KELLY Omodia says: I read some of the comments on Pastor Bakare’s response to Pastor Ituah Ighodalo’ssack at RCCG. Instead of being sentimental and emotional about the issue, let the reader form his or her opinion from reading this with an open mind. Under what condition may a Christian divorce and remarry?

In earlier generations, this question was very seldom raised, simply because divorce was almost never encountered among Christians and was unusual even in the general population. Today, however, it has become a very real problem in evangelical Christian circles. Infidelity is no longer rare, even among Christian leaders, and one can hear almost weekly of some new pastoral “affair” and its traumatic effect on his church. With such examples in the leadership, it is bound to be even more common among the ordinary members, and the resulting decline in the stability of the Christian home today is surely one of the more alarming signs of the times.

In the past, attempts to deal with this question on a Biblical basis have tended to be somewhat academic, probably because the very idea of divorce was so alien to the expositor’s own experiences. Nowadays, however, since the tragedy of divorce has spread so widely that almost every Christian has encountered it not only in his church but also among his close friends and relatives, it is vitally important that we seek to deal with it both Biblically and sympathetically.

First of all, the divine standard for marriage is lifelong commitment to one’s spouse, and nothing else. Even though divorce was permitted in some cases under the Old Testament, Christ made it plain that this was not God’s ideal. (Matthew 19:4-6). This seems very comprehensive and conclusive, yet He immediately followed up this statement with the following apparent exception: “Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” (Matthew 19:9; Matthew 5:31, 32).

Extramarital unchastity

It does seem from this statement that the discovery of extramarital unchastity on the part of one’s spouse is here given as a possible ground for divorce. God does place a high value on faithfulness, on the part of both bride and bridegroom, as a basis for a happy and lasting marriage. Fornication is condemned as a sin in both Old and New Testaments.

Since the Lord would not contradict Himself, we should conclude that, while there may be some situations in which extra-marital sex would create such problems in a marriage that divorce would be better than continuing in an unhealthy or even dangerous relationship, in general it would be better to forgive earlier indiscretions (if accompanied by repentance and present faithfulness) rather than to break up what might otherwise still be a good marriage.

In both cases, however, Christ warned that remarriage after divorce amounts to adultery, a sin which is explicitly forbidden by God’s 7th Commandment. Both divorce and remarriage, therefore, are extremely serious steps, and both violate the divine principle of permanent union and faithfulness in marriage.

But this is not the whole story. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins” (I John 1:9). This promise is specifically for Christians, and includes even the sin of adultery, if there is genuine repentance. The Lord made this very clear in His dealing with the woman who “was taken in adultery, in the very act” (John 8:4). He reminded her accusers that they also were sinners and had no warrant to punish her. Then He told the woman: “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (John 8:11).

There is one other important Biblical factor to consider in divorce-and-remarriage situations. A Christian should never marry a non-Christian, as this almost inevitably leads to serious friction in the home later unless the unsaved partner can, by God’s grace, be won to Christ. Nevertheless, many Christians insist on doing this very thing. And then what? Also, a person may become a believer after marriage, with the partner still unsaved. In either case, there is an unequal yoke, and the Christian husband or wife may come to desire release from this yoke. But suppose the unsaved spouse is the one who insists on a divorce. “If the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.” (I Corinthians 7:15).

This obviously means that the Christian husband or wife is then at liberty to remarry. In fact, if there are children involved, and if a caring Christian spouse can be found, it would be good to remarry, for children need the love and guidance of both a father and mother, provided, of course, that the stepmother or stepfather is “in the Lord” (I Corinthians 7:39) and desires to assume such a responsibility.

By extension, these principles could be applied to other
situations that the Scriptures do not cover explicitly. As noted above, God is able and willing to forgive all sins, including even the sin of getting a divorce for trivial reasons. He has called us to peace, not legal bondage, and He can make a good marriage and a happy home no matter what the previous history of the people involved may have been, provided that true repentance, proper restitution, and genuine saving faith and sincere desire to serve the Lord now exist in their lives.

Dear Sam:

Before giving a honest response we need to get some things clear. Divorce and remarrying protect the woman more than the man. About 70 per cent of marital agonies are caused by the irresponsibility of men. Which means women suffer more. Many people are in bondage in their marriages. A man who subjects his wife to unbearable torture, beating and neglect on a consistent basis might not have committed adultery. Should the woman remain in the marriage because the Bible records adultery as the only ground for divorce? Should an innocent young man married to a girl who has destroyed her womb after series of abortions remain childless for life? Is it not the Bible which says we should not be unequally yoked with unbelievers?

A wicked husband or wife is an unbeliever. Yes, it is written “thou shall not divorce” but nowhere is it written “thou shall not separate”. What Pastor Ighodalo did was separation. The debate on whether the Bible justified polygamy should be left for another day. Pastor Adeboye was right, since that is the law of his church to which Pastor Ighodalo subscribed.
Mr. Oluwole Osagie-Jacobs
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