16th May, 2009

Pondering the Questions of a Dear Friend

This post is definitely up for discussion. I’m “pondering” a difficult question. I recently had a conversation with a lovely Christian woman who comes from a broken marriage. She divorced several years ago and struggles mightily with what is written about divorce and remarriage in the New Testament. She totally wants to obey whatever God asks of her, but also would love to remarry. She has no children and longs for the strength, intimacy and joy of a marital relationship.

Some of the applicable scriptures include:

4″Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

7″Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

8Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

10The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”

11Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”

Matthew 19:4-12

18″Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Luke 16:18

These seem so straightforward. John Piper thinks so, and my friend had read much of Piper’s writing on this subject. But the question arises, given the fact so many people have remarried, whether before or after they became followers of Jesus, what then? Are they perpetually in a state of adultery? Are they committing an intentional sin? What is it? Moreover, are the words in the New Testament there to create a new law, a law that we must follow to the letter as did the Pharisees? How is this passage, which are the words of Jesus, to be read in light of the context – Jesus answering the questions of the Pharisees, who were trying to trap Him in the law? What about the new law Jesus proclaimed, a law of love and grace? John 13:34-35; Matthew 22:34-40.

How does Romans 8:1 apply to such situations? “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus….” And what is the meaning of God’s grace when these things occur?

In the course of this conversation, my friend said to me this, and I thought it was one of the most profound statements I had ever heard.

“I don’t want to desire anything anymore except God’s grace.”


Perhaps the lesson in such situations is exactly that. Are we not all, apart from God’s grace, in a state of perpetual sin? What makes a remarried divorced person any different from a person who lusts, a person who lies, a person who covets, a person who simply exists apart from the grace of God?

Is this giving a license to sin? I hope not. I don’t desire that. I hate sin and how it destroys us, causing us to hide from our loving Father. My heart is for righteousness and truth and intimacy with the Father. But I also know how my flesh is. I know I am not God. I am not perfect and I need His grace perpetually. I think all too often we want to proclaim truth, neglecting grace, or want to give grace, but neglect truth. How do the two converge here?

What do you think about all of this?


I think God blesses us whenever we set aside personal desires in a greater desire to obey Him. What I think is missing is the expectation that, in a situation like this, He will do just that. And that He will use the situation, and our obedience, for His glory, in a way that we will keenly recognize.

Bob Cleveland’s last blog post..God, Shock Absorbers, and Dental Needles

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