Forgetting What is Behind

Recently I commented back to a individual who asked about Christians attending a same-sex wedding. It’s under the post entitled, “The Gay Blade Cuts Both Ways” if you want to see it. A tougher question, and one that I’ve been pondering since I gave the initial comment, is about whether its OK to attend the wedding of someone who was divorced.

I’ve had several friends that I’ve met over the years, many of them good friends, who at some point “needed” to divorce their spouse. One recently mentioned that her husband, the man she married in place of her prior husband, had died. This is what prompted this post. Because I found myself not knowing how I should feel. I knew her first husband and felt we were friends. I don’t know all the details, but he and she divorced and then she married again to the man who has now recently passed. I believe her previous husband is still alive and I wonder if she hadn’t divorced if she would be mourning today.

I gave advice to a hurting wife years ago that she took as an encouragement for divorce. I still cringe when I recall the situation. I never heard from him, but she went on about how he was gone all the time, never spent any time at home and barely did anything together with her. I realize now that I was far too hasty, and ought to have encouraged her to try and work things out, to talk with the two of them together before I said anything, because let’s be honest, divorce is devastating. The only people who benefit from divorce are lawyers, and those who have been cheating on their spouse. I am not saying she did, but it seemed a very short time before she was married again. I never saw the husband, and I wonder today how I must have hurt him unintentionally by giving unwise advice.

God hates divorce, and He is far better glorified in a hurting marriage that is reconciled than in legal separation, divorce proceedings, and custody hearings. Now I know there will be those who say, “Well, you just don’t know my circumstances! If you did, you would know I needed a divorce!” Christians, if we are going to be hard on same-sex marriage, then we ought to be equally hard on marriage after divorce. There may be a thousand good reasons for divorce, but the Scriptures only suggest two, and these are merely permissions, not commands to divorce: 1) infidelity, and 2) an unbelieving spouse who decides to divorce you.

For the first, infidelity is a powerful reason for divorce, but it is also a powerful reason for forgiveness and reconciliation. Husbands and Wives, to look on anyone who is not your spouse and even to imagine sex with them is Infidelity. I may even add it is possible to commit emotional infidelity, if you close yourself off to your spouse and confide on an emotionally intimate level in another individual of the opposite gender. He who is without sin, cast the first stone.

For the second, note that the Christian spouse does not initiate the divorce, but the unbelieving spouse. So that it is the unbeliever who says, “I’ve had enough of your Jesus!” and leaves the marriage, NOT the Christian spouse who says, “I’ve had enough of you!”

So when I go back through my friends who have divorced, and church members and others I’ve known, I know infidelity is often cited. I cannot sit here and tell you I know everything that happened, because I don’t. We all make mistakes, even when it comes to the person we marry. And I’ve married people who were previously divorced, so I am as much a hypocrite about this as anyone. I know some churches are very adamant about refusing to marry divorced people. And yet I think we all need to practice forgiveness in this area. But would refusing to attend the wedding of a divorced friend be wrong? Or would it be standing on conviction?

This calls for understanding and discernment. It seems to me that if you know the situation well enough to decide whether or not the divorce was biblical, you are informed enough to decide to attend or not. I think that the Christian who divorces their spouse for reasons other than the ones mentioned above, needs to spend a great deal of time and effort working on their own lives and Christian walk before bringing someone else into their lives again as spouse. A Christian ought not to make the same mistake twice, especially when it comes to whom they choose as a partner in their walk with Christ.

So I’ve probably offended most of you by now. Trust me when I say I don’t know what to say either. I know many whose second marriages were truly blessed compared to their first. And I rejoice with them. But if we are to be consistent, then we ought to look our our own marriage practices just as hard as we do to those who marry within their sex. If that isn’t biblical, then are we truly doing it right either?

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I've been in ministry in the Christian Churches/ Churches of Christ for 20+ years. Finished my doctorate in Biblical Studies in 2015. Serve today as a Hospital Chaplain.

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