Emerging Worshiper, Ken Bussell, has given me permission to share his recent post “Divorce, Remarriage, Adultery, and Homosexuality”. At the end of the post I have included a portion of the comment thread that occurred. I implore you not to skip that part as I believe that Ken’s response to the anonymous commenter gets to the heart of the matter at hand.
Many Christians hold that homosexual behavior is sinful and require that LGBT persons be repentant of such behavior in order to be accepted or remain in Christian fellowship. An LGBT person who is unrepentant, who continues in homosexual behavior, is considered to be continuing in sin and is liable to church discipline and/or exclusion from fellowship. These beliefs come directly from scripture. For many Christians, if the Bible says something is sin, then it is sin. Period.
But I would like to point out the hypocrisy of this as it pertains to divorce and remarriage. The dominant view of divorce among Christians today is that it is not preferable, but that it is allowed in certain circumstances, such as infidelity and abandonment by an unbeliever. But what is not discussed as often is the issue of remarriage. Jesus teaches about this in 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.”
And again in Matthew 19:9 –
“I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
And Mark 10:11-12 –
He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”
And Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, 15 –
“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… But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.”
And for Old Testament exclamation, Malachi 2:16a –
“I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel…
While it can be conceded that marital unfaithfulness and abandonment by an unbeliever are legitimate grounds for divorce, scripture does not allow divorce for any other reason. Therefore, according to the Bible, anyone who divorces for any reason other than infidelity or abandonment by an unbeliever and then later remarries is an adulterer.
So is this adultery sinful? Most Christians do not demand that remarried divorcees repent of their adultery and end their sinful and immoral behavior. Most do not cry out through political punditry that remarried divorcees are a threat to the institution of marriage and the family values of our nation. Christian politicians are not lobbying for legislation or constitutional amendments against divorce and remarriage. Isn’t divorce a significantly more direct and damaging threat to marriage than homosexuality? Isn’t God’s Old Testament hate of divorce equivalent to His calling homosexuality an abomination? Adultery and homosexuality seem to be equivalent in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 –
“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
So why do Christians treat the two issues so differently? If there is a hermeneutic that allows for the acceptance of remarriage, why can’t we also be accepting of homosexuality?
Pardon me for being cynical, but I think it is easy for Christian leaders to take a hard stance against homosexuality. Leaders cannot speak out so strongly against remarried divorcees because there are too many of them attending their churches. Half of all marriages in America end in divorce, and the number one cause of those divorces is financial stress. To take a solidly conservative Biblical stand against all those who have remarried after such a divorce would clear the pews in a hurry!
But do Christians truly avoid teaching these verses because it would be unpopular? Or is it that we don’t believe them? Do we just decide for ourselves what we think is right and trust that God agrees with us, regardless of what the Bible says? Could our interpretation of these passages regarding divorce and adultery really be that dependent on our own ideas of morality?
So I ask again, what is the hermeneutic that allows Christians to accept the adultery inherent in most remarriages? And if such a hermeneutic exists, why is it not applied to other sexual sins, such as homosexuality? And if it does not exist, why do Christians accept unrepentant remarried persons into fellowship but not unrepentant homosexuals?
(The following is a portion of the comment thread that followed Ken’s post)
So if I’m understanding you correctly, since I am a re-married, born again Christian (the first marriage ended with my unbelieving and abusive spouse leaving and filing for divorce) and I’m committing adultery, that I should not be allowed to be a member of a church? Or to be held accountable/disciplined? Feeling QUITE condemned considering I’ve been married 10 years and have 5 children. Now I have adultery on my head.
2nd post. I walked away bawling after your article. My precious husband, whom I adore, was single and married me, a divorced woman and I see God’s Word is true and I’m crumbling over it. I know Jesus forgives, but what does this mean for our integrity as a married couple? A beautifully, happily married couple with 5 of our own children. Moving in what I believe was Christ’s will. Were we wrong? I want to please Jesus. Where do we go from here? Repent yet. Ask for forgiveness, yes. But in a way, it makes our testimony (our courtship, our “story”, our testimony, all the fasting, prayin etc.) worthless. And I dare not share it. I feel guilty. I know that’s not of God, but I feel guilt and sorrow. Any thoughts.
Hi Anonymous. I feel terrible that you have felt condemned by this discussion. That was not my intent at all.
One thing I’m wondering though… after ten years of marriage with your new spouse, is this the first time you have read these scriptures on divorce and remarriage?
The reason I’m asking is that if you have been involved in fellowship with other Christians during this time, I think it would be amazing that other Christians never mentioned these verses to you. And I mean amazing in a good way.
You see, the whole point of this blog post is to encourage Christians to be more loving and gracious toward homosexuals.
It seems, at least from my assumptions here, that the Christians in your life have been very loving and gracious toward you with regard to your divorce. It seems that they have not even brought it up? That is a beautiful thing to me. There are so many more important things for us to focus on together than that.
So when I read the heart broken sorrow in your words, I am reminded of how hurtful our words and actions can be to each other, even if we don’t intend them to. And my heart breaks as well. I am so grateful that you have been spared that hurt for so long, and deeply sorry that this discussion has caused that for you now.
But I also think of the hurt and sorrow that our unnecessary judgment and condemnation of homosexuals has brought into their lives. And I wish that Christians could find it within themselves to treat homosexuals with the same love and grace that you and so many other divorcees have been blessed to receive.
If any good can come from this, I hope that perhaps the recent condemnation and sorrow you have felt from this discussion might help you empathize with those in the LGBT community who have been feeling that way for a long time.
And I would encourage you to evaluate your personal interpretation of scripture with regard to divorce AND homosexuality. Most things are not as simple or black and white as we tend to make them.
And finally, I would encourage you to focus on the important things in your life. Focus on the marriage you have, your kids, your friends and family, those less fortunate than you… be loving and kind and gracious and generous toward all you encounter. My opinion is that this is far more important to God than anything else we believers might rather worry about.