Commanding Divorcees To Divorce Again Or Remain Celibate

January 7, 2017

It astounds me that there seem to be so many people that teach and believe a certain doctrine that ruins families and harms individuals to a greater extent than they’ve already been harmed. It is the doctrine that teaches that remarriage to another spouse is continuous adultery and thus, in order to inherit eternal life, such married people must divorce, must try to remarry their first spouse (even if he or she is remarried), and if that is not possible, then to remain unmarried (to anyone) till death. Or, if they do want to remain married to their present spouse, they must live in separate bedrooms and both be completely celibate. One of the promoters of this devastating and false doctrine comes out of the Church of Christ.

It seems remarkable that such a doctrine can be taken seriously, especially when one considers all the other sins Christians have committed in the past and yet believe they have been forgiven of by God without having made amends for them all. But, if sexual sin is, as the legalists seem to think, the worst sin, then what about those who were promiscuous before marriage and became “one flesh” with someone before he or she married that person, or even before he or she married someone else?! Marriage, in God’s eyes, is not merely a vow, but a consummation of two becoming one flesh. Shouldn’t, then, the Church of Christ also say that any formerly promiscuous person must divorce their present spouse, go back and find and marry that first person they had sex with, or otherwise remain celibate? Would that not be the correct teaching if they want to be consistent in their doctrine?

The reality is, is that people usually do not divorce on a whim. They have reasons. Often good reasons. And usually they have tried and tried to work it out. Generally the majority of the fault does lie with one partner –the one who is sinning and refuses to repent. –The one who refuses to love and behave as Christ would, but instead assassinates his spouse’s character, peace, and well-being. And why? Because just like murderous Cain, who belonged to the evil one, the sinning person is wicked and the other person is righteous. (1 John 3:12) In other words, it is because evil people, while really hating themselves, rather prefer to cast their hate at easy prey who are more righteous than them.

In such situations should it not be realized that the vows of marriage have already been broken and that the persecuted man or woman is therefore not bound in such circumstances? (1 Cor. 7:15) Indeed, “God has called us to live in peace.” (Same verse)

So, if there is continued, unrepentant abuse or addiction, then there has been a breaking of the marriage covenant, just as adultery or any unfaithfulness breaks it. Certainly abuse is to break the “caring, cherishing, honoring” vow, and addiction, too, would fracture that vow, as well as there being lying involved, which would have already ruptured the “one flesh” covenant.

Without a doubt, unless there is repentance (full change) from illegal, unlawful, and/or dishonoring behavior, there can no longer be true fellowship / marriage / oneness. When God has to keep watching any continued cruelty, deceit, or poison, is that fair for either spouse to allow something to continue that is so displeasing to Him? Of course not. This does not mean divorce must happen, but certainly no one should enable that which is displeasing to God. Some sort of measures must be taken to make the wickedness stop.

Some Church of Christ type people may agree that a toxic marriage must end but they will also stick with their belief that the divorcees cannot marry anyone else, lifelong. Truly, even after divorce, the rest of us believe it is probably best to wait a few years to see if there is repentance. But regardless, everyone must permit the divorcee to listen to the Lord herself; for God, who is merciful and who does speak to His children, will guide the divorcees in what He plans or allows for them personally. God knows some people are weaker (financially, emotionally, physically, spiritually, etc.) than others, and He is compassionate in this. Only the Lord knows, not others, all the facts surrounding why a couple divorced, and why they remarried other spouses; so whatever sin God has forgiven the truly repentant, the rest of us must forgive also.

Even so, many people seem to be listening to the legalists and are thus going through great distress as they try to decide whether or not they must divorce their present spouse, even though their second marriage is otherwise fine or even wonderful. Honestly, it is heart-breaking to listen to the turmoil these Church of Christ types have brought upon already hurting, but conscientious, individuals as they insist on further family break-ups.

In my opinion, it does seem that many people are harder on themselves (or on others) than the Lord is. I think of 1 John 3:15 that says that “no murderer has eternal life in him.” But Moses murdered. (Ex. 2:12) And yet God called him to lead a nation out of bondage, did many mighty miracles through him, knew him face to face like no other prophet (Dt. 34:10-12), and had him appear with Elijah to talk with Jesus on the mountain. (Mt. 17:3) God mightily used and honored this former murderer and gave him His presence, all indicating that God pardoned Moses for his sin.

The same could be noted about Paul. Paul was party to the death of Stephen and rounded up Christians to imprison them. (Acts 8:1-3) Yet Paul became a mighty servant of Christ. We do not see him making physical amends to each family he harmed, but instead saying, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:13,14) This, I believe, should be everyone’s attitude wherever they are at (spiritually), every day. And it should be the way we view everyone else who is genuinely straining to follow Christ daily.

Legalists should remember Ja. 2:10,11: “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For He who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.” The verses before this are reminding us about the law of love and that if we do not love correctly, we are lawbreakers. Then verse 13 goes on to say that “judgement without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.” And that verse ends with, “Mercy triumphs over judgment!” This last phrase is a huge reason for all who have sinned (everyone) to rejoice! The whole passage is speaking about love, and judgment, and law, and if we are unsure of how to interpret it, we can use other Scripture verses to help us. Such as Gal. 5:18, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law”, and 1 John 4:12, “but if we love each other, God lives in us.”

Indeed, anyone who is truly repentant about anything, including divorcees who have remarried other spouses, should be viewed by the rest of us as the Lord views that person: Forgiven, and people He wants to use, both as couples and as individuals.

Church of Christ types, though they have some excellent leads about opposing OSAS, are nonetheless, legalists. And legalism is not Christ’s way at all. Let us, therefore, help silence their doctrine by which they, in the name of Christ, “are disrupting whole households.” (Titus 1:11)

To read what I wrote several years ago about this issue, click here:

with love,

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