Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage
If an adulterous relationship (remarriage) is terminated,
Some people point to the Old Testament and say no. Under Moses, a man who divorced his wife could not later take her again as his wife. "Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the Lord" (Deuteronomy 24:4).
We should observe, however, that this prohibition was given at a time when divorce was recognized, and it protected a wife from being traded back and forth according to the whim of her husband. If the New Testament sweeps away divorce itself, is it proper to go back and claim that one of the regulations for divorce still applies today?
Furthermore, to prohibit the restoration of a marriage runs us again into a logical difficulty with Jesus' definition of marriage. How can we declare unlawful that which Jesus says is binding for life? If marital obligations, in other words, cannot be unshouldered by divorce, if in God's eyes they still stand, making remarriage adulterous, how can we forbid that a person return to his true marital obligations? Can we point to the validity of former marriage vows as reason to discontinue an adulterous relationship and then turn around and say those vows are not to be fulfilled by returning to the legitimate partner? God Himself demonstrated the righteousness of returning to one's legitimate companion, even in the context of the Old Testament prohibition. "They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man's, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the Lord" (Jeremiah 3:1).
Oftentimes, of course, it is not possible to reunite a former marriage, and there may be times when it would be inadvisable, even if it were possible. Suppose, for example, a man married and divorced a woman and then remarried another woman. His wife turns to the Lord and remains single. The man and second woman live as husband and wife for years, and are in the process of raising a family when they too become converted. They all attend the same church. The man and second woman, in recognition of their adultery, discontinue their relationship. Would it be wise, in consideration of the children and the community, to reestablish the former relationship?
The Apostle Paul did write that according to the teaching of Jesus, reconciliation should be the objective of a separated companion. "But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband" (I Corinthians 7:11). This passage, without addressing all the possible tangles which may occur in violation of marriage, holds up the objective of reconciliation where possible.