“Things are different than they used to be,” Uncle Jon told his sister. “They just have to get used to it.” Uncle Jon had gotten used to various changes in his Mennonite church life. As a young man, he got used to the idea of discarding the plain suit in favor of a lapel suit. (When Jon appeared ready for church in his new suit one Sunday morning, his father chuckled at the boldness of his son; his mother cried.) Jon enjoyed courting a young woman who also followed worldly fads, then got used to a wife who cut her hair and later discarded her covering. He got used to dressing like the world and to having a wife who wore pants. He got used to divorce in the church, and then he and his wife, Nancy, also chose divorce for themselves. Now he was stating that the disapproving family members needed to get used to remarriage after divorce, just as he had. Uncle Jon followed through with his remarriage plans. Aunt Nancy eventually remarried too.
Why is it that, in every generation, there are Christians –even Mennonites – who wrestle with this subject? In America today, church-going people divorce at the same rate as unbelievers who do not go to church. They want out of a bad marriage relationship, want to marry again after a divorce, and want to allow their friends to do the same so they can be happy. God wants us to be happy, right?
So in this age, as in all ages past, men attempt to reason away Scripture to fulfill the lust of the flesh. Many times, their reasons sound reasonable to human reasoning. Therein lies the problem. Human reasoning based on human logic has no firm foundation. That is why it took only one generation for the general Mennonite church in America to make the slide, not just to divorce and remarriage, but all the way to gay marriage, while still claiming the approval and blessing of God.
What defines marriage? Is it a document provided by the civil government, a ceremony performed by the church, a verbal commitment, or the physical union of two people? Choose your answer, and you will face additional arguments and questions. Do we have answers? Where do we look for answers?
God is not human, and His Word is not based on human reasoning. He established marriage on His unchanging principles and plan — man’s logic changes with the times and the cultural pressures that come. Satan knows how to tempt human reasoning down paths of unrighteousness. Society has followed the serpent’s cunning suggestions until divorce and remarriage has lost much, if not all, of its stigma. What hath God said about marriage, divorce, and remarriage?
And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him. And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you? And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement and to put her away. And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. But from the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. And in the house, his disciples asked him again of the same matter. And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery (Mark 10:2-12).
Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery (Luke 16:18).
Matthew 19 also records a very similar account of Christ’s teaching. Christ’s words reveal several foundational truths:
Christ pointed to the beginning of Creation as the pattern - male & female. Not two men or two women.
Christ used singular terms – male, female, a man, his wife, etc. God did not create husbands for Eve or wives for Adam. Verse 8 says that two become one flesh. Not three or four, but two. The whole chapter of I Corinthians 7 also speaks of a husband and wife relationship, not multiple partners.
Christ said, Whosoever. That might be the most important word to remember in relation to divorce and remarriage. Study the many times that Jesus used whoso, whomsoever, and whosoever and ask yourself, “To whom does it not apply?”
Let us consider five common arguments on marriage, divorce, and remarriage and compare them to the Word of God.
Argument 1 “God made allowance for and gave direction on divorce in Deuteronomy 24:1-4.”
When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favor in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife. And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the Lord: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.
An argument based on these verses overlooks the very beginning of marriage. And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh (Gen 2:22-24). Adam had not been taught by others or been influenced by peer pressure. The intelligence by which he spoke had come directly from the mind of God. He recognized the concept of two individuals, man, and woman, becoming one flesh.
This argument also rejects the Word of God through Christ. Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning, it was not so (Matt 19:8). And we saw above in Mark 10, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. But from the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female. Jesus referred to the beginning as the standard and labeled divorce as the action of a hardened heart.
Notice that even in the provision made for the hardness of their hearts, God placed limits. He made it plain that a woman who is divorced and remarried is defiled and her first husband could not take her again as his wife. For her to return to her first husband, either after a second divorce or after the death of a second husband, is an abomination before the Lord.
Many nominal Christians who accept divorce on the basis of Old Testament law also permit a wife to initiate divorce and remarry, even though that permission is not found in Scripture. And they will readily argue against keeping other Old Testament laws, even those pertaining to marriage. Such inconsistencies reveal that their real desire is not to uphold and follow God’s directives but to quiet their conscience by making provision for the flesh.
The following New Testament passages reveal that Deuteronomy 24 cannot be the New Testament standard:
Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery (Mark 10:11, 12).
And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife (I Cor 7:10-11).
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it… So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church… Nevertheless, let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband (Eph. 5:22-25,28,29,33).
New Testament holiness, grace, and forgiveness will direct our lives in committed, harmonious marriage relationships. Hardened hearts seek a way around God’s design and Christ’s teaching.
Argument 2 “Jesus said that divorce is permissible in cases of fornication.”
This argument is based on the words of Christ recorded in Matthew 5 and 19. But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery (Matt 5:32).
And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery (Matt 19:9).
Three limits are immediately clear. This directive cannot be used for any situation other than fornication, these verses speak specifically to the husband, and no one else can marry the divorced woman without committing adultery.
In the Old Testament Law, Deuteronomy 22 gives direction for a husband who learns after marriage that his wife had committed fornication prior to marriage. The remedy was not divorce, but to stone her with stones that she die. The same judgment is pronounced on a betrothed virgin who willingly commits fornication. The betrothed woman who was unwillingly forced to commit fornication was not to be punished. Leviticus 20 and Deuteronomy 22 both command stoning individuals who commit adultery when one or both of them are married. (But there are some notable accounts where this was not carried out – Samson, the sons of Eli & the women at the tabernacle, David and Bathsheba, and David’s sons Amnon and Absalom).
In the New Testament record, Joseph nearly put away Mary. But at that point, Joseph and Mary were espoused, not married. The Bible refers to Joseph as her husband and to Mary as his wife even before they were married. In that culture and in the Old Testament culture a betrothed or espoused couple was referred to as husband and wife (Deu 20:7, 22:23-24; Matt 1:18-20; 2Co 11:2). Even in our circles today, we begin to view a couple engaged to be married as a unit, and severing that relationship is rare and unexpected.
Mary’s circumstances gave the appearance of fornication – even though it was not – and Joseph considered privately separating prior to marriage (Matt. 1:18-19, John 8:41, 48). In Matthew 1:19 it appears that Joseph was concerned about his own reputation yet understood the circumstances and did not want to shame Mary. Joseph would not have violated the Law because the law of stoning did not apply to Mary who was innocent.
So, these references in Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Matthew do not endorse divorce after marriage because of fornication.
This idea does not fit the character or heart of God either. Look at the Old Testament again and consider the truth that God revealed through Gomer, who left her first husband Hosea (Hos. 2:7). God did not tell Hosea to divorce her but rather to show love by drawing her back to himself. Then said the Lord unto me, Go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the love of the Lord toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love flagons of wine (Hos 3:1). This was an illustration of the heart of God towards his chosen people, the children of Israel who had committed great whoredom, departing from the Lord (Hos 1:2).
Consider Jeremiah 3:1; They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man’s, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the LORD. The chapter records God denouncing the whoredoms and wickedness of Israel and Judah, yet He repeatedly calls them to return to Him. He did not divorce his ‘wife’ for playing the harlot, but loved her and repeatedly called her to himself. Other Scriptures also record the same heart of God.
Consider Malachi 2:13-16; And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand. Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the Lord of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.
The words in verse 15, And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit, speak of God making them one, with a portion of His Spirit in the marriage union. God has the remaining portion (residue) of the spirit. He is a partner in the union.
Compare the New King James Version of verse 16. For the Lord God of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence, Says the Lord of hosts. Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously.
The same verse in the New International Version says, The man who hates and divorces his wife, says the LORD, the God of Israel, does violence to the one he should protect, says the LORD Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.
That is the character and heart of God revealed in the Old Testament. The Mosaic law of divorce did not portray the heart of God. He hates divorce.
In the New Testament, we already saw that Jesus made no exceptions in Mark 10. And I Corinthians 7:10-11 states, And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. That is the Lord’s commandment to those who are married. Is it really so difficult to understand? He did not add an exception for divorce and remarriage. God does not encourage man to put asunder what He has joined together and has partnership in.
People who believe that those verses in Matthew apply in marriage will violate Scripture if they permit a wife to divorce for fornication. Neither can they honestly overlook the last part of the verse- whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery. Luke 16:18 also records this directive. A married woman who was divorced for fornication could not marry anyone else. I suspect that it would be difficult to find a church that permits divorce only within the limitations of these verses. Even with those limitations, this post-marriage divorce violates the Lord’s command in I Corinthians 7:11, let not the husband put away his wife. And how would a husband divorce his wife while fulfilling the spirit and command of love in Ephesians 5:23-33 and without breaking the type of Christ and the church in those same verses? Does God contradict Himself in these New Testament passages? Or do hardened hearts seek an excuse for a man to deal treacherously against the wife of his youth?
If there is any contradiction of God, His Son, or His Holy Spirit, then God is a liar, and none of His Word can be trusted. Without faith, it is impossible to please –or to believe in –Him. Those who lack faith in Him and in the inerrancy of His Word also lack His power to help fulfill His Will regarding committed, harmonious marriage relationships.
We cannot deny that Christ spoke those words recorded by Matthew. But, by comparison of Scriptures, I believe the exception for fornication was a reference to the betrothed woman who was not subject to stoning, perhaps due to a lack of witnesses, lack of proper evidence, or because she had been unwillingly forced (Deu 19:15; 22:13-21,25-27). Otherwise, Jesus would have been contradicting the Old Testament Law of stoning, the character of God, and all His other inspired New Testament teaching on marriage and divorce.
Argument 3 "I wasn’t a Christian when I got married. I did not marry in the Lord."
This argument holds the belief that God does not recognize marriages outside of a Biblical institution or God-consciousness. Sometimes Mark 10:9 is used to bolster this opinion- What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. The argument contends that unchristian marriages are not joined by God and may be put asunder. (What follows then is the belief that pre-conversion divorce and remarriage is a non-issue, which we will consider under Argument 4).
The truth is that marriage is God’s institution; anyone who enters into marriage is following God’s design. There is no basis other than Creation and the Bible for the union of a man and a woman in marriage.
Has God said that He does not recognize marriages of ungodly people? Genesis 4 refers to the wife of Cain and the wives of Lamech, two ungodly murderers. Under Argument 1 we saw that Jesus said divorce was permitted for the hardness of your heart, evidence that God recognized the marriages of the unconverted Jews. Who was Jesus talking to when He said, Whosoever…? He was answering the ungodly Pharisees. He did not exempt the ungodly in his teaching on divorce. What did Jesus remind the unconverted Samaritan woman? Thou hast had five husbands. He recognized her previous relationships and also pointed out the state of the relationship that she presently had (John 4:18).
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God (1Co 6:9-11). The clause And such were some of you refers to their experience prior to the new birth. These are sins, whether the individuals never knew God or had once been born again. Some of them had been adulterers. Does God overlook the sin of divorce and remarriage in the lives of the ungodly yet judge other sins of the wicked? According to these verses, He does not. The fact that God will judge nonbelievers for adultery proves that He recognizes their marriages. We will expand this thought under Argument 4.
All marriages borrow from God’s original design and are recognized by God. God recognizes the marriages of the ungodly and condemns their adulteries. Therefore, married couples do not need to be remarried after conversion to be joined by God, because God already recognized their marriage status.
Argument 4 “I have become a Christian, and my past is forgiven. My previous marriage (or divorce and remarriage) is forgiven and forgotten as if it never happened.”
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2Co 5:17). This verse is one that has been used in efforts to sweep away the guilt of an adulterous relationship.
Romans 3 surely states that upon conversion one is justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. Remission is forgiveness.
Did Moses receive forgiveness for striking the rock? Yes. Could he enter the Promised Land? No.
Did David receive forgiveness after his sin with Bathsheba? Yes. Did he escape the consequences? No, even though they were not stoned.
Did the thief find forgiveness on the cross? Yes. Was he spared reaping the civil penalty? No.
Reread 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 in Argument 3. Theft, drunkenness, and other actions are condemned with adultery as unrighteousness. May the sanctified individual continue in any of the activities that God calls sin? They would then no longer be “sins that are past.” Why would the sinfulness of an adulterous relationship be washed, sanctified, and justified at conversion when the other sins in these verses are not?
Does redemption and remission grant the smoker lifetime immunity from smoking-related lung cancer when he is converted and forsakes smoking? Does the former sun-bather receive protection from related skin cancer upon conversion? Is a thief, a murderer, a tax-evader, or a child-molester freed of all spiritual or civil penalties upon confession of and conversion from his sin? May he continue in sin that grace may abound? Does a shoplifting habit become a sanctified habit after conversion? Does an adulterous relationship become a sanctified relationship after conversion? Shall anyone continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? (Rom. 6:1b,2). How would anyone walk in newness of life (v.4) yet continue to commit sinful acts or live in an adulterous relationship as before conversion? Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with [Christ], that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin… Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof... What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death (v. 6,7,12,21).
Read the whole chapter of Romans 6 and see the change that is necessary for newness of life. Then notice that Romans 7 explains conversion by using the example of the binding marriage union and the sin of re-marriage while a previous partner is still living! The old desires and works need to be crucified so that we can be married to Christ. Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death (Rom 7:1-5).
A former thief or a murderer or an adulterer, saved from sin, may not continue in that lifestyle because he has been forgiven and transformed by God. Neither does forgiveness altogether suspend the law of sowing and reaping. God might allow him to still bear the legal and physical consequences of his former actions. Only God can justly balance forbearance, forgiveness, and redemption with righteousness, justice, and judgment. When He extends the scepter of mercy to those who kneel in His presence, it prevents the justice, His wrath, from being carried out against us in eternal reaping.
What did Jesus say of remarriage? Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery (Luke 16:18). And in Matthew 5:32; Whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery. The word whosoever is all-inclusive. Jesus offered no exception to the unconverted or to the so-called “innocent party.”
Suppose for a moment that a church endorses this argument and accepts such a couple upon conversion. Should they attempt to witness to the previous marriage partner? If that individual is converted and desires reconciliation, should there be another divorce and remarriage, or should three be united in marriage? Can the other party deny marital reconciliation in a spirit of Christian love?
What if that previous partner had also remarried? What if there are also children from the first and second marriage relationships? Shall the families be joined and have four parents? If they remain separate families, imagine these families attending church together with ‘mixed-up’ parents and legal visitation rights. God is a God of order, not of confusion. Human reasoning is often responsible for the confusion. Acceptance of one situation brings pressure to accept another and how confusing it quickly becomes! As hard and as heart-wrenching as it is, separation of spouses seems to be the least confusing and most God-honoring acknowledgment of God’s Word.
Just as the thief must put away thieving, the covetous stop coveting, the drunkard quit drinking, and the fornicator abstain from fornication, so the adulterer must cease living in adultery. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption… (Gal 6:7,8a).
Argument 5 “It’s not fair that a failed marriage affects a person for life, but a promiscuous person may become a Christian and get married. Jesus did not condemn the woman taken in adultery.”
While Argument 4 is more general, Argument 5 is more often focused on a very brief or unhappy prior marriage. The query comes, “They have been born again and display Christian growth and a relationship with Christ. Shall we divide lovers or family units?”
And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more (John 8:3-11).
One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established (Deu 19:15).
The scribes and Pharisees brought the woman to Jesus, planning to find fault with His response to their question. This was a setup, and the truth of their accusation is questionable. They said that she was caught in the very act, they expressed a desire to obey the law, and yet they had not brought the man caught with her, who by Law was also subject to stoning. Jesus’ reply and their self-conviction might indicate that they had some part in planning the situation or choosing to release the guilty man. The verses following Deuteronomy 19:15 command that a false witness shall receive the judgment which he desired for the accused. They went out one by one and the woman was left with no witnesses or accusers. Therefore, Jesus could not condemn her under the Mosaic Law. Nevertheless, Jesus certainly did condemn whatever the woman had done when He said, sin no more.
One independent congregation recently faced the question, “What if an individual has previously been married for only a few hours?” The converted couple attending their congregation had a good marriage relationship and showed spiritual growth. The congregation had come to love and appreciate them; then came the shock. One partner had previously married on a semi-drunken whim. That union is said to have been nothing more than a marriage certificate, promptly ‘reversed’ when full mental senses returned to the pair. It did not seem fair that deeper physical relationships could be forgiven, but not one with a marriage certificate. Some said that God joins in marriage, not the state. Even the ministry was divided on the answer. A final member’s meeting was held to resolve the question. A minister who had favored accepting the couple into membership changed the course of the discussion by humbly announcing, “The Lord has revealed to me that I was wrong.”
No, we do not divide or justify or condemn but let God’s Word have final authority. Jesus said, Whosoever to the Pharisees. He told the woman accused of adultery, sin no more. Indulging in drunkenness and reveling can bring unwanted consequences. God will judge drunkards for drunkenness; so too, He holds them responsible for their drunken actions. The Bible does not say that God or life will seem fair. But it does tell us that what God does is just. Galatians 6:7 again, Be not deceived, God is not mocked. For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
What defines marriage – a document provided by civil government; a ceremony performed by a church leader; a verbal commitment; or the physical union of two people?
I don’t think that we can point to any one of these four as the answer. Governments have not always performed ceremonies or provided documents. Some people are married without a church wedding, yet obtain a certificate. Some, especially in third world countries, have no certificate or marriage ceremony. And the Bible does not confine marriage to the physical act of marriage. It also makes a distinction between physical unions in marriage, fornication, and adultery.
If a civil marriage certificate is not binding in God’s eyes, then the church must grapple with the question of marriages of convenience. Is it not marriage if it is only a document for some possible tax benefit? Is it not marriage if it is done only to simplify another’s immigration process?
My conclusion is that when individuals request government or church involvement in the union, it creates a public record and God certainly recognizes the marriage. In other circumstances, if it is obvious to others that a commitment has been made by a man and woman to live as husband and wife, God also sees it, and church membership must require the completion of a wedding ceremony and any civil requirements. According to Scripture, simply living together is a sinful union. When there has been a continuing relationship without living together, perhaps even with children born as a result, it seems best either to marry or to live singly, although I cannot say that New Testament Scripture absolutely requires choosing one of those two options. Forced marriages might be the only situation that could truly have one “innocent party,” being very similar to the case of a woman who was unwillingly forced to commit fornication.
Aunt Nancy died.
“I’m not sure how to feel about it,” Uncle Jon confessed.
I watched Uncle Jon and his second wife in the line ahead of us at the viewing. Their demeanor sobered as they approached the casket, and a strange mixture of emotion stirred within me. I didn’t want to watch, and yet I did want to see this. Uncle Jon paused for a last look at his first love; his second wife glanced in and quickly looked away. Uncle Jon approached the man at the head of the casket, and the two men embraced, both weeping over the same wife. Uncle Jon’s second wife self-consciously patted his back while staring across the room. They were three professing Christians, disturbed and confused in the presence of death.
Uncle Jon’s words, past and present, came to my mind and crystallized two facts:
Perhaps it is true, as I was told, that Aunt Nancy was not nice to Uncle Jon. It is obvious that Uncle Jon did not lead his family in the way of Godliness. That was not nice to Aunt Nancy or to their sons. The boys continued their parents’ spiritual tangent: one joined the armed forces; the other married an atheist. Step by step, one generation had unwoven Scriptural obedience from daily living. But never will they remove accountability.
Marriage is a type of Christ and the church (Eph 5:22-33). A husband is the head of his wife, even as Christ is the head of the Church. Separating the head from the body will not improve circumstances. That is not the answer to problems.
Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it. Wives are to submit to and reverence their husbands much like the church is subject to Christ, and as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord (1Pe 3:6). Getting the head and the body to work harmoniously is God’s standard for a man and a woman in marriage. That is the answer to problems.
Marriage consists of things which are too wonderful for me, a wife signifies favor of the Lord, and the union is a great mystery. The child of God understands that marriage is divinely instituted, divinely directed, and divinely blessed. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.