Monday, August 16, 2021

Marriage, Divorce, and Re-Marriage Among Christians

 Guest post by speaker, minister, and advocate Loes Tam:


Jocelyn Anderson has written a very honest and compelling story of her experience as a victim of domestic abuse and how she was rescued out of it.

One of the topics Jocelyn addresses is that Christ as Creator is the One who understands the human condition more than any psychologist. This makes sense, of course, since He as part of the Godhead created the first two human beings as we can read in Genesis 1:26-28

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, in Our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Jocelyn spends as well some time focusing on Adam and Eve, the first two human beings that were created by God. From Genesis 1:26-28 we know that they were created to rule over creation together as a team on an equal basis. Sadly that perfect situation did not last for an event took place which we call the Fall. At that time both the man and the woman disobeyed God. This caused a change in their relationship as foretold by God in Genesis 3:16 when God warned the woman that she was turning away from Him to the man to have her needs met and that the man would rule over her. That sinful pattern has continued throughout the centuries. However, in Christ this pattern has been reversed so in the Church men and women once again are called to serve alongside each other in accordance with their spiritual gifts as given by the Holy Spirit.

Another subject that is touched upon by Jocelyn is marriage, divorce and re-marriage.

God honors marriage but also, because of peoples’ hardness of hearts, provide a framework in which the ideal cannot be realized.

In Biblical times the woman had no right to divorce. A man could divorce his wife for burning food. God’s Law gave protection to women and limited a man’s right to treat his wife capriciously or with cruelty. In Genesis 2:24 we have the clearest revelation of the original intent of God in marriage. Unfortunately, sin entered God’s world as we know form Genesis 3. Divorce became an issue after the Fall because of sin. One of the verses from the Old Testament that is often quoted is Malachi 2:16. In most translations it reads as if it is God who hates divorce. However that is incorrect. It is, in fact, about a man who hates and subsequently divorces his wife. A better translation would, therefore, be:

“For he (any man) who hates (his wife) (to the point that) he divorces (her),” says the Lord, “covers his garment with violence.”

For a man to “cover his garment with violence” speaks of the act of violence and an abusive inner state, which violates the covenant of marriage.

I would like to point out as well that, in fact, God Himself divorced Israel at some point in Isaiah 50:1.

Deuteronomy 24:1-4 is a foundational passage to prove that divorce can be sought for serious moral reasons which would have included issues such as adultery, abuse, cruelty, humiliation, persistent refusal to provide food or clothing, willful conjugal or emotional neglect (Exodus 21 -22) Though it is never desirable, divorce is acceptable in these circumstances. And a husband was not allowed to simply send his wife away. He must give her a certificate of divorce, a document that legally established her freedom from the marriage and opened the door for her to re-marry.

No debates about the validity of neglect and abuse as grounds for divorce can be found in Jewish literature because these principles were unanimously agreed on. Jesus’ silence on the subject highlights the fact that He did accept it, like all other Jews at that time. It is, of course, confirmed in His Words in Luke 4:18-19

“The Spirit of the Lord is on Me…. To release the oppressed….”

Paul writes in 1 Timothy 5:8 that a husband who does not provide for his wife and others has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever…. Such a person has clearly broken the marriage covenant. His wife can, therefore, seek a divorce from him on grounds of neglect. She can afterwards re-marry.

As for any young woman who has been forced into having sex with a boyfriend, that is called rape. In the Old Testament times the best way to deal with such a situation may have been for her to marry him. However, today there are better ways to deal with such a situation. This is clearly a criminal situation and God has provided proper authorities who are to protect citizens. In the case of a rape, the victim should, therefore, report the abuser to the police so that proper action against him can be taken.

Needless to say, I highly recommend Jocelyn’s book for anyone who would like to have more understanding on the topic of domestic abuse.

 Loes Tam is a minister of the gospel blessed with ministry opportunities in the Philippines, Malaysia, Myanmar, India, and more.  She is relentless in her advocacy of women's autonomy both at home and in the ministry. She is editor of the  Praying and Prophesying blog and the Ministry to Silenced Women website.  She recently started a Facebook group that  reaches out to women who have experienced spiritual abuse in their churches. 

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