What do you do, if after having offered forgiveness and the opportunity to reconcile, your spouse continues to reject you? And if they divorce you and remarry, as inevitably happens, what does the future hold? As mentioned previously, if you are separated but not divorced, get help from mature Christians. If their counsel to reconcile is rejected by our spouse then we may have to face the possibility of being single. Being single is not necessarily a disaster to be avoided at all costs. This I will cover in more depth later. But some may ask: “Can I remarry?” or just assume it is a ‘right’.
The question of remarriage inevitably arises at some time after divorce. The need to love and be loved is a very human and understandable thing. Few things in this life bring us as much joy as when we marry – and few things bring us as much pain as when we divorce. Therefore the subject of divorce and remarriage is a highly emotive one. We all know of someone, even ourselves, who have been divorced and may want to justify why we or someone else should be able to remarry – all in the name of compassion and natural justice. Yet we need to objectively and dispassionately (as difficult that may be) consider what God’s word says in resolving this question. It is His word that ultimately must be our guide not our sense of what seems just. As David says:
Establish my footsteps in Your word, And do not let any iniquity have dominion over me (Psalm 119:133).
Whatever scripture teaches us, we need to begin with the confident trust that God’s intention is always for our ultimate good and that He will give us the grace and strength to do His will. We will only find true happiness and fulfilment when we make God’s kingdom and righteousness our priority (Matthew 5:3-12).
Jesus’ words: “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Mark 10:9) were a clear command not to divorce. As Jesus said “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). While we may marry in a church it is not the pastor or clergy who marries us. It is God who joins a man and a woman. Therefore for this reason man should not separate what God has made one.
Some have argued for remarriage after divorce based on Paul’s words “it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Corinthians 7:9). Yet the context here is single people who have never married and widows for the following verses instruct the married who become separated to remain so.
I am convinced the Bible was never meant to be an enigma, especially in an area as important as marriage. Spiritual understanding is not the exclusive property of those we consider wise or learned. The Truth of God’s word is revealed to all, through the Holy Spirit, who approach with a humble and obedient heart. As the apostle John says:
And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him. (1 John 2:27).
This is not to suggest we shouldn’t consider and learn from the teaching of others. It is healthy also to listen to those who have a different or opposing view. The essential thing is spiritual truth is revealed to a spiritual mindset, through the Scriptures and by the Holy Spirit. Others views and teaching will either confirm or contradict the Scriptures and the Spirit’s inner revelation.
The prevailing view amongst evangelical Christians is that once a ‘legal’ divorce has been procured one can remarry. But is this what Scripture actually teaches us? (see ‘Is There A Biblical Right To Divorce and Remarry?’). My appeal first and foremost is for love and faithfulness to prevail. We need to ask ourselves if a perceived ‘right’ to divorce and remarry is consistent with the foundational command to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ (Romans 13:9-10)?
It may be asked “But how I can I love someone who has left me?” As said previously, while we might not be able to love them in the way we have done, we can love them through being faithful and keeping the promise we made when we first married. Just as being faithful to Jesus in a time of persecution will have a deep personal cost (even our life), so will remaining faithful to an estranged spouse.
Some may say also: “But don’t I have a right to be happy?” This seems a reasonable expectation but has two flaws. The first is that true happiness (blessedness) is a gift from God as we live according to His way (Matthew 5:1-11). When we try to pursue and obtain happiness on our terms it inevitably alludes us. Secondly, our ‘right’ can never be at the cost of compromising the truth, faithfulness and love as revealed in the Bible.
Yet the fear of a life of singleness may test that love and faithfulness severely – as I experienced, but those fears are not as great as we may think.