Thursday, January 22, 2009


Discussion on MennoDiscuss:

Here's my understanding: if you have a spouse, you should be faithful to your spouse. (I'm leaving out discussion of the exception clauses in Matthew to simplify discussion here.)

Some people here seem to believe that if a divorced person marries another, while the original spouse is still living, the new marriage doesn't really count as a marriage. They encourage a person in that situation to get out of the marriage they are in and attempt to reconcile with the original spouse.

I don't see that as biblical. Here's why.

When Jesus teaches against divorce, he does not say that divorce is OK as long as it isn't your first marriage. Divorcing your second spouse doesn't heal your first divorce. If you divorce again, that's just adding another divorce to your tally.
In Deuteronomy 24, if you marry another, you aren't allowed to come back to your first spouse. The original marriage has been broken. And practically speaking, the odds of reconciliation after one partner has married are very, very small.
In Matthew 5 and Matthew 19, adultery comes from getting married to another person, which breaks the first marriage. In German, the word for adultery is Ehebruch, "marriage-breaking", and I think that's a biblical understanding. Once you marry another, you are one flesh with your current spouse, you have broken your first marriage.
When Jesus refers to remarriage adultery, it's getting married to another, not the state of being married thereafter. That's what "marries another" means. I know some people suggest that it doesn't mean this in the original Greek, but I've looked pretty carefully at the Greek, it really does refer to marrying another.

Some of y'all clearly disagree with me. Can you explain why? If someone has married another, what good can come of divorcing your current spouse, and how would that divorce be a sign of following the call of Jesus to not divorce?


Matthew 5: 31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorce,’ 32 but I tell you that whoever puts away his wife, except for the cause of sexual immorality, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries her when she is put away commits adultery.

Note that Jesus says nothing about first marriages vs. second marriages here, putting away your wife is wrong.

Deuteronomy 24:1 When a man takes a wife, and marries her, then it shall be, if she find no favor in his eyes, because he has found some unseemly thing in her, that he shall write her a bill of divorce, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.
2 When she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife.
3 If the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorce, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, who took her to be his wife;
4 her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before Yahweh: and you shall not cause the land to sin, which Yahweh your God gives you for an inheritance.

Note that once you remarry, going back to the original spouse is not an option.

I think that ignoring the exception clause in Matthew is a grave mistake.

Becuse that exception clause gives us a hint as to God's idea of marriage. Divorce, Jesus is clearly saying, does not break the marriage commitment. When a person is divorced, the vows of marriage still stand. Otherwise, it could not be adultery for a person to get married after divorce. This is one of the errors we often see in our Christian culture, because most people think a marriage is broken after divorce, but Jesus clearly says that it is not.

However, the exception clause teaches us something else. That adultery DOES break a marriage. Why does Jesus give the exception clause? Since divorce doesn't break a marriage, divorce can only make sense IF THE MARRIAGE IS ALREADY BROKEN. Thus, adultery is the act that revokes the marriage. Of course, forgiveness can be offered and the vows renewed, but adultery breaks the marriage.

Thus, remarriage is only problematic if adultery has not taken place. But if it has, the old covenant is broken and remarriage is possible.

If there is adultery and a marriage is broken, then a person gets remarried. If they separate from the second spouse to return to the first, it is not a restoration of the original marriage-- it is breaking another vow in order to commit adultery again!

Thus, how I read what Jesus is saying, it is sin to break a marriage at all. But it is continuing the same crime to break a second marriage to try to retore the first.

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