In a perfect church, everyone hears the gospel and believes at a young age. In a perfect church, two people who profess Jesus Christ to be their Saviour and take marriage vows are truly both regenerated. Two people who marry in Christ understand the marriage vows to be permanent. Though these sinners saved by grace may have difficulties, they look to Christ for the grace and strength to endure. In a perfect church.
But there are no perfect churches.
In an imperfect church, you’ll find divorced people. Some have been remarried. This is part of diversity in the church. We all have diverse pasts, diverse circumstances and diverse social statuses. We have married couples, singles, widows and widowers…and we have divorced people.
I thought it would be good to start my third year of blogging by revisiting the topic of remarriage after divorce, though I will not argue whether remarriage after divorce is right or wrong. That was the topic that launched this blog. For the Biblical arguments please refer to that post (which was my most popular to date!) here: Can Two Divorced People Remarry?
Secular statistics on second marriages show they are doomed to fail. I do not believe we can use secular statistics for the church. If Jesus Christ is the staying power, the faithful One in the bond of Christian marriage, the marriage cannot fail.
So, I say poo-poo to statistics. Here are three beautiful examples of blessed remarriages [names have been changed to respect privacy]:
I Just Want to Be Happy/Can’t Get No Satisfaction – Couple #1
Alan was a covenant child – raised in the Christian faith. His parents brought him up with the Bible and church attendance. He made a profession of faith as a teenager. Sadly, he did not continue walking with the Lord. Over his dad’s objections, he married young. After 14 years of marriage, he divorced his wife. Alan blamed his family for his lack of happiness and peace. He remarried (without seeking the Lord) and divorced his second wife.
Cathy also grew up in a Christian family, but sought satisfaction in career and family. Her first marriage ended in divorce. Her second marriage was planned, but her intended died of a heart attack before the wedding. She threw herself back into her career. Then she met and married Alan, who came with three children from his first marriage. They bought a home and had one of Alan’s children move in with them.They felt the child needed to attend church, so that got Alan and Cathy physically back to church, but not yet spiritually. It was then that Cathy began meditating on the Word and asking questions. Alan helped her in her understanding and in the process, he repented and rededicated his life to the Lord. Couple #1 sought counsel of church elders. Alan asked forgiveness not only of the Lord, but of his family and children whom he’d wronged. Alan and Cathy determined to rebuild a Christian family. They adopted four children. Two of them were special needs babies! Sadly, their first baby died at 17 months. They praised the Lord for her life and the privilege of having her, even for a short time. The Lord kept them through trials and disappointments. They went on to raise their children up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Couple #1 is one of the most beautiful, faithful couples I’ve come to know in our church. They recently celebrated their 41st anniversary. They enjoy visiting their children, grandchildren and twelve (so far) great-grandchildren. What would it be like, had they been refused marriage?
The Rich Man and the Reformed Rebel – Couple #2
Mark went forward at an altar call and got baptized as a teen, but didn’t get the Gospel at that time. He got married while in med school. Mark and first wife wanted the good life. They desired worldly riches and pleasures. But a mansion and several Mercedes did not bring contentment. Both they and their three children sought their own agenda of ‘self’. Mark started attending a Bible study and the Lord opened his heart to believe. He tried sharing the Word with his wife, but she wouldn’t hear it. She even grabbed the Bible out of his hands and ripped it. She eventually divorced him. Born again at 45, Mark lost his family and property. He was humbled through the Lord’s chastisement. But the Lord was merciful and gracious when he met his second wife.
Sally was the quintessential rebel until the Lord changed her heart. She was an athiest and child-hating feminist who dabbled in the occult, Eastern religions, and drugs before the Lord brought her to her knees. When Mark came along, Sally was ready to be a godly helpmeet to him. Two very broken people were spiritually made whole by our great God. They married and were blessed with a son and 29 years together. Mark died a few years ago and Sally misses him very much. My conversations with this widow are always edifying to my soul. She has been through much and has been carried through it all by a sweet Saviour. I can’t imagine Him ever condemning her to singleness because her husband had a divorce in his past.
From ‘Branded’ to Brady Bunch – Couple #3
Donna was young and unsaved when she married the first time. She knew it was for all the wrong reasons. It ended in divorce after a few years. She came to know the Lord and was determined, should she remarry, to marry a believer. Sitting in church with fellow believers, Donna felt branded by divorce. She met Frank, a divorced man with three children. She grilled him about his faith so diligently that he was scared away for a while. The Lord eased Frank’s fears and he pursued Donna. They married and had a blended family. They had 3 more children together. Donna calls these three ‘homegrown’. She doesn’t use the term step-children when referring to Frank’s children from his previous marriage. She explains, ‘they’re all our children, but three were home-grown’. I love that. It prevents feelings of inferiority among the siblings. Today, Donna and Frank have a history of 29 years together, many children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Their household is still bustling with life as they cruise through their sixties.
I am rejoicing at God’s grace shown to these couples and the wonderful fruit of their marriages…their remarriages!
The Reformed Church in America has a good statement on divorce and remarriage. It reads:
A pastor may with good conscience officiate in the remarriage of divorced persons if in his judgment, and the judgment of the congregation’s Board of Elders, the persons have met the following requirements: Recognition of personal responsibility for the failure of the former marriage, penitence and an effort to overcome limitations and failures, forgiveness of the former partner, fulfillment of obligations involved in the former marriage, and a willingness to make the new marriage a Christian one by dependence upon Christ and participation in His Church. (MGS 1962: 205-218)
Marriage is a covenant, yes. That’s why some Reformed Christians say it can never be broken. But sinners are incapable of keeping a covenant apart from Christ. Promises are broken every day. Only God’s promises are kept forever. This doesn’t excuse divorce. It is a sin and God hates it. Unfortunately, marriages where adultery occurs are sometimes irreconcilable. When one partner chooses to leave, there’s no alternative but divorce. Christian remarriage may be right or wrong. But for the Christian, God works everything for good and for His own glory. I believe the former examples are strong evidence of that.
God is Gracious!
Couple #1’s Cathy declared, God is gracious! Yes, indeed. He was gracious to Mike and I by blessing us in our marriage. He is a merciful God, to those of a contrite spirit.
22 It is of the Lord‘s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. — Lamentations 3:22, 23
I am thankful that my reformed denomination, the RPCNA, does not shun people who have been divorced. We are a denomination of truly diverse people who edify one another from lessons learned in the School of Christ; with all our afflictions, chastisements, and sorrows used for His glory. We need this kind of diversity. We are not perfect people. But we serve a perfect, gracious, merciful and faithful God.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me;
because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek;
he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
2 to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all that mourn;
3 to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion,
to give unto them beauty for ashes,
the oil of joy for mourning,
the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
that they might be called trees of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified. Isaiah 61:1-3