The first response we often have upon receiving a letter or article on the general subject of divorce and remarriage is to cast it aside, and we may do this for a variety of reasons. I urge my brethren and sisters to bear with the me; for I approach this subject not just on a theoretical basis, or as one who has diligently sought out the matter over many years, but crucially as one who has lived through the sorrow and despair of marriage breakdown. I understand the feelings of those who have suffered years of protracted marriage difficulties, holding to the sincere belief that loving patience and forgiveness would remedy these marital problems. I know the feeling of regret, of wanting to rise above the despair and wretchedness of the flesh that envelops you and not being able to do so. I understand the heartache and disbelief that, despite all efforts, your spouse chooses to at last depart. I have experienced the debilitating loneliness of years within a loveless marriage and the darkness of depression. I understand the feeling of betrayal when one you count as a close friend betrays you and takes what is not lawfully theirs to have!
I also know the healing power of Yahweh’s word in which is made plain ‘the glory of the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth,’ who consoles us in all our trials that ‘his strength is made perfect in weakness’. By His strength I learnt how to ‘do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you’ (Matthew 5:44, KJV). I have, sadly, seen ecclesias and entire fellowships torn apart by the divorce and remarriage question. However I have also seen the ecclesia as a place of divine therapy, healing and restoration, despite all the seemingly human impossibilities, because there was an understanding of the weightier matters of God’s law―love, justice, mercy and faith—by which Yahweh is honoured and glorified as the basis and divine condition of redemption and forgiveness.
There is a scriptural answer to every question that this subject in all its complexity of human emotion and experience presents. Those answers however are not always pleasant or agreeable to fleshly thinking. “For my ways are not your ways nor are my thoughts your thoughts says Yahweh” (Isaiah 55:8). In diligently seeking out the answers to many questions on this subject it becomes a matter of whether we are prepared to allow Yahweh’s word to elevate us above our natural inclinations—our ways which we may earnestly insist are motivated by God’s principles, our thoughts which we may have convinced ourselves reflect righteousness!
The key to understanding this most important subject and its broader theme is how Yahweh does not count a sinner’s iniquity against him, and how his transgression may be forgiven and sin covered (Psalm 32:2; 2 Corinthians 5:19). God must first be seen to be “just”; only then may He be the justifier of the one who humbly and contritely comes unto Him through faith in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:26).
I have heard it said that one can ‘correctly’ argue the divorce and remarriage question in various ways. However, Yahweh is one; there is one faith, and one baptism (Ephesians 4:5–6). There is only one way that declares God’s righteousness as the basis and condition of divine mercy and forgiveness. On the subject of the atonement, Yahweh requires the humble acceptance of, and exercise of faith in only one correct doctrine as the only basis of acceptable approach unto Him. On the general subject of divorce and remarriage there is in fact only one way that is able to reconcile all the inspired statements in Yahweh’s word that lifts up and exalts Yahweh as holy, holy, holy. Any other interpretation will, in some aspect, diminish or deny that His way is “just” and that the humble recognition of this is the only means of reconciliation, forgiveness and peace.
When divorce and remarriage for reasons other than ‘porneia’ occur; a request for re-fellowship by a repentant brother or sister may understandably cause much grief and anxiety especially amongst ecclesias whose members are relatives of those involved. Such cases invariably produce a wide range of reactions either because of close emotional connections with those involved, or one’s own life experiences. These extremes may take the form of man’s mercy which is quick to forgive sin without regard to Yahweh’s righteousness or man’s righteousness quick to condemn with little reflection of that “glory of the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth”.
Precedence should not be the guiding principle of how to respond to those who have broken Christ’s commands and desire re-fellowship. Every case must be “judged” on the basis of individual circumstances (1 Corinthians 5:3; 6:2, 5) as well as the attitude and response of the brother or sister concerned, according to the teachings of the Lord and his inspired apostles. The acceptance back into fellowship of any brother or sister who has been “judged” to have broken the commandments of Christ should be entirely contingent upon their humble acknowledgement of God’s righteousness and holiness (Psalm 51:4; 32:2,5). It should also depend on their understanding that what they did was an affront to Yahweh’s character, goodness and truth (Psalm 32:9; 51:6, 7). They need to acknowledge how their actions put them out of fellowship with God (Psalm 51:11; 2 John 9). “Fellowship with the Father and with His son Jesus Christ” consists in walking in the Light as God is in the Light (1 John 1:3 -7). Like-wise “Fellowship with one another” depends, says bro. Roberts “entirely upon our conformity to this first and necessary principle of all fellowship”. When scriptural repentance has taken place and transgressors now “walk in the light as he is in the light” the divine reassurance is “we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin”. This scriptural repentance depends upon a “spirit” (Psalm 51:17, 13) that is motivated by a clear understanding of the Lord’s teachings.