Tag Archives: divorce and remarriage

On another site, a while ago so I don't have the link, somebody was saying that a couple was getting married and one of them had been divorced - she was having a problem with that because there was no way that she could be sure (as part of the congregation) that the couple could Biblically marry.

And did not trust the church leadership to have the discernment to make that call.  I think what the person wanted was for the divorced person to stand up in front of the congregation and explain why they were divorced and make a justification (in front of the congregation) to remarry.

My feeling at the time (and still is) -

  • if that person had sinned and repented, it's none of my business, it's between them and God.  If the church leadership knows the story, that's good enough for me.
  • If the person had NOT sinned, it's none of my business, it's between them and God.  If the church leadership knows the story, that's good enough for me.
  • If I don't trust my church leadership to make the call, it's time to look for another church.

If I NEED to know the "back story" about a couple who is getting married, I need to check my own heart for the potential of gossip and holding repented of sin against a person that isn't even liable to me to start with.

That said:

I also thought at the time that if there was a process within a denomination (somewhat like annulment, but realistically looking at the cause of the divorce)...and issuing a certificate by the church board stating that they had worked with this person through the divorce and found them to be free to remarry, it would (I think) leave a lot fewer headaches and heartaches for a divorced person who wants to carry on with their life.

There is seldom only one "guilty party" in a divorce - and a discerning church board would know this.  If a person has committed "porneia" and repented - wanting to stay married and is committed to faithfulness from that point forward...and the spouse refuses to forgive...

that puts the unforgiving spouse in the position of being the "guilty party."  A repentant person is then held hostage by the sin of their spouse who is divorcing them.

Many divorces are so confused and convoluted that it would truly take a mature and discerning board to sort things out.

I'm not suggesting a "divorce sacrament" - but rather a system by which a board or church leader (trained in counseling) could work through the repentance process (since there is rarely only one guilty party) or the divorce process (if truly innocent) and issue a certificate or letter that the person could carry to their next church (if there is a next church) that verifies to the pastor that church leadership has overseen the situation or process and found the person Biblically able to remarry (and that would vary by denomination.)

We stand before the church and say "we are getting married in the eyes of the Lord."

Why not stand before the church and say, "this union is Biblically dissolved?"


I was listening to Issues, etc. (podcast from last week) and the guest (a very regular guest) Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse reacted in horror when host Todd Wilken talked about the Episcopal Church having a ceremony to "celebrate" divorce.

One of the things I've contemplated when studying divorce and remarriage in the church has been how to communicate to the congregation that a member who is (or in the process of becoming) divorced has been before the elders and is deemed by the church to have the right to remarry?

  1. the Episcopal Church does not call it a "sacrament"
  2. there is a point at which this sort of ceremony would be useful
  3. there is an emotional healing that takes place when a person can stand before a church congregation and have them know that the church leadership is standing with them.

The Roman Catholic Church has the annulment process, by which a marriage (no matter how long it has lasted or how many children it has brought into this world) is declared "not a marriage" to the church.  It does not deny that the marriage existed legally, but rather that - even if a priest presided over and blessed the vows - the marriage never existed in the eyes of the church because - in the hearts of the couple, or one or the other of the couple - it was not a sacramental marriage.

I disagree with this because one (or both) of the people involved may have very much made the covenant vows before God and man, and the heart was very much in line with what God intended marriage to be.   People sin.  I can come up with a couple of examples of how "annulment"  may not be fair to one party.

Just one...a man enters a marriage with the intent to stand before God and man and love her as Christ loves the church until they day one of them breathes no more.  She decides that she'd rather not be married and leaves...and then gets an annulment so she can get married in her parents' church.  The husband is left - after taking vows that meant the world to him and that HE kept...and knowing that those vows meant nothing in the eyes of the church, since the church just told him that marriage never existed in their eyes.

To tell a person who wanted to stay married that their vows were not sacramental, leaves them at the mercy of the spiritual life of their ex-spouse.

Where Rome gets it right:  The certificate of annulment comes with an assumption that the parties of the divorce have the Biblical right to remarry.

more in another post...



Several years ago I was working with first graders trying to "get" math. One young lady really struggled with the concepts and one day she huffed and puffed and finally rolled her eyes and said, "I am so happy that Jesus invented erasers!"

Jesus is like that.

Psalm 103:12
as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

Isaiah 43:25
"I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.

It is people that have the eraser problem.

In another place, we're rehasing divorce and remarriage...Here is a quote from Mark Driscoll's church's position paper.

"...The consequence of sexual sin is grave and not resolvable for the offending spouse, outside the mercy and grace of the other spouse. Hardness of heart will demand punishment. Mercy and grace will work toward authentic repentance and restoration."

There are a couple of problems with this position.
1) This entire position leaves out GOD! Forgiveness and restoration depends not on God, but on people.
2) This position assumes that if the "offended" spouse refuses to forgive, it must be because the "offending" spouse is not authentically forgiven. It is dangerous to assume that.
3) Nothing is said of the sin of having a hard heart. If (generic) you refuse to forgive a repentant person, that is one of the things that should make you question whether or not you are even a Christian.

In this position, restoration depends entirely on another human being. A sinner can stand repentant before God and it just wouldn't matter.

Another place our human erasers have problems is with the false separation of forgiveness and restoration.

When we are forgiven by God, He does not hold our sins against us.
Often, when we are "forgiven" by people, we hear, "I forgive you, but I just can't..."

One (now departed) woman I knew said, "I forgive him, but I don't have to like him and I don't have to talk to him and I don't have to accept him." Is that forgiveness? It sure certainly isn't restoration.

And it is the opposite of 2 Cor 2:7-8 7 "...so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him."

There are three things needed for a sinner to be restored to the body. Forgiveness, comfort, reaffirming love.

Jay Adams says in "From Forgiven to Forgiving":

The word reaffirm is a specialized term...meaning to officially reinstate. When one repents and is readmitted into the church, he may not be accepted as a second-class citizen of the kingdom of God. God has no such citizens. The repentant one comes back with full rights and privileges of membership into the church...Now, in most reconciliation contexts, someone will not be reentering the church after having been disciplined out of it, but, in an unofficial way, the same thing holds. Neither you nor others should remain aloof from the brother or sister who is reinstated. Fu7ll fellowship must be restored. He should be restored with active, loving words and deeds by all..."

If you don't have this book, I strongly urge you to follow the link and get it (I don't get a cut, Baker is just my favorite Christian bookstore), read it and put it into practice. Putting the principles in this book into action has changed my relationship with my daughter. She knows that if she has repented for an action and I bring it up again, she can (and does) call me on it. I do the same with her. This recipricol accountability has changed things.

I know that it is impossible for a person to truly take a another at his or her word and forgive and not hold it against them. It is truly impossible. How can we comfort the person who sinned against us?!?

The answer is that we can't. Romans 7:18 says, "...For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. "

But there's hope, Philippians 4:13 says, "I can do all things through him who strengthens me."

A (then unsaved) friend of mine was once going through a very difficult situation and she said to me, "I'm not going to be able to do this without God, am I." Nope.

And no, forgiving God's way requires God. It keeps us humble and it keeps the forgiven one restored.

I think God planned it that way.