‘Twas a few weeks before Christmas, while sappy and retrospective, that what to my weepy eyes should appear? This:
I wonder if you considered the power of God to redeem your errant “beginning” spouse, no matter how long it took.
I thought that was why Jesus said what He said of divorce and remarriage. He wanted the chance to redeem the marriage or at least, show the children and the world the value of a vow. I do not think remarriage serves the children. They had enough with the separation or divorce.
A friend’s parents divorced when she was 19. Her mother remarried twice, all marriages divorced. Her dad married a nice woman who died after five years married to her. He did not marry again. When my friend was in her forties, she said she still wished her parents would get back together. I think children instinctively know they are a product of their parents and so instinctively feel less than whole when the parents are not united and feel even less whole when they see another party hindering the slightest possibility of parents’ reconciliation. Does it really help the child to have that much confusion in their lives? By remarrying while your former spouse is yet alive, you are teaching your children the vow does not matter.
I grew up with a boy in church whose parents were divorced. The father did not remarry and as far as I know, the offending mother did not either. The father remained raised six children, all of whom are productive and professing Christians many years. I think that was due, at least in part, to his commitment to keep his vow. Those two parents are now buried side by side as husband and wife.
Likewise, I know of two professing married Christians who were separated many years until death separated them. They lived together briefly before he died in their elder years. I think their commitment to their vow left the children and community with the sense and value of a vow. I admire anyone who values the wedding vow that much. Do Christ’s words have any strength they were meant to have, that no one should put asunder, which includes remarriage.
God would have all to be saved. That is His goal. To me, part of being saved is being committed in marriage, separated or not, until death parts, for that is Christ’s example and commitment to his Bride the Church. Would we want Christ to abandon His vow to us? Yet, we abandon our vow to our marriages when we remarry while the original spouse is yet alive. When we remarry while the original spouse yet alive, we are telling the world God does not have the power to redeem our marriage or that God does not have the sustaining grace to help us keep the vow we made.
How does a remarriage bring the offending spouse into relationship with God? You hated divorce but not enough to keep the vow. It looks like your husband committed adultery against the marriage and now you got him back by legally committing adultery via a remarriage to another. Seems you are birds of a feather. He adulterated first, you later. I would rather go into Heaven with one eye than go into Hell with two.
Read Michael and Marilyn’s Phillips story in the free download, First Aid For A Troubled Marriage, and see how God showed her how to find peace with an errant spouse and how God restored her marriage, how God made the marriage new. I think remarriages have their own built in troubles because God knew the only answer to being separated or divorced was remaining single or reconciling until death parts the “beginning” marriage. Jesus is in the business of redemption, reconciliation, salvation, sanctification. His grace is sufficient to keep a “beginning” marriage vow, separated or divorced, until death do us part. I think that is what the world needs to see and wants to see – those willing to keep their vow no matter what, remaining single or reconciled.
After much thought, prayer and meditation on this issue throughout the Christmas season, I will respond from my heart. I don’t want to tear this sister in Christ apart. I will just answer her questions, perhaps with a few of my own. Ultimately, I want to speak the truth in love.
“I wonder if you considered the power of God to redeem your errant “beginning” spouse, no matter how long it took.”
Yes, Sally, I certainly did consider the power of God to heal my marriage and that’s how I prayed. I prayed and told the children to pray, after he left us. The anguish was unbearable. Six months after separation, my husband declared he wanted a divorce. He never came back home. This was a situation I had no control over. But God did. He is in control of every circumstance. God is sovereign, so I did not, no I certainly could not, stand in the way of Him reconciling us. That door was left open. You say, ‘He wanted the chance to redeem the marriage’ as if I did not give Jesus this opportunity! As if poor Jesus was beholden to me and my will. Gasp. I believe God took me out of the marriage by force – and He fed me Truth during that horrific period of separation before the divorce was final. I believe it was His divine protection and providence, yes, His grace, dear Sally, that was at work during that time. Perhaps you are rebuking me right now. I understand.
As for children feeling less whole when their parents split, let me just say that every person needs to seek Christ for whole-ness. We all need the Savior Jesus Christ. We are all broken, married or not, without Him! Marriage doesn’t make you whole. The family unit doesn’t either when it is malfunctioning in destructive ways. Yes, Sally, children, young or older, are always hurt in divorce. I never wanted to hurt my children. But my children were hurt in the marriage.
Yes, Sally, divorce is sin. But it is not the unpardonable sin. Jesus forgave my divorce. I still bear the consequences. God is good. I still pray for my ex-husband as well as our children. Every broken soul needs to plead with our ultimate soul-mate, Jesus Christ.
As for the confusion of remarriage, my children were happy to see me loved and cared for when I remarried. They were more confused by what happened in my marriage and household (that I will not expose here) than seeing me remarry. No, they did not jump for joy over my new spouse. Of course it’s weird. My own father dated a woman after my mom’s death and I didn’t like that at all – and that was ‘legal’, as you would say. But Sally, as you said, He makes all things new. This was my new: a new spouse, a new marriage and a new chance to be a true display of God’s love toward us as redeemed husband and redeemed wife in Christ. God may choose to redeem a marriage, but His business is redeeming His people. It was better for me to part from an unbeliever than be stunted in growth with my Savior. My new husband and I are being sanctified in a new marriage. This time, my husband and I both agree as in Amos 3:3. We both have a relationship with Jesus Christ. There’s a good question for you , Sally: Can two walk together except they be agreed?
How does a remarriage bring the offending spouse into relationship with God?
Salvation is of God, not by works. It was no longer my duty to be a guardian of the offending spouse’s soul, because he chose not to be my spouse. Ugh, this is starting to sound so silly, Sally. I didn’t remarry until ten years after he left the marital premises, if that helps, but I don’t know why I’m defending myself here. Really.
“You hated divorce but not enough to keep the vow”
You mention a professing Christian couple who were separated for many years and you say that their commitment left the children and community with a sense of value for the vow. First of all, I can’t agree that their vows were kept! The vow of marriage is more than saying ‘I will not divorce you’. C’mon, Sally, the vow involves living beside each other, loving one another, together, under one roof, performing all marital duties, not mere obeisance to a State document that says you’re still married. Please. Secondly, I’d rather my children and community see a vow kept with the whole heart, as it should be, not kept by paper. Any other kind of vow is just, um well, not keeping the vow! The vow is to LOVE AND CHERISH AND STAY WITH THE PERSON. Thirdly, the value of the vow is that my first allegiance is to Christ, not a man who does not obey Him.
“…you got him back by legally committing adultery via a remarriage to another. Seems you are birds of a feather. He adulterated first, you later. I would rather go into Heaven with one eye than go into Hell with two.”
Ouch. Wow, Sally.
I believe I am heaven-bound because Jesus is mine and I am His. He bought me with His blood and has carried me through the affliction of divorce. Those years of separation were the hardest years of my life. He chastised me, humbled me, directed my steps and gave me hope. He blessed me, yes blessed! me with a new husband.
Marriage and family, sadly, can become idols. Pride steps in and self-righteousness says, ‘My marriage cannot break up! What will people say?’ or ‘I did everything right! This can’t happen to me. No one in my family ever divorced. I will be shamed!’ or ‘I won’t grant him this divorce. I’m so good and faithful and I’ll prove it by remaining alone the rest of my life.’
Sally, you did not walk in my shoes.
Marriage between 2 fallible sinful humans is never perfect. Keeping a vow when one breaks it can’t be done. A vow, according to Merriam Webster, is a solemn promise or assertion, one by which a person is bound to an act, service, or condition. How could I keep up the acts of serving him, or ‘condition’ of married life when he is NOT THERE? Pride and self-righteousness can stand in the way of humbly admitting the marriage is over when vows have been broken. Only God is faithful. He keeps His promises all the time. He is the One who is Faithful and True. Not man. So, my marriage was no longer viable. It’s been said ‘it ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings’, well trust me, she sang!
I am a Reformed Presbyterian Protestant Christian, Sally. You may not be familiar with Reformed denominations and our beliefs. We uphold the doctrines of grace which include the sovereignty of God, total human depravity, and unconditional election. I am not part of liberal Christian churches, the Charismatic movement, Pentecostalism, Ecumenism, or any other ism but the Bible, which is most soundly followed in Reformed circles. We don’t do works for salvation, but we work through heart-felt gratitude for that salvation we’ve already received. We don’t manipulate God with mantras, or impress others with self-flagellation or Pharisaical law-keeping. If you are interested, you can read our divorce/remarriage views here, where they are far better expressed than by me:
Better yet, Sally, I would encourage you to re-read the Sermon on the Mount. Am I an adulterer? Yes, I am. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. It always boils down to the HEART. A vow is a heart matter. Half-hearted or stone-hearted doesn’t count. Robotic obedience doesn’t count. Whole heart. Or none. It’s hard, Sally. It is hard to live up to the standard of purity and real LOVE. It’s only the power of the Holy Spirit that enables us to do so. And still we fall, we fail. His mercies are new every morning. Thank God for my Savior. He did it all…for me. I have His imputed righteousness so my Father in heaven sees me totally cleansed.
“To me, part of being saved is being committed in marriage, separated or not, until death parts, for that is Christ’s example and commitment to his Bride the Church. Would we want Christ to abandon His vow to us?”
Never! And He won’t. Remaining faithful to a marriage that doesn’t exist is fantasy, and is certainly not equivalent to or the litmus test for salvation. Jesus never abandons His own. Christ’s example is complete unfailing faithfulness. And Christian marriage is supposed to be a display of God’s love to us, through the love and actions of husband and wife. That display can’t happen with one spouse rebelling, fornicating, or disappearing from the marriage. Sally, to me, my first and ultimate commitment is to my Divine Husband, Jesus Christ. He never leaves me nor forsakes me. My first husband did. I pray that I’ve spoken the Truth in love, dear sister.