Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Divorce & Remarriage Revisited

After my message on Sunday I had a few people wish that I had answered a fourth question: "What if I divorced and remarried and I realize now that I did it poorly?" The implied question there is..."Am I doomed by God to live a miserable life?" And/or..."Does God consider me an adulterer from here on out?" Those are pretty serious questions that deserve an answer.

I can't imagine living with the thought that God saw me as an adulterer and there was no recourse. So let me give this a shot.

First of all, let me say that Jesus' words about divorce and remarriage leave little "wiggle room". To NOT be considered an adulterer requires either rejecting his words or observing in scripture how we might be able to resolve being an adulterer. But, unless someone broke covenant with you, you have to own the adultery part.

Now, as bad as that is, who hasn't failed God? And specifically relating to marriage...who hasn't WANTED to break covenant with their spouse? It's admirable that people don't follow through on their desires (and not divorce) but no one is perfect. And like any sin, there is forgiveness, there is reparation and restoration. God always offers us a fresh start but there may be some conditions attached and some consequences that follow.

If you find yourself in this scenario, I recommend a few things. First, admit the adultery. Own it. You can't find forgiveness if you don't admit the guilt. And not just the overall guilt but the specific things you did wrong, the specific character flaws that led you to divorce and remarry in the manner that you did (maybe selfishness, pride, impatience, bitterness, etc.).

Second, ask and receive God's forgiveness. All sin is forgiveable if you are truly sorry and willing to forsake it. This is how you can put the adultery in the past. Next, ask forgiveness of those you hurt; your ex-spouse, your children, your friends, maybe even your current spouse if you realize that you entered into the marriage inappropriately. That doesn't invalidate your current marriage but clearing the air of past wrongs will help the future of your marriage.

Finally, make any amends that are outstanding. You need to bring closure. Leaving issues unresolved only causes personal and relational discord - not only with people but with God. As hard as these things may seem to do, not doing them will only cause you inner turmoil. Doing them will bring you the freedom you have been looking for.

Sixty percent of remarriages end in divorce. That tells me that there is a flaw in the whole divorce/remarriage scenario. Many reasons could be pointed out but I think a very big flaw is that people fail to do what I've outlined here - bringing closure to past wrongs. Marriage is hard enough when things go well. When you bring all kinds of baggage from a previously failed marriage into a new one, it's a wonder any work at all. I welcome your feedback.


Dawn Ringling said...

I really agree with you on the necessity of dealing with the past before moving on-- especially when it comes to the emotional and psychological garbage that breaks up marriages in the first place.

I spoke to a number of people this week who know they remarried for wrong reasons and are now wondering if God sees their marriage as one long bout of adultery-- and if there is grace for them, despite the fact that they are happy and walking with Christ.

A few weeks ago you mentioned that the passages on divorce and remarriage aren't a lot, but as you wrote above, there is very little "wriggle room." At that time, you suggested that we look to the rest of scripture for answers-- and not just specifically to these specific ones.

May I suggest David and Bathsheba's saga? Granted, the culture of the day wasn't so immersed in divorce and remarriage. When David wanted to marry another (which wasn't usually for "right" reasons) he could just add a wife to his harem-- no need to get a divorce.

With Bathsheba, who was married, he had to kill her husband to marry her, compounding adultery with murder. Old Testament law could have required the pregnant Bathsheba to be stoned once her baby was born, and for David to raise the child.

But, God's grace led David (and I believe Bathsheba) through a painful but merciful process of repentance. One of the consquences was the loss of the child. Scripture is crystal clear on how deeply grieved David was over his sin.

My point is that God didn't require stoning, annulment of the marriage or any of the other things he could have done-- he BLESSED their marriage once David dealt with all the ramifications of his sin. God blessed a marriage concieved in adultery. Pretty shocking, but very true.

Evidence of this is seen in the next child born to David and Bathsheba. Solomon-- who was famed for his wisdom. Ironic huh? The child of adulters gifted with wisdom? Not only that, but Solomon was the successor to the throne even though he wasn't even David's first born!

Would God do that if he viewed David and Bathsheba's marriage as one continual act of adultery?

The other thing that amazes me is that at the end of David's life, when he is on his death bed, Bathsheba is the one he calls to be with him. She was very dear to him up to the very end.

This tells me, that through their marriage, their relationship grew and flourished. It didn't die. It wasn't necessarily doomed because of their sin.

My guess is that they dealt with their sin and their issues that led to the sin-- check out Psalms 51. But mostly, I believe, David and Bathsheba's marriage was blessed because of God's grace. Even after such sin.

Remy Diederich said...

I think the David and Bathsheba story is helpful in the discussion. No offense, but you've romanticized the story a bit. Bathsheba is never mentioned in the story after she gives birth. So we really don't know what their relationhis was like. When David was dying, he wasn't with Bathsheba, he was with a virgin (not sexually). The only reason Bathsheba came to his side was to beg him to make Solomon king and not Amnon. - But, that correction aside, David did bring closure to his sin through repentance and God clearly did bless Solomon. So, I agree, this is helpful. Thanks.

Dawn Ringling said...

The romanticizing comes from a few commentaries I read-- one of them stated that in that time, as a matter of propriety and ceremony, only the most of the wives (if any at all) were allowed into the death chamber. And then it was only to nurse or care for the dying king, which is why Abishag (the virgin you mentioned) was there. The fact that Bathsheba went right in was a pretty big statment of the strength of her relationship with David.

But... I agree...these are commentaries, not the exact words of scripture. Commentaries and historians, however, can help us understand a culture we just don't relate to... and gain a deeper understanding of the significance certain actions and ceremonies might have had back then.

As for Bathsheba begging--that word has connotations that don't quite fit what happened. Solomon had already been chosen by God to be king. She didn't need to beg. She simply needed David to be aware of something that he did not know about. And scripture seems to state that she didn't do this on her own.

Nathan was the one who asked Bathsheba to go in to David's bedchamber. He even told her exactly what to say to David about Adonijah wrongfully assuming the throne and offered to back her up. Like the Mephibosheth story, Bathsheba and Solomon may have been executed had Nathan not done something to make David aware of the situation.

Back to the original point of God's grace upon David and Bathsheba, I thought of something else interesting. Jesus' lineage was through David and Bathsheba, through Solomon.

Remy Diederich said...

:) Very good!