A few years back, as many of y’all know, given I am pretty open here about about my own life, my wife and I had a conversation concerning the breakdown of my previous marriage. In that conversation, she pulled something based on the context of Leviticus 20, the fate of the perpetrator, and the ultimate end of the one sinned against:
When adultery happened in the [Torah], the perpetrator and their co-perpetrator were stoned. The partner of the marriage who had been the innocent in the relationship.
But what happened to the innocent who was sinned against? He or she was left as a widow or a widower, and was thus permitted to marry again.
I then drew the connection following the principles of hermeneutics.
Think specifically of Rule #1…
Or as Joe Castleberry of Northwest University calls it, the Jiminy Cricket Rule of Hermeneutics
Always let your context be your guide.
So, here is the larger context of the canon, using both the Tanakh and the New Testament.
The only difference between adultery in the Tanakh and adultery in the New Testament is that the perpetrator gets to keep his or her life.
And the one sinned against? They have the same status as a widow or a widower, and are thus free to remarry. Reading Jesus and Paul together, we see this permission as well implied in the context of his discussion of the Pharisees.
Whoever divorces for any reason except fornication/marital unfaithfulness/sexual immorality…
You are permitted to divorce your spouse, from the way I read the varied texts, and marry another, if adultery/sexual immorality is the root of your issue.
Now, granted, let me throw three caveats here.
First, if you have permitted your heart to become crunchy, or cold, or you permit a Jezebel/Ahab combo take residence in your heart (which is a real possiblity, because Jezebel says “I am not going to every allow myself to be put into a position to get hurt again”), you are A) going to have issues with relationships beyond adultery/fornication/marital unfaithfulness B) have issues hearing Father’s voice in discernment on the matter.
Second, if you refuse to hear Father’s voice on the matter and only consider your immediate needs/wants/lusts etc., you are going to have a hell of a time the second time around.
Third, before you respond to quickly end a marriage, have an extended conversation with Father, because He will always have input to give to you. Even with the biblically justifiable means of divorcing an unfaithful spouse, the L-rd might have a few pages to speak to you on the matter of your marriage.
Be darn sure you pay attention to all He says on your specific marital issue.
It is the glory of G-d to conceal a thing; but the honour of kings is to search out a matter. –Proverbs 25:2-
With those three caveats, a soft heart, a willingness to hear the voice of Father, and every last shred of input He has on your own situation, proceed with what He tells you.
Also, I would add as valuable a deep and thorough application of 1 Corinthians 7 and 1 Peter 3 to your given situation.
And take caution and much care how you proceed.
As to the subject of abuse, I personally consider that under the category of “marital unfaithfulness”. There is a violation of marriage covenant that happens in the presence of abuse. And thus, evauating each situation on a case-by-case basis, I can see biblical grounds for divorce based on abuse.
This is, however, one of those cases where I would counsel as a pastor, STRONGLY, THAT YOU SEEK FATHER.
And in the area of remarriage, I would strongly counsel you to seek the L-rd about that in the arena of abuse, as to whether or not remarriage is the wisest course. Not just IF, but even if He clears you to remarry, then WHEN.
The other dynamic I want y’all to grasp as I write this is this:
If you are looking for an excuse to exchange your current spouse for a new model just because you want to sample another set of wares and are tired of the model you already committed to, then your heart is already hard and you need to repent.
Also, please realize that divorce is not to be treated as something worthy of a party or celebration.
Something in you died: something of which you were part.
Those of you throwing divorce parties and saying “thank G-d that bastard/bitch is out of my life” never got the point of marriage.
Those of you who are crying for any number of reasons, and whose emotions are all over the place, because of the depth of pain opened up by this sort of tragedy get it.
Those of you wishing to call me heretic because you are proponents of that nonsense called Covenant Marriage, “you put down your rock and I will put down my sword and we will try and kill each other like civilized people”.
Jesus gave us an exception in his teaching on divorce.
Get over yourselves, and your egos, and your preoccupation with “you are violating G-d’s word”, and let’s actually reason together from the text of Scriptures.
Read the Bible, donkeys.
DEATH OF A COVENANT
When something on this level dies, it is one of those things in your life that is worth mournful contemplation. When my first marriage ended, I sat sheva without realizing why. I did not thank G-d for it, and I did not want anyone to celebrate my newfound freedom. I rent my clothes as a reflection of what happened to my heart.
And then at the end of that week, I arose and anointed myself with oil, and concerned myself with rebuilding my relationship with my sons. And I went, at Pam’s invitation, to the Sunday School class she was teaching on the Bait of Satan.
And later, in conversation with her, I understood why I sat sheva.
“…behold, I am about to take the delight of your eyes.”
It was the death of something that was precious.
It was an actual and literal death.
So, while I am grateful for my marriage to Pam, I look on that previous season with sobriety.
And, yes, the wine is sweeter in this second marriage, but it came at a steep price. Adultery, seasons for reconciliation, and eventual implosion of marriages are like the bombing of Nagasaki.
My ex-wife, when we had first began a relationship in 2004, made a comment to my then-pastor sometime after we had become engaged.
“G-d told me he is my Hosea.”
Not the words you expect to hear, and at the time when I heard those words, they resonated.
I thought I understood back then why they resonated; she had a dark period before she had come to Missouri, and I was pretty sure that her relationship with me would be redeeming and cleansing for her.
But now, I understand some things more deeply than I chose or would have ever wanted. And give the treasure and the cost, I would not wish the treasure on my closest friend, or the cost on my worst enemy.
Some treasures are more costly than we realize.
G-d can only hand us some of these costly but necessary treasures by forcing them on us.
During the process when He forces those treasures on us, He makes us pay a cost that we did not want to pay. And that cost is steep and painful.
When I was being made to pay for the gift of earned authority to work with couples in marital trouble, I began to learn that this first marriage was never G-d’s intent.
During that marriage, there was never a settledness, a meshing of the two into one. I blew past all sorts of red flags, and those parts that knew it was wrong, I quieted them down with sermon after sermon that I had heard through the last couple of decades telling me that G-d would make the wrong one the right one.
That was one of the consequences of choosing to marry not the right person: A lack of meshing.
So, what was the gift? Earned authority to work with troubled marriages.
What was the cost? I paid the price for choosing to disobey and marry the wrong person, and then G-d choosing to remove that person by allowing the marriage to slip into multi-pronged, multi-faceted disrepair. As a result, I destroyed my life and she destroyed her own life, and hurt the lives of several people close to both of us. I lost several opportunites for ministry and missions work. I lost several precious friendships. I lost the chance to finish my M.Div. I lost my ministerial credentials with the Assemblies of G-d. I lost the chance to live with my sons, who now dwell several states away from me.
So, remember, when you are the victim of a marital unfaithfulness, you do have liberty.
But please, I implore you to treat it with a huge dose of sobriety. And if you need some help picking through your marriage, I am glad to lend a listening ear or some counsel, to whatever extent you might need.
Sort and pick through the issues with someone you trust. Do not sort through these issues with people who are willing to run down your spouse/ex-spouse. Sort through them with someone whose mouth is on the altar and who has drunk deeply from the cup of sobriety and humility.
Be blessed, gang.