DIVORCE AND FORGIVENESS

It is heart breaking that so many marriages end, even after many years together, in divorce. We make the covenant with each other that we will stand by and be true to one another in sickness and in health, for richer for poorer, for better or worse till death do we part. But in close to half of all marriages that start with such a firm covenant and promise to each other actually fail to keep the covenant. The reasons marriages fail are as varied as the colors in the rainbow. I believe that far more of them end because one or both the partners have been unfaithful to their marriage partner and shared the bed with someone else than we like to admit.  Through the years in talking with hundreds of couples who are going through divorce, most of the time they claim there has been no unfaithfulness.  But as time goes by it eventually comes out that one or both have been unfaithful to the other.

I feel sure that most know that Jesus declared that the one legitimate reason for divorcing and marrying another is sexual immorality (Matthew 19:1-9; 5:32-34). A hard reality is that very few of those who divorce one partner to marry someone else have the second marriage to last any longer than the first. There isn’t any way that we can visualize what it will do to our family and to our own emotional and spiritual health for us to divorce our partner and the parent of our children to marry someone else who has children of their own. We may imagine that we will have the Brady bunch all over again, but it seldom happens that way. When one starts working out how to make time for each parent to be with their children and bring another man and woman into the mix who have very different ideas on how to bring up a child the conflict is often extreme.

Does that mean that divorce is never the right answer? No, there are times when divorce is the best answer available. Sometimes it seems that the only alternative to divorce is murder and divorce is a better choice. In some marriages the conflict and the mistreatment of one or both partners is horrible. Some people have no business ever being married because they don’t have the ability to live in a civil way with anyone else. If one is in a marriage where they are physically abused and live in constant fear for their life they need to get out of it. It is a huge abuse of the principles of Scripture to tell someone in an abusive marriage that they should stay in it since they don’t know for sure that they have been in a sexual relationship with anyone else.

When Jesus talked about the respect for marriage and the reason for getting a divorce it was with view to normal people who were committed to God. When a Christian is married to a none Christian and the unbeliever departs the brother or sister is no longer under bondage (I Corinthians 7:15).

What happens if one who was never interested in living for God or being right with him is married and is a horrible partner and the marriage ends in divorce? What if the same person then marries someone else and the two of them meet a Christian couple who begins to tell them about God and the church and they are converted to Christ? Does that mean that they aren’t married correctly and need to separate from each other? Paul said in I Corinthians 7:16-25 that a person is to remain in the state in which they are called. If one is married when they become a Christian they are to remain married. If they are divorced they are to remain single. But if they marry they don’t sin.

But what if one is a believer and they get involved in some sinful behavior and watch their marriage fall apart and they get married to someone that may not care about God or his will or one who is devoted to God? Can this person come to themselves and come back to God? Of course they can, after all the most loved parable Jesus told was of one who was a son leaving the Father intentionally and living like a heathen, then coming to himself and returning to the Father who received him back in love.

There is no sin that can’t be forgiven if one repents of the sins they have committed God is ready to forgive and put us right back in our place as his children. Repentance is a change of mind, a change of loyalty. It is turning from sin and to God to follow Him. Repentance doesn’t mean we must undo every wrong ever done. Look again to the prodigal son. How much did the Father have him to correct to come back? Look at the story of Jesus with the woman at the well in John four. How many marriage problems did he demand she correct before she could be forgiven? Sure her life would change. But repentance as taught in Scripture doesn’t demand the breaking up of more marriages to correct the problem of divorce.

In I Corinthians 6:9-11 Jesus said that the unrighteous cannot inherit the kingdom of God. He named those who had been guilty of things like adultery, fornication, drunkenness, theft, homosexuality and such like. Then Jesus said “such were some of you. But you are washed, you are sanctified, you are justified in the name of the Lord and by the Spirit of our God.”

Sin is a curable disease. It is cured by the blood of Christ. The blood is applied by our faith, repentance and obedience to the Lord.

People who have gone through divorce and who are now trying to live for God, don’t need the church shoving them back down and making demands on them that God doesn’t make. They need the care, love and acceptance that was true of Jesus during his earthly ministry. I’m afraid too often the church is more like the religious leaders wanting to stone the woman caught in adultery than Jesus who said “Let him that is without sin cast the first stone.” He also said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

Our place is to follow Jesus and have the same compassion he has for people.

About leoninlittlerock

Preaching minister for Central church of Christ in Little Rock. Author of over 20 books including: When a Loved one Dies, Spiritual Development, Skid Marks on the Family Drive, Challenges in the church, To Know Christ and A Drink of Living Water.
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