Marriage - Is God Unfair



Part Nine – Is God Unfair about Divorce?


In the previous studies we have considered the scriptural record of God’s stand on divorce and remarriage. It has been seen that God hates divorce but does permit it when it is absolutely necessary. However, this does not mean God sees the marriage ended. He still holds the couple to their oaths made when they were married. They are bound by them “until death separates” them. Therefore God gives no grounds for remarriage in any age including the Church age.

Now theology is important for it is gives us the ground work upon which we build our faith and practice. However, theology is of no use unless it can be applied to our lives and the various situations we must face. In this weeks segment and the weeks to come we want to answer some of the practical implications that are related to God’s teaching. This week’s topic is the fairness of God in expecting divorced people to remain unmarried. This was touched on in a previous study but was left for the most part unanswered. The issue of fairness is usually put in one of several forms. 

1) “I know what God teaches about remarriage however it seems to me to be totally unfair and out of character with God’s love and forgiveness.” 

2) “Surely God would not expect the innocent party to remain single especially when the guilty partner has gone on to remarry.”

3) “The partners were young when they married and they made a mistake. Surely God would expect them to remain single when they have their whole live ahead of them.”

4) “How does God expect a married person turn off his desire for sexual intimacy? Surely God does not expect that this person is take up a life of celibacy? Does not the Bible say it better to marry than to burn?”

Now to be straight forward, the author struggled with these arguments for many years because though his study of God’s Word said no remarriage, his heart said let them be married and be happy. However this is the root problem of this question on fairness. It is the appeal of the human heart or emotions that are in opposition to the will of God as taught in the Scriptures. All too often man’s wisdom and desires take precedence over the recorded will of God. The heart of the Saint persuades him to believe that it is wiser than God’s Word. Thus Christians who at one time held strongly to the teaching of God in this matter do a 180 reversal when either they find themselves or one of their loved ones or friends in the midst of a divorce. How do we address this matter of God’s justice and fairness as it impacts the divorced Saint? To answer this concern let us note several points.

1) When it comes to our faith, God’s will always supersede man’s will. This is a rule that is never to be broken. Regardless of how strongly we may feel about a matter, it must always be surrendered to the will of God. This rule is best demonstrated by God Himself as our Lord prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. On the night He was to be betrayed, the reality of what Christ was about to go through was so repulsive to Him that He begged to have this suffering removed from Him. However having made know His person feelings, note Jesus conclusion.

Matt 26:38-39, “Then He said to them, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me." He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will." (NKJV) (See also Luke 22:41-43; Mark 14:34-36)

In a day and time in which many are avoiding preaching on many of the doctrines of God’s Word in an attempt to accommodate the human wisdom and desires of the Saints, this is not a popular teaching. However, popular or not this fact remains true and is to be followed by every believer. God’s truth and God’s will must reign supreme over all that we think and do. This is demonstrated in Paul’s verbal chastisement of the Corinthian Saints in 1 Cor. 1:18-3:23. The Corinthian Christians were carnal because they had chosen to accept the wisdom of the world in place of the wisdom of God. This carnality gave them the license to live like the world and still claim to be Christians, followers of Christ. It is this same carnality that has open wide the church’s door to divorce and remarriage. As Saints ignore the doctrinal teaching of God’s Word they are guided by the wisdom of the world. Therefore it is no surprise that many Christians’ practice of divorce and remarriage parallels that of the world. 

Many of the contemporary songs speak about how much the believer “loves his Lord” however these choruses are meaningless words in many Christian circles. Let us not forget that Jesus Himself said that if we love Him, we will “keep His commandments” (John 14:15, 23-24; 15:10). Obedience of our God is not something we do when we feel like it or it is convenient, but it is something that we are too follow even when it involves great personal sacrifice. In fact it is when we must great sacrifices to follow God’s will that our love for Christ shines the brightest. Whether remaining single is fair or not is a mute point. What is important is that we follow where ever our Savior leads us.

2) When it comes to God’s will opportunity is always a possibility. One of the themes that seems to resonate against the idea of remaining unmarried is the “poor me” factor. Those who argue the unfairness of God do so from a self-centered point of view. This is demonstrated in the use of “I” or “My” or “Me” when speaking of the impact of this unfair treatment. Their focus is so much on how much “I” have to give up or sacrifice that they miss the fact that their singleness has been given to them by God and is a great opportunity to better service their Lord. An excellent modern example of this Joni Tada Erikson. How unfair to become a paraplegic at such a young age. However, look at the opportunity this has given her to serve her Lord that would not have been possible without this condition. So the divorced individual should see their single condition as a curse but as a blessing from the Lord. Let us note the following passages to illustrate this point.

a. Being single provides greater potential for service as the single person is not encumbered by the responsibilities of marriage. 1 Cor 7:32-35. “But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord — how he may please the Lord. But he who is married cares about the things of the world — how he may please his wife. There is* a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world — how she may please her husband. And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction. (NKJV)

b. Enduring the difficulties God sends our way provides greater opportunity for God’s power to be manifested through his Saint. 2 Cor 12:7-10, “And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (NKJV )

c. Suffering and sacrifices lead to greater rewards in Heaven. 1 Peter 4:13, “but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” (NKJV)

If one finds themselves separated or divorced and thus living a single life, they have been given by God a unique opportunity to teach other Saints the sanctity of marriage and the danger of not seeking God’s mate for one’s life. There was a time in the church that divorced people chose to follow the Lord and remain single. This served as a testimony and warning to individuals thinking about marriage that marriage is a serious matter and should not be entered into lightly for the mate one chooses will be their mate until death separates them. Likewise it is a testimony to those who are struggling in their marriage that it is better to work through their problems then it is to get a divorce and live the life of celibacy. The reason today that remarriage and divorce are so prevalent in the church is because those Saints who have gone through a divorce have chosen to follow their own course and remarry. Those Saints, who follow after them, seeing their example, see divorce and remarriage a viable option if their marriage falls on hard times. “If Deacon Jones is remarried and seems to be happy, divorce might be a good option for me as well.”

Another thought about the unfairness of God’s command to remain single. Those who find themselves single after a divorce are not the only ones who must live a life of celibacy. We too often forget the Christians who God does not provide a mate for. Is it not just as unfair for them as it is for the divorced Saint? Was it unfair that John the Baptist, or Elijah, or Elisha, or Daniel were called to the life of celibacy? No one ever considers this unfair but rather as a high calling of God. What about the Saint who has mental disabilities or physical disabilities that prevents them from marrying? What about the Saint who suffers a serious accident that leaves them a paraplegic? Is it not just as unfair for them? The belief that God is being unfair to us is driven by self-centeredness and reflects a sinful attitude of the heart. We may not always see it but every Saint who is truly serving His Lord is asked to make sacrifices for the Glory of God. Likewise, let us remember, that whatever we miss out on in this life, God will more than make up for in the glory that is yet to come!

Finally to use unfairness as an excuse to go contrary to God will is in essence to justify sin. For example to say that it is alright for the divorced to remarry even though God calls sin is the same thing as telling those who have never had the opportunity to marry it is alright to go out and have a pre-marital sexual relationship. After all it is only fair that they have what the married Christians has. “Fairness” is a very bad guide in determining the will of God for one’s life!

3) When God’s will involves difficulty, God always supplies His grace. Many Christians who have gone through a divorce and know the loneliness of being cut off from a mate feel that they can not live a single life. It is too hard for them to live without companionship or even sex. Some even use the argument that it better to marry than to burn (1 Cor. 7:9) The truth of such an argument is an unwillingness to obey God and has nothing to do with one’s ability. To put it another way, the Saint is really saying “I will not obey” rather than “I can’t obey.” Let us remember that whatever God calls us to do He more than enables us to accomplish. Note the following passages that bear this out.

2 Cor 12:8-9, “Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." (NKJV) 

Phil 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (NKJV)

2 Cor 3:5, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God” (NKJV)

Rom 8:26, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us* with groanings which cannot be uttered. (NKJV)

1 Cor 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. (NKJV)

If God calls us to endure divorce or separation, God will also provide for us all that we need to live the path God has chosen for us. If God says remarriage is not an option, God will provide all the grace we need to follow His command. We must remember that we are not the only ones to go through this. We must remember with difficulty come opportunities to serve our Lord. We must remember that to view God as unfair is in reality the cry of a self-centered spirit. We must look beyond our new limitations to see the great potential that God has given us. We must remember that the true sign of love toward anyone, including God, is not what is convenient or easy but rather that which demands sacrifice and cost.