Recently, at the request of my shepherds, I preached a three-part sermon series on marriage, divorce, and remarriage (Hitched, Hurt & Whole). While the audio files of these sermons are available from MoSt Church’s website (www.mostchurch.org >audio/video >sermons), I thought it might be helpful to try to sum up the heart of all three sermons in a single post that can be read.
Of course, it should be obvious that no three sermons can cover all the bases of this vast field, and I make no claim for these studies to be comprehensive. However, my sincere prayer is that these sermons, and this post, will be found helpful in aiding us all to go further in discerning our Lord’s will for us in this complex and complicated trio of subjects.
As always, continue reading and studying, reflecting on and practicing, what you understand God’s word to be saying, with an ever open mind to development and growth of understanding, and with a humble heart, knowing your own weakness and the frailty and needs of others.
Since marriage is a gift from God, anyone who enters into it ought to view it as a sacred thing. God designed and instituted marriage to be between a man and a woman, both of them playing an equal role in the marriage covenant.
“It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” (Genesis 2.18) “… God ‘made them male and female.’ … and ‘the two shall become one flesh.’ … Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Mark 10.6,8-9)
A couple best treats marriage as a sacred thing by continually submitting to each other in all things. Both the husband and wife must be all in and for the long haul in order for a marriage to be all it can be.
“… submit to each other out of respect for Christ.” (Ephesians 5.21)
When both of these elements are kept in play – looking up to marriage with great respect and looking out with respect for our marriage partner as much as for ourself (or more) – a marriage stands on two strong legs and is hard to knock down. When both husband and wife actively and consistently seek to express and demonstrate their care for each other in even the smallest of ways on a daily basis, how blessed a thing it is for all to see. And certainly, the Spirit of God sees such and can then work much good through the union of such a man and woman, husband and wife.
“God is fair. He doesn’t forget what you do and the love you’ve shown for his name’s sake when you served, and continue to serve, God’s holy people.” (Hebrews 6.10)
Application: God’s people need to be at the forefront of humanity in modeling the sacredness of, and mutual submission inherent in, marriage.
“Marriage must be honored in every respect …” (Hebrews 13.4)
Make no mistake about it: God hates all divorce and holds his arms up against it. But, divorce happens, and God himself is not removed from the pain and suffering of divorce himself for he has been down that road before and wishes no one to have to go through what he has experienced.
Never lose sight of this equally great truth: God loves all of the divorced and holds his arms out to them. God loves all the people of the world, with no exceptions, and his love is genuine and active, practical and powerful; his Son Jesus then comes across easier on the divorced than some (sadly) might wish him to be.
“Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11.28)
At the same time, Jesus is harder on divorce than most people people understand him to be for he did not offer any “exception clause(s)” whatsoever so as to make one (or more) kinds of divorce “good” or “legitimate.” To understand Jesus so (in Matthew 19.9) is to terribly misconstrue his teaching. For it is clear that the Son of God hates divorce just like, and just as much as, his Father.
“Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (Luke 16.18)
Application: God expects his people to channel, embody, extend, imitate, model, and reflect his hatred of all divorce and his love for all of the divorced.
“… as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'” (1 Peter 1.15-16)
Since God has said from the start that it is not good for man to be alone, we can say that God wills, and enables, a divorced person to not shrivel up and die after a divorce, but to get up and move on with their life, a move that might, or might not, include remarriage. Let us not forget that a deep and wide thread of thought runs through the course of all of Scripture declaring the goodness of marriage and the distinct challenges of living alone, and so, let us not be hasty in trying to prohibit a second marriage.
And so, whatever path a singled-again person chooses (to remain single or to remarry), let us pray for, and work toward, helping people move up in their life with God. Contrary to what some believe, teach, and practice, there is literally nothing in our life that cannot serve as a vehicle for spiritual growth if it is good, and it is approached with a word from God and a word with him … and this can include remarriage.
“The Spirit clearly says that in latter times some … will turn away from the faith. …They will prohibit marriage … Everything created by God is good, and nothing that is received with thanksgiving should rejected. These things are made holy by God’s word and prayer.” (1 Timothy 4.1,3a,4-5)
I’ve found one of the most common and healthy prayers – when prayed with sincerity and mindfulness – among people of God within our heritage to be this simple, single-sentence prayer: “Guide, guard, and direct us.” When we ponder what we are saying when we pray such, are we not saying that life is so exceedingly difficult, dangerous, and distracting, that we require constant, divine intervention to just make it down the road another day? This is true for all of us, and can be even more true for some. How much better then for us to pray such a prayer often, rather than judge, those who have traveled through the valley of the shadow of divorce and have found, or seem about to find, fresh pasture and water in remarriage. God does not expect us to try to unscramble scrambled eggs.
“Who are you to judge someone else’s servants? They stand or fall before their own Lord (and they will stand, because the Lord has the power to make them stand).” (Romans 14.4)
Application: God’s people do best by the remarried when they actively encourage, rather than subtly (or even openly) discourage, an existing relationship.
“Find a good spouse, you find a good life—and even more: the favor of God!” (Proverbs 18.22)