiveness.

God's part is to forgive our sins. Our part is to listen to His word, recognize our sins, and to avoid them. When we sin again, we must truly and sincerely ask for forgiveness. Asking for forgiveness , I beleive that you must mean it with the intention of not knowingly committing it again. But once you recognize that fact, you must truly in your heart really mean that you do not not want to commit that sin again.

What saddends me the most is when I look at a cross, and the thoughts of what Jesus when thru for my sins, I am truly sorry what He went thru for me and I do not want to add any more to His sorrow.

Yes, His death on the cross meant a lot. But our part is to AVOID sin, not just ask for forgiveness and knowingly continue to do the same sin.

God is a loving and patient God. Our part is to truly try and when we fail ask for forgiveness; but His forgiveness should not be taken for granted. Only He knows what is in our hearts and He acts accordingly if it is within His will for us and if our intentions are right.

I would like you to clarify something to me. You state that the verses in Matthew are about Jesus addressing beliefs and false beliefs people had about the Law of Moses. What then is your opinion of Matthew 5:31-32. What I am getting from you is that you are saying that it is ok to remarry after divorce. The definition of adultry is having sexual relations with someone who is not your spouse. If what God has joined together can only be unjoined with death, then how do you justify that remarrying after divorce is not adultry? Which is breaking the 6th commandment. The point I am trying to make is that more importance should be placed on spreading the word that the sin of divorce and remarriage and how it leads to further sin by adultry.

Fajita said...

Piper, this is a great conversation. Thaqnks for you time.

Sin is complex. For example: If I steal a car and then repent of car stealing, then I will know of the commitment to my repentance based upon whether or not a I steal a car again.

However, auto theft was not the only sin here. Let's say I stole the car because I was selfish and greedy. I claim to repent of being selfish and greedy. How does anyone know if I have been true to that repentance? That's where it gets more nuansed.

Let's go a little further: what if my selfishness and greed was generalized, not just fixed on cars. I might repent of my car realted greed and selfishness, but perhaps not even realize my generalized sin of selfishness and greed.

What then?

How about I realize I am selfish and greedy, repent of it and remain selfish and greedy? Or what i am only less selfish and less greedy? What does God think of such things?

The further you go the more complicated sin becomes. I confess right here on the blog that I selfish. I don't desire ot be selish in the way one aspires to become wise or noble, but I keep finding it showing up. Am I damned? I believe not.

Now, back to remarriage. Let's say a divorce occured due financial issues that the couple can't or won't resolve. they become embittered and divorce. Then one of them remaries, but realizes just how selfish he was. He repents of selfishness and seeks to be selfless. He grows and begins to not only realize that he was selfish, but in fact the main contributor his first marriage's failure.

What should he do to be right with God? Should he divorce his second wife (do the very thing God hates) in order order to be right with God?

Some might say (and you might even say) that he was never divorced from his first wife, that they are still married in God's eyes. There is no biblical evidence to say that this is the case. "Let no man put assunder..." is a command, not a description of reality. what I mean by that is that God did not claim to withhold divorce from people; instead, He warned against it.

So, is the man free to remarry? Maybe and maybe not. If he is not and he remarries anyway, it evry act of sexual intercourse sin? I doubt it. This verse is not so much about where the sexual body parts go, but rather about abusing marriage, about the condition of the heart, and the man's drection.

If his heart is still adulterous, then he is sinning. If it is repentive and humble, then he is not. For that matter, married people in their first marriages can be more adulterous than people in second marriages.

If the second marriage was adulterous, which some of them are, then repentance happens, the adultery is swept away in the past, present and future. This has to do with where the heart is.

We may differ on this as there is a wya to read these verses as completely black and white and applicable to all situations. I believe, however, that they do deeper than that and get to the heart of the matter.

Well, I threw a bunch out there. i would love t hear your response.

This forgiveness process did not happen over nite.

Only He knows what is in our hearts and He acts accordingly if it is within His will for us and if our intentions are right.

Piper said...

I also agree that this is a great conversation. Thank you for your time also.

Is sin complex or do we make it that way by our choices? We have free will. However, each decision we make is a choice. Just waking up in the morning the choice is there. I can either get up and go to work or because I do not want to go to work, I can call in sick. A choice. Free will. A choice of right and wrong.

I feel that as humans we are prone to sin. We will back slide. But how we choose to deal with that back sliding is our choice. We can try again, or we can make excuses.

About remarriage, I believe that it is between God and those who remarry. The divorce issue should be separate from the remarriage issue. But for some reason, they seem to get combined.

My feeling is that with the divorce numbers keep on growing, something needs to be done. I really feel that stronger instruction religiously should be done. What is being done now does not seem to be working as the numbers keep going up. Man has made it easier for divorce to happen. So, does the responsibility lie with religions to teach more strongly on this issue?

Does not divorce cause pain, confusion, and frustration? Are these from God? God allows things into your life. But from what I have learned, the things that God allows into your life permits us to choose. I can trust, rely, and put my faith in God to help me or I can become carnal and do things my (man’s) way. Sometimes, it is hard, but what I keep continuously learning is that it is better to let God do His thing in my life because things only get worse if I try to be carnal.

Fajita said...

You said: "My feeling is that with the divorce numbers keep on growing, something needs to be done."

Well said. Although divorce cases have leveled off and actually have slightly decreased in the past 5 years, it is still epidemic.

What needs to be done is strong support and promotion of premarital counseling, marriage mentoring for married couples, a community sense of marriage, and heightened awareness for all people on just how challenging divorce is. Furthermore, there needs to be law changes and a removal of no-fault divorce.

Divorce is not the problem, sinful people within marriages. Selfishness, greed, lust, pride, arrogance and so forth are the problem. When these things show up in marriage, the marriage will suffer. That is the place where sin needs to addressed. That can happen before we wait for a divorce. Divorce is the horrible side effect of sin much mor ethsan it is THE SIN we need to address

Anonymous said...

I sit here and read this and I am trying so hard to move on with my live and yet trying so hard to abide by Gods expectations of me. I was married for 11+ years. My husband had an affair almost once a year! Finally I decided I did not want my son to grow up thinking that was what God expected of man, or my daughter to grow up thinking that any man should treat her that way. So, I chose to go through with divorce. I am so LESS stressed and so MORE connected to my spirituality now more then ever! And, I am trying to move on with my life. I have met a wonderful man. He is faithful to our relationship...and I would love to marry him. But does that mean I AM THEN committing adultery? I would think not! I would think that God would want me happy and finally in a monogomous relationship showing my children how HE wished relationships to be! My ex husband did NOT honor me as God honors/loves the church. AND, he is STILL doing the same things. He has been IN AND OUT of relationships since our divorce and had some relationships simultaneously to my childrens knowledge! Shouldnt I believe that God would not only acknowledge but BLESS my 2nd husband (if I get married again) because he is showing my children how he (GOD) expects man to treat woman??

Anonymous said...

I just posted a comment about my adulterous EX, Perhaps I just found my answer on another site? Cut and pasting here....:

Is it okay to divorce my spouse if they commit adultery?

In my opionion, this is the only reason given in Scripture as grounds for divorce. The exception of "marital unfaithfulness" [Gk porneia] is not in the parallel passages Mark 10:11-12 or Luke 16:18. Perhaps Matthew included it because he was writing to the Jews where there was a dispute between the schools of Shammai and Hillel over the interpretation of "something indecent" (Deut. 24:1). The Shammai school held that "something indecent" meant "marital unfaithfulness." The Hillel school held that it included anything that becomes displeasing to the man. Apparently there were those who believed in granting a divorce in the case where a husband discovered premarital unchastity after the marriage had taken place, and this would appear to be what Jesus was addressing in the Matthew passage. The passage in Matthew seems to help clear up this dispute, seemingly siding with the Shammai interpretation, thus making "marital unfaithfulness" as the only allowable cause for divorce. In the case of premarital unchastity, the couple should remain together.

If your spouse leaves you and commits the act of adultery against you, then you're free to divorce them (Matt. 5:32; 19:9). In Old Testament law, the offending parties in adultery would both be put to death (Lev. 20:10; Dt. 22:22), thus leaving the innocent party free to remarry (Rom. 7:2; 1Cor. 7:39). Under the New Covenant, the sin of adultery is not diminished, but the penalties or results are redefined in light of grace and the innocent party has a proper right to end the marrage by divorce and is free to remarry another believer.


But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness [sexual immorality], causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery. - Matthew 5:32

I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness [sexual immorality], and marries another woman commits adultery." - Matthew 19:9


This doesn't mean that you immediately get out of the marriage. Just upon the act of adultery, you shouldn't rush to the divorce court. Your first act should be, "... if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently (Gal. 6:1). In 1 Cor. 7:10-11, Paul writes, "A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband."

If they refuse to restore and continue in the act of adultery, then you have every right to divorce.

Fajita said...


Your struggle is a good one. Not easy or pleasant, but good. Your questions are the right question in large measure.

I'll throw in my 2 cents.

1. God's redemptive process is not limited to perfect or exact scriptural interpretations. What I mean by that is, yes, there is a certain morality that God desires, but also there is sense that God is not making an eternal judgment based on the extent to which we follow that morality.

Jesus' work on the cross saves or it doesn't. Period. To try to parse out every nuance of scripture about precisely who can and cannot remarry and under what conditions I think (my personal interpretation) is to disregard the spirit of the law of God.

It's not that we do not ask the questions, but rather it is that we do not exalt law over grace. When we place obedience to the law over the grace of jesus, we insult Jesus.

2. No where in the Bible does it say that God's wants us to be happy. It doesn't say He wants us t be miserable either. I get really nervous when I hear people say, "God wants me to be happy." It is often followed by a spoken or unspoken "...so I can go and do whatever it is I want to do."

God wants us to be good. Now, I am going to ahve to explain this. I didn't say he wants us to be "right" or "moral," but good. There is a huge difference. Beig right leads to pride and being moral might be out of obligation or coersion - not good motives. But being good necessarily originates in good motives.

Goodness is the way to go. When people are good, generally morality and happiness fall into place.

God does not command us to be good; He invited us to be good. There is a sense that goodness can only be attained through your own volition. Being forced to be good kills the motive, which is half of goodness in the first place.

So, on to the question of can you remarry? I think that the answer lies in goodness, not in morality or rightness or happiness.

Would it be good to marry this man? Would it bring you closer to God? Would it help you love God and love people?

And as a final side note. Although you report your ex to be having many relationships, let it go. There is nothing you can do about it. Letting it go does not affirm or justify his actions, it frees you from policing them. You keep yourslf in "jail" so long as you care about his relationships. You two are divorced - act like it.

Anonymous said...

Fajita--Wow, thank you for your post. It was both enlightening and well recieved. I especially liked your last paragraph (smile) which (in all honesty) is difficult to do not out of curiousity but out of my concern for my children who are seeing these things and expressing confusion to me about whether or not their dad will go to heaven because of things he does. So, it is not a matter of caring about his relationships...it is a matter of still having to share the responsibility of parenting (I smile as I say that since sharing that responsibility has never been done) in that I have to train my children in the right way and then release them and pray they will abide by those examples seen in this household. But in defense of your words (meaning I am now siding with you), I must let go in that I do still entertain conversations with him when he calls me for advice on his relationshipS and express sorrow for the things that were done. Why do I entertain the conversations? To keep the peace. But you are correct, I must let go and let God keep the peace. BUT then again, as a believer I also feel it is my place (?) to be a "friend" (in some regard) to help (?) guide him towards redemption for himseslf and his children, and for GOD. I am getting on a different topic now so I guess I should close. Thank you again for your post!