From the Comments: Divorce & Remarriage, Part 5

divorce5Reader Laymond followed up with a pertinent comment.

Laymond wrote,

I believe the Hebrew writer gives a different conclusion for those who ask forgiveness, and continue to intentionally do the very thing they asked God to forgive them for.

I agree. Those who sin in reliance on grace are likely to find none. Grace is for those who repent and not a loophole to allow intentional sin. The key, as noted in my recent comments, is to understand what the “sin” is.

The questions posed to me were regarding people long ago divorced and remarried who now see the error of their former ways and now wish to be faithful to their present spouses. God smiles on anyone who wishes to clean up his act and move forward in penitence.

We sometimes so contort the scriptures that we make divorce less forgivable than murder. A youth minister once said to me, “Better to kill your wife than to divorce her. At least you can be forgiven of murder.” He was kidding … kind of.

Breaking the covenant of marriage is sin — but like all sin other than blasphemy against the Spirit, it can be forgiven. And it doesn’t require that we put away a wife of 20 years and leave children victims of a broken marriage. The goal is to go from chaos to shalom, not from shalom to chaos.

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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32 Responses to From the Comments: Divorce & Remarriage, Part 5

  1. David Himes says:

    I think it’s also important to note, that in our infinite wisdom and insight, we human beings are incapable of discerning whether someone has truly repented. Only God knows our individual hearts.

  2. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Breaking the covenant of marriage is sin — but like all sin other than blasphemy against the Spirit, it can be forgiven. And it doesn’t require that we put away a wife of 20 years and leave children victims of a broken marriage. The goal is to go from chaos to shalom, not from shalom to chaos.

    Jay,
    When did we run off the track so badly? We have redefined repentance / forgiveness to mean that we must “fix” whatever consequences resulted from our sin. And unless we “fix” or “repair” the consequence to a certain level, then God will not forgive us. That is an impossible standard. I thought Christianity was supposed to be less burdensome than the Law.

    Maybe we just don’t understand repentance, which is at least consistent with our poor institutional understanding of Christian fellowship, authority, et al.

    Whatever happened to just recognizing something as sin and striving to avoid doing it in the future?

  3. I just re-read Romans 6. It begins with Jay’s concern– “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid.” But Jay’s conclusion– that one in this situation will at some point find no grace– is plainly absent from Paul’s response. Nothing of the sort can be found in Paul’s approach to such an abuse of grace. We struggle with this. For the sake of what we consider justice, or for whatever other reason, we want to hear this settled: “If you keep doing this, God will eventually withdraw his grace.” But Paul strangely refuses to offer this potential, in the very place it makes the most sense to teach it. But we find no such ultimatum in Paul’s approach.
    Personally, I don’t think this omission is accidental.

    Consider our culture, wherein greed, materialism and covetousness are normative. Where pride is not a sin, but a virtue and a sign of superiority. Where “rugged individualism” trumps “give to anyone who asks” and the consent of the governed has supplanted “submit to those who have the rule over you”. We live in a culture where skepticism challenges faith, even in the church itself. If we continue in these sins– now considered minor by their very ubiquity– do we outrun God’s grace simply by acting as normal Americans?

    When I look at the cross, I am discouraged from assigning limits to the grace of God.

  4. Dan Harris says:

    “We sometimes so contort the scriptures that we make divorce less forgivable than murder. A youth minister once said to me, “Better to kill your wife than to divorce her. At least you can be forgiven of murder.” He was kidding … kind of.”………

    In the last 40 years since I have been paying attention to such things I know of at least 3 cases in Alabama where CoC ministers took this legalese altogether too literally, with bloody consequences. There have likewise been a few cases of women (within the CoC) doing the unthinkable to their spouses. I have often wondered if our teachings on divorce contributed to such behaviors.

  5. Jeff Richardson says:

    Matt 5:32 and 19:9 are very clear, no contorting is necessary to understand a simple teaching. Both say clearly, “he who divorces his wife EXCEPT for sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery. And he who marries her commits adultery. There is only one reason to divorce, any other reason, and you or both remarry you are committing adultery. As for repentance, repentance is a change of mind and turning from your sin and going toward God. If your a bank robber, in order for you to show fruit worthy of repentance you must STOP being a bank robber. And by the way, you need to give back that which doesn’t belong to you whether it’s cash or a wife that doesn’t belong to you, (remarriage). You must stop being a adulterer. If you divorce your spouse for any reason other than sexual immorality and marry another you have become an adulterer according to scripture. The only way to stop being an adulterer is to get out of this man made marriage. I say that because God doesn’t recognize it. He still recognizes the one you left. Remember the principle of Matt 19, one man one woman for life. He sees that spouse as your wife or husband. In 1 Cor 7:11 If the wife departs, just because, let her remain un-married or reconciled to her husband, they are not to divorce. They can agree to a separation for the sake of peace. I know this isn’t the popular stance. But do we stand for God’s inspired word or not. The teaching is clear and easy to understand. Jesus said, you are either with Me or against Me. And yes, we may have to live the rest of our lives unhappy, because of the choices we’ve made. God’s not to concerned with our happiness, he is concerned with our obedience. God believes, keep my commandments and you will be happy and blessed.

  6. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Jeff,

    Not so fast. Good Bible study requires us to ask a few questions:
    -What does the text say?
    -What does the text mean within it’s context?
    -How would the original audience have understood the text?
    -What does the text mean to me today?

    I think you may have been a bit hasty and neglected the text in its 1st century Jewish context.

    First, the Greek evidence for continuing action (e.g. commits adultery and keeps on committing adultery) isn’t nearly as solid as you affirm. Lots of material on this topic at this webpage.

    Second, such an interpretation ignores the evidence of NT Judaism. Among other purposes, these texts were designed to protect women. 1st century Jewish husbands frequently divorced their wives for any number of reasons, sometimes for burning dinner. Women were almost wholly dependent on men for survival, and women did not possess legal standing in divorce “proceedings” …not that there were any. Women couldn’t contest the divorce. Consequently, a women who had been divorced for burning the dinner would have been a perpetual adulteress for getting remarried, which was required for her very survival! This interpretation is alien to first century Judaism, and it is alien to the teaching and mission of Christ.

    Third, the claim that God doesn’t recognize the marriage is rather spurious as Christ, Himself, acknowledges the union as a marriage.

    Fourth, it’s not that this interpretation in unpopular…it’s that it is incorrect.

  7. Alabama John says:

    In both cases above, note the Bible states and uses HE and HE only doing the wrong.
    Back then men were the ones that committed adultery against the women and caused her harm to remarry by making anyone she marries (ever so innocent or unknowing) an adulterer.
    Today, women and men are seen by us more equally. Turn that around and in all those verses about committing adultery use the woman doing it against her husband and see if we men will understand it differently and still agree the same?
    Many things required back then we do not do or follow today.
    We’re more educated and more modern!

  8. Jeff Richardson says:

    Your right, God does recognize that union, He recognizes it as sinful. If it’s adultery to marry another, it is adultery as long as your married. The only way to repent, is to get out, and stop being an adulterer. No contorting, just simple reasoning, while letting the Bible speak.

  9. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    See the very interesting comments by Craig S. Keener in his IVPNTC Commentary on Matthew. A bit long but definitely worth the time:

    Do Not Betray Your Spouse by Divorce (5:31–32). Adultery is unfaithfulness to one’s spouse or accommodating another person’s unfaithfulness to that person’s spouse. Lust is one form of such unfaithfulness; divorce is another. The person who betrays his or her spouse by divorce is no less unfaithful to his or her marriage than the adulterer or lustful person and presumably warrants the same punishment prescribed by the preceding passage—damnation (5:29–30). Although Matthew does qualify the force of the saying, he wants us to hear its demand: marriage is sacred and must not be betrayed.

    In principle, remarriage is adulterous because God rejects the validity of divorce. Employing the same teaching technique of rhetorical overstatement that pervades the context (as in 5:18–19, 29–30; 6:3; Stein 1978:8–12, 1979:119 and 1992:198; Keener 1991a:12–25), Jesus declares that God does not accept divorce; hence a divorced woman remains married in God’s sight to her first husband, making her remarriage adulterous (5:32*). (The image presumably addresses the woman because the Palestinian Jewish law in Matthew’s milieu permitted men to marry more than one wife anyway, whereas the sharing of a woman involved adultery—Keener 1991a:35, 47–48; Easton 1940:82; but compare, somewhat differently, Luck 1987:103–7.) Precisely because the very term for legal “divorce” meant freedom to remarry, everyone understood that a woman without a valid certificate of divorce was not free to remarry (as in m. Giṭṭin 2:1); but Jesus declares that if God does not accept the divorce as valid, remarriage is adulterous (19:6, 9; see similarly France 1985:123).

    A few churches today take this passage completely literally and demand that remarried partners break up and return to their original spouses. If this passage did not employ rhetorical overstatement, their interpretation would be right; but their interpretation does not square with the rest of the biblical data (such as Jn 4:18, where the woman had five “husbands”). As common as divorce and remarriage were in antiquity (Carcopino 1940:95–100), Paul’s letters would surely have reflected it had he been spending time breaking up new converts’ second and third marriages. The Roman authorities, already concerned about subversive religious groups disrupting families (Keener 1992b:139–42), would have also noticed and acted swiftly! In practice, the strict position of churches that break up second marriages actually leads to new divorces—a position God surely disapproves of (Mt 5:19). (Supporters of breaking up second marriages sometimes cite 2 Sam 3:13–16, but because David had never actually divorced Michal, Saul’s arrangement of Michal’s marriage to Paltiel was illegal and adulterous; compare 1 Sam 19:11–17. Had that marriage been legally valid, Israelite law would have prohibited David from taking Michal back; see Deut 24:1–4.)

    “Adultery” meant unfaithfulness to one’s spouse, and remarriage is adulterous here precisely because in God’s sight the original couple remains married. The moral issue of the image, however, is not remarriage but the validity of the divorce; although most people accepted most divorces as valid, everyone recognized that one could not remarry without a valid divorce. Jesus is prohibiting divorce in an incomparably graphic fashion (Keener 1991a:34–40, 43–44; Stein 1979).

    In practice, this text demands that we love and serve our spouse. If integrity forbids us to violate vows in general (Mt 5:33–37), this principle applies most plainly to marriage vows (see also Mal 2:14). But most marriage vows promise more than “I won’t commit adultery, lust after someone else or divorce you.” Most people marry with the explicit or implicit expectation of enduring, mutual love; only in a secure relationship like marriage can people trust enough to intimately expose the depths of their hearts. Yet in all divorces, one or both parties is unfaithful to this implicit promise of marriage.

    While Jesus gives divorce as an explicit example of marital infidelity, his principle of challenging all unfaithfulness to one’s marriage as adulterous forces his followers to examine their own marriages more clearly. A man may never divorce his wife yet also fail to show her love; a woman may avoid affairs yet despise her husband. These too are acts of unfaithfulness to marriage (though they are not biblical grounds for divorce). If I am to love my neighbor as myself, how much more should I love my wife as my own body, to sacrifice myself for her willingly as Christ offered himself for the church (Eph 5:25)! Provided that my love for my spouse expresses rather than competes with my love for God (Mt 10:37; Lk 14:26; 18:29; Eph 5:1–2, 18–21), any gift of love I offer this daughter of God is too small a gift for the treasure of her sharing her life with me.

    In warning against the sin of abandoning one’s marriage, Jesus is defending rather than oppressing those divorced against their will. Yet instead of examining our own hearts and marriages as Jesus wills, some Christians today resort to the very kind of Bible interpretation Jesus was opposing. Jesus’ words protected married people from the schism of divorce, but we sometimes turn them into a weapon against wounded Christians. Assuming that anger (Mt 5:21–22) and lust (5:27–28) are forgivable offenses because we have committed them, some nevertheless look askance at those who divorced in the past, as if that sin were unforgivable. Not content with that, some condescendingly claim to “forgive” innocent parties in divorces (such as a young mother who is single because she was abandoned by a drug-abusing husband). Perhaps none of us is a perfect spouse, and many of us live in a culture that confuses right and wrong, but the Bible does take sides on some issues. For instance, it plainly assigns guilt to the adulterer without assuming guilt on the part of the adulterer’s spouse (Lev 20:10); nor may one automatically assume any more guilt for the abandoned spouse than for a spouse who is not abandoned (see Stephen 1993:14). Punishing one divorced against his or her will to show that we are against divorce makes as much sense as punishing a mugging victim to express our disdain for mugging.

    Although many marriages do end by default, I have witnessed countless Christians who fought to preserve their marriages while spouses left them against their will; David Seamands tells me he has seen hundreds of such cases. Some in the church compassionlessly explain devastating illnesses as evidence of lack of faith, perhaps to assure themselves that they could never suffer them (compare Job 6:21; 12:5; Ps 38:11). Many other Christians do the same with divorce.

    Matthew specifically states an exception. When Jesus offered a proverb stating a general principle (Mk 10:11; Lk 16:18), ancient hearers understood that such sayings often needed to be qualified for specific situations (Keener 1991a:22–25). Two similar divorce sayings in different contexts actually conflict if pressed literally: Mark 10:9 assumes that divorce should not but can occur, while the Q saying in Matthew 5:32 par. Luke 16:18 assumes that marriage is indissoluble and a genuine divorce cannot occur. But the conflict arises when we ignore Jesus’ teaching style (Catchpole 1993:238): such a disharmony simply means that each saying must be read as a demand rather than a law, and the overarching social function of both must be recognized. That function is a call for absolute faithfulness in and to marriage.

    To put the matter differently, Jesus’ “purpose was not to lay down the law but to reassert an ideal and make divorce a sin, thereby disturbing then current complacency” (Davies and Allison 1988:532; compare Down 1984). In practice, the early Christians immediately began to qualify Jesus’ divorce saying; other principles of Jesus, like not condemning the innocent (12:7) and the principle of mercy (23:23), would have forced them to do so in some circumstances.

    For instance, when confronted by Christians wanting to divorce unbelieving spouses, Paul used Jesus’ saying to forbid such an intention, but noted that if instead the spouse left, the believer was “not bound” (1 Cor 7:15). (Some others also view Paul’s exception as implying that Jesus’ prohibition is “not comprehensive”; see Blomberg 1992:111–12; Vermes 1993:34 n. 34.) Paul’s words recall the exact language for freedom to remarry in ancient divorce contracts, and his ancient readers, unable to be confused by modern writers’ debates on the subject, would surely have understood his words thus (see, for example, m. Giṭṭin 9:3; CPJ 2:10–12, §144; Carmon 1973:90–91, 200–201, §189; Keener 1991a:61–62). Subsequent history has nevertheless saddled Christians with prejudices; thus, for example, after the NIV rightly notes that one who is married should “not seek a divorce,” it translates the same Greek word for divorce as “unmarried” in the next line, where remarriage is permitted (1 Cor 7:27–28). One could presume that both uses of the Greek term “loosed” mean “widowed,” of course—provided one consistently translates “seeking to be widowed” in this passage, which rather improbably suggests some lethal activity such as adding arsenic or cyanide to a spouse’s tea. But most likely Paul addresses especially divorce and remarriage in this passage.

    Paul’s and Matthew’s exceptions (Mt 5:32; 19:9; 1 Cor 7:15, 27–28) constitute two-thirds of the New Testament references to divorce, and both point to the same kind of exception: the person whose marriage is ended against his or her will. As Craig Blomberg reasons, other exceptions probably exist, but they must be governed by the principles that unite the two biblical exceptions: (1) both infidelity and abandonment destroy one of the basic components of marriage; (2) “both leave one party without any other options if attempts at reconciliation are spurned”; (3) both use divorce “as a last resort.” That some will abuse this freedom (as Blomberg also warns) cannot make us insensitive to the innocent party who genuinely needs that freedom (Blomberg 1992:293). In other words, Jesus’ exceptions do not constitute an excuse to escape a difficult marriage (compare 1 Cor 7:10–14); they exonerate those who genuinely wished to save their marriage but were unable to do so because their spouse’s unrepentant adultery, abandonment or abuse de facto destroyed the marriage bonds.

    Admitting the exceptional cases does not excuse us from taking Jesus’ actual point seriously. Palestinian Jewish husbands could divorce for virtually any reason (Jos. Ant. 4.253), explicitly including their wives’ disobedience (ARN 1A; Jos. Life 426), even burning the toast (m. Giṭṭin 9:10; Sipre Deut. 269.1.1). In broader Greco-Roman culture (which Paul addresses in 1 Cor 7:10–16) either husband or wife could unilaterally divorce the other spouse without obtaining consent (Cary and Haarhoff 1946:144; O’Rourke 1971:181). By removing the right of divorce, Jesus is protecting a person from being betrayed by her or his spouse and demanding that we respect one another enough to do our own utmost to make our marriage work rather than abandoning the partner with whom we entered into covenant for life.

    Although the thrust of this passage is faithfulness to one’s marriage, Matthew’s exception clause does not allow his readers to apply his rhetorical overstatement legalistically. Indeed, to read the Sermon on the Mount “legalistically as a set of rules is to miss the point; it represents a demand more radical than any legislator could conceive” (France 1985:106), still less enforce. Jesus’ real point, which the hyperbolic image is meant to evoke, is the sanctity of marriage (see also 19:4–6; Efird 1985:57–59). Addressing the hardness of legal interpreters’ hearts (19:8), Jesus opposed divorce to protect marriage and family, thereby seeking to prevent the betrayal of innocent spouses.

    I believe that churches who punish innocent parties in divorces today interpret Jesus legalistically with hearts as hard as those of Jesus’ opponents. They understand neither the point of Jesus’ teaching nor the heart of God that motivated him (compare 9:11–13; 12:2–14; 23:23–24). But we do the same when we condone inappropriate divorce or the hardness of heart in marriage (19:8) that can lead to divorce or in other ways ruin the intimacy of one flesh that God commanded.

    Keener, Craig S. Matthew. Vol. 1. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997. Print. The IVP New Testament Commentary Series.

  10. Alabama John says:

    In cases where both are trying to make it right by going back to their original spouse after leaving their current husband or wife the dog going back, returning, to its vomit part of all this.

  11. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    I don’t follow you, AJ. ?

  12. Alabama John says:

    Kevin,
    I have seen and heard preached that before you can join our congregation you must leave your present wife or husband and go back to your original one. In those cases, it would be scripturally like Proverbs 26:11 and 2 Peter 2:22 where a dog goes back to its vomit or a sow goes back to its folly.
    I don’t know of a case where it was done.
    On the other hand, there are good Christians, even Elders or Deacons that have been divorced, remarried and are living good Christian lives.

  13. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Thanks, AJ. I am tracking now and concur. I have witnessed it as well…more than a few times. And I am not aware of a single example where the present-day couple divorced and remarried their original spouse. As a matter of fact, in every example that I have been privy to, the couple never returned and actually ceased going to church anywhere.

    Perhaps in no other doctrinal disagreement is the ancient Hebrew and first century Jewish context so important for properly understanding the passage.

  14. Alabama John says:

    We do many strange things as Christians that we believe is what God would want us to do.
    Take ISIS for example, I remember well God asking “what is that I hear?” It was the enemys cattle lowing when God said kill them all, and he didn’t mean just the humans. Gods example.
    Trying to find the ISIS operatives one at a time around the world is wrong, we need to do as we did to Japan and kill them all with Gods approval at their homes where the majority gather.
    Today claiming to be one of Gods children has caused us to do stupid things to and for Gods children.

  15. Christopher says:

    One thing that I think is being lost on those who side with Jay on this issue is the statistics for success of divorced people in second, third, fourth and more marriages. If I remember correctly, the odds of a divorced person getting divorced a second time are around 70% and a third time around 85%. If you commit murder and then want to reconcile with God, you will have to be willing to go to prison. But for adultery and divorce in our land, there are no criminal penalties. So while Jay wants to say divorce and remarriage is a “grave sin” (since, in my view, you are unwilling to reconcile and hence forgive), how grave is it if you can, in effect, have serial marriages? Can one murder like that, kill someone, “repent” and murder again and again? Unlikely, because he’d be in prison and, unless he is one tough guy, would have no opportunity to do so.

  16. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Chris,
    You make a good point, but I don’t think it addresses the crux of the matter. Everyone agrees that divorce is predicated on sin. God hates divorce (btw, notice that God hates “divorce” – an explicit recognition that the marriage union has been severed). That’s not up for debate really. The question revolves around remarriage (again, an explicit recognition of the ensuing union):
    -Does the adultery in Mt 5:32 connote continuous action?
    -Does the Bible teach that one must divorce their 2nd spouse in order to be in a right relationship with God and to go to heaven?

    Given the totality of scripture, I don’t see how anyone could answer in the affirmative.

  17. Christopher says:

    Kevin,

    Apart from the scriptural evidence regarding divorce and remarriage, I think a related question is this: is the unwillingness to reconcile with your spouse tantamount to not forgiving him or her? The gospel is the message of reconciliation and Jesus says if someone is unwilling to forgive another person (who repents), then he or she will not be forgiven. I wonder what God will say to the person who was unwilling to reconcile but who nonetheless wants God to reconcile with him or her. Divorce and remarriage is unlike any other sin in that it is forever closing a door on a strained relationship. And every day is repetition of that unwillingness to reconcile. Divorced disciples do not forgive each other from the heart usually, do they? Does no one else see that as problematic?

  18. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Chris,
    It’s a good question. I liken it to forgiveness and consequences. I can forgive a person who, say, steals drugs from the pharmacy, but the person can’t work there anymore even though forgiven. I think the situation you describe is similar. A cheating husband can be forgiven, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the faithful wife is obligated to take him back.

  19. Johnny says:

    I am divorced and remarried. I have forgiven my spouse and have helped her in times of need. However even if I had not remarried I would never allow myself back in the situation of abuse I left. Forgiveness does not require me to allow that person the power to hurt me again. It does require me to give up the desire to hurt back.

  20. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Kevin,

    Exactly right. Forgiven does not mean qualified for the job. Nor does it mean qualified to be the mother of my children yet to be born.

    “Forgive and forget” is not in the Bible. “Forgive and love — but be steely-eyed realistic about the forgiven person” is closer to the Bible, which never runs from the faults and flaws of its heroes. The Bible never romanticizes a human, and neither should we.

    The counselors like to say, “Facts are our friends.” If we can see that employee or ex for who they really are, without pretending a single lie, and still forgive them, then they’re truly forgiven — and we don’t have to live a lie.

  21. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Christopher wrote,

    One thing that I think is being lost on those who side with Jay on this issue is the statistics for success of divorced people in second, third, fourth and more marriages.

    First, I know LOTS of people who’ve made a second marriage work just fine — for many decades — longer than most first marriages. That evidence matters, too.

    Second, I know LOTS of people whose marriages failed solely because of the other spouse. Do we tell them they can’t remarry or have children because they were fooled the first time? Or do we help them make a better choice the second time?

    I AM a big believer in pre-marital counseling, and my church does it and won’t conduct a wedding without it. We’ve had preachers recommend to couples that they not marry because they were too immature, too unaware of the commitment — and thank God they did! Too many preachers and elders are so conflict-averse that they’ll marry a couple who are clearly unsuited for marriage — not just for each other but for marriage at all. Far better to never marry than to marry badly, go through divorce, have to deal with all that, and then finally remarry older and wiser.

    We need to love each other enough to ask for and take good advice. The solution to failed second and third marriages is to learn why your prior marriages failed and fix the problem. Good counseling can help. A loving, supportive faith community can help.

  22. Alabama John says:

    Keep in mind that in heaven there will be no marriage or given in marriage according to Jesus in Matthew 22:30.
    Those of us that are happily married here on earth will still be able to be together, continue loving each other in heaven as we did here on earth as God made us as helpers for each other. Genesis 2:18.
    God himself has blessed our union and we both want to continue that in heaven forever.
    The first one to go will be anxiously, joyfully, waiting on the other to show up so we can be together forever.

  23. Christopher says:

    Jay wrote:

    “Forgive and forget” is not in the Bible.

    I have no idea why you would say that Jay, given these two verses:

    “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins.” (Isaiah 43:25)

    “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:12)

    Receiving mercy from God is clearly conditioned on giving it to others. Reconciliation is not saying “I forgive you, but don’t hang around me anymore”. What did the father of the prodigal son do? It’s funny, you repeat a quip about it being better to murder your wife than divorce her in the CoC, say that a parent should never disown a child, but seem ready to jettison a spouse should he or she cross certain lines. My quip would be it’s better be your child than your spouse.

  24. Johnny says:

    Christopher that sounds nice till you have been called by a therapist and told to leave the house because your life is in jeopardy, or set down with a woman who was raped by her father but her mother would not break up the marriage because divorce is a sin or talked to a woman who has forgiven being beaten over and over and has been told to go back again. There are times reconciliation is impossible without putting someones health even life in jeopardy.

  25. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Chris,
    You position just isn’t biblical either. When God says that He will not remember our sins, He is not being literal. He is God; of course He remembers our sins. He only means that He will not our our forgiven sins against us. There is a significant difference between forgiving and not holding one accountable. We can forgive the thief, but he still has to pay a fine or seve time. We can forgive the bank teller who steals cash from the cash-drawer, but he can’t work at a bank again. One can forgive an unfaithful husband, but some women cant retain you as their husband.

    We see this over and over in scripture. Adam ate the fruit. He was forgiven, but he couldn’t remain in the garden. David was forgiven of the sin with Bathsheba, but he suffered the consequences for the rest of his life.

    There’s nothing wrong whatsoever with BOTH forgiving someone AND holding them accountable. I do it with my kids all the time.

  26. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    ..will not hold our sins against us…

  27. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Kevin,

    Exactly.

    Christopher,

    Go volunteer in the local battered spouse shelter, and then tell us what abused women need to do with their abusive husbands.

    I don’t practice divorce law, but early in my career a friend who does asked me this question.

    “Last Saturday night I got a call from a client.”

    How rude! Can you believe the …

    “No, she had good reason. She said, ‘My husband is at the door with an axe, chopping his way into the house. He says he’s going to kill me and the children.’ I told her to hang up and call the sheriff! They live way out of town.”

    I nearly fell over. So did the sheriff come?

    “She said, and I kid you not, ‘They said they’ve already been out here three times to stop him and don’t see what good they can do. Besides, they won’t confront him without a second deputy present, and the nearest second deputy is 30 minutes away.”

    So she should repent of her sin, forgive him, forget that he wishes to kill her and their children, and be a good submissive wife? That’s what Jesus wants?

    You see, my hermeneutic is informed by the reality of human nature. We sin. We’re broken. We do incredibly bad things to each other. And I think Christianity is about making that stuff better, not worse. Shalom not chaos. And I don’t think the Bible — the Gospels especially — are naive about human nature.

  28. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Christopher,

    The fact that he will not remember their sins does not mean that God will erase his memory of them. To remember is to act upon something. To not remember is to not act upon it. He will not treat them as if they are sinners.

    Tremper Longman III, Jeremiah, Lamentations, eds. W. Ward Gasque, Robert L. Hubbard Jr., and Robert K. Johnston, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2012), 212.

    I would take 1 Cor 13:5 to be Paul’s commentary on this and similar passages.

    (g) Keeps no record of wrongs. Literally this says that love “does not reckon the evil.” Since the language is very close to the LXX of Zech. 8:17, it is possible, as the KJV does (“thinketh no evil”), to understand this to mean “love does not devise evil against someone else.” More likely, however, the object, “the evil,” refers to that done to one by another person. The verb then could mean, “does not think on it (i.e., take notice of it).” Since in Paul this verb very often means to “put to one’s account,” it seems probable that the nuance suggested by the NIV moves in the right direction. Just as God in Christ does not “reckon our sins against us” (2 Cor. 5:19), so the one who loves does not take notice of the evil done against him/her in the sense that no records are kept, waiting for God or man to settle the score. Here Paul reflects the tradition of Jesus’ word on the cross as found in Luke’s Gospel (23:34), where the Savior extends forgiveness to those crucifying him.

    Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987), 639.

    As we see in the Revelation, the Jews thought of God keeping a ledger book of our sins — and it’s not that God won’t remember. He’s omniscient. But he won’t put our sins on his retribution list. He doesn’t remember our sins “against us” — but he knows about our flawed character. How else can the Helper work to improve us? How can God discipline us as his children, the Bible says so often?

    Or think of the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant. After he was forgiven, he refused to forgive another man’s debts to him. And then the Master recalled forgiving him his debts and charged them against him again. He forgot. But he didn’t.

    (Matt. 18:22-35 ESV) 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. 23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

    Pretty plain threat to remember our sins!

  29. Christopher says:

    Kevin wrote:

    You position just isn’t biblical either. When God says that He will not remember our sins, He is not being literal. He is God; of course He remembers our sins. He only means that He will not our our forgiven sins against us. There is a significant difference between forgiving and not holding one accountable.

    I am taking God at His word, not presuming to know His mind. I hardly think He will remember anyone’s sins in Paradise. But apparently you know better. And if you imagine forgiveness and not being held accountable are two different things in Christian theology, you’re not reading the same Bible I am.

  30. Christopher says:

    Jay wrote:

    Go volunteer in the local battered spouse shelter, and then tell us what abused women need to do with their abusive husbands.

    Please, my friend, do not patronize me. My mother was one of those women – not all of the time, but enough so that her three boys were very afraid of the man who verbally, emotionally and physically abused all of us. And, besides that, I was sexually abused for three years by a neighbor. My kid brother committed suicide at the tender age of sixteen. What are you going to tell me I don’t already know or can’t imagine about suffering of this sort?

    Jesus said if a brother or sister repents, we should forgive them. The forgiveness is conditional, just as with God. We may elect to forgive unilaterally, but we are not required to. And I am talking about disciples, not people in the world. A brother or sister who remains unrepentant even after a separation is likely to either abandon his spouse or commit adultery – two exceptions provided for by the scriptures.

    I know a sister who married a man before they were both baptized who later wound up cheating on her multiple times. She would not divorce him, even when he was living with the other woman. They had kids together. I marveled at that and she said to me one time that she would love him no less than one of her children. She would only agree to a divorce if he initiated it. That was her way of leaving it in God’s hands. He did finally and they are now divorced. But she truly exhibited the love of God towards that man. He had a serious car accident in the middle of all of this in which his car overturned several times. It was a miracle he survived. That woke him up for a little while, but he never really came to his senses.

  31. Christopher says:

    Johnny wrote:

    Christopher that sounds nice till you have been called by a therapist and told to leave the house because your life is in jeopardy, or set down with a woman who was raped by her father but her mother would not break up the marriage because divorce is a sin or talked to a woman who has forgiven being beaten over and over and has been told to go back again. There are times reconciliation is impossible without putting someones health even life in jeopardy.

    See above, my friend.

  32. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    “I am taking God at his word…
    No, you are just taking a few passages out of the overall context of the biblical narrative. God is omniscient. Consequently, He knows everything about you. He is able to recount, right now, everything you have ever done, Chris. And what’s more, Chris, you know it. Are you really going to stand up before us all and contend that God is incapable of recounting the previous and forgiven sins that you have committed?? He just isn’t all-powerful enough and all-knowing enough to pull it off? Yes, He can name all the stars in the universe – all 100 octillion of them (that’s 1 with 29 zeroes after it) – but when it comes to the sin you committed yesterday, He draws a blank.

    “And if you imagine forgiveness and not being held accountable are two different things in Christian theology, you’re not reading the same Bible I am.”
    Chris, you are not thinking critically. Come on. Forgiveness of sin and living with the consequences of that sin are two entirely different concepts, just as spiritual forgiveness and physical consequences are different concepts. You know this, and the Bible plainly teaches it, e.g. the examples that I provided. God spiritually forgave Adam of his sin, but Adam never stepped foot in the Garden again either. The former is forgiveness; but the latter was physical consequence and accountability.

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