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Friday, January 30, 2009

Marriage, Divorce & Remarriage (6) A real life "Case History"

In order to illustrate the application of the principles which I’d come to understand from scripture, let me first recount a real life situation which was shared with us a few years ago by a young woman who had divorced the man to whom she was married. Secondly, I’d encourage you to consider the following question for yourself,….. “What would I have taught this young woman or how would I have advised her if she had been talking with me?” and thirdly, I will share with you what we taught her and to what conclusion she came as a result.

Anita, (not her real name), was a young Christian woman in her mid or late twenties who was brought into our lives by another Christian woman whom we knew. She seemed to desire to get to know the Word of God better and always enjoyed the company of other Christians. Some time after we first met her, we invited her home for dinner in order to get to know her better.

In the course of our conversation, she began to open up about her past and shared that while she would love to be married and raise a family, she believed that such an option was not open to her. When we asked her , “Why?”, she shared with us that she had been previously married and divorced. Many of her friends had counseled her and encouraged her to forget the past, remarry and get on with her life. But she said to us, “I have never had liberty in my conscience to consider remarriage because of what the Bible says about remarrying after divorce.” (She was thinking of Matthew 19:9 and Mark 10:11&12: “Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication ,and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her that is put away doth commit adultery.”
“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 marry another, she committieth adultery.”)

Anita explained to us that, before she had married him, she had lived for a time with this man who was divorced from his first wife. In fact, she personally knew his wife and children. She told us that she had been awfully burdened with guilt about her ongoing relationship with this man because they were not married. She felt that if they could just get married, that would solve the problem as they would no longer be “living in sin”.

So, at last, he agreed and they were legally married. But to her dismay, her feelings of guilt were not allayed but rather intensified! To make matters worse, the man she married soon began to physically abuse her! And so, she recounted to us, she had finally divorced him and thus ended her relationship with him.

On account of the choices she had made, the consequences she had reaped and the understanding which she had of the scriptures at that time,….she felt that she had no option but to remain single the rest of her days. She was willing to do so, but deeply longed for love and a family of her own.

Now, had you been the one to whom Anita had shared her story, how would you have responded? Would you have agreed with her? Would you have shared another understanding of the scriptures with her that might have given her other options? Or would you not have had confidence to give her any teaching at all? Please pause for a few moments to consider these questions before continuing….

Personally, having recently come to consider every scripture in the Bible which seemed to relate to the marriage and divorce issues, I realized that without personal knowledge of all the details, it would be foolhardy to give advice one way or the other. But I was confident that there is no moral situation so tangled that there is not a righteous remedy if one is willing to be obedient and submissive to God. So I asked Anita if I could share some things with her that I had recently learned from the scriptures. She was glad for me to do so.

So I opened the scriptures to Genesis 2:18-25 and read the passage to Anita and then turned to Matthew 19:1-9 and had her read it. I briefly recounted how the Lord Jesus set forth, in Matthew 19, six features which defined marriages which God joined. We then talked about each of the six perversions of marriage which were the opposites of these six marks. Then , to be sure Anita understood, I asked her to read Matthew 19:1-6 again and to explain back to me the six features of marriages which God joins. She had understood and was able to clearly explain them back to me.

Rather than telling her anything, I asked her, “Anita, have you ever been a spouse in a marriage which God has joined?” She paused for a few moments to consider, and then she clearly responded, “No, I haven’t! The marriage which I had was marked by only five of these, not six!” When I asked her, “Which one was lacking?” She immediately responded, “My marriage was an adulterous one because the man I married had divorced his first wife and she was still living!”

Anita, realized for the first time that she had never been in a marriage union which God had joined. Rather, her marriage had been one which was judged by God from the moment it was entered into and ought to have been put asunder because her relationship with the man in question had been an adulterous one, even after they were married!

Hearing her conclusions in the matter, I said to her, “Anita, if all that you have recounted to us is true, I see no scriptural hindrance to you entering into a future marriage should the Lord bring along a Christian man who is not divinely joined to a living spouse.”

I’ll never forget the look on her face as Anita heaved a big sigh and exclaimed, “This makes so much sense! NO ONE has EVER explained the scriptures like this to me before!”

The conversation we shared with Anita that afternoon taught me at least two vital lessons:
(1) Everyone’s “first marriage” is not necessarily joined by God! And
(2) There are many who, through similar experiences and similar misunderstandings of scripture, are either trapped in marriages which God has judged or believe that any remarriage after divorce from such a marriage would be adulterous!

I am more firmly convinced than ever before that scriptural teaching on these matters is vitally important! Every misunderstanding of scripture causes people to believe a lie of the Enemy (Satan). And every lie of Satan that is believed brings those who believe it into bondage. (Bondage is the inability to be or to do what God intends.) But the Lord Jesus declared, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” (That freedom is the ability to be and to do what God intends!)

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