Marriage - Objections To Biblical View



Part Eleven – Common Objections to the Biblical View


In the Christian’s walk, it is much easier to talk the walk than to actually walk it. How easy it is to sing songs in church about our great love and commitment to our Lord, yet how quickly that commitment wanes when it requires personal hardship and sacrifice. Many a believer has held firmly to our Lord’s commandments regarding remarriage and divorce until it impacts them personally. The thought of having to sacrifice marriage in obedience to our Lord becomes too great a burden to bear. It is for this reason there will always be objections to our Lord’s stand on divorce and remarriage. Christians looking for loop holes around the clear declarations of our Lord. Let us consider some of these objections and see if any of them have any merit.

Does not God recognize that we have made a mistake, broken the covenant to the point that it can not be repaired. In His willingness to forgive us for breaking the covenant now free us to try again? 

1) The covenant is broken by remarriage. Even though God does not condone the break up of marriage, since the couple has legally divorced and one partner has remarried, is not this union even in God’s eyes been broken or severed? Now that the union is over is not the unmarried partner now free to remarry? After all it is totally out the power of either mate to undo the severing of the original union. The validity of such an argument is negated by two facts.

a. Fact #1. We are bound by God to keep our promises. Even if someone else breaks their promise does not mean that we are justified to break ours. Each individual is judged upon their responsibility as it measures up to God’s standard not as it measures up to others. In Jesus day the strength of one’s promises was measured by the type of oath one took. In their eyes some promises or covenants were more binding than others. However, Jesus set things straight when He indicated that God treated the promises of all equally alike.

Matt 5:33-37, “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.' But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No.' For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.”

Likewise God spoke very seriously to the Israelites about their responsibility to keep whatever they have promised. 

Num 30:2, “If a man makes a vow to the Lord , or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.”

Deut 23:23, “That which has gone from your lips you shall keep and perform, for you voluntarily vowed to the Lord your God what you have promised with your mouth.”

Just because one partner disregards his obligations through remarriage does not free the other partner to disregard their obligations as well. In God’s eyes they are bound to keep that commandment as long as their original mate still lives. This is born out in the Lord’s words when He states that anyone remarrying after divorce commits adultery. He does not say that this only applies to the first partner who remarries commits adultery. This statement applies to both partners if they choose to remarry without exception. (Mk. 10:12, 19; Lk. 16:18; 18:20).

b. Fact #2: God’s strictness about promise keeping is due to the example He personally sets. So much of what we hold in faith is based in the fact that God never breaks his promises. God is especially strict about maintaining the marriage vows even because they are a living illustration of the covenants He has made to Israel, to the Church, and to every Saint. God entered into such a covenant with Israel and thus calls her His wife. Many times God talks about the sinful actions of Israel and its backslidden condition as spiritual adultery. In the book of Hosea, God uses the marriage of Hosea to picture His marriage relationship with Israel. Though Hosea’s wife Gomer commits adultery against him, yet God tells him to go and get her and restore her back to the marital relationship. Though Israel may have separated from God and gone after other lovers, God has never given up His covenant to her (Hosea 2:1-3). Likewise our Lord has made a similar covenant with the Church and to each of his Saints (Eph. 5:22-33). He is bound by His covenant to the Church and to his Saints to fulfill all His promises regardless of whether the Saint lives up to his promises. Image if the Lord were to consider our sinful disobedience as grounds to break his promise of salvation. The importance of the faithfulness of His promises is demonstrated in the faithfulness of each partner of the marriage vows.

2) The marriage covenant is the ideal not the expected. The argument given here is that God in giving His command to keep one’s wedding vows was giving the ideal to be aimed for but not the norm. Thus it is not actually a command that God is giving but rather a goal He desires for all couples to aspire too. God recognizes that not all couples will be able to meet that goal. Therefore He shows some leniency or latitude thus allowing for remarriage after divorce.

This is a very slippery slope to stand on. When we begin to see God’s commands as ideals we open ourselves up to freely disobey God in all areas of our lives. Therefore though a lie is a sin, yet God understands that we can not always be expected to tell the truth therefore he gives the believer some latitude in that area. Or the same could be said about any sin such as stealing, gossiping, anger and etc. The commandments of our Lord are not given loosing, but He expects us to keep them as He has given them. Likewise God gives us His Spirit and His resources to enable us to keep what He has commanded. Therefore God expects the married to keep their vows regardless the circumstances of life.

3) The innocent party. Some would say that in a divorce sometimes there is an innocent party and this may at times be true. Much of the time the cause of divorce falls upon both partners. Usually both are driven by self centered desires and demands which result in a stalemate that can not be broken. They arrive at this condition because neither partner is willing to put the other first. However, what about the situation where one partner is to blame for the divorce. The couple seems happily married and suddenly one partner leaves the relationship in order to pursue someone else. This eventually ends up in the departing mate filing for divorce and remarrying their “new love.” The other partner has done nothing to cause this. Is it right that they must live single as long as their mate remains alive? Let us note two important points here

First, though unfair, it does not free the innocent party to remarry. After all why should one suffer for the sins of another? However let us realize that in this sin cursed world God never promised that things would always be fair. In fact, God has told us, who are Saints that our relationship with the Lord will result in much unfair treatment. However, this unfairness is only for a few short years. When we see Christ He has promised to correct all the unfairness that we have had to endure on His behalf.

Secondly, sometime the innocent is not always innocent. Sometimes mates leave their spouse because of the ill treatment they received from them when no one is present to witness it. To those outside the marriage, it appears the “innocent” party has done nothing to deserve this when in reality they contributed much to the break up.

4) The divorced are happy and blessed. One of the greatest contributing factors to the rise of divorce and remarriage in the church is the fact that so many divorced and remarried Christians give the appearance of being happy and blessed. They seem to be in good relationships and have prospered in spite of their divorce. This leads others to draw the conclusion that divorce and remarriage is really not that bad and therefore is definitely a viable alternative to troubled marriage. In response to this let us four facts.

a. Fact #1: No divorce is ever easy. In the number of opportunities this writer has had to talk with divorced and remarried couples, one thing is always the same. The divorce was a terrible experience that they would never want to go through again. When one has been in union with someone else for any time they form a bond. The breaking of that bond always rips apart their lives in a way that will never fully heal. It is like using super glue and accidently getting it on your fingers. Once those fingers are glued together, to pull them apart is going to be a painful experience.

b. Fact #2: Outward appearances rarely paint the full story. The “happiness” of a couple who are remarried may only be a front that they put on when in the company of others. If one could look into the private lives of these individuals and uncover the truth, the truth often paints a different picture. One who has done marriage counseling often sees the scars and baggage that remarried people have to live with. The regret of divorcing their first mate, the regret of remarrying someone is who is equal or worse than their original mate, the struggle making alimony payments, custody battles over the children and many other issues. 

c. Fact #3: Remarriage tends to produce remarriages. Remarried couples have a greater chance of witnessing divorce and remarriage in their children’s lives. Those children who come out of a broken marriage have a significantly higher rate of being divorced and remarried themselves. One of the key reasons for this higher rate is the fact that children learn from the example set by their parents. Rather than work through the struggles of marriage they watch their parents bail out of the relationship. When confronted with the same issues, the children often do likewise. 

d. Fact #4: The second marriage often is no better than the first. After all, the first marriage was a trial run and now they have all the bugs worked out. Rarely is this the case. Often the same problems that caused the first divorce can be found in the second marriage. This often is due to the fact that problems originate with the individual seeking to leave not his mate. He thinks the mate is the issue and finds himself confronting the same problems in the next marriage. Likewise, divorced individuals have a tendency to be drawn to a particular type of personality that turns out to be a carbon copy (or worse) of their first mate. Thus, they find themselves just as unhappy or maybe even more unhappy then they were originally.

5) Better to marry than to burn. This objection centers on a statement Paul makes in 1 Cor. 7:9. The argument that is made is that it is better for a divorced person to remarry and meet his/her sexual needs in a biblical manner, then to remain single and struggle with their sex drive which may ultimately lead them to commit immoral acts. The answer to this objection is three fold.

a. Paul never intended for this statement to be applied to those who are divorced. He is clearly addressing those who are unmarried or are widows (8). It is Paul’s view in light of the impending persecution of Christians, that it is better for the unmarried and widows to remain single. The decisions that one will have to make will be much easier if he does not have to take into consideration of needs of a mate and children. However, Paul states that if their sexual drive is difficult to manage, it is better to marry than to burn with lust and possibly fall into sin. 

b. Even though the divorced may struggle with the same issues, it is clear that Paul believes that in their case God’s grace will be sufficient to get them through. Paul in this chapter makes it clear that God wants the divorced to remain single as long as their mate still lives. God promises to provide all that we need to with stand the temptations that come our way

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.”

c. For a Christian to remarry in order to stop the “burning” requires him to sin in order to follow the law of God. God never condones sinning in order to be obedient.

There are many ways that believers try to get around the Lord’s command to remain unmarried after divorce. Their arguments appeal to the mind and the heart, however they are in direct violation of the command of God and thus will end in many unwanted consequences. It is too bad that we can not give individuals the opportunity to try it both paths before they make a choice. First, the path of remarriage and then the path of remaining single. It is my conviction that having experienced both paths, they would always choose God’s way, rather than man’s. One can never improve on God’s ways!