DIVORCE and REMARRIAGE
From brother Jonathan Selby,
To his brethren in Christ Jesus,
I am writing to share my current convictions pertaining to this matter of great contention and heartache within the Body.
First, we believers, would in no way want to grant liberty to divorce and remarriage, (and especially anyone who has suffered divorce knows this pain- and if anything such a one is a stronger testimony against such things), even as the world has made havoc and shipwreck out of the institution of marriage. However, neither do we want to ignore the mind of Christ, and become lawyers, interpreting the words of our Lord as the Pharisees did the law of Moses- (while endeavoring to keep the letter of the law violate the spirit of it), for we have not been left alone, even with the scriptures, but we have been granted the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth. Therefore, we should be willing to seek the truth regardless, and certainly not shun the same, (especially because of a fleshly fear of abuse). Nevertheless, we must not neglect any of our Lord's commands and to apply them as need be within the church. Further, we should exhort all the brethren to hold fast to His teachings pertaining to these things, such as, the woman is not permitted to leave her husband, and if she does, (possibly due to fornication or extreme abuse, etc.), she must remain unmarried, and likewise the man is not to leave his wife, (except it be for fornication), and marry another. All such directives should be adhered to, to the fullest of our understanding.
There is no doubt as to what God designed marriage to be, even a life long enduring bond which man was warned, "NOT to put asunder". Some would say based on that, that a marriage can never be destroyed, or ended, except by death. However, even as man can destroy the very life of another, such as an unborn child, and is warned- "Not to kill", it is obvious that by the very existence of the warning itself, that not only does man have the power to destroy God ordained things, but he is likewise capable and successful at doing the same (and incurring God's judgment for it). The phrasing- "Let not man put asunder" (destroy it forever) allows for the possibility. For example, if I say to my son, Jedidiah- "That is a welded steel barrel, it is not possible for you to break it", that is one thing; but if I say, "That is a wooden barrel, do not break it apart", that is something different. Also, some would say that a marriage never ends because they have become "one flesh", however that is not applicable, for that act does not constitute a marriage, for one can be "joined to a harlot" and accomplish that.(The Lord said to the woman at the well that she had five husbands- all considered marriages evidently). Further-Did not God divorce Israel for her adultery and remarry the Gentiles? (for now) Jer.3:8,Hosea 2:2 and therefore the Lord had to, in reference to that question, be consistent with the Father and allow for divorce- for that reason only.(Unfortunately or not, we find NO WHERE in scripture where the woman is granted that same authority)
When one spouse separates from the other, divorces them, marries another, and may as well bear children by that new marriage, the prior marriage, (like it or not), has been "put asunder"- broken, ended, and is Dead for all intents and purposes- (except for a miracle such as a resurrection from the dead, which of course we know God can do, however, at some point we still consider someone dead and bury them anyway).
In Matthew 19, when the disciples and Pharisees asked the Lord about this question of a married man putting away his wife for any reason, He answered: "Whosoever shall put away his wife, ("EXCEPT IT BE FOR FORNICATION"), and shall marry another, committeth adultery". "Fornication" includes any variety of sexual unfaithfulness which anyone commits with anyone to whom they are not married, a sexual act outside of marriage", and adultery being more specific pertaining to an act with someone else's spouse. This concept that "fornication" in this passage, refers to a "betrothal" period, and not an actual marriage, in my opinion, is about an absurd stretch of the context and intent of the question that was being asked. Further, those holding that position confuse me by first saying that the engagement period was the same as a marriage, then turn around and say it was not the same and therefore the reason the term "fornication" suited. I see no obscurity here, if you leave it simply as it stands- they asked the Lord about this practice of them putting away wives to marry another, (not that they are intending to remain single, but because they wanted another they liked better) and that they were doing this under the pretense of any excuse whatsoever; and the Lord answered very simply and directly- that this is not the way marriage is to be, and that, whoever puts away his wife and,(or to), marry another, committeth adultery- UNLESS he put her away due to fornication.
Just to be sure we are following the syntax here properly, let's plug in another analogy paralleling the Lord's response. If someone would come to visit me and sees my son Jed working in one of my gardens and asks: "Would it be right for Jed to stop working in that garden for any reason he wants?", and I respond, "If Jed stops working in that garden, (unless a snake comes) and goes to work in another garden- he's in big trouble!" Is this difficult to understand? If Jed is working in the first garden and a snake would come into it, than, (and only for that reason), it would be allowable for him to quit working there and go to work in another one. Therefore, the "exception clause" (because of fornication), is the ONLY Biblical allowance or justification for divorce and remarriage within the church; and this applies only to the head, (for the woman has separately been instructed that if she leaves, or is put away, that she is to remain unmarried, (but she may be reconciled to her husband. ICorinthians 7:11, provided in the meantime of course that he has not remarried, which he would have the authority to do. Further Biblical proof of this principal, in I Cor.7:27, the Apostle Paul writes: "are thou loosed from a wife seek not to be bound" (clearly referring to a man)...and- vs28, if HE marries (again) HE "Hast not sinned". But regarding the woman Paul reaffirms the standard pertaining to the woman in I Cor 7:39 stating that "The wife is bound by the law as long as the husband liveth" and is granted NO liberty to marriage outside of his death alone... and yes, this is a double standard, but I didn't write these things,( however I suspect this "double standard" has something to do with the man's ordained headship and authority-(which notion is commonly disdained these days).) So what shall we say to these things, or what shall we do?- start deleting the scriptures we don't like? God forbid! This is the word of God that's been preserved this way for us- so if you disagree with what is written than argue with God- not me.
Nevertheless, brethren, what shall we conclude is the "Mind of Christ" (Love) pertaining to all these situations that converts and others in the church find themselves in, which have occurred outside of the Lord's allowance? For example, a previous marriage having been put asunder by either or both parties for whatever reason- be it simple ignorance to blatant sin; dead is still dead, (if it is truly dead), history is history; the question that remains is, where are we NOW, and more accurately, where would the Lord have us go from here? Are there children involved? Then they can not be ignored in the light of God's love, and must be considered with the Spirit of Christ's wisdom- and not Solomon's legalistic sword- coming down upon those babies and destroying their home- (which things we "say" we hate).
If at all possible, all homes need to be kept intact- as GOD'S LOVE DEMANDS.
Therefore, each situation, couple, or family, having suffered these things must be individually and prayerfully considered, in meekness, by the church, as to what God would have concerning them. (Let's not be lazy about these things or just be trying to demonstrate "church authority" or power over people's lives). There are few "blanket policies" under the "New Covenant", as indicated with the woman caught in adultery. (though the "LAW" demanded death- grace and truth according to the new covenant demanded otherwise), for those are the children of God who are willing and diligent to be sensitive to what the Spirit is saying and leading. (Not the letter of the law which kills and destroys, and has been blotted out by a new and living way, even in our hearts.) Those of you who desire to be Pharisees would probably have judged and instructed King David that it would not be allowable, reasonable or scriptural for him to remain married to Bethsheba- since he had committed adultery and murder to get her. However, even as God's complete forgiveness and mercy (though there were consequences) worked then- (as it does today); He not only cast that transgression as far as the east is from the west, remembering it no more, but even brought good out of what the enemy meant for evil. God miraculously worked all things together for good, (upon repentance) and even blessed that marriage! and further even ordained to bring the Messiah through that same ancestry! My what an incomprehensible God! May be some of us should take off our self-made priestly religious-leader robes of our self-righteousness and judging, and humble ourselves to seek the wisdom of our loving Lord in these matters- even if it would cost us, and mean "our" own church rejecting us.
NOTE: Some reading this may not be familiar with one of the primary thrusts of this article, so I will finally inject this for clarification: there are currently some "conservative" Christian groups who consider it part of their job to permanently end and separate, (DIVORCE) , intact homes and families- even with natural children in them of that marriage, (even the inheritance that God has given them). They feel they must separate them if there were any prior marriages by either spouse- unless it ended in the death of one of the previous spouses. (therefore if the case be so with one, it would be more tolerable, evidently to these brethren, to murder your previous spouse, [which they can forgive], and then to go ahead and remarry)(pretty absurd).
"Truly the yoke of Christ would be easy, and His burden light, If petty human institutions added nothing to what He Himself imposed. He commanded us nothing save love for one another" Eramus
Further, as far as Menno Simon's opinion, founder of the "Mennonites", (and some extrapolation on my part), based on an answer to a similar matter of a man that had become "one flesh" by fornication with a virgin, (and then married another), that he will have to "confess before God that the first one was his wife and not the last one". However, (even though she was his wife), Menno Simon did NOT think that man should leave the second (wife) and go back to the first (wife)- for he wrote: "I write by no means to encourage him who has in days gone by ignorantly done so, (committed such things), to leave the wife whom he afterward married, and take in her stead the disgraced one, not at all, for I doubt not that the merciful Father will graciously overlook the errors of those who have done so and will henceforth fear and willingly obey His commands. But I write this so that everyone should guard himself against such disgrace and reflect more profoundly upon the Lord of love."* I hope that every pious (godly) person is sufficiently instructed in the Word of the Lord, to know that if either husband or wife commits adultery, (which would include against a prior spouse), that if he or she can (now) live up to his or her faith, ...then they (a new marriage) are conscientiously bound to remain together undisturbed; for they are (now) one flesh and live together as husband and wife should live. Since there are many dangers and offenses connected with this matter, to punish with excommunication, (or deprive of church membership), the souls thus bound, who otherwise walk unblameably in every respect, before God; and since we are all flesh, therefore I pray that the merciful Lord may keep me from consenting to or teaching such a doctrine (which would split up marriages). In view of this my heart was filled with sorrow, on hearing that a certain length of time was given to one, in which to leave her husband (because of adultery), or that in the case of her failure to leave him, she was excommunicated and delivered over to Satan.* "O my chosen brethren, consider well your actions (!) How many grieved souls will you afflict! Yea, how many souls will you separate from the truth? O that you would desist from it- I desire to teach a gospel that builds up and not one that breaks down. * Here you have my admonition, (Menno Simon's - and mine too!) "The Lord grant that you follow it in all love, peace and unity. Be not too hard nor too lenient. Excommunication, (or refusal to admit into membership), is instituted for reformation and not for corruption." "O that all were of one mind with me in this matter. How discreetly would the ban be practiced in this respect. But as it is, everyone follows his own inclinations and IMAGINES IT SPIRIT AND SCRIPTURE. O Lord! grant them thy Spirit and wisdom, that they may see and judge rightly, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace," (Eph.4:3). Beloved brethren, follow my advice, for God's sake; FOR IT WILL CAUSE MANY SOULS TO REJOICE! The Spirit of wisdom be with you into eternity, Amen. Your unworthy brother- Menno Simon " (A.D. 1550-1589)
* "The bulk of the early church fathers accepted that the husband of an adulterous wife could indeed remarry (citing Matt.5:32), But that the wife of an adulterous husband could not. (citing ICor.7:39)** *Quotations from "THE COMPLETE WORKS OF MENNO SIMON" **"Pagans and Christians",AA Knopp Publishers; A study of life, religion, and philosophy during the first centuries up to Constantine.
Brethren, Why do you strive so with these arguments, when the apostle Paul did not, nor did the Lord Himself? The Lord had ministered to multitudes, thousands were swept into the church at Pentecost, numerous churches were started by brother Paul, and these things were not done without an abundance of instruction, directives, and exhortations given; (not to mention all kinds of pagans being saved- having unmentionable immoral prior practices, and with all this, never were we told to abolish existing homes! What?, have some of you somehow become more spiritual and discerning than they? And that they somehow neglected advising us of something that you, if you are of that mind, feel is damning? Are you better judges than they as to what is an issue? No my brethren we are not- and to split up homes is no where commanded under the new covenant, nor was it the custom of the churches of God, by any indication- it was not an issue and therefore neither should we make it one. Having for a long time endured much suffering from many brethren concerning this, and having diligently searched the scriptures and prayerfully and honestly sought the Lord; there is no way that I can imagine or believe that God wants us to be splitting homes up- when our desire should be just the opposite! "God hates putting away" and instead of doing that we should be encouraging, upholding and strengthening them- not adding more damage to what the enemy is already doing. However, if it is possible and reasonable that a previous marriage can be saved and the issue of children is somewhat equal, the spouses first obligation is to the first spouse, or the first retrievable marriage.
And here is a "rule of thumb" to be prayerfully considered as to who should remain married or who the church should marry: 1) What is the situation NOW ? (2) What does LOVE say ? (even the Spirit of Christ) pertaining to all involved- especially the children. Splitting another home would only be making the situation worse and two wrongs will not make it right... When one has sinned, and repented of it sorrowing, we need to forgive them in meekness, considering our ownselves that there but by the grace of God go we, and move on in the Spirit of God's love and mercy- "Go and sin no more". What a brother or sister has done in the past may have been sin, and they will have suffered for it; and therefore strongly teach others and their own children the horror of it, and not to do the same. But, to split up a ( now) God-fearing, intact Christian home and family, would only be creating more heartache- contrary to the Spirit of God.
MAY THE GRACE AND PEACE OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST BE WITH YOU ALL.
Comment on Marriages
There was a time when divorce was not considered an option- or extremely rare, but in this modern age of woman's lib, equal rights, both parents working outside the home, immorality, birth control, materialism, Godlessness and so forth, something has gone terribly wrong in our world, and a pendulum showing the proportion of intact homes to those broken would clearly have swung completely to the apposite side in a very short amount of time.
I don't say that I was such a good husband, for often I was likewise involved in foolishness, nevertheless, I attribute the bulk of the reason that I have lost three marriages to the times we are living in (of general rebellion to God's principals), and predominantly due to woman's lack of lack of commitment, dependence upon the man, and essential deviation to God's standard of the man's headship and authority in the home.
Comment on Child Support
I have been confronted with the issue of paying child support with all three of my marital situations and my position has remained the same from the outset. When I was very naive about all these "domestic relations" issues, after my first wife, Lisa, left me, I remember when asked "what I could pay?" was- that it is more my concern what their actual financial needs are- and that should be my responsibility to help with. But that seemed irrelevant. Further, when a woman leaves her husband, and effect is able to give the children to her new man as their father- he (the new man) than should likewise assume the responsibility as the father to support them, for there is no way that the estranged relationship that the non-custodial (visiting) parent may retain is any way comparable to being with those children in an everyday living environment, and therefore he/she should not be compelled to pay as if he were in a normal parent/child relationship. Further, the governments involvement and enforcement in all of this has done far more damage in separating fathers from their children than it has done any supportive good (comparatively speaking) as far as I am concerned. Further- when a woman is permitted to leave her husband (for any reason) and unite with a new man, she should not be entitled to have her injured spouse support (especially) what may be an adulterous relationship. And if the state would wrongfully abduct someone's children, (and surely the state is well funded ) that the parents should not be expected to support that. However there are extenuating and individual situations which can not be covered under a general position like I have just expressed, or as the state has attempted to do with their "boiler plate" generic policies for all.
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