When is Remarriage OK?

In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul gives the general principle “in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God” (1Co7:24).

Marriage, singleness, and divorce are discussed in this chapter, and tucked away is a verse that has caused many to draw in a deep breath: “To the married I give this charge (not I but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband)” (1Co7:10-11).

When viewed in light of Jesus’ teaching on divorce in Matthew 5 and 19, we see the principle that divorce for any ground other than sexual immorality renders subsequent remarriage — other than to the original spouse — adultery.

In our no-fault divorce culture, the question immediately arises about the hapless wife whose husband insists on divorce against her wishes. If a young mother in such a situation then wishes to re-marry, Paul and Jesus would seem to prevent it.

Unfair! Harsh! That stinks!

Yes. The wayward husband, unmolested by a conscience informed by the Scriptures, gets away to remain single, remarry, or simply play the unfettered gigolo, while the now-single-mom is constrained to walk in obedience to God’s antiquated rules and regulations.

Yes. And the influence of the world upon the church leads us to suggest that if is only fair for the young mother to remarry, since she was not at fault. But though is seems to promote marriage for the single mom, the world cares nothing for marriage: equality and autonomy are its primary concerns.

In contrast, Paul and Jesus affirm the creation mandate that in marriage “the two become one flesh” (Gen2:24), regardless of the actions of one of them. When believers remain un-re-married in such situations, it confirms to the world — and to the church — that some, at least, attempt to¬†view marriage as God provided it.

Will life be more difficult for that single mom? Yes. Will the world be impressed with her resolve to live by the Scriptures? Probably not, but her church should step in to provide what the absconding husband refused, and that is a witness to the grace of God.

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