Thursday, March 17, 2011

Divorce and Remarriage Part III

I think the objection I get from my family is on the issue of “leaving” they interpret that to mean the non-believer is divorcing, not just leaving. So the believer is not bound. And that a Christian shouldn’t file divorce at all. Because if the adulterer is repentant there has to be forgiveness and in the case of leaving, like I mentioned, that means divorcing. Any thoughts on that? I know you explained the adultery part, but the leaving?

The Greek word used for separates (ESV) or departs (KJV) can also be translated as divorce depending on the context. But this is one of those instances when our modern interpretation of words must be checked. When we say a person is separated, we don’t necessarily mean that we are being divorced. Or when someone departs, they don’t always divorce. We have an official juridical view of the event.

In the Bible, however, and in the context here departing and separating means leaving the marriage relationship. I agree that it needs to be something pretty permanent, not “I’m going to my mother’s to cool off.” But “I’m taking the kids and I’m leaving you to start a new life without you.” Of course which one is meant when one leaves in a huff is open to interpretation, but Christian charity will out in the end.

The context of 1 Corinthians 7 is how to live with another person in marriage. The overwhelming point Paul is trying to make throughout is that marriage is a wonderful institution and should not be abandoned for the sake of convenience. If a person is married he should stay married and work things out. If he wife is a non-Christian and she wants to live with him, he should stay there and love her as Christ loved the church. If she doesn't want to stay married to him, however you measure that, you are free to separated from her and be remarried—or not. I do not believe that he has to wait for our modern day divorce proceedings. If he is convinced that his unbelieving wife does not want to be married to him, he is free to file divorce papers. In some instances it may be the wise thing to do. He is also free not to file. He can wait for her to file or wait for her to do something that otherwise would break the marriage bond and then file.

The Christian should stay single; however he became single, until he is released by God to be remarried. The Bible also suggests that he should stay single until whatever caused his relationship with his wife to fall apart is confessed where it is sin, repented of as necessary, and fixed in his heart. The husband is responsible for his household and even if the woman is an unbeliever, he still has the responsibility to love her in an efficacious way. The odds are, therefore, that if his wife leaves, he has not loved her in a godly way. Of course there are people whose heart is so hard that God cannot penetrate. The godly Christian man needs to make sure this is the case before seeking to be remarried.

None of this changes the fact that forgiveness and reconciliation should happen if at all possible. A divorced person can remarry if reconciliation happens before another remarriage. And in the case of two Christians divorcing remarriage is specifically out until, or unless sex ual immorality is present (1 Cor. 7:10-11). The point is that marriage is important to God and it should be to us. Divorce should not be entertained unless the marriage bond is broken through sex ual misbehavior or if the non-believer wants out.

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