Marriage is an institution created by God since the very beginning (Gen 2:23-25) and, after man and woman were coupled together, He called His creation very good (Gen 1:31). Marriage is referred to in the NT as the “grace of life” (1 Pet 3:7). So, from God’s perceptive, marriage is sacred. God’s will is for a husband and wife to remain together as long as this life endures (Matt 19:6; 1 Cor 7:39). But the reality is: many people do not stay married to one person for life because of 1) death or 2) sin.
Hence, one issue that will always need to be addressed is re-marriage. This is a sad reality we as believers must be ready to handle. On the one hand, you may one day find yourself being a widow/widower or a divorcée/divorcé wanting to know if you should or should not get involved in another relationship. On the other hand, you may find yourself needing to provide encouragement and biblical counsel to someone else who is divorced or widowed. This post is about addressing the three biblical grounds for remarriage:
1. It’s OK to remarry if your spouse passed away.
Widows and widowers are completely free to remarry and Scripture encourages them to do so for two reasons: 1) so they do not fall into sexual sin (1 Cor 7:9) or 2) so they don’t become busybodies (1 Tim 5:13). Paul especially wills that “younger widows” be excluded from the support of the church and to remarry, “bear children,” and manage the home so that they can avoid the temptation of living a sinful lifestyle (1 Tim 5:11-15).
Now, this doesn’t mean that a person who lost a spouse must remarry in a certain amount of time. Paul gave no timetable. In other words, depending on the sensitivity and maturity of the person who lost a spouse, he/she is not sinning if years of singleness go by. It’s also not sin to remain single (1 Cor 7:8), but the so-called “the gift of singleness” truly applies to the minority rather than the majority. The point here is that widows and widowers can remarry with a clean conscience before the Lord and, in most cases, it would be wise.
2. It’s OK to remarry if your spouse abandoned you.
Paul says plainly, “Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace” (1 Cor 7:15). This abandonment is not just limited to the husband/wife saying, “I’m sick of your religion! I want a divorce!” and physically moving out of the house. Abandonment comes in many forms. Example: say a man is physically and sexually abusive and he fails to provide for his family financially, yet he’s physically home but refuses to leave except to go down to the tavern every night until 2:00 a.m. This man has spiritually, mentally, and emotionally abandoned his family.
I’m of the conviction that, in instances like these, the wife is free to file for divorce after receiving biblical counsel from her church leaders, based on the principle of 1 Corinthians 7:15. I’m afraid that some have been taught that divorce is never an option even in extreme circumstances like the example I just gave. Divorce should be the very last option, “but God has called us to peace.” [Note: If you or someone you know is suffering in an abusive or neglectful marriage please seek counsel immediately by a competent biblical counselor in your church.]
3. It’s OK to [divorce and] remarry if your spouse cheated on you.
God hates divorce (Mal 2:16), but He also does not look favorably upon adultery (Heb 13:4). It has consequences—both temporally and eternally. The words of Jesus Himself are clear: “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery” (Matt 19:9). The word translated “immorality” in the NASB is the Greek word porneía from which we get the term “pornography.” The verb form, porneúō, means to commit fornication or any sexual sin. It encompasses sexual sin such as adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, and incest.
So, if a married man/woman is guilty of the former, divorce is a viable option for the one who was sinned against in this way. After the divorce, the faithful party is free to remarry because the divorce was on biblical grounds. Obviously, divorce is not required in this situation. A couple dealing with the aftermath of an affair is also free to remain married assuming the guilty party has truly repented. In fact, forgiveness and reconciliation is ideal and encouraged. However, if a man or woman sins sexually against his or her spouse, the covenant is broken and Jesus allows a way out of the marriage for the faithful party. If divorce is the outcome of the adultery, the one who was sinned against must still forgive in the heart and not hold any bitterness against the adulterer (Col 3:13; Eph 4:32), but he/she is free to move on and remarry.
As horrible and painful as it is to experience the loss, abandonment, or betrayal of a spouse, God’s sufficient Word speaks with clarity and offers a solution. What do you think? Do you find in the Bible any other legitimate grounds to remarry?