On divorce and remarriage for Christians, part 3: The full freedom to remarry

This is a three-part series about divorce and remarriage for Christians. I write from my background in Restoration Movement churches, which look to the Bible as the source for Christian authority. Part 1 explains in more detail.

In part 2 I explained why I think adultery, addiction, abuse, and abandonment — the four As — are all sins that can end a marriage, and that in those cases the act of divorce is merely a legal matter that ends the union’s legal benefits.

The next question is, when someone is divorced, are they allowed to remarry in God’s eyes? I say yes, under all circumstances.

Bibles in the pews

Many Christians say no, except under one circumstance. They interpret the Bible to say that only someone who divorces their partner for adultery may remarry. When my first wife and I were married, we were members of a Church of Christ congregation that held that belief. My wife had been married before. When the elders of that church found out about the circumstances of her divorce, they judged it to be un-Biblical and invalid. In God’s eyes, they said, she was still married to her previous husband — and our marriage was not valid before God.

Those elders believed that if you were divorced for an un-Biblical reason, you lived in a state of sin. The only way to end that state of sin was to return to the marriage they believed God still saw as valid. If you weren’t willing to do that, you were expected to live in celibacy.

I know of no sin that persists. You lied to your partner. You stole something from the store. You had sex with someone you weren’t married to. You embezzled funds. You murdered someone. When those acts are done, the sin has been committed. Its effects persist, but the sin itself is in the past.

Even living with someone you’re not married to isn’t a state of sin. Living together is not wise, as the temptation for sex will be be nearly impossible to resist. It’s the sex in cohabitation that is a sin — a thing that happens for a time and then is over.

You may be divorced because you or your partner destroyed your marriage through the sin of one or more of the four As: adultery, abuse, addiction, or abandonment. You may be divorced for some other reason, making the act of divorce the sin. Regardless, the marriage is over. The sin has been committed and you are divorced.

God loves it when we make amends for our sins. It sets back to right some of the damage we caused. A great way to make amends for the sin of destroying a marriage is to repent and reconcile, and then remarry your ex. But God does not require it. Moreover, if your ex-partner committed one of the four As against you and remains unrepentant, I can’t see how God, who loves you and wishes you not to come to harm, would want you to return to that partner. Your ex would still not be able to keep a vow of love to you and therefore honor a new marriage covenant. Finally, if some time has passed since your divorce and you have remarried, but then your previous partner repents and wishes to reconcile, you remain divorced from that partner and married to your current partner.

Broken marriage covenants and divorces grieve God. He still wants our marriages to last for life. He hopes that when we sin against our partner, even egregiously, that we repent, receive forgiveness, reconcile, and remain married. However, I believe he recognizes that marriages can and do end in divorce, and honors our next marriages should we have them.

I do not pretend to be an expert in these matters. I’m a sinner who tries to follow Jesus as best I can. Moreover, I write from my perspective as a Restoration Movement Christian (Christian Churches, Churches of Christ, Disciples of Christ), whose beliefs may differ greatly from those of your branch of Christianity. I welcome reasonable discussion that might open my mind to arguments I have overlooked and facts I am missing. I welcome your comments on these posts especially if you have a different Christian background from me. I will enjoy hearing your perspective and learning from you. However, I want to remind you of my comment policy — let’s keep it pleasant, eh?

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9 responses to “On divorce and remarriage for Christians, part 3: The full freedom to remarry”

  1. Keith Walker Avatar
    Keith Walker

    I asked you NOT to preach to me, American law is irrelevant here in NZ so with regret, I feel I have to unsubscribe

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m sorry you’re not willing to simply ignore my faith posts. I wish you well.

    2. DougD Avatar

      Did Jim force you to read this? You knew what it would be about and yet here you are again, being rude.

  2. Steve Mitchell Avatar

    Wise words Jim :)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar


  3. Greg Clawson Avatar
    Greg Clawson

    Jim, I was going to write a comment, but Billy Graham said it best;

    “The only sin God cannot forgive is the sin of refusing to turn to Him and accept His forgiveness. To put it another way, the only sin God can’t forgive is the sin of unbelief.”

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Ooooooh, that quote will hit some Christians right between the eyes. Thanks for sharing it.

  4. Joe from The Resurrected Camera Avatar

    Well thought-out and articulated series of posts, Jim! As a product of a broken home myself I’m dealing with the consequences of a divorce and don’t necessarily agree with all the reasons people may have for one, but both parties have to be willing to work together to build a lasting relationship. It’s not really by choice, but I’ve never been married or in a serious relationship; I can understand well how hard it is to be lonely and don’t think I can fault someone for wanting to share their life with someone else.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks Joe. Broken marriages do a lot of damage, especially to the children. My sons are young adults now and the older of them may be starting to work through the ways the divorce affected him. I’m sorry that this has to be a part of his life.

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