I fell in love with a married woman ... who is now a believer

Someone emailed:
I fell in love with a married woman who was having serious marital problems. She fell also in love with me. I was an unbaptised new believer who was 27 at the time. She divorced, and we married. She has since become a believer. We both now are more mature in our walk with God, and fear that we are, and have been, in adultery. We are ready to obey what God's will is for us. Should we remain married, or should we divorce or seek an anullment? If we do the latter two, are either of us free to remarry, or should we remain single and chaste? We are concerned for our salvation if we are in continued sin.

Reply: My wisdom, for what it is worth, is that two wrongs don't make a right. You were wrong to divorce and remarry if you didn't have real grounds for a divorce, but you have repented of that. God forgives those who repent. It would be an additional wrong to do the same thing again.

Jesus' and Paul' teaching appear, at first, to give different answers. Jesus said that a person who remarried after an invalid divorce was technically committing adultery. Paul, on the other hand, told the person who had been divorced-by-separation (an invalid form of divorce) that they were free from that marriage.

Paul does not give any reason except: 'God has called us in peace'. He is probably referring to the technical rabbinic phrase 'for the sake of peace', which means 'when the law fails, we follow a pragmatic solution, for the sake of peace'. Paul could have argued that the deserted person was suffering Material Neglect and Emotional Neglect, so they had valid grounds for divorce. But instead, he took the pragmatic view that the divorce had happened and was irreversible, so the marriage was over.

In the light of Paul's view, we need to look again at Jesus' conclusion. It is possible that Jesus was merely stating the logical outcome of remarriage after an invalid divorce, in order to show how serious it was. This is similar to his conclusion that a person who mentally commits adultery is guilty of actual adultery. Presumably mental adultery was not a literal ground for divorce. Similarly technical adultery, due to an invalid divorce, would not be a literal ground for divorce.

Therefore, although divorce without valid grounds is wrong, it still marks the end of a marriage. The person who divorced without valid grounds should repent before God, and if neither partners have remarried they should seek reconciliation.

However, if either partner has remarried, they should not compound the wrong by breaking up yet another marriage.

See also "Is Remarriage Adultery?" in Divorce & Remarriage in the Church


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