Thursday, January 10, 2013

RAD is bad part 4

This is series of articles designed to help professing Christians to turn from their wicked ways and get back to following New Testament ethics.  Compromise is increasing in the church.  Popular opinion among churchgoers is often in stark contrast to the very words of Jesus on many issues.  Christians need to know the word of God and get back to using it as a reference book when they are faced with important decisions.

RAD is my acronym for remarriage after divorce This is the fourth article in a sub-series on this topic.  In review I wrote:

1. RAD is sin.  It is the moral equivalent of adultery.
2. There is only one exception given in the Bible.  A divorced man can remarry without sinning only if the reason for the divorce was his wife’s fornication (i.e. it must be a sin of a sexual nature--the NIV incorrectly translates that word as “marital unfaithfulness”). 

These are the scriptures which form the basis for this teaching:

Matthew 5:32, Matthew 19:9, Mark 10:12, Luke 16:18, Romans 7:2-3 and I Corinthians 7:10-11, 39.

As I mentioned before, there are many legitimate grounds for divorce such as physical abuse, alcoholism, and abandonment.  But this fact does not mean that it is morally acceptable remarry afterwards.  But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some gray areas on this topic or that the scriptures can’t be legalistically interpreted.  Here are some examples:

1.  What if the (only) ex-spouse of a divorced man or woman dies?  Would it then be acceptable for this divorcee to remarry?  Romans 7:2-3 seems to lean toward saying yes to this, at least in the case of a divorced woman.  But the passages in the gospels and I Corinthians 7:10-11 seem to lean the other way.  It is possible that in this case, the man or woman is classified as a widow or widower and not really a divorcee.  I am not sure about this.

2.  What if a man divorces his wife because he believes that his wife committed fornication, but finds out later that it didn’t really happen?  Would it then be OK for the man to marry another woman anyway?  Where does the burden of proof lie when a man is to claim the exception of Matthew 19:9?  Should the church determine the fact in these cases?  These are hard questions.  I know of a case where, for spite, a woman told her husband that she was having affair with someone but it was a lie.  After the divorce, he found out that it was not true. 

3.  Suppose a non-Christian woman gets divorced and starts living with another man.  Suppose that they have a child together and they live in sin for a long time.  Suppose the man takes responsibility for the child and provides for wife as a reasonable husband would.  Then suppose the woman became a Christian.  And suppose that the man is willing to have their relationship recognized as marriage.  Would that then be wrong?  I believe not.  Such a relationship would be marriage already in God’s eyes even though it was entered into sinfully.  (It is sinful both because the woman had previously been divorced and because a proper and public declaration of a marriage covenant was not made.)  The basis for this is a couple of passages which I quoted earlier in this series: Exodus 22:16-17 and Deuteronomy 22:28-29.  It may be better to say that they should get married in that case rather than they are, but the point is just as valid either way.  Under common law (which is valid in the U.S.), a man and woman are legally married if they have lived together as couple for six months.  So the situation that I just described is not really an exception to the rule if the man and woman were really married all long, albeit in a sinful manner.  If they then have a ceremony, it would just be formalizing or recognizing that fact, but to not do so while still cohabitating would be actually be sin.  From a practical standpoint, it isn’t good to break up what is essentially a functioning family unit even though it was entered into sinfully. 

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