I have often heard the saying, “It takes two people to be married, but only one to be divorced.” The truth of this statement can be devastating to a partner that has done all they could to honor their wedding vows, often for decades, and yet still finds themselves on the wrong side of a fulfilling, lifelong marriage.
So, if you have done everything you can to preserve your marriage and still find yourself divorced, is it a sin to remarry after divorce? It is not! In cases where you find yourself divorced due to no fault of your own, there is nothing you can do. The sin is not yours. If, however, you divorced because you did not want to stay married, because you met someone you like better, or for any other non-biblical reason, and have not since repented and done what you could to make it right, then your remarriage is in sin. There are a lot of moving parts here. Let’s take a peek at all of them.
Table of Contents
Where the Real Sin of Divorce and Remarriage Lies
By the time a couple is getting a divorce, the sin has already been committed. The divorce is not the sin. The behavior that led to divorce is the real sin. Many people quote Malachi 2:16, which says God hates divorce, but what is the whole story? Making a sweeping statement that God hates divorce actually misrepresents the statement. I will expand that thought more in a bit. The truth is that God hates what brings couples to divorce. Divorce is merely the byproduct of the mess and breaking of the covenant beforehand. But it is also the final nail in the coffin. It is the final act of the sin that is now bringing you to where you are.
Since divorce is the result of sin and not the origination of sin, let’s take a look at some of the differences between sinful divorces and non-sinful. Here are some of the reasons divorce is not sinful for the person that left:
- Adultery committed against you
- Abandonment–physical, emotional, psychological, sexual, financial and spiritual cases.
- Abuse that forms a pattern over a significant amount of time–also physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, spiritual, financial, or any other means used to devalue a partner (isolated forms of abuse do not count as a couple learns to relate in healthier ways and live in an imperfect world)
- Being married to an unbeliever who no longer wants to be married
And here are some non-biblical reasons for divorce:
- Irreconcilable differences
- Boredom with your partner
- Would rather spend time with another person
- Undiscussed issues (unless it is a safety issue, then it becomes abuse)
- Desire to change your lifestyle
While this probably covers most of the issues that couples struggle with, it is probably not a comprehensive list. The point here is that these issues are responsible for breaking the covenant of marriage. People do not get divorced when their marriage is going well or just because they randomly don’t feel like being married to that person anymore. Divorce is one of the worst experiences people can have in this lifetime. So, for people to desire to divorce, it is generally because things are going very badly and/or become unbearable.
When Remarriage is not a Sin
There are a few times that Scripture talks about remarriage being allowed, and even advised. Let’s cover each one of those to begin, then we can talk about the instances that we can deduce based on Christian living principles in all of life.
Remarriage is not a Sin for Widows
1 Corinthians 7:39 says, “A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.” So, certainly, it is actually a good thing for widows to remarry as long as they find a companion who will serve the Lord alongside of them.
Romans 7:3 goes even further to say, “Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.” This makes it clear that you can’t just decide to leave your husband (or wife for that matter) and take up life with another man.
1 Timothy 5:9 puts some specific standards on widows. It says, “Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband.”
I Corinthians 7:8-9 says that widows should not get married unless they cannot control their need to be physically married. But if they can stand to be single, they should remain so in order to give their time and resources to the church instead of setting up a new household.
The final verse I want to discuss regarding widows is 1 Timothy 5:14. It says, “So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander.” In this, the apostle Paul actually believes that younger widows should NOT remain unmarried.
In all of these cases, obviously God is condoning remarriage. But there are some cases where it isn’t spelled out for us, but we can still get a pretty good idea of whether God approves or not.
Divorce and Remarriage is not a Sin for Spouses of Unbelievers
Remarriage is not a sin for people who were married to unbelievers, who in turn, no longer wanted to remain married to them. They could have been married before one of the spouses became a Christian. Or they could have been married as Christians together, and one left the faith. And in some cases, one spouse can lose his profession of faith due to severe abuse and destruction they leave without any repentance or restoration in their family or in the church.
1 Corinthians 7:15 says, But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.” God specifically says the spouse of an unbelieving partner will not be blamed for divorcing that unbeliever if they want to go. And when it says to go in peace, it alludes to the fact that if you do find someone else, it is no different than a younger widow marrying and moving into a new life.
Women Given a Bill of Divorce in Order to Remarry
In Deuteronomy 24, God talks about husbands giving their wives a bill of divorce if they no longer wanted to be married. This reflected the unfortunate way that women were treated in that day. Often, men would get tired of their wives and want to trade them in for a newer, younger, or better model. They would simply boot them out of their house and marry the new woman. This was disastrous for women who would not be able to support themselves and could not marry another because they were “used property.”
So God commanded these men to give their wives a bill or certificate of divorce. It would allow them to remarry, keeping them from being homeless and destitute. In Matthew 19:8, Jesus says certificates of divorce had to be implemented because of the hardness of men’s hearts in Old Testament days. Unfortunately, men’s hearts haven’t really improved (not every man!). There are still many evil men in the world who don’t care for their wives and throw them aside. And women almost universally still get a raw deal out of it. But it isn’t as bad as it was before God made the certificate rule and allowed women to remarry.
Here are some articles that may answer some questions you have in addition to if it is a sin to remarry after divorce:
When Remarriage is a Sin
Sometimes, it is a sin to remarry after divorce. But not as often as many churches seem to believe. Remarriage is a sin when a man or woman gets divorced out of convenience without considering the damage done to their spouse or family, and without doing all they could to save the marriage before walking away. There are myriad reasons why a couple gets to this point. But it is never a good thing.
This is actually a sinful divorce, but what makes remarriage sinful as well is when the person who sins in divorce remarries without making amends for the divorce or healing before the next one. And in that case, they are doomed to repeat their own past, just with a different person.
Regardless of whether you divorce or remarry in sin, none of this is unforgivable. God’s mercy is rich to those who seek it. And God eagerly waits to restore those who turn to him for forgiveness and fellowship. This is just the same as when we have a child who is in rebellion and then they come back to make amends. What a beautiful day that is! And if God’s love is even more perfect than ours, imagine His joy at the return of His children!
Should You get a Divorce to Correct a Sinful Remarriage?
What if you got divorced, wrongfully, married someone else, but then later realized what you did was wrong? How do you restore something that is now so convoluted?
First, you cannot remarry your first spouse if you are already married to someone else. That would tear apart multiple households. And your former spouse may also be remarried, which would be even more complicated.
Trying to restore original marriages this far down the road would do way more damage than healing. And God realizes we live in an imperfect world. His first choice would have been that we didn’t divorce to start with. But since we did, the next best thing is to bless him in our current marriages.
We can still seek forgiveness and restoration from those who we have divorced. And maybe, in the end, the best thing in our imperfect world is to know that everyone has made their peace and made things as right as they can be in a broken world.
Dealing With the Feelings of Guilt and Embarrassment Over a Divorce
If you are struggling with feelings of guilt and embarrassment over your divorce, you are not alone. In fact, I think just about everyone feels that way at some point in the process. When you belong to a church, it becomes even more of a stigma. But you need to shake that off!
In this day and age, there are still many churches that are legalistic and do not promote the love and forgiveness of God in their congregants’ lives. And that is very unfortunate.
Most of the people I know who got a divorce ended up leaving the church they were in during the divorce. This is not necessarily because they were penalized by the church or even judged unfairly, at least on an official level. Church members feel uncomfortable and don’t know which side to support, especially because most people don’t know the whole story of what happened and neither you nor your ex are going to air your dirty laundry.
There is a lot of gossip and talk behind your back, even though that is not supposed to happen in the church. And it will get back to you.
In my case, my pastor told me that 99% of our church was supporting me through my very difficult divorce from a narcissist. His narcissistic behavior ended up being seen very publicly when the divorce went public and he acted out. But he had a few supporters that were not emotionally mature enough to see what was really happening. They chose to believe his lies, even after the church called him out. And they chose to make sure I knew they blamed me for divorcing what they perceived to be such a wonderful man. Those few (about 5) people got so verbal, nasty, and in my face, that I ended up leaving the church.
But, just like in Genesis when Joseph realize that what man meant for evil, God meant for good, I am now the leader of a Divorce Care support group in a large local church. God has used the very worst things that had happened to me to help others heal and grow from their own horrific divorces. God put me right where He needed me. And He will do the same for you! Hold your head up and realize that there is no problem that is too big for Him to get you through.
So, it a sin to remarry after divorce? Sometimes, but even more often, as a general rule, it is not sinful to the person who did all they could to preserve or save the marriage. If someone chooses to divorce you, you cannot do anything about it, at least not in most parts of the world. But you can trust God to get you to a healthier and better place.
As much as it seems impossible for that to happen when you are in the thick of things, once you emerge from the fog, grief, and mess of divorce, you will realize that God had you all along. And now you will be able to help all the people who follow after you. Because you will understand them. And you will understand the love of God and how to share it with the hurting and devastated. And if you did actually divorce or remarry in sin, know that God’s mercy will cover your sin if you repent and come back to fellowship with Him.
Hugs and love,
If you found this article helpful, I think you will also be interested in many of the following articles:
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