First, let me get two things out of the way:
1. Yes, I listen to the Reformed Pubcast.
2. No, I do not drink beer (or alcohol of any kind) as my church covenant has a clear statement against it, and I abhor the taste of alcohol of any kind.
Last week, on Episode #56 of the Reformed Pubcast, Les and Tanner encountered an issue they didn’t really want to delve into. I don’t blame them. As a Pastor I don’t really like discussing this issue myself. Still, as I listened, I felt the need to bring a little bit of insight to the table that might help in this discussion. For the most part, I think Les and Tanner hit the nail on the head. I simply wanted to add to what they were saying, and answer a few of the questions they stopped short of answering.
Is Remarriage O.K.?
I believe Les and Tanner were absolutely right when they said that, Biblically speaking, it seems as though Jesus makes clear cut statements against remarriage (cf. Mark 10:11,12; Luke 16:18; 1 Corinthians 7:10–11). They were also correct in stating that the vast majority of Christian churches in America do not hold to this view. Les and Tanner were perplexed as to why most churches don’t take this view, and were curious to know how pastors and elders get around these seemingly clear statements.
The classic approach that I have seen for getting around the “remarriage restriction” is to state that when divorce is allowable, so too is remarriage. This is usually advanced by leveraging Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 7:15, the exception clause in Matthew 19:9, and historic Jewish tradition. The logic is that because Jesus gave an “exception” that the exception applies to both divorce and remarriage.
I personally don’t feel that any of these lines of reasoning are convincing nor do they warrant a “freedom to remarry.” That being said, I understand that those who take this view are trying to be as biblical and gracious as possible in very difficult situations. While I don’t agree, I can at least respect their efforts to be both biblical and loving.
If Remarriage Isn’t O.K., Are Remarried People in a Perpetual State of Sin?
This is one of the main questions Les and Tanner stopped short of trying to answer. I wanted to tackle it simply because it’s a very common misconception regarding the position that I hold to. As a Pastor, I hold to a very strict view on remarriage. I will “allow” divorce in certain situations with great caution, but I’m typically against remarriage. I have had friends and church members go through divorce and I have had to explicitly state, up front, that I understand their situation, but if they go through with this I will not be able to remarry them down the road when they think they’ve found “the one.”
That being said, I never tell them if they get remarried, that we’ll put them out of the church. Why not? I maintain that, while making a bad covenant is a sinful decision, it is still a covenant that must be kept. I always turn to the book of Joshua and the covenant they made with the Gibeonites. If you recall, God had commanded the Israelites not to make any covenants with the people of Canaan. The Gibeonites, seeing that the Israelites were taking over, devised a plan to trick them. They put on worn out wineskins, old clothes, and carried nasty food pretending to be from a far away land (Josh. 9:1-14). The Israelites covenanted with them and later found out that they were Canaanites (Josh. 9:15,16).
Having been tricked, you might think they could just break the covenant and carry on with wiping out the land as God had commanded. However, the Bible tells us something very interesting in verses 18-20…
But the children of Israel did not attack them, because the rulers of the congregation had sworn to them by the LORD God of Israel. And all the congregation complained against the rulers. Then all the rulers said to all the congregation, ‘We have sworn to them by the LORD God of Israel; now therefore, we may not touch them. This we will do to them: We will let them live, lest wrath be upon us because of the oath which we swore to them.’
The Israelites found themselves between a rock and hard place. God told them not to covenant with the people, but they ended up doing it anyway. God also says not to break your covenants. So, do we obey God or disobey God? Well, in this case they’ve already disobeyed God by making the bad covenant. Breaking the bad covenant is once again disobeying God, in an effort to obey him, in an area that you’ve already disobeyed him. The best thing, it seems at this point, is just to stop disobeying him.
I think it’s interesting that the rulers determined that if they broke the bad covenant they would be in danger of God’s wrath. While I am completely against making sinful covenants, I’m also against breaking them once they’ve been made. I’m all for making the best out of a bad situation, and that’s exactly what Joshua and the people ended up doing after the bad covenant was made.
Why Are Some People Who Are Remarried Being Blessed?
One of the questions that also came up in the podcast was why does God seem to bless some remarried couples? I think my explanation above actually helps to understand that. A remarried couple that decides to follow God will be blessed even though they’ve made a bad decision in the past. As believers, this should not surprise us at all. I sin every day with my thoughts, words, and actions. God does not pin me down and hold a grudge.
Some may argue that this covenant is bigger deal than a thought, or a sinful action. Maybe so, but can you think of a time after the Canaanite conquest when the nation of Israel was wildly blessed? Read about the times under Solomon, for example. Did God hold a grudge for the rest of Israel’s history because they fumbled the ball with the people of Gibeon? It doesn’t appear as though he did. That Covenant was a mistake. However, the solution was not to break it, but rather to keep it. God’s blessing can come into, and after, a bad covenant is made.
Resources from Better Men Than I
I used to hold my view of remarriage close to the vest. I didn’t want to offend anyone who had been remarried, and I certainly didn’t want to contribute to any hurt that may have been caused from a messy, one-sided, divorce. Then I stumbled across a man I highly respect holding to much the same view: John Piper. Below are some resources where he explains his view and how he handles it in ministry. This was such a comfort to me and I think some of his resources will help anyone who may be wrestling through this issue.
-How Does Your Uncommon View of Divorce Affect Your Ministry? – John Piper Video
-Does the Bible Allow for Divorce in the Case of Adultery? – John Piper Audio
-Can You Give Some Advice for Those Who Know Others Who Are Seeking A Divorce or Remarriage? – John Piper Video
To Les, Tanner, and the Reformed Pubcast
Thank you for your honesty and humility on the Reformed Pubcast. I think the simple fact that you are down to earth, and you do your best to be Biblical, is what draws people to the Pubcast. It may have something to do with the hilarious games, and “pubbing,” but more than anything it’s the simple fact that you are real to your listeners. I also cannot thank you enough for the Reformed KidCast which has been such an encouragement and blessing to me. To you I say, “Cheers and Amen.”