George Booker
A New Creation

23. Divorce

“To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife” (1 Cor. 7:10,11).

In relation to brothers and sisters in Christ, we believe divorce is contrary to the commandments of Christ; and that if a believer is divorced, remarriage to another partner should be out of the question as long as any possibility remains for a reconciliation.

“But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called “woman”, for she was taken out of man.’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (Gen. 20:20b-25).

“Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?’ ‘Haven’t you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female, 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”? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate’” (Matt. 19:3-6).

God’s purpose was clearly that man and woman joined together in marriage should be joined together for life. Only the death of one of the parties should terminate the bond. It is easy to see various reasons for this. The very method of Eve’s formation (“bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh”) laid the basis for this indissolubility; the mental and moral qualities of man call for it; and the purposes of marriage in the increase and nurture of the race demand it.

It is plain that estrangements and separations between husbands and wives, whenever and wherever they exist, are incompatible with the high standard of conduct which the Bible sets forth. In the light of this exalted teaching, it is considered that where estrangement is threatened between husband and wife it is a Christian duty to seek patiently and actively a renewal or resumption of normal relationship.

Not only is this the duty of husband to wife and wife to husband, but also of those who can offer wise counsel with patient understanding. Where estrangement followed by separation has already happened, and while reunion is still a possibility, the pursuit of divorce and remarriage is a definite negation of the teaching of the Lord — because the successful pursuit of such a “solution” removes forever the possibility of reconciliation. These considerations apply with added force where there are children to consider.

“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to commit adultery, and anyone who marries a woman so divorced commits adultery” (Matt. 5:31,32).

“‘Why then,’ they asked, ‘did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?’ Jesus replied, ‘Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery’” (Matt. 19:7-9).

Divorce obtained by a brother or sister on any ground except that allowed by Jesus is a sin which cannot be overlooked. Nevertheless, the ecclesia should not exclude the possibility of true repentance after the fact. Furthermore, while remarriage by a divorced person, or marriage with a divorced person, are contrary to the highest ideals as expressed by Christ, it is possible to envision circumstances in which it would be unjust for an ecclesia to lay down a course of action without discrimination.

In dealing with all who come short of the divine ideal, our aim should be, not only to admonish and rebuke, but also to restore. While trying to maintain to the fullest the high standards of Christ’s teaching, we must beware of slipping unconsciously into an attitude toward offenders which the Lord would condemn. To achieve the right balance in these matters in the spirit of our Lord’s teaching, calls for prayerful and persistent effort and humility of mind.

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