Q: About 3 years ago I met a beautiful young lady in need of Jesus. I witnessed to her and she accepted Him into her life and grew in her faith.
We began to date after her salvation and she confided in me that she had been married previously to a man who physically abused her and was unfaithful. She got a divorce and moved on with her life.
I struggled with the relationship after hearing about her divorce, many other believers told me that since she divorced for adulterous reasons, it was ‘okay’ for me to marry her. We’ve now been married two years.
I’m honest when I tell you that I truly love her, but I am bombarded with feelings of guilt and sin over the whole matter. It seems everything I read and hear on this subject is split down the middle; either that I’m living in adultery by being married to a divorced woman—even if it was for adulterous reasons—or they say we had every right to marry.
I have read and re-read Matthew 19:9 and Matthew 5:32 so many times that the words are starting to lose meaning. I somehow can’t get past “let no man put asunder what God has joined” and “A woman is bound to a man as long as he liveth.” It just seems so contradictory to the idea of remarriage.
I’m filled with guilty feelings. My conscience never feels clean anymore; and every time I read the Bible, I’m hoping to hit on a magic verse dealing with this matter. Sometimes I feel like I’m doing the right thing, and sometimes I feel like I’m deliberately sinning against God. I’m so overcome with these feelings that I don’t even know if I should be married anymore.
Asked by: Keith, West Virginia
A: Keith, I’m so glad that you wrote to me, and thank you for giving me all of these details.
First of all, I want to thank you for your sensitivity to God. You know there are many people who remarry who never give it a second thought. You are trying to think through this. You are trying to please the Lord, and I want to commend you for that.
Secondly, I can see that this problem in your mind is so serious that unless you clear it up, it’s going to greatly impact your marriage, and so I hope I can help you and give you some advice in that direction.
Let’s start off by assuming the worst: that when you married this young woman, you committed adultery because God still recognized the previous bond. The fact is, now you are indeed married, and I believe that God recognizes that as valid. Think, for example, of Jesus speaking to the woman at the well. You know He makes that off-handed comment, “you have had five husbands and he whom you now have is not your husband.” I’ve often pondered that because surely Jesus wasn’t saying, you’ve had five husbands because they all died and you remarried. The idea was that there was divorce involved, and yet each of these was considered to be a husband. God recognized the marriage as valid.
One day I was having lunch with a very famous Bible teacher who teaches that once you marry someone who has been divorced and you realize that every time you are intimate together you commit adultery, you should sleep in separate bedrooms. And I said to him, “is that what you would want me to preach here at The Moody Church, where we have many divorced people who have remarried?” He never did answer that question, and I think it was because he’s wrong, and because it would be very unwise to teach that.
So at this point, Keith, you are married to this woman. Accept that marriage. Accept the fact that you have been bonded together physically and metaphysically by God, and move on. It is so important. It is so important for you to accept God’s forgiveness for her—obviously God has forgiven her—and for any error that you might have made in the past. Having accepted that, get on with your Christian life and your walk, and love your wife as Christ loved the church.
- There are no Scripture references.