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6 Grounds for Divorce

Fornication, spousal abuse, child abuse, freeloading, abandonment, unreasonableness as measured by consensus of witnesses



"Adultery" means having sexual relations with another to whom you are not married. In God's Book, the desire to leave your wife for another does not justify divorce. There are grounds for divorce, but unwillingness to bridle your lust is not one of them. If you divorce for no more mature reason than that, without any Biblical grounds, the divorce decree which a human court gives you cannot justify then marrying another. You have still committed adultery, Jesus plainly says! If you think about it, divorce and remarriage, followed by another divorce and remarriage, etc., is nothing more than promiscuity in slow motion.

Thus Mark 10 calls it what it is: adultery.

Mark 10:2 And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him. 3 And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you? 4 And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away. 5 And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. 6 But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. 7 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; 8 And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. 9 What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. 10 And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter. 11 And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. 12 And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.

But Matthew 19 makes "fornication" by your spouse an exception to this rule:

Matthew 19:7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? 8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. 10 His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. 1 But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. 12 For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.

But Mark 10 didn't mention this exception. Does Mark 10 contradict Matthew 19? No! Never! Let the Bible interpret itself. Man's laws fill entire buildings, and change every year, because man tries to write laws legalistically to cover every situation. Thus a bill in the Iowa legislature once literally sought to add "milk boxes" to the list of containers which could not be legally stolen!

But God writes with general principles. For example, we learn from 1 Corinthians 9:9 that it was folly to interpret Deuteronomy 25:4 as referring only to oxen! It was a broad principle which common sense applies also to paying preachers.

So if we see two parallel passages and one has more detail than another, we do not assume there is a contradiction, but rather we are warned against taking the less detailed verse, or any verse, as all we need to know on the subject, without reading the rest of the Bible.

This necessary principle of interpretation cautions us to remember that Matthew 19 is not necessarily all the grounds for divorce God wants us to know about, either, if we can find more grounds in other Scriptures.



Spousal Abuse.

Exodus 21:26 And if a man smite the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maid, that it perish; he shall let him go free for his eye's sake. 27 And if he smite out his manservant's tooth, or his maidservant's tooth; he shall let him go free for his tooth's sake.

In other words, to discern the general principle which God expects us to discern from this example, serious permanent injury is grounds for divorce. To put it another way, injury serious enough to classify the victim as "crippled" is grounds for divorce. (Remember that before false teeth, the loss of teeth was a permanent, and serious, condition.) "His maid" means his wife. This is clear by the context earlier in the chapter which uses "mad" as a synonym for "wife".

Exodus 21:7 And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do. 8 If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her. 9 And if he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters. 10 If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish. 11 And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money.

She does not only "go out", but goes out "free". v. 11 and 26-27. [Heb. 2600] chinnam (khin-nawm') from 2580; gratis, i.e. devoid of cost, reason or advantage:--without a cause (cost, wages), causeless, to cost nothing, free(-ly), innocent, for nothing (nought, in vain. What else could this mean, than "free to remarry"? Under what other terms could a woman in that culture even hope to survive?

My draft proposal for Iowa divorce law, in anticipation of the day it returns to a "fault" system, distinguishes between serious physical abuse and minor incidents that cause no injury. Minor abuse is dealt with under the following section on "refusal to mediate in good faith". Here is the language I propose for serious abuse, which would be, in law, an automatic ground for divorce:

"598.1A(4) 'Injury' means any willful and deliberate physical injury inflicted by one spouse upon another, whose medical prognosis is that its effects will last indefinitely, or which requires significant medical treatment, and which cannot be defended as 'reasonable force' in response to any physical danger to either spouse."

Existing law recognizes far less injury as "spousal abuse". There need not even be any injury whose effects remain long enough for a doctor to verify. There need not even be any evidence that there was even any assault! The allegedly assaulted spouse need not even agree that there was an assault! If a police officer takes a notion that there was an assault, even if the alleged victim denies it, off goes the accused to jail, after which a "no contact" order is issued separating the husband and wife! This law is a mess, and should be replaced with language such as the above. Not that lesser abuse is no problem; but lesser abuse should not be automatic grounds of divorce, in that day when divorce law returns to a "fault" system. Rather, it should be handled under the category proposed below, "refusal to negotiate in good faith".


Child abuse.

The preceding passage, Exodus 21, applies not only to "maids", but to "servants". Sons have the rights of servants, according to Galations 4:1, which takes, for its authority, common sense.

Galatians 4:1 Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all;

But if a child has the right to be set free from his abusive parent for permanent serious injury, what does that do to his relationship with his other parent? Especially when the Bible gives no grounds for him to be free from the other parent? The only way I can think of, to set a child free from one abusive parent while remaining under obedience to the other parent, is for the parents to separate.

In my draft legislation for making child abuse a ground for divorce, I propose overhauling the entire child abuse code to require objective evidence of abuse before removing children from their parents. My necessarily lengthy proposals (since the Child abuse code is lengthy) are online at www.Saltshaker.US/ChildAbuse.htm.



God expects husbands to provide financially for their wives.

Exodus 21:10 If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diinish. 11 And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money.

You understand the third duty of marriage, don't you? Notice it only comes in third. Now don't get legalistic and say this means that if he doesn't take another wife, then he doesn't have to provide for his first wife! As pointed out earlier, legalistic interpretations are not God's interpretations. See also Matthew 9:11-17.

Further authority for God's concern for financial provision:

1 Corinthians 7:3 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.

Does "benevolence" include financial support? When someone is "benevolent", we mean he is financially generous. In Greek the word is literally "kindness". Only as a euphemism is it interpreted as, well, what the Old Testament calls "the duty of marriage". Literally, it means that and much more.

[Grk. 2133] eunoia (yoo'-noy-ah)from the same as 2132; kindness; euphemistically, conjugal duty:--benevolence, good will.

Even those who know just a little bit about the Bible's position on divorce know that your spouse being an infidel is not grounds for divorce.

1 Corinthians 7:13 And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.

But a spouse who doesn't take care of his wife's needs is WORSE than an infidel.

1 Timothy 5:8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

Caution: the other grounds are objective. That is, there will be no credible disagreement, when a jury has access to the true facts, what constitutes fornication, crippling spousal or child abuse, or abandonment. But freeloading? Failure to provide financial needs? That can be very subjective. Be very careful before you justify divorcing your husband on this ground. Especially in today's culture, where the Biblical list of clothes and food are so taken for granted that the poorest of American wives do not lack them.

But in our society, wives are expected to work as much as men! Is this a cultural thing which is out of date now? Back then, wives couldn't support families; John 4 shows the situation of women was so bad they could not even freely talk with men in public! Women were, like children half a century ago here, "to be seen and not heard." Not so today!

As always, we can extract general principles from Scripture which always apply, even though the scenario in Scripture has changed, requiring a different application of Scripture as Jesus explained in Luke 5:33-38. In families today we may not have a clear obligation of either spouse to do the financial providing, but we can recognize "fiscal irresponsibility" when we see it. To not go to work when the need is great and the ability is there, is fiscally irresponsible. Likewise, to spend the family into the poor house, or to gamble, or drink up the paycheck, is fiscally irresponsible.

Because of the subjectivity of this problem, however, a law making financial irresponsibility a ground of divorce should be drafted carefully to keep courts from judicial irresponsibility in turning this into a loophole justifying every divorce petition. The first step a judge ought to take, when presented with this ground, should be an order, or restraining order, prohibiting the offending spouse from doing whatever is causing the problem. This could include specific support payments, such as child support or alimony, as appropriate. Then, if the spouse fails to meet the court requirements, that failure could become a ground of divorce.



1 Corinthians 7:10 And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: 11 But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. 12 But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. 13 And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. 15 But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage (dedoulwtai, servant, slave, or bondage) in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.

What else COULD "not under bondage" mean, other than "not under the bonds of matrimony any longer"? It is similar to Romans' discussion of the "freedom" (to remarry) a spouse has after the other spouse dies.

Romans 7:1 Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? 2 For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. 3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. 4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.

"Abandonment" is one of the grounds of divorce that used to be listed in "fault" based divorce laws. It is an easy criteria to define in law. Laws used to make divorce automatic after one has been abandoned for 6 months, or maybe 2 years, or whatever deadline the lawmakers choose.


Unreasonableness; refusal to mediate in good faith.

Matthew 18:15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

Was this relief supposed to be available to everyone else in the church, except to wives? Common sense, compassion, and the literal reading of Scripture requires us to acknowledge this relief was available also to wives. But if being an "unbeliever" is not grounds for divorce, is a heathen or a "publican" enough worse to justify divorce?

Very likely, because to Jews, to regard someone as a "heathen" meant one could not eat with him; much less live or SLEEP with him!

Of course in today's culture we have no "church" willing to serve the function provided here. Christians who need this service will have to make do the best they can with friends. They will need to meditate on the Scriptures to employ their friends in a manner consistent with God's purpose.

Mediators will of course not endorse every complaint. Only when complaints are genuinely oppressive, or dangerous, will Christian mediators certify that a ground of divorce is in sight.

Here is my draft legislation for applying these Scriptural principles to Iowa divorce law in a way God-neutral, if not God-defying, courts can deal with:

"A party to a marriage in which automatic grounds for divorce are absent, but who desires help with any problem in the marriage, may seek mediation through any trained mediator, any relative, any church, or any person or group authorized by any church to mediate marital problems, of which both spouses approve. If the spouses cannot agree on a mediator, the spouse may apply to the Court to appoint a mediator, and if necessary, to require the other spouse to participate in mediation.

"The mediatior(s) will make a record of all evidence and testimony and provide copies to each spouse, will recommend solutions to both spouses, and may establish a timetable for meeting again to evaluate progress.

"Either spouse may petition the mediator(s) to find whether, in their judgment, (1) there is a marital problem which, if unresolved, is serious enough to negate the benefits of marriage, or "legitimate objects of matrimony", listed in Iowa 598.1(7) [this assumes the Legitimate Objects of Matrimony will be defined, as proposed in "Preserving the Legitimate Objects of Matrimony" on this website]; (2) the problem would be capable of resolution but the respondent will not mediate in good faith; and (3) the problem is almost solely the fault of the respondent. Such findings, followed by the same findings six months later, shall constitute grounds for divorce, subject to appeal to the District Court."

I would love to draft a proposed church structure to accomplish the same thing, but I have less hope of persuading a church to follow the Bible, than Iowa's courts.

These Grounds for Divorce are Condensed from Uncle Ed. Show #50, which was also printed in the March 1996 294th issue of the Prayer & Action News.


Serious nature of grounds.Notice the serious nature of all these grounds. Notice that actual danger is in sight.

When your spouse has sexual relations with others, your health is greatly endangered by one more night of marriage.

Likewise with serious physical abuse of you or your children.

If your spouse is fiscally irresponsible, you risk losing your home, and going hungry, even in this land of plenty.

Refusal to mediate in good faith is always oppressive, and can be dangerous. A spouse determined to function beyond reason cripples the marriage, the children's upbringing, and the ability to work. God wants only the wisest of mediators to unanimously certify the seriousness of a problem before calling it a ground of divorce, however.

It is not dangerous to remain "married" to someone who has deserted you, but it is a fiction to continue calling it a "marriage". Even if the spouse is still alive physically, as far as you are concerned, the marriage is as "dead" as if your spouse were physically dead. You have no more hope of reviving your marriage, than if your spouse were gone and buried.

Grounds, not excuses.

Caution: an example of how to misuse God's criteria: you are thinking of filing for divorce on the ground of fiscal irresponsibility. You latch on to it, but not because your situation is that you really love your spouse in every other way but you can't go on without food, wasting away to under 100 pounds and dressed in tatters. No, you are only mildly annoyed at not having quite the budget you had hoped for. But what really motivates you is the thought of a potential lover. So you latch on to "fiscal irresponsibility" as a Biblical excuse to divorce God's best for you and go after the Devil's lover.

Be honest. Purify your hearts of all lust, love your spouse the way Christ loves the Church, offering your life as Christ did, and then, with a clean mind, answer honestly whether the ground for divorce you are considering claiming is really so serious as to make your continued marriage dangerous or genuinely oppressive.

God's laws are practical today.

I did this Bible study in 1996 when the Iowa Legislature was actually considering returning to fault marriage. Chuck Hurley (who now, in 2005, heads the IFPC, Iowa Family Policy Center, Iowa's arm of James Dobson's "Focus on the Family"), was chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and I had considerable opportunity to discuss what an ideal law would say. The version he had drafted (HSB 632) had these grounds for divorce: adultery, desertion for two years, failure "to provide substantial monetary or other necessary support", "domestic abuse or any other type of physical or emotional abuse", child abuse, and substance abuse.

I was concerned about the subjectivity of "", "emotional abuse", and "domestic abuse". My concern for all three of these categories is that even when all the facts are clear, it is impossible for reasonable men to agree where the line ought to be drawn between a normal marriage and "emotional abuse", etc. My additional concern for "domestic abuse" is that Iowa law is notoriously unconcerned with documenting the facts of what actually happened. The impressions of a police officer constitute "proof", even if the victim denies it! Certainly when the victim alleges abuse, it is taken for gospel without even the need of medical corroboration that there has even been an injury!

So I proposed that domestic and child abuse be automatic grounds for divorce when the injury is serious, but that minor physical incidents, along with domestic abuse and financial nonsupport, be handled by mediators through a system I proposed which adapts Matthew 18:15-17 to something courts could work with.

When Iowa had "fault-based" divorce law in the past, prior to 1970, one error in it that made it meaningless was that it had a few very objective grounds, such as adultery and desertion, but then to cover the whole gamut of marital problems which are capable of truly oppressing people, from drinking to beatings, it had a single, vague, subjective ground: "cruel and unusual punishment". This undefined phrase was given too much work to do! It became the vent for every imagined offense, to the extent that, according to Chuck Hurley, one man got a divorce from his wife on the ground that she mixed his peas with his potatoes!

I say this to caution those sincere "purist" Christians who are inclined to keep the list of God's grounds for divorce too short ­ shorter than God's own list. To leave out a ground which God has granted is to tempt all those oppressed by that marital problem to blame God for being unreasonable, when it is ourselves who put a fence around God's mercy. To keep the list of grounds too short, in law, will create a demand for an "escape clause" for all the offenses not covered in the short list. The more we have shortened God's list, the more vague the "escape clause" will have to be to accommodate what we leave out. The more vague the resulting "escape clause", the more that "escape clause" will be capable of misuse for imagined wrongs which should be on no one's list of grounds for divorce.

The other lesson of this comparison of God's laws with man's laws is that we are challenged not only to define what facts should constitute a ground of divorce, but also to develop objective methods of establishing these facts. This is crucial when a court must decide whether to grant divorce, but it is almost as crucial when Christians are thinking of filing for divorce and want to know if what they are about to do is Biblical.

For this reason, teachings about God's grounds for divorce should include enough detail, enough examples, enough practical applications, enough understanding of the underlying principles, for a spouse considering claiming "unreasonableness" to test whether his perception rises to God's vision. In my legislative proposal I offered a specific structure which would determine this issue, without relying on the colored perception of the aggrieved spouse.

Let me try to summarize what our teachings must contain to be helpful and not harmful:

<> They must contain a list of grounds comprehensive enough to cover every truly oppressive marital situation.

<> They must be unambiguous enough that no marital situation that is not genuinely oppressive will be thought so by any spouse.

<> They must have the support of God's Word and Common Sense. They should be reasonable, and Biblically documented.

Grounds, not requirements. God does not require anyone to get divorced, even when there are grounds. God Himself has grounds for divorcing us, but He mercifully does not! Hosea makes this analogy very clear.

God says that the reason He does not answer our prayers is because we divorce without grounds. God HATES divorce.

Malachi 2:11 Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the LORD which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god. 12 The LORD will cut off the man that doeth this, the master and the scholar, out of the tabernacles of Jacob, and him that offereth an offering unto the LORD of hosts. 13 And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand. 14 Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. 15 And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. 16 For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that HE HATETH PUTTING AWAY [divorce]: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously. 17 Ye have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?

But what if you have grounds for divorce, but you want to live by a higher, purer standard? You want to set aside your own interests in the interest of being extra holy before God? You see all these Biblical Grounds for Divorce as a provision of God "for the hardness of our hearts", and you want to rise higher.

Matthew 19:3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? 4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. 7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? 8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so...10 His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. 11 But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. 12 For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.

You want to be one of those special people "to whom it is given".

Well, fine, go ahead. But heed this warning: do not try to "out-holy" what God asks of you, and then resent God when the burden seems too heavy. Remember that when Jesus said divorce was a concession for the hardness of hearts, He did not mean divorce where there are these 6 grounds: He specifically referred to the provision of Moses' law, where a more frivolous ground of divorce was given:

Deuteronomy 24:1 When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. 2 And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife. 3 And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; 4 Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the LORD: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.

How frivolous is this ground of divorce? What "uncleanness" is envisioned?

[Heb. 6172] `ervah (er-vaw') from 6168; nudity, literally (especially the pudenda [the external female sexual organs: the vulva]) or figuratively (disgrace, blemish):--nakedness, shame, unclean(-ness).

The only scenario I can think of from this definition is that the husband, upon seeing his wife naked for the first time, doesn't like the appearance of something.

Matthew Henry pointed out that the Pharisees expanded Moses' excuse for divorce as a precedent for divorce "for EVERY cause". Jesus, without clarifying their expansion of Moses' ground, ruled against either ground.

Matthew Henry: That a man might not divorce his wife unless he found some uncleanness in her, De 24:1. It was not sufficient to say that he did not like her, or that he liked another better, but he must show cause for his dislike; something that made her disagreeable and unpleasant to him, though it might not make her so to another. This uncleanness must mean something less than adultery; for, for that, she was to die; and less than the suspicion of it, for in that case he might give her the waters of jealousy; but it means either a light carriage, or a cross froward disposition, or some loathsome sore or disease; nay, some of the Jewish writers suppose that an offensive breath might be a just ground for divorce. Whatever is meant by it, doubtless it was something considerable; so that their modern doctors erred who allowed divorce for every cause, though ever so trivial, Mt 19:3.

So if you love your unfaithful spouse so much that you do not want to remarry but leave the door open to her return beyond earthly hope, and beyond the opportunity to accept her back without incurring the "abomination" of Deuteronomy 24:1, you will follow in the footsteps of our majestic God who loved us so much He allowed us to defile Him.

Jeremiah 3:1 They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man's, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the LORD.

Many men, suffering divorce, never remarry. Paul offers plenty of encouragement for that:

1 Corinthians 7:1 Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. 2 Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

...6 But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. 7 For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. 8 I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.

...15 But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.

...25 Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful. 26 I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be

...32 But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: 33 But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. 34 There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. 35 And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.

...38 So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better. 39 The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord. 40 But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God.

But in all these reasons not to remarry, observe that Paul does not mention "so that you may be more righteous".

Isaiah 64:6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

Ecclesiastes 7:16 Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself?

There are legitimate motives for being single. If you want to remain single so you can be less distracted in your service to God, good. If you find a wife who can make you more effective in your service to God, good.

But know surely that if you remain married, or, separated, or do not divorce and remarry when you have genuine Biblical grounds for doing so, if your motives are Biblical God will bless your sacrifice. But God has not so commanded you. Remember this very important point, should the point come where you feel bitterness or resentment towards God for denying you happiness. It is not God who denies you.

1 Corinthians 7:15 ...God hath called us to peace.


Dye a Log (or, "dialog")


Questioner: I think you are making a serious mistake to say "Unreasonableness" is a Scriptural ground for divorce. Matthew 18. 15-17 is not about unreasonableness, it is about sin, and sin of the kind for which cause the whole church would normally disfellowship a person.

Answer: This is a common assumption, but I would be interested in any Scriptural ground you can muster for it, beyond the fact the only recorded specific excommunication in Scripture was such a sin (which, by the way, was not dealt with by the Matthew 18:15-17 process). Jesus described, however, a "trespass" not necessarily against God, but against a brother. In other words, a matter which may not have been a sin to anybody else.

"Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone."

In the private relationship between friends, words are said and deeds done, the appropriateness of which no outsider can be certain, without consulting a party to the relationship.

Friends know one another's hearts, which permits them to joke more with each other, and expect more from each other, than strangers. Therefore it can only be a party to the relationship who can logically initiate a complaint against the other, when joking, presuming, or expecting goes too far. Likewise, it is illogical for any outsider to blame the accused for words or deeds which, so far as anyone has told him, are kind. Only his friend is in a position to inform him that his words or deeds now cause offense. How irrational, as well as unscriptural, therefore, it is for friends, and even spouses, to articulate more clearly to strangers their grievances, than to their friends and spouses!

Only after friends have confronted each other and done their best to resolve their disagreement, is it logical, much less Scriptural, for one of them to invite mediators to bring a little perspective to the case. The wisdom of inviting a mediator is that, just as offenses between friends often cannot be evaluated by outsiders without confirmation from one of the friends that it is a problem, sometimes it is difficult for friends to have a fair perspective on whether a problem is a genuine trespass or a mere personal annoyance, without the perspective of outsiders to the dispute.

When the type of sin you speak of, for which our Scriptural example is 1 Corinthians 5:1, arose in the church, Matthew 18:15-17 was not followed because the sin (1) was not known to only one brother but was already known to the whole church and indeed to the whole town, and (2) did not affect, or reflect upon, just one brother, but upon the whole church. That's why Paul, Instead of following the three-step procedure of Matthew 18, jumped right to dragging the matter before the whole church! Paul did not even try to talk to the man privately, himself! He reacted to second-hand reports!

This teaches us that, although Matthew 18 gives us a procedure for excommunication, it is not the only procedure. It is only the procedure for when you have a private disagreement with your "brother", an encompassing term which includes all Christians in your city, which includes your own spouse.

It is significant that even though the grievance may be against only one person, the entire church is to regard the offender as a heathen. That is the same thinking behind punishment for any crime by human courts. Most crimes are not against all of society, but only against individual crime victims. Yet all of society participates in punishment. Partly it is our respect for each individual among us, that makes us feel wronged, ourselves, when our neighbor is wronged; and partly it is our fear for our own safety, at where criminals may strike next if they are not restrained.

There is one other Scripture that specifically alludes to the Matthew 18 3-step procedure:

Titus 3:10 A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject;

The traditional assumption is that this offense is not one of immoral deeds or even disobedience to God's clear commandments, but one of intellectual belief. It is intellectual beliefs which are unacceptably wrong, that make one a "heretick".

However, the Greek word means "divisive". Divisiveness is not when you stand up for a belief which the whole church rejects and tosses you out because they don't want to hear it any longer. That doesn't divide anyone else from each other, but only divides you from them. That isn't what splits churches.

Of course, churches are sometimes split over doctrines, but that is only because of the modern practice of tolerating no more than one doctrine per assembly. Only one man gets to articulate it, and the rest either listen or leave. There is no logical incentive to split over doctrines, for those who have enough faith in their beliefs to consider them worth sharing, and where they are in an assembly like 1 Corinthians 14 describes, a forum where they have the opportunity to reason with those who don't yet share their belief. In that case, you WANT to stay where you can reason with your intellectual opponents.

Real divisiveness is where the divider manages, through deceptive gossip, to divide others from each other while making himself innocent in the eyes of both sides. The number of churches which split over genuine differences of doctrines is minuscule compared with the number which split over gossip.

It is the church-splitter, such as a gossip, which Titus 3:10 tells us to add to our list of candidates for the Matthew 18 process.

Questioner: Jews were forbidden to marry heathen. But if a married Christian spouse were to apostasize, (and thus be treated as a heathen [according to the provisions of Mat 18:17]) then would you not have the situation [the same "unbelief"] of 1 Corinthians 7:12-13: "if the unbelieving spouse be willing to continue with the believing spouse, the believing spouse should not leave. But even if the believing spouse leaves, let him or her remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to his or her spouse"? Why would this guideline be changed, simply because the unbelieving spouse had in the past been a believer?

Answer: In other words, because you assume Matthew 18:15-17 is about excommunicating "hereticks", you think my application of that process to marriage would mean we should divorce a "heretick", which would be wrong since 1 Corinthians 7:12-13 says we should not divorce just because our spouse is a "heretick". Based on your assumptions, it is logical for you to think I mean that if your spouse has never been a believer, you should not divorce just because of unbelief, as per 1 Corinthians 7; but if your spouse was a believer and then falls away, we SHOULD divorce just because of unbelief, as per Matthew 18!

The absurdity of this reasoning is the best argument I have ever seen that Matthew 18:15-17 could not have been intended to deal with people whose only offense is that they sincerely believe some theological position which others do not.

(Just to flesh out Jesus' likely scenario a little more, a dispute over what is true can certainly be a component of an offense. But it can't be the only offense; it has to involve the offender's approach to the dispute. For example if a friend takes a position out in left field, why, that is just being human. We all have a few of those. But if we become belligerent about it, and start condemning to hell those who don't already agree with us, even before we make our case for our strange new idea, we become the problem. Paul had strange new ideas. But unlike the Roman Catholic church who tried to burn Martin Luther at the stake for his strange new ideas without giving him a hearing to see if Luther's ideas were Scriptural, the Bereans, hearing Paul, "searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so", which made them "more noble" in the eyes of God "than those in Thessalonica" who apparently were more like past Roman Catholics. Acts 17:11. There are other relationship problems which begin with intellectual misperceptions. Presenting a strange doctrine at a Bible study, listening to it being thoroughly refuted, point by patient point, and then continuing to bring it up again without addressing the objections, as if the points had never been refuted, can get pretty old. Or if such a person, thoroughly refuted by one group to the point the person has nothing more to say in defense of his doctrine, goes and finds others to infect with his doctrine, that can lead the first group to fairly conclude the person really knows better and intends to deceive anyone he can find. But mere sincere intellectual misperceptions, in the absence of other relationship problems, are no bar to a vibrant fellowship patterned after 1 Corinthians 14 and Romans 14. Discussions are made all the more interesting and useful by sincere disagreements, if there is all the love and mutual respect which the Bible inspires us to, to keep our discussions rational, and to the point, so that disagreements are resolved and Truth is allowed to win. Church, as defined by these two chapters, is the place for doctrinal disagreements! Where doctrinal disagreement is the only issue, the Matthew 18 process actually turns into a perfect opportunity for anyone with a good case for his doctrine, to preach it to as many as possible; for which he will suffer no sanction as long as he can persuade one other Christian in his city! No, sincere doctrinal disagreements are not an enemy of church unity, but church is the place for them. Our unity is in our determination to search together for the truth, just as marital unity is in our determination to sharpen each other, Proverbs 27:17, not in our being so intellectually cloned that we can just sit and look at each other with nothing to say because everything we believe and think is already what everybody else believes and thinks!)

Actually Matthew 18:15-17 doesn't even justify physical excommunication. Jesus says the sentence should not be a physical restraint, but simply the recognition that the one judged has spiritual problems on the same level as unbelievers.

In other words, the process tests a professing believer and, by his response to a relationship problem, reveals to us whether his heart is really not right with God, even though his professed beliefs may remain the same as ours.

But what does Jesus tell us to do with this brother-in-the-talk-but-not-in-the-walk, now that we should treat him as an unbeliever? Do we physically expel unbelievers from church? No! We beg them to come! We just don't give them the spiritual responsibilities we give believers. Nor do we have the same intimacy with them, the same trust.

1 Corinthians 7:12-13 deals with the opposite situation: where the spouse does notprofess our faith, and yet the relationship may still be mutually productive! At least there is no adultery yet, etc.

But how can we say unbelief can be a less serious matter than a mere personal relationship problem? How dare God say such a thing? Remember that Matthew 18 isn't describing some inconsequential relationship problem. Not some arguable wrong over which reasonable people might disagree. No, Jesus says the sentence of recognition as an unbeliever cannot be carried out as long as ONE CHRISTIAN in the WHOLE CITY doubts the problem is that serious! (In New Testament times, there was only one church per city.) The "whole church" had to agree. It had to be unanimous! So it couldn't be some slight offense which would cause some to say, "Oh, that isn't so bad. I do that myself sometimes."

Yes, I have to agree with God. When a relationship problem gets that bad, it's worse than sincerely held unbelief.

Although I have made the case that sincerely held unbelief is not the primary scenario of Matthew 18:15-17, I agree that it can trigger the process. Normally the type of discussion envisioned by 1 Corinthians 14 exposes the very existence of unbelief before the whole group, before individuals would be able to even discover it, much less have time to pursue the 3-step process. (See verses 24-25.)

But "unbelief" is often not a black and white thing. Hard-heartedness to any Biblical principle can poison a relationship with a close friend, or spouse, even while on the whole, the "unbeliever on this one point" maintains workable relationships with other Christians. In this case, the concern of a friend may be able to alert others to whether this believer is beginning to fall from a relationship with God.

(The extreme but familiar example of this is the Randall Terry Syndrome: falling so far into disobedience, regarding marriage vows, as to file for an unnecessary divorce, yet maintaining working relationships with other Christians across the nation besides his wife, and even to write and record a touching love song about marital commitment, dedicated to his second wife.)

When this is the case, then indeed under Matthew 18 a spouse could become formally recognized as a heathen over "unbelief on some point of faith", but 1 Corinthians 7 would say "unbelief" is not grounds for divorce and remarriage to another. But I said, didn't I, that Matthew 18 may potentially justify divorce and remarriage?

Paul spoke of "speaking by permission" as opposed to saying what the Lord had given him. While making this distinction, he said GOD SAID the wife must never divorce her husband, 1 Cor 7:10-11, and HE wad ADDING that neither wife nor husband should divorce an unbelieving spouse to marry a believer, so long as the unbeliever was willing to stay married, vs 12-16, but that if the unbelieving departed, the believer was free to remarry.

Why does Paul add to the words of the Lord? Because, in the spirit of Matthew 9:14-17, the situation demanded it. To have legalistically not allowed this exception would, in these situations, be an unreasonable burden. For, in very fact, when an unbeliever divorces a spouse for belief in Jesus Christ, the hope of reconciliation is pretty dead. In the words of no fault divorce law, "the legitimate objects of matrimony have been destroyed, and there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved."

In that spirit, I, not the Lord, appealing to Matthew 9:14-17 for a setting aside of legalism in a situation not specified in Scripture, plead for empathy when a spouse finds him or herself in a situation so cruel that the UNANIMOUS judgment of all local divorce-hating believers determines it is as cruel as crippling physical abuse, fornication, or financial irresponsibility. Jesus did not, after all, say to regard the accused as "merely" heathen, which would equate to the "unbeliever" of 1 Corinthians 7, but as worse: a heathen AND a publican. And let me emphasize again, unanimous.

As I said before, we have no church structure capable of formally rendering such a judgment. But when we are considering divorcing over something which seems small in the eyes of at least some of our brothers in Christ, which they advise us to overlook or be patient with, we would obviously fail to reach the unanimous support required by this provision, if there were a church structure capable of rendering it.

Questioner: Another thing that you gloss over is your idea that a woman could not survive if unmarried. While it would clearly be difficult, there are places in the scripture that speak of widows, and they all managed to survive under normal (non-famine) circumstances. Anyway, in the New Testament, the Anna of Luke 2:36 appears to have survived as a widow for perhaps 50 years or more. And if it were really true that a woman could not survive if unmarried, why did Paul say 1 Corinthians 7:8 Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am.

Was the economic situation of the first century that much improved over Old Testament times? And even if it were that much more improved, any argument that a divorced women is forced by economic considerations to remarry would be invalid.

Answer: You are reacting to what I had written, that "in our society, wives are expected to work as much as men! Is this a cultural thing which is out of date now? Back then, wives couldn't support families; John 4 shows the situation of women was so bad they could not even freely talk with men in public! Women were, like children half a century ago here, 'to be seen and not heard.' Not so today!"

You mention Anna, but she spent those years in the Temple; she "departed not from the temple", verse 37, suggesting that she was at least in some sense "dedicated" to the Temple and was supported through it; either through alms, relatives, or through direct support from the Temple such as young Samuel received, 1 Samuel 3. Certainly, if she "departed not from the Temple", she could not have held down a normal dawn-to-dusk job outside of it!

1 Timothy 5 describes the condition of widows. If a widow has "children or nephews", v. 4, the Church should not provide for them, because why? Because she can go get a job? No, because the children and nephews should learn to care for their own!

Only a widow at least 60 years old, and a "widow indeed", meaning without children or nephews, may receive church aid. Why? Because younger widows can go get a job? No; because younger widows can marry! v. 11.

Questioner: Of course, the only part of what you wrote that concerns me in a practical way would be your interpretation of the phrase in 1 Corinthians 7:15, "A brother or a sister is not under bondage (dedoulwtai, servant, slave, or bondage) in such cases..." You say that the meaning here of the word "bondage" must necessarily include the bondage of the believing abandoned spouse not then being free to marry another. Your exegesis is here again glib, I feel. How can you address this without even the slightest effort to make it fit with Matthew 5:32? Matthew 5:32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.

Dave, your interpretation of I Corinthians 7:15 is cast in serious (and, barring some credible explanation, fatal) doubt by this verse. Don't you owe your readers at least an explanation? By the way, while you are at it, you might as well also cover Luke 16. 18, Luke 16:18 Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Answer: Apparently you didn't read the beginning of my article. Read my section on "Fornication".

Questioner: , thanks for your prompt reply. I could wish that you had taken perhaps a little more time on it. I'm going to save these debates in the hopes that I can seriously peruse and pray over them, perhaps during my sabbath time. However, you dismissed the entire second part of my response with this statement: "Apparently you didn't read the beginning of my article. Read my section on 'Fornication'."

Actually, Dave, I did read it--several times, in fact. If there is an answer to Matthew 5:32b and Luke 16:18 in your section on Fornication, forgive me for not seeing it. I know that you seem to think that what it says applies to any situation where a man puts away his wife because he wants to marry another woman.

Answer: Huh? What? I specifically said Jesus calls that motive for divorce "adultery"!

Questioner: Here's what I'm looking for: tell me what those two verses mean, if you hold that any woman is free to remarry whose husband has left her for another woman. It isn't that a view of the two verses needs to be taken in context with, say, Matthew 19 (your interpretation is pretty wild there, also) it's that your position seems to blatantly contradict Matthew 5:32 and Luke 16:18, and you refuse to face it.

And even Matthew 19 contradicts your "Six Grounds for Divorce," since Jesus explicitly says there that "Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery..." Here he is explicitly saying that there is only one case, fornication, where divorce would not equal adultery. How then can you explicitly contradict him, and say that there are six cases?

Answer: Here is the part you have not read, although you may have "read" it, to use the distinction of Mark 4:12:

"But Mark 10 didn't mention this exception. Does Mark 10 contradict Matthew 19? No! Never! Let the Bible interpret itself. Man's laws fill entire buildings, and change every year, because man tries to write laws legalistically to cover every situation. Thus a bill in the Iowa legislature once literally sought to add "milk boxes" to the list of containers which could not be legally stolen!

"But God writes with general principles. For example, we learn from 1rom Corinthians 9:9 that it was folly to interpret Deuteronomy 25:4 as referring only to oxen! It was a broad principle which common sense applies also to paying preachers.

"So if we see two parallel passages and one has more detail than another, we do not assume there is a contradiction, but rather we are warned against taking the less detailed verse, or any verse, as all we need to know on the subject, without reading the rest of the Bible.

"This necessary principle of interpretation cautions us to remember that Matthew 19 is not necessarily all the grounds for divorce God wants us to know about, either, if we can find more grounds in other Scriptures."

If you had, indeed, read and understood this, why did you write as if I had not presented this reasoning? Why do you still write as if it must be assumed that if an exception to a principle is specified in Scripture, it is a complete list of exceptions, regardless of whether additional exceptions are listed elsewhere in Scripture?

If I give a careful, patient explanation of some principle, and you respond as if the points I so thoroughly explained have never on the planet been addressed, can you see it is normal for me to conclude "you weren't listening"?

Another reason I fear you have not read the section is that you quote a verse I did not cite, as if it refuted my points, without noticing it had the same content, on these points, as the verses I did expound.

My friend, why is the tone so stern between us? Can you perceive that the reason I have taken these hours to dig out my old writings, clean them up, edit them, update them, and tighten them, laying aside other priorities in the process, is so that you may freely accept the joy God offers you with the one you love, who has suffered an unjust divorce?

Questioner: You seem to be saying that the divorced wife is bound [not free to remarry] if her husband puts her away for some other reason than fornication, but that she is not bound if he puts her away for the purpose of marrying another woman. But that is explicitly the situation in Matthew 5:32 and Luke 16:18!

Answer: Fascinating that you should attribute such a strange interpretation to me, since I can't think of anything I have written remotely like it, or even on the same subject, but you seem to see that meaning in the verses themselves ("that is explicitly the situation in Mat 5:32...."!

Here is the puzzle you appear to perceive: Is the converse of Matthew 5:32 also true? Does Matthew 5:32 mean if a man does divorce his wife for his wife's fornication, that he does not cause her to commit adultery? Hmm. I guess in that case, she would cause herself to commit adultery. If the grounds were legitimate ­ if the wife committed adultery, then she is already an adulterer and may not become more so by remarrying after her divorce. She is guilty, and in fact under Moses' law she would not live long enough to remarry anyway.

Even more interesting questions are raised by Matthew 32.

(Matthew 5:32: "...whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.")

The questions:

1. But what did Jesus mean when he said a man who divorces his wife to marry another, causes HER to commit adultery?

2. Moses provided for the woman divorced without cause, saying if her husband either stops paying child support, or alimony, or withholds the "duty of marriage", she is "free", clearly meaning free to remarry. We can understand Jesus' vision in these verses of a higher standard, for the man, than Moses' casual permission for men to divorce for less than serious causes. But why would Jesus judge, more harshly than Moses, the innocent victim of an unjust divorce?

3. How can one man's sin (filing for ungrounded divorce) cause another to be guilty of an even greater sin? (Adultery was a capital offense; filing for ungrounded divorce was not.) Isn't this contrary to every other Scriptural principle, such as 2 Chronicles 25:4, "...every man shall die for his own sins..."?

4. Is the woman punished for what the man does, and not the man? Why does Jesus talk about the guilt of the woman only, and not of the man, for actions taken by the man?

5. If being divorced causes her to commit adultery, isn't she then stoned to death? How could she remarry?

6. How is the man who marries this divorced woman guilty of adultery, as if the woman is still married to the first man? If the woman is divorced against her will, by a husband who filed for an unnecessary divorce without Biblical grounds -- by a man who, in other words, departed from belief in the commandments of God, and "left", isn't that the situation Paul described in 1 Corinthians 7:12-13 where he said the believing abandoned spouse is then "free" because "God hath called us to peace"? Had Paul never read Matthew 5:32? Do we have a contradiction in Scripture?

7. How can the woman be guilty of adultery before she even remarries, or even has sex with another man? How can the very act of divorce make her guilty of adultery, even if the divorce were her fault?

Light is shown by comparing this wording, and these questions, with the parallel passage in Mark 10:

11 And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. 12 And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.

These statements are much easier to make sense of. The man who files for an unnecessary divorce treats his wife like one of a series of promiscuous relationships, which is what fornication, or adultery, is. Promiscuity isn't any less promiscuous, just because you spend a year with someone, rather than a day, before moving on to the next! To file for an unnecessary divorce, and remarry and file for another unnecessary divorce, and remarry and etc., etc., is just prostitution in slow motion.

But then what about Matthew 5:32, whose implications do not arrange themselves for our inspection so easily? Shall we assume Matthew and Mark are reporting the same statement by Jesus and one just got it more accurate than the other? Not if we think every word of Scripture is worthy of our trust and obedience; and if we do not, why are we reading any of it?

The two statements are different. But it is possible that they both articulate the same truth, from two different directions. I trust Matthew 5:32 contradicts neither Mark 10:11-12, 1 Corinthians 7:12-13 nor 2 Chronicles 25:4. The following interpretation of Matthew 5:32 (a) contradicts no Scriptural principle, (b) makes perfect sense, and (c) appropriately captures the tragedy of unnecessary divorce:

"...causeth her to commit adultery..." is not meant in the sense of making "her" guilty of a sin for which the punishment on earth is death, and the punishment after death is Hell. Jesus meant it in the sense of the wrong done to her. She is robbed of the virtue of marriage to only one man for her whole life. God had made her one with her first love, and now this man tears away, tearing them in two, for no fault of her own, and forces her to find another man to marry (pressured by the need for food and shelter).

In other words, he has degraded her.

Remarriage after widowhood involves no tearing of the marriage bonds. Your love is torn away from your arms, but at least not by his or her choice!

But ask anyone divorced against their will, while their spouse still lives! Your heart is torn in two. Compared with your original dream of "till death do us part", divorce and remarriage is not the way it was meant to be. There is a sense of "having been violated". It is impossible to present yourself a virgin, again, to a second spouse. It is something like being forced to commit adultery. The guilt is certainly not the same as the guilt of adultery, but the feeling of heartbreak, of tearing assunder what God hath joined together, is very much the same. The family tree gets all mixed up. Children now have fourteen grandmas and grandpas, who take turns from one year to the next. Love is fleeting, from extended family members, for the children. Children find themselves having to be careful not to express too much affection for one "daddy", in the presence of another "daddy", lest the present "daddy" becomes jealous! Commitment is a stranger.

The victim of an unnecessary divorce is degraded; robbed of an easily defined, stable, committed family. The victim is not guilty, but suffers part of the same penalty as if he or she were guilty.

Jesus is, in other words, according to this interpretation, not expressing condemnation of the innocent woman, but empathy with her. As I said before, Hollywood's divorce and remarriage, followed by divorce and remarriage, etc., etc., is no more sacred than adultery in slow motion. It is in that sense that the woman is "forced to commit adultery", and it is in that sense that the man who marries her cannot enter into a virgin relationship, but the woman he marries has lost her virginity to another man who still lives, and whose "ghost" still "haunts" the family bonds.

Other Scriptures document God's empathy for those who must marry again despite the hurdle of having lost their virginity to a man still living.

Deuteronomy 21:14 And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whether she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her.

Deuteronomy 22:29 Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.

Does any of this seem like straining to reach an interpretation we can "live with"? If so, it is the straight-jacket of traditional interpretations which has become so comfortable that freedom and common sense seem awkward. Or it may be because in this wicked generation, the reverence for virginity universally understood by Americans, half a century ago, seems quaint now and it seems "strained" to think anyone could be genuinely affected by such feelings.

Yet even now, there are pockets of preference for a woman who has never given herself to another man, over a woman who has been with many. A very sensible interpretation of Jesus' statement is that he was not laying down any new law at all, but was merely describing the tragedy which all human beings already sense. When a woman is divorced against her will, she is forced into that category of women who are the "second choice" of eligible bachelors. A divorced woman, who probably has children and pregnancy pounds too, is not much more preferable to handsome young eligible men to an adulterous woman. That isn't theology at all, that is human nature. And it is tragic, and Jesus cares.

And back to the young man who finally marries this reject: is it happily ever after, as if there had never been a previous marriage? No! Ask any man in that situation! The first husband still lives! There is still a relationship; though it is no longer sexual, there are matters requiring communication, especially regarding children! It is NO FUN to have to deal with the very man who took your wife's virginity and still robs her peace!

Jesus does not mean to condemn the innocent victims of unnecessary divorce: He aims to prevent unnecessary divorce!

Jesus is God! John 1:1-10, etc. Jesus has been divorced by us! Hosea, etc. Does Jesus feel guilty? Does God think He should be stoned to death because we have divorced Him without grounds? Does God think that since some have divorced Him, that He should not have a relationship with others?

No. When the Jews killed Him, God turned that into an open door for Gentiles, with the hope of reunion with all mankind.

Jesus does not tell the victims of unnecessary divorce not to marry. The divorced wife's forced commission of adultery assumes she will be forced to remarry in order to live. The adultery-like condition forced upon her is made logical by the assumption that she must remarry. Jesus sympathizes with victims. He does not condemn them, or unreasonably burden them.

Jesus does not tell her second husband not to marry her. He only grieves that his marriage cannot be as he and all other men wish, and as God intended: between virgins. He only pleads with His children: "God is love, so of course I hate divorce. Won't you please stop doing this to each other?"


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