Pastoral Perspectives

Reflection on Divorce and Remarriage

We have come to the end of our sermon series on family and sexuality this Sunday but I believe questions continue to be asked over and again. I also believe there are people who do not accept some of the things shared by the pastors. For some, it could be that they have misunderstood or misinterpreted the pastors and so clarification would help. For others, it might be that the pastors contradict what they have always understood or believed in and so further discussion might be needed. Therefore a forum was held after the message on Divorce and Remarriage to provide a platform for such clarification and discussion. The leadership hopes that through such messages and platform, members may know God’s will regarding these things and be better equipped to deal with them. Three things I have heard or observed regarding divorce and remarriage that Christians might think otherwise. So allow me to share my thoughts here as I believe some of you may have the same questions.

The first has to do with the exception clause, i.e. except for sexual immorality. The church takes this clause as the permissible ground for the spouse against whom sexual sin had been committed to remarry. Otherwise any remarriage would constitute adultery and hence not permissible to the church. There are some who feel that the church should not take this clause into consideration because it inadvertently suggests to people that there is an option for divorce and they may work towards it than trying to save the marriage. The concern is valid but I honestly think that the problem is not with the preacher or the message but the people themselves if so. Take for example the sign we have on the last pews to reserve seats for parents with young infants. It amazed the pastors during Easter Convention that visitors abided by it while ushers are needed each Sunday to request our people without young infants to use other pews. The problem is not with the sign but whether people want to follow the rules or play around them.

So what does the sign says regarding divorce? The Bible is clear that it is displeasing before God and not what he has intended for his people. But we need to recognise that there are marriages where one spouse is godly and pleasing to God while the other is not. So in spite of forgiveness extended by the former to the latter so that there may be reconciliation, the latter remains an unrepentant adulterer. It is for such a divorce that the exception clause provides ground for the godly spouse to remarry. Furthermore the clause is given by the Lord himself. So who are we to deprive some just because others might play around it? The problem is with them, not the clause or the church that is faithful to Scripture. Nevertheless we recognise that it can be hard to determine when the clause is applicable in real life situations because people move around churches, keep their personal lives private and are not open to pastoral counselling. Still we need to exercise what the Lord has provided for.

The second thing follows naturally from the first, i.e. so what if there is valid ground due to marital unfaithfulness? The fact remains that divorce breaks the sacred vow that till death do us part. So in permitting for divorce the church is indirectly telling couples that it is okay to break their vows. The concern is again valid and I agree that God holds us to our vows. The sad and honest truth is that we make vows readily but we do not abide by them seriously. How many of us can confidently say that we honour every vow we made during our baptism? These vows are not less than those made during wedding. But let me come back to wedding vows. I sincerely believe that the vows before God is not so much to stay in a marriage till the death of one spouse. It is to love, care and comfort one another in all situations, circumstances and conditions. A couple may hold on to a marriage till one dies and yet fail to honour their vows. Another couple may choose to exclude that clause in their vows but it does not mean that they can therefore go separate ways without having to wait for one to die first. On the contrary, one spouse may honour the vows but not the other such that if the marriage should end in a divorce due to adultery, it is the latter who failed to honour the vows. Therefore to those who think that they should not divorce because of the vows they made, I appeal to you therefore to love, care and comfort each other in order to truly honour your vows and surely your marriage will not only last till the death of one spouse but also pleasing and honourable before God and men.

Finally there are some who feel that biblical teaching on divorce and remarriage is too ancient and obsolete for the modern world today where people are more open-minded about these things and so the church should move on with time. I beg to differ. The world today is not much different from the ancient pagan world then where all kinds of immoral sexual sins were prevalent. The people were equally very open-minded about these things as well and it was in such a setting that God gave instructions to set his people apart from them. If I may put it, it was because of God’s laws being instituted in the age of Christendom that the society became more civilised. And it was because God’s laws have been cast aside that the world has become what it is now. We are really back to the same ancient context. Therefore it makes biblical teaching on divorce and remarriage all the more necessary if the church is to be set apart from the world.

Rev Ronnie Ang

June 21, 2015