In most Christians minds, the most detrimental attack against the nuclear family is homosexuality, transgenderism, etc. To most of us homosexuality is logically appalling as well as straight-out, biblically condemned. Therefore, we set out to evangelize in an effort to protect the nuclear family. I feel that the homosexual transgender argument is pretty clear with most Christians, but there seems to be a blurring of the lines on an equally clear argument that divorce and remarriage is unacceptable in God’s sight and is regarded as a continuous act of adultery as long as one who is divorced cohabits with another who is not the one he or she committed to from the beginning. I can go a lot deeper into the reason this is upheld in scripture, but I will assume the point is understood and accepted and stick closer to my question. The problem I have often encountered comes with situational ethics. Many Christians accept divorce and remarriage in certain situations (ie. before someone was saved). They claim that since this happened before someone was saved it is something that is forgiven and can continue as if it never happened. However, if a homosexual “couple” comes to church and gets saved those same Christians would believe that they should split up in testimony to their new found faith and commitment to growth. Why should it be any different with divorce and remarriage? Doesn’t divorce and remarriage do as much damage to the nuclear family as homosexuality, transgenderism, etc?
Thank you for your thoughtful question. This is certainly one of those “elephant in the room” topics that Christians don’t often address. I think part of the answer to this question is that, for example, two couples become Christ-followers on the same day and one couple is gay and the other divorced and remarried straight, both are completely forgiven at that point. However, once committed to Christ both must follow the Lord and a part of that means abstaining from homosexuality as well as any other extramarital heterosexual sex.
As far as damage goes, I agree that it can be very worrisome and painful to think of the damage to the family of a homosexual couple at that point but it is far far more worrisome to not trust the Lord to do what is right and to require obedience from us. We often just can’t see the “damage” that our actions cause in both our lives on earth and in eternal ways. Only He can see that so we must trust Him for that.
You make an excellent point, @JCarrell. The biblical family model is one man and one woman committed together for life to each other and to the raising of their own biological children for the glory of God.
I do not believe the argument for exceptions based upon the timing of one’s salvation are biblical since marriage was ordained and defined in the garden before sin and salvation ever entered the picture. Even couples who were married before either was saved are accountable for their vows. And when they are saved, we don’t require them to marry again as Christians. We accept the legitimacy of their pre-conversion marriage.
I believe the only legitimate exceptions one can explicitly draw from scripture are persistent infidelity on the part of a spouse (Matthew 19:9), and the similar case of abandonment by an unsaved spouse (I Corinthians 7:15) - which, I admit, could be one thing described in two different ways.
It is true that a culture which facilitates divorce and remarriage undermines the integrity of the families within that culture. That is a partial redefinition of marriage, and research shows (see marri.us/faith-family-findings/) that children in such families, other things being equal, fare less well that those growing up with their own biological parents.
But so called “same-sex marriage” is a total redefinition of marriage - and the same research shows that children in those homes fare even worse.
So if you mean that SSM is destructive in the same way, then yes, that would be true. But if you mean to the same degree, then I would say no, because the second is even further from what God ordained than the first.
I hope this helps you.
Thank you for your response! I agree this is the “elephant in the room.” Many don’t want to address it because it is really something that has touched everyone’s life. I do not believe that there is a person that doesn’t have at least one family member in a divorce and remarriage relationship. That often seems why it is overlooked or explained away. There are always cases or situations where it is made acceptable. My greatest struggle is how to deal with it. As a Christian, I have a responsibility to tell others if they are in danger (both heterosexual and homosexual). Do you feel we should address the divorce and remarriage issue?
I think I see the perspective that you are coming from, recognizing that no sin is greater in God’s eyes than another. Especially in regards to marriage, this holy matrimony is so sacred in the heart of God because it is a picture of His union with His bride, the Church. Because of this, I have also wrestled with the same thoughts concerning the question you have brought to the table. Let me rephrase your question and see if it is consistent with your inquiry: If marriage is so sacred to God, and the distortion of it is so putrefying, then why do we seem to let divorce and remarriage pass under the covering of forgiveness and redemption and still remain recognized within the church, while SSM is completely unrecognized and demolished within a healthy church membership?
I believe @jlyons explained it well. Looking at it from a biblical perspective, divorce and remarriage is a distorted, and fractured picture of what God intended marriage to be: one man and one woman for one lifetime. Where as SSM is man’s completely redefined definition of God’s ordination of marriage. In other words, God does not even recognize it as marriage because it is totally out of and in direct opposition to His original design.
God can redeem a fractured picture, but He cannot use something as a picture of something that is not even a picture of anything. (Make since? ) Divorce and remarriage is still dealing with a man and a woman, and though the original marriage has been stained and broken, it is still a similitude of a picture, presenting a husband and wife relationship. Whereas SSM is not even that. So redemption (reclaiming for use as to it’s original purpose) can happen within a distorted situation, yet a complete makeover has to happen if the situation was not a representation of anything.
As to the next part of your question:
I believe @jlyons said it well:
Thank you for inviting this conversation! I pray some of these thoughts may be a help as you seek the Lord about these tough, yet needful questions in our society and in our churches.
Thanks for your response, James! I noticed you stated the exceptions. For clarification I would like to ask you if you feel there is any case for remarriage in scripture?
Also, I tend to agree that homosexual marriage (term used loosely) brings more damage to the home because it is farther from what God first ordained. I get what you are saying. However, isn’t defining sin in terms of degrees dangerous. Truth and sin are not sliding scales. I feel that if we open ourselves up to sliding scales we open ourselves to denying the absolute authority of scripture to define faith and conduct. The term absolute has then become relative . Therefore, I tend to believe that all sin should be handled in the same manner with compassion (simply defined as understanding the human condition) and a deep love for the absolute truth. If we define sins in degrees, we will deal with them in degrees. The way we define sin and deal with it should be like a mirror, if we declare to follow absolutes. Compassion determines the words we use, but does not interfere with the exposition of the truth. Please correct me if I interpreted what you were trying to convey incorrectly or if you see anything faulty in what I have said.
I had some thoughts on the below quote from your post.
I think the phrase “continuous act of adultery” is perhaps the issue, because I’m not sure if that is the universal consensus. For instance, here is an excerpt from the ESV Study Bible in their section on “Divorce and Remarriage” pg 2799,
“What should be done if someone has been divorced for other reasons than those given in the Bible and then has married someone else? Jesus says that in such a case the person has committed “adultery” (Matt. 19:9), so the marriage began with adultery. But when Jesus says, “and marries another” in that same verse, he implies that the second marriage is in fact a true marriage. Jesus does not say, “and lives outside of marriage with another” (which was possible, see John 4:18), but “and marries another.” Therefore, once a second marriage has occurred, it would be further sin to break it up, for it would be destroying another marriage. The second marriage should not be thought of as continually living in adultery, for the man and woman are married to each other, not to anyone else. The responsibility of the husband and wife in such a case is to ask God for his forgiveness for previous sin, and then for his blessing on the current marriage, and to strive to make the current marriage a good and lasting one.”
So, I believe they are saying that although the marriage would have started with say, 1(or some limited number) counts of adultery, the marriage itself would be legitimate and they wouldn’t be living in a continual state of sin.
This would contrast with a same sex union (or any union outside of one man and one woman), because since such a union is never legitimate, it would mean that all involved would be in a continual state of sin.
I am glad that you “tend to agree that homosexual marriage (term used loosely) brings more damage to the home because it is farther from what God first ordained. I get what you are saying.”
I think if you will just leave it at that, you’ll have everything I was saying, and nothing that I was not saying.
I do not believe that truth and sin are measured in degrees. Every sin is infinitely offensive to God. Merely biting a piece of fruit you were told not to bite is enough to get otherwise innocent people booted from paradise and their offspring eternally doomed until the end of time.
So is divorce and remarriage as sinful as homosexuality? Well, if every sin is infinitely sinful before God - then yes. One infinitely sinful offense is not greater or less than another infinitely sinful offense.
But while murder is just as sinful as stealing a penny, they are not equal in their consequences.
I think I can demonstrate this for you. If I confronted you in a dark alley with a gun and demanded your money or your life, which one would you prefer to give up to me? Or would you answer, “Oh, it doesn’t really matter - I don’t define sins in terms of dangerous degrees - I don’t judge sins on a sliding scale - either kill me or steal from me, whichever you like. It’s all the same to God, so it’s all the same to me.”
If you are married, if you have children, if your parents are still alive, which answer would they urge you to give?
And if I were caught for my crime and brought to justice, which sin would the Bible prescribe a greater penalty for - murder or theft?
Or let me put it to you yet another way even closer to the issue at hand. If you had children who, through strange circumstances, were to end up being adopted and raised by another family, and the two leading candidates to raise them were a man and wife who had been previously married and divorced or a homosexual couple, would you have no preference as to which they ended up with? Or would you say, “Well, we can’t define sin in degrees - so flip a coin!”
I’m guessing that you and I would agree that all sin is equally sinful. But the point I was trying to make is that all sin is not equally destructive. Otherwise, there would be no such thing as an unpardonable sin.
I hope this makes sense to you.
This is an interesting argument. What defines marriage or more specifically when does marriage begin?
Another perspective for you.
When it comes to how we live our life, there are two important commitments a Christian must remember.
- Faith and 2. The holiness in our life. They are both inseparable before you answer any questions. You cannot cultivate holiness in life without faith in God and similarly, you will not miss godliness with someone of faith in Jesus.
Now apply that commitment to your question of divorce and remarriage - Is the situation for divorce raised in spite of faithfulness and holiness? What does the Bible Say in Matthew 19:9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”
Malachi 2:16 - For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”
Instead of asking the question about divorce and remarriage against SSM - You may ask the question differently - What am I believing? - Compromising faith is okay or compromising holiness is okay especially when both of them are inseparable. I believe God looks at the conditions of our hearts. (Matthew 23:27 For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.) What are we thinking just before we decide to move forward with divorce or remarriage or SSM? We most certainly are processing the profits and losses of our decisions with or without compromising faith and holiness.
So, if we compromise either faith or holiness or both, then it is not okay.
Here’s a book I highly recommend: Holy Sexuality and the Gospel, by Christopher Yuan.
I guess that seems like a dumb question. Maybe I didn’t phrase it correctly. Perhaps, “What is marriage to God and when does a marriage begin in God’s eyes?” would have been better. It doesn’t matter though, I came to the caboose of that train of thought anyway.
I get what you are saying. It just seems that we work things into our corner about how God feels about marriage while doing permanent damage to its sanctity. Human nature is to push the lines. If we think we can get away with something by simply confessing it, we will go ahead and do it and ask forgiveness later. Sometimes I think sending a harder message would be better. I know that many make the argument that God judges divorce and remarriage harder to those who know to do good. However, this understanding promotes apathy towards the Word of God in a vicious cycle. In other words, “what I don’t know can’t hurt me.”
It really comes down to the fact that free will and grace are a greatest friends of the regenerated, but the worst enemies to the unregenerate world.
@JCarrell Actually, I thought it was a good question! It really got me curious about it, because I didn’t know the answer, so I wanted to do some research before I got back to you, sorry about that. If you’re still interested, here’s a paraphrase list I compiled from some various sources I consulted. Although I’m by no means an expert on this topic and this list may not be completely comprehensive. However, what I found was that these elements would need to be present for a marriage.
- One man and one woman.
- Willfull consent(having the mental capacity/maturity to consent) to the marriage from both parties.
- Marriage vows.
- Qualified witnesses.
- Consummating the marriage.
Although like I said, this list may not be comprehensive. So, I suppose, in my understanding of what I posted from the ESV Study Bible, a non-Biblical remarriage would start with at least 1 count of adultery(possibly more if there were conjugal relations before they were married), and then going forward after the remarriage became legally binding, they would not be considered to be in a continual state of sin.
As far as the rest of your post, let me think it over some more, I just wanted to get back to you with what I had come up with so far.
Hi, James! What about in the Bible when it says that if an unsaved spouse wants to leave for whatever reason, let them leave, because “they are not under bondage in this and God has called us to peace” (1 Corinthians 7:15)
Yes - he says that if an unbelieving spouse departs from a believing spouse, then the believing spouse who has been abandoned is not in bondage to the marriage anymore (compare to Romans 7:2-3). This would free the believer to marry another.
In the ancient Roman world, divorce was a very casual and unregulated thing. Courts were not involved. If one spouse left another, that was really all there was to it. While the Jews required a bill of divorcement to finalize such a disunion, the Gentiles had no such requirements.
So if a woman who worshipped Zeus finally got fed up with the changes that had come into the life of her newly saved husband (or vice versa), she could simply pack her gear and head out the door and go marry someone else - effectively becoming an adulteress. And Jesus cited that in Matthew 19:9 as an exception to the divorce and remarriage prohibition for the victimized spouse.
I hope this helps you with this issue.
@JCarrell Well, I don’t really have too many additional thoughts on divorce/remarriage necessarily, but I do think you touched on a couple of interesting points just generally.
I understand what you’re saying, but I think this might be more of a general critique against a legalistic understanding of Christianity.
Also, I thought this was interesting,
I have heard people say similar things, but if I’m understanding you correctly, I think that type of understanding ignores the real difference between genuine ignorance and willful ignorance. Willful ignorance being the more serious offence. I think some of the factors that would go into determining willful ignorance would be a person’s motivation, ability, and opportunity to rectify that ignorance. So, were they reasonably able to find the correct information? Did they have the reasonable opportunity to find the correct information? Should they have been reasonably motivated to find the correct information? Because, in my opinion, I don’t know if being willfully ignorant would necessarily eliminate a person’s culpability.
Overall though, like I was saying before, it seems like these issues perhaps have more to do with a critique of those who understand Christianity through a legalistic framework.
I see that many of our brothers and sisters in Christ have given answers. Kindly consider a few words from me.
- The Bible does not say that all sins are the same though it does not tell us one sin is worse than another. The exception is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit which cannot be forgiven in this age or the age to come. Hence, it is not wise to compare divorce and remarriage with homosexuality.
- The only ground for divorce is adultery. But adultery is not the reason for divorce. People can still forgive and carry on with their marriage which was instituted by God himself when he created Adam and Eve.
- Homosexuality is a different category of sin for the word of God says that it corrupts both the body and the spirit. Further, the body is the temple of God (1 Corinthians 6:18-19). God’s plan of marriage is 1 male + 1 female = 1 body. Anything outside this equation is sexual immorality and unnatural. The Bible is clear that homosexuals will not enter the kingdom of heaven (1 Corinthians 6:9).
Is it self-defeating to slice and dice sinful behavior in order to find out how close I can get to the edge without falling off? I know for myself that anytime I do that it is ultimately not to find out how to maintain a deeper relationship with God but rather to see how much I can get away with and stay in His good graces. I become like the rich young ruler who wanted to justify himself only to have Jesus avoid his self-justifying question and go straight to the man’s heart issue.