Tag Archives: remarriage

Letter to Remina

Dear Remina (not her real name). I understand your concern because today many people including believers, have various reasons for their actions, some trivial, others most dreadfully serious and some even life-threatening. Discernment is needed. Every case is different. All effort must be made to bring about reconciliation by God’s grace. God is for us and for stable and holy marriage. Yet that is not always possible.

And I agree with you there are “terrible situations of domestic violence that seem insane to remain in”. That’s why I say Christian leaders have to treat people with compassion and grace rather than simply washing their hands and dismissing people with an authoritative dogma.

Yes, as you say, in the John 4 story “Jesus didn’t say ‘go divorce your current husband’. She was not a Jew yet she showed fruits of repentance by witnessing for Jesus to all the townsfolk! But there is no suggestion that she had to divorce her current husband. In fact if she had divorced her current husband she might have continued to wreak havoc and confusion by breaking yet another covenant, another “one-flesh” union, destroying another home.

The Bible teacher you quoted sounds very correct. But in that article he leaves a lot left unsaid. The Pharisees took pride in “being logically and biblically correct”. But Jesus said to them “I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13) He is for the powerless, the needy, the broken. “A bruised reed he will not break; and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out” (Matthew 12:20)

“Knowledge puffs up while love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1) “If I have not love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13)

In marriage, we are told to strive for peace (1 Corinthians 7:15). Much damage is often already done. We are under the New Covenant and God writes His words on our hearts. Certainly grace is not lawlessness.

With divorce, marriage has ended, the covenant is broken. This is not what God wants but it happens and nothing humans can ever do can change it. All we can do, as with many awful sins like abortion, wicked slander, vicious verbal abuse, etc, is to determine never to repeat them.  If we go on repeating sin we are living in darkness, slaves to sin. Is it really that okay to tell someone to go and undertake another divorce, to ‘put asunder’ again?

This subject is complicated and cannot be reduced to simple dogmatic assertions.

If we think we can make up for our sin by works, great sacrifices—for example, by the traumatic ending of another marriage, it may be just seeking to justify ourselves like the Pharisees both ancient and contemporary. This will not lead to freedom, but confusion, disruption, condemnation, guilt will remain. We cannot justify ourselves. Jesus has made the sacrifice for us, become sin for us. At great cost.

I agree “True repentance is not verbal admission only; one must cease or at least try to refrain from continuing in a sin in order to claim biblical repentance.”  But righteous action will depend on individual circumstances.

So in one situation, S Paul advised “if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances” (1 Corinthians 7:15). He added “Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them”(7:20). So how do we apply that to each situation?

And privately, Jesus’ disciples were stunned  by Jesus’ simple statement about divorce: “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.” But Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given”. (Matthew 19:11)

The believer in a second marriage must be determined never to repeat known sin in any of its forms. And how can that be done if he or she is told to go and destroy another marriage? Especially a marriage that has the peace, the blessing of God upon it and both have married “in the Lord” and are committed to His kingdom and then by ‘putting asunder’, the other would be destroyed.


I am writing this because I know of some Christian leaders who instruct divorcees who have since remarried another, to separate from their second partner, causing much turmoil and guilt for many, especially women–not surprisingly. This is wrong.

Sure, we must not treat any sin lightly. God hates divorce and true repentance and humility is necessary. Let us beware of self justification which is deadly! But neither should we turn hurting, confused and distressed people away with harsh words not seasoned with gentleness, love and grace, leaving them condemned and without peace.

So what about the situation where one of the married partners is not a believer? Let’s look at this matter and how the apostle Paul deals with this In his first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 7, beginning at verse 12  . . . . .

But to the rest I—not the Lord—say, if any brother has an unbelieving wife, and she agrees to live with him, let him not leave her.  The woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he agrees to live with her, let her not leave her husband.

Paul admits he has no word from Jesus here—he finds it necessary here to go beyond Jesus’ words.

The word ‘agrees’ in verse 12, is the Greek suneudokei  The NKJV has ‘is willing’ but the original word carries the idea of a mutual agreement (the prefix sun means ‘together’). Paul’s theme of gender equality /mutuality—so radical in the Ancient World— that we see in verses 2 to 5 of this section is continued here and also in the next statements of Paul . . . .

V14. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified in the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified in the husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.

In a peaceful household the unbelieving partner is blessed indeed. Paul expresses the hope here which he repeats again in verse 16: For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?  The unbelieving partner who remains has the best opportunity to be saved along with the children.

V15. Yet if the unbeliever departs, let there be separation. The brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us in peace.

Paul recognises that some will opt out. The words ‘departs’ and ‘separation’ comes from chōrizō, and is translated ‘put asunder’ in Matthew 19:6, Mark 10:9.  Men and women can put asunder what God intends to be permanent. Technically this means the deserted spouse who remarries commits adultery! Yet Paul appears to say here that wilful desertion by the unbelieving one sets the other party free.  That can only mean ‘free to remarry’ though Paul’s ‘best’ is to remain single.

The Greek word dedoulōtai translated ‘under bondage’ comes from douloō, ‘to enslave’. It is a much stronger word than the word Paul uses for marriage in verses 27 and 39 and in Romans 7:2. Paul thus advises freedom for the deserted Christian believer rather than continuing enslavement in a difficult union. Can two walk together unless agreed?

Paul sees God’s calling to peace as an important matter. There is no sanctification or peace in a household of chaos, or enmity, of fighting and brutality. The believer is not bound to the unbeliever if he or she leaves.

Christians must not by their advice, commit someone to suffer a ‘marriage’ in a lifestyle of slavery. Such a marriage is no marriage at all. God has called us to peace, insists Paul (verse 15).

If Paul can encourage enslaved people to be free from slavery (see verse 21), surely a battered wife or an enslaved husband may take this opportunity to be set free and is free to marry in Christian community without condemnation.

It is clear that a marriage between a believer and an unbelieving monster is contrary to the spirit and intent of God’s calling of peace in marriage—a clear case of the need to depart from an unequal yoke (2 Corinthians 6).

Paul is silent about the impossible situations which many traumatised women find themselves locked in today, many of whom are such committed believers that divorce is the very last resort, even when they are suffering unimaginable abuse and the children are in constant physical, psychological and/or moral danger.

If it is better to marry than to burn, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians here (see verse 9), then surely it is better to un-marry than to daily face threats, cruelty, beatings, enslavements, and even death.

In all situations, the believer must humbly seek the Lord and wait on God for wisdom which is promised freely.

Beware deception of attempting to justify oneself!  We are justified only, entirely, and to the uttermost, by Jesus’ death.

To be continued . . . . .