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Redemption in Divorce and Remarriage

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               REDEMPTIVE APPROACH TO DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE


By  Peter E. Barkhuizen, ThD 



     Most people are directly or indirectly affected by divorce.
The tabloids have desacralized the marriage covenant, and many,
including some of our local church saints, can not wait to find
out how things are going with the fourth or fifth anticipated
marriage of their favorite movie star or country singer.
     In the classified section of many national newspapers, you
will come across the following notice: "Because of the recent 'no
fault' divorce law, our $100 divorce service includes all legal
fees for complete annulment, call 1-800-EASY-DIVORCE."

[Then, the man possessed that right by simply writing on a piece
of stone or parchment:
"I divorce you, (woman's name)__!"And it was done as he handed it
to her (Dent. 24:13). No lawyers, courts, judges, fairness, nor
child welfare issues were involved.]

     The secular message is clear: marriage is a simple, social
contract that can be easily terminated.
     The early practice of divorce was simply to give a "letter
of divorce," reading as follows: "I (name of husband) hereby give
you (name of wife) this letter of divorce." That's how simple it
was. This procedure seems to have been instigated mostly by the
husband. After receiving the letter of divorce, the wife had to
leave ... happily, or not so happily. Sometimes the notice was
issued without much prior warning, perhaps the reason why the
ladies adorned themselves with as many of their prized
possessions and jewelry as possible - just in case of a sudden
departure!

     The age-old marriage and divorce questions still prevail: do
I have biblical grounds to divorce and remarry? If I remarry,
will I be living in adultery, while my ex is still alive? Should
I stay married for the children's sake? What must I do now that
my spouse admitted to two counts of adultery? These are all
legitimate, real-life questions.

     Many articles have been written about all the possible
reasons for divorce, and expositors have reasoned for ages about
the true meaning of Matthew 15:19, and the Greek words "moicheia"
and "porneia," which could include adultery, denial of the
marital rights, sexual perversion, etc. Paul uses the same words
in Galatians 5:19. In 1 Corinthians 7:15 it seems that
abandonment by an unbelieving spouse could be another reason for
divorce.
     I don't think it's necessary to become too "theological" in
finding a reason for divorce. Nobody wants to stay married to
someone simply because he or she does not commit adultery. Could
there be other factors involved?

     Some Christians treat divorced members much the same way
they treat ministers who "have fallen from grace." They are
useless to God and His church, because of their sins we all know
about. (Praise the Lord no one can look into our own closets!) Is
this how Jesus treats sinners?
     Though the Bible nowhere says that divorce is a sin, it does
say that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16).
(Malachi 2:6 is very misunderstood - see my studies on Divorce
and Remarriage for the truth of the matter - Keith Hunt)

     Some believe divorce should never be allowed; others think
it may be allowed for just about any reason of "incompatibility"
that would include snoring, having cold feet, etc. The fact is,
people do divorce. Divorce happens. What should our attitude be?

DIVORCE HAPPENS

     The issue of divorce among church members has been debated
for centuries and will be debated until the end of the age.
Different denominations have varied approaches to the question of
divorce, ranging from an almost militantly harsh attitude to a
very easy-going, milder approach, practiced mostly by "nice"
ministers "who understand and will not judge."
     And then we have the more complicated issues, such as in my
native South Africa, where some of the tribal Zulus and Xhosas
have 5,7, or 9 wives - and then they become Christians! (They
normally end up keeping the first wife and setting the others
"free," resulting in even more complications!)

     I personally believe the reason most people divorce is
because of the three letter word, SIN. No matter what form it
takes, sin and sinful living cause divorce: selfishness, greed,
lust, uncontrollable desires, etc. Most couples who get married
do so because they love each other at the time. If anything comes
between them afterwards, it is because of sin. Do you agree with
this assessment?

WHAT SHOULD OUR ATTITUDE BE?

     Please allow me to ask you to evaluate two hypothetical (yet
very possible) statements, and consider which statement you would
rather hear your spouse make.

(1) "On my recent three week business trip, in a moment of
weakness, I committed adultery. I am so sorry about this. Please
forgive me. I could have kept quiet about this, but I trust you,
and I plead with you to forgive me."

OR

(2) "As you know, we have been married for 20 years, and I have
always been faithful to you, and never ever thought of committing
adultery, not even once. However, during my recent three week
business trip, I examined my own heart and feelings very
carefully. I hate to tell you this, but I no longer love you. Our
marriage is dead, and I'm going to see my attorney tomorrow
morning. Nothing you can say or do will make me change my mind. I
simply have no feelings for you anymore."

     Which one of these statements would you prefer if you had a
choice? Perhaps number one?

     The point I want to make is this, adultery is only one
reason why divorce could be considered if you want to end your
marriage. However, you most certainly don't want to be married to
someone who does not love you, adultery or no adultery. What do
you think?

     Before I tell you what my own practice and attitude has been
during many years of ministry, let me show you what influenced
and impressed me most.

     I believe that sin, in whatever shape or form, is ultimately
the reason for any divorce.

     A marriage is a covenant, not a contract. A contract can be
broken, and it normally includes a specific time, like the lease
of a property contract, any landlord understands. A covenant is
of a permanent nature, and it can never be broken.
     In the Old Testament, we find the record of how God made a
covenant with the children of Israel. This was a marriage-type
covenant that would bind God and Israel as husband and wife. "For
your Maker is your husband, The LORD of hosts is His name; and
your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; He is called the God of
the whole earth" (Isaiah 54:5 NKJV).
     When we read 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 in the New Testament, it
becomes evident that Paul recognized this first marriage between
the pre-incarnate Messiah and Israel. He wrote about the
continual presence of the "Rock." We find another eschatological
reference to the "Lamb's wife" in Revelation 21:9.
     Like a husband and wife who recite their wedding vows, God
had a wedding covenant spoken by Him on Mount Sinai ... and the
bride (Israel) agreed to enter into the covenant relationship.
     This is what the Groom said: "Now therefore, if ye will obey
My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a
peculiar treasure unto Me above all people: for all the earth is
Mine" (Exodus 19:5-6).
     And this is how the bride responded: "And all the people
answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we
will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the
LORD" (Exodus 19:8).
     In an ancient Hebrew wedding, there was a type of document
used called a "ketuvah," which expanded on the promises and
responsibilities of the marriage almost like a modern
pre-nuptial.
     You may read part of God's ketuvah in Deuteronomy 4:5-8. God
made a promise that provided a "take back" clause in the event
His bride should break her part of the ketuvah. "And I will
betroth thee unto Me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto Me
in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in
mercies. I will even betroth thee unto Me in faithfulness: and
thou shalt know the LORD" (Hosea 2:19,20).
     Here we find a prediction or prophecy of a forthcoming
renewal of the wedding relationship after the divorce. You may
read about the details in Deuteronomy 30:1-3.

     The Old Testament is riddled with instances of "marital
problems" in the marriage between God and the children of Israel.
In Deuteronomy 10:12-16 we read about the excellent counseling
effort of Pastor Moses as he desperately tried to save the
marriage.
     But the counseling did not help, and God indeed issued
Israel a "bill of divorce." Jeremiah 3:8 records, "And I saw,
when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed
adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet
her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the
harlot also."
     Now please remember that even though the letter of divorce
was given, the bride still had the ketuvah, which included the
promise, "I will betroth you to Me forever." One day the bride
will be allowed to return, and her reconciliation will again be
based upon her willingness to once again promise to live
by the terms and conditions of the ketuvah. Jeremiah 4:1 says,
"if thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the LORD, return unto Me:
and if thou wilt put away thine abominations out of My sight,
then shalt thou not remove."

     I believe that before couples get divorced, and after
counseling, the better alternative would be to attend their
pastor's special "renewal of wedding vows Sabbath." This would
include a special Sabbath where all church members are invited to
renew their wedding vows. Some may even want to try and slip into
their original wedding gown of 30 years ago (Ouch!). There is the
wedding cake, the reception meal, etc. It is a very special
occasion. The conclusion of the matter is this: whatever the
sin-problem was, the Bible does not say you must divorce. As long
as there is still sincere love, you ought to consider the "take
back" clause.

(This sounds nice and may in SOME cases help to resolve the
matter, but the simple truth is that it takes two to tango. In
many cases one of the two simply will not tango, and the sin in
one can be so deep they will never change their mental attitude
and way of life, or the one just picks up and leaves the
marriage. The break-up of a marriage can be very complicated as
for the reasons why the break-up, and so deep, if it's some of
the more ugly sins that one partner will not repent of, it could
be life-threatening, it is then better indeed to divorce. See my
full in-depth study on Divorce and Remarriage - Keith Hunt)

     And now we come to the real question: 

WHAT ABOUT REMARRIAGE?

     I believe that sin, in whatever shape or form, is ultimately
the reason for any divorce. Once you are divorced, it becomes a
matter of fact. Sin is sin, and the results of sin are
irrevocable. Does that mean the divorced person has committed the
unpardonable sin, or could it be that the blood of Jesus can wash
away all sin, even the sin that caused the divorce?

(Well....one of the partners may not have sinned at all, even
tried to hold the marriage together, but....if the other will not
tango and leaves the marriage, divorce is usually the end result.
So sin is not automatically by BOTH parties when a divorce
happens - Keith Hunt)

     It is my conviction that we ought to treat divorced people
the same as any other person who struggles with sin or suffers
the result of sin: forgive them and allow them a new beginning.

(Again - one of the two may not have sinned at all, but yes they
for sure should be allowed a new beginning, especially they, if
they have not sinned and tried to resolve the problem. If the
problem was so deep, such as finding out your mate was bi-sexual,
and would not repent of it, then the innocent one NEEDS to get a
divorce. 
God does NOT HATE divorce per se - Malachi 2:16 has been very
misunderstood - in one particular situation God commanded divorce
- see my study "Divorce and Remarriage" for the nitty-gritty of
this subject - Keith Hunt)


     As a minister, I have decided a long time ago that if I
should ever err, I would do so on the side of grace. So I have
decided to offer divorced persons the same option as I offer
backsliders, or people who want to "come back": Rebaptism. "Know
ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ
were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by
baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the
dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in
newness of life" (Romans 6:3-4).

(Yes of course, if the person left the church, the body of
Christ, went back into the world, with a divorce or other sin,
they can repent, they can be restored back to the faith - and
they should be able to have a new beginning - Keith Hunt)

     I can hear someone saying, "Oh, but that's easy, divorce,
get baptized, divorce, get baptized, divorce. . ." That's not
what we're talking about. God will not be mocked, and the entire
restoration process must be carefully guided by your pastor or
trusted counselor. Heartfelt contrition and genuine sorrow should
be the leading indicators of the candidate's sincerity.


     And when this is done, I trust that you will find enough
love in your heart to accept those who had been wounded "back
into the fold as new creatures in the LORD." Ephesians 4:32
states, "And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving
one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."
     And when they have a new beginning, do you think they can
get re-married? The God of the "ketuvah" makes it possible.
"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old
things are passed away; behold, all things are become new"
(2 Corinthians 5:17).

     It is my conviction that we ought to treat divorced people
the same as any other person who struggles with sin or suffers
the result of sin: forgive them and allow them a new beginning.

(But remember some divorced people have not sinned, the divorce
was beyond their control, or the sin in the other person was so
deep and ugly, which they would not repent of, a divorce was
indeed the best choice to make - Keith Hunt)

                              ...............

Dr.Pieter Barkhuizen lives with his wife, Yvonne, on a farm
outside of South Pittsburg, Tennessee. Dr.Barkhuizen welcomes
e-mail correspondence at Radiogoodhope@aol.com
and will be happy to mail you a FREE copy of his latest book, The
Fourth Dilemma. Simply request your copy. Also, he is available
to conduct weekend family life seminars or righteousness by faith
revivals.

Unless otherwise noted, all biblical quotes are from the King
James Version (KJV).

                              ...............

March/April 2007    ACTS Magazine - a publication of the General
Council of the Churches of God, Meridian, ID, USA

The added comments by myself Keith Hunt were not of course in the
original article published by Acts Magazine.

 
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Other Articles of Interest:
  Devorce and Remarriage #1 Divorce and Remarriage #2 Divorce and Remarriage #3

 
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