EDITOR'S NOTE: He Said-She Said is a biweekly advice column for singles featuring a question from a Crosswalk.com reader with responses from a male and female point of view. If you've got a question about anything related to singleness or living the single life, please submit it to [email protected] (selected questions will be posted anonymously).
Can a man marry a divorced woman? And why is marrying a divorced woman said to commit adultery in the Bible?
It seems like we are getting more and more questions about relationships with divorced people, and the reason may be the result of the numbers of those who have been in previous marriages continues to grow.
According to some of the latest statistics from the U.S. Census, approximately 21 percent of the 121.5 million plus singles in America are divorced. This means there are about 26 million divorced men and women in the United States, give or take a couple of million.
So, "Can a man marry a divorced woman?” We “can” do anything and many will especially as the pool of single women who have never been married grows smaller as we get older.
Marrying a divorcee is considered adultery in the Bible because God created marriage to be a Holy union between two people for life. Few justifications (Matt. 19:8-9, 1 Cor. 7:15) have been mentioned which allow divorce to happen to emphasize the seriousness and significance marriage was created to be. It is our changing societal values and beliefs that has diluted the holiness, gravity and purpose over the years.
I always take notice when the vows between non-believers include, “with God as our witness….until death do us part” knowing full well it may be “until it is no longer convenient, beneficial or they feel like it.”
Acknowledging the fact many of us will end up marrying a person who has been married before, we should be aware of several things.
Be careful not to be the “rebound” of a divorcee. Someone who has gone through such a serious loss needs time to grieve, process and reestablish themselves as a single person before jumping into another relationship. No matter how long the marriage wasn’t working, both parties need time alone.
Give the relationship time. We all have emotional “stuff” from our upbringing, past relationships and unmet expectations. A divorcee quite possibly more so. It should always be seen as a lifetime commitment, not an immediate convenience. Allow time for it to develop properly.
Children are not “baggage.” If you should ever think, refer to or see them as such, you best not ever date a single parent.
Don’t ever force a decision between their children and yourself. Children from a broken home go through enough having to often choose between biological parents and they shouldn’t have to feel abandoned again because someone new comes into their parent’s life. You will end up losing at some point if you do.
God can bring good from anything, including a divorce—maybe a more Godly marriage in your case; however, proceed with caution.
There are many different opinions when it comes to divorce. While everyone who follows Christ believes it’s something no one wants to go through or plans to, it does happen. There are some denominations that believe divorce can be the unforgivable sin. The Catholic Church believes this only if it's a mortal sin. There are several exceptions, and confession can cleanse the soul of mortal sins. And as a result, you could be kicked out of their church. Some other denominations have strict guidelines that do not allow anyone who is divorced to lead or pastor in their church, despite the circumstances. Deacons are intended to be servants, but are held to the same standards as Elders (who should be leaders and teachers). Then there are some that take each situation separately, realizing that some people weren’t believers when they divorced; therefore, they are not accountable to the church. Some people didn’t choose divorce, their ex did. Some were divorced due to adultery or abuse. And some were divorced due to their spouse falling away from the Lord and leaving.
The Bible does make it clear that there are grounds for divorce such as adultery or unbelief (Matt. 19, 1 Cor. 7). Unbelief is grounds not to marry; not grounds for divorce, unless the unbeliever leaves the believer. We are commanded not to be unequally yoked in marriage, but once married, Paul makes it clear we are to remain so:
How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? (1 Cor. 7:16)
This refers to the spouse being won over to Christ through our behavior and example. Peter said, if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives (1Pet. 3:1). However, there is another passage that says if you marry someone who is divorced, you are committing adultery (Matt. 5:32).
But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
This refers to someone whose divorce was not Biblically grounded, and as a result, they are still married in the eyes of God. In Matt. 19:4-12, Jesus makes it clear it is only because of the hardness of their hearts. In fact, He quotes the OT (Matt. 19:5) and states, what therefore God has joined together, let no man separate (6).
Mark and Luke don't even mention the exception of “unchastity,” In fact, Luke states that it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail (Luke 16:17). My belief is that he was referring to letting no man separate, not to Moses' doctrine of divorce.
So can you marry someone who has been divorced? Well, it's not so much if you can marry them, but would their past failed marriage be an indicator of your future marital success?
Here are some things to ask before you get your heart involved, allowing God and His Spirit to guide you.
Q: How long were you married and what were the circumstances of your divorce?
Q: Were you following the Lord during your marriage? If so, what changed?
Q: What caused the divorce, was abuse or adultery involved? If so, what kind? If they simply said they fell out of love or they weren’t attracted to each other, etc. this would be a red flag to me.
Q: What are the legal ramifications of your marriage. Are you paying child support or alimony?
Q: How involved are you now with your ex and your ex’s family?
Q: As a result of learning from your divorce, what are you going to change about your future marriage? How will your future marriage to me or someone else be different?
HE is … Cliff Young, a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and a veteran single of many decades. He has traveled the world in search of fresh experiences, serving opportunities, and the perfect woman (for him) and has found that his investments in God, career and youth ministry have paid off in priceless dividends.
SHE is ... Kris Swiatocho, the President and Director of TheSinglesNetwork.org Ministries and FromHisHands.com Ministries. Kris has served in ministry in various capacities for the last 25 years. An accomplished trainer and mentor, Kris has a heart to reach and grow leaders so they will in turn reach and grow others. She is also the author of four books.
DISCLAIMER: We are not trained psychologists or licensed professionals. We're just average folk who understand what it's like to live the solo life in the twenty-first century. We believe that the Bible is our go-to guide for answers to all of life's questions, and it's where we'll go for guidance when responding to your questions. Also, it's important to note that we write our answers separately.
GOT A QUESTION? If you've got a question about anything related to singleness or living the single life, please submit it to [email protected] (selected questions will be posted anonymously). While we are unable to answer every inquiry, we do hope that this column will be an encouragement to you. Click here to visit the He Said-She Said archives.
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Publication date: June 22, 2017