Catechism     Essentials For Sisters     The Regretted Child     Gone     Time After Time     The Levite's Concubine     Valentine's Day     Teena Marie     Donate

Marriage is a God-given sacrament, one to be entered into soberly and prayerfully. It should not be used to assuage your guilt or solve some problem. Using marriage for such purposes actually blasphemes God more than unsanctioned rack-hitting because marriage is a sacramental covenant ordained by God, committed to in the presence of God. if your motives stink of apostasy, God is insulted by your abuse of His privilege. It is worse than the unbeliever taking communion. You are marrying the wrong person at the wrong time and for the wrong reason, all for show, just because you’re embarrassed that people know you’re engaging in morally questionable behavior.

The woman kept calling herself “single.”

She was not "single." She was divorced. Five times. Now married to Husband #6 and giving marital advice to gullible Church Folk, the woman was telling amusing anecdotes about her various marriages and sexual encounters in between while gassing up the room with alleged praises to God. And I'm thinking to myself, I'm sitting in a room full of idiots. Church Folk are so easily led, so incredibly naive, that they'd sit under the teaching of an obviously disturbed, insecure and immature woman who treats marriage as a trivial romantic experience much like dating in high school. As Christians, we are no longer under the Law but under Grace, but shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? [Romans 6] The Law provides us structure and guidance so that we are aware of sin [Romans 7:7]. In our modern culture, we give people who have remarried a pass, pastors performing these nuptials and congregations welcoming these second and third pastiche families, as if remarriage is somehow less sinful than sex outside of marriage. Marriage is a very serious commitment and, while we can thumb wrestle over the meaning and consequences of fornication, adultery is an unambiguous sin. The Law considers sexually active divorcées to be in a state of adultery, and remarried divorcées to be causing their second or third or tenth wives to enter into a perpetual state of adultery [Matt 5:31-32]. I'm sure your pastor has some doctrinal Heimlich Maneuver, some investigation of scripture, that helps everybody sleep at night—the remarrieds and the pastor who perform such "sacraments," —but this is the truth. Getting remarried may make your pastor feel better or your friends and family feel better, but in terms of God's Law, a parking ticket is a parking ticket: you're committing adultery either way. If God's grace is enough to forgive your adultery within your remarriage, why isn't it enough to forgive your sexual activity without remarrying? Both are adultery. Both are conscious choices to go against God's Law. One has the veneer of righteousness but, in terms of the Levitical Holiness Code (The Law), it's only a veneer. Why do we subject God's Holy Word to a moral test, morality being whatever society—not God—says it is? And why do we applaud perverting God's sacrament of marriage, His special, precious and divine gift to us, to be used as, ostensibly, a shield against social stigma for loving someone intimately?

This is the morass we sink into once we start judging anybody for anything. Only God can judge us. Remarrying for sex is just boneheaded. Remarrying because you want a second chance to build a life and a family is an appropriate petition that God can consider. What concerns me is our lack of humility. Lord, I am not worthy to receive You. We're not. We are not deserving of a second chance, either in life or in marriage. But grace abounds, grace we routinely take for granted. Choosing to remarry should be a humbling, life-altering decision made in the fear of God. Lord, I am not worthy to receive You. It's not a joke, like this desperately lost and confused woman the pastor has actually placed in leadership, giggling over her five ex-husbands. A second chance is an amazing gift. Just understand, in terms of biblical Law (which we selectively observe as it suits us), remarrying is just as great a sin as sexually engaging without the benefit of matrimony: God cannot bless either state. Divorcées  seeking marriage for the main purpose of having sex without a guilty conscience are getting it all wrong. They are living lives of superstition and not an honest or informed Christian experience.

Despite the preacher's flowery words and the white gown, biblically speaking, a wedding of persons who've been previously married is not valid. Your pastor knows this. He's made some adjustment, some end-around to fix it in his mind that what you and he are doing is okay. There'll be tears of joy and praises to the Lord, but God can't bless this. The best God can do is excuse this on behalf of His Son, under Whose shed blood we find escape from sin and shame. In which view, a second (or third, or fifth) wedding should be less jubilant and more reverential; persons grateful to God for His abounding grace which saves us from the wages of sin. We're standing before Him, again, making vows, again. Why should He believe us this time? Having bailed the first time, will it be easier to bail the second time? The third? How many times will we stand before Him and tell that lie, let no man put asunder?

Should divorced people spend the rest of their lives alone? I don't think God is asking us to, but I believe God is glorified by our willingness to spend the rest of our lives alone in order to give meaning and truth to the vows we took in His presence. I wasn't so offended by this nutty lady referring to herself as intermittently "single" as I was by the lack of deference she gave to the sacrament itself. She clearly does not take marriage seriously, which is as offensive to God as not taking baptism or communion seriously. As Catholics take communion, they recite, corporately, Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed, a reference to the Centurion's plea for Jesus to heal his servant in Matthew 8:5-11. The centurion answers the Lord, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.” It is the only response humble enough to be fitting of Jesus’ invitation. The fact is, we are not worthy, yet through an act of sheer grace, our souls can be made suitable for the divine presence.

God responds to our motives: not only to what we do but to what we are willing to do, to what we are willing to sacrifice for Him. Most people I know are not willing to be alone, not willing to honor that vow, and take for granted that hell won't be their reward for putting their selfishness, loneliness, and personal neediness ahead of or in place of an actual relationships with God. The fact is, you never should have gotten married in the first place. You married the wrong person at the wrong time for the wrong reason, and now you're Stuck Like Chuck. Bail out if you want to, but you made that vow, you said those words—for better or worse. Going in, we all recognized this as a possibility but never thought it would happen to us, that we could be left on the beach. Nobody's asking you to lock yourself in a closet for the rest of your life, but, to be an actual Christian as opposed to just being Church Folk, we should be willing to go it alone if that's His will for our lives. I don't know anyone at all who has ever put their lives in that context.

Divorced people are not “single,” are never “single” again. They've been through something that has changed their lives forever. It is wrong to think of ourselves as “single" or to be involved in a “single's ministry” with persons who have never been married. Marriage is a lifelong covenant between two people and God. Calling ourselves “single” denies the sovereignty of God and the holiness of that covenant. It’s like suffering a terrible car crash and, after the car comes out of the body shop, driving around calling the car “new.” It is not new. It’s been through a major trauma. It will never be new again. Which doesn’t mean life doesn’t go on, but that the marriage experience is part of our journey. We have learned and we have grown, two things calling ourselves “single” denies. Divorced—most especially multiple-divorced—people running around calling themselves “Single” are acting childishly and foolishly, having learned nothing, remaining immature and ready to make the same mistakes over and over. Our faith in Jesus Christ calls us to admit our faults, not deny them. James 5:16 says “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” KJV

I realize some are rolling their eyes, saying, “It’s just an expression.” Expressions matter. What we say and how we say it matters (James 3:2-12). Our testimony matters. Sister, brother: you are not “single,” and will never be “single” again. Singleness is a gift from God, one virtually none of us fully appreciate when we have it. Most of us, myself included, have abused the privilege of singleness, taking it for granted and rushing into bondage with one bad relationship after another. Most of us cannot handle being alone (I Corinthians 7:7-9).

The Apostle Paul provided lots of guidance about marriage, especially in I Corinthians Chapter 7. The takeaway from that chapter is Paul doesn’t like women very much. He honors them like mothers while condescending to them like children. He writes extremely few words to women, as the vast majority of his writings were to men. Paul would rather no one married, but accepts that some people cannot control themselves sexually and would, therefore, be better off within the bond of marriage. This is considerably stupid thinking. People who are having trouble controlling themselves outside of marriage will have trouble controlling themselves inside of marriage. Sisters; if he can’t keep it in his pants, don’t marry him. A man (or woman) with a sexual addiction can and will never be satisfied by a lifelong partner. Paul is incredibly wrong in this idiotic notion of getting married if you can’t control yourself. If you’re having trouble controlling yourself, see a doctor. I’m sure there’s some pill that can help you keep Mr. Johnson in perspective.

Third Time's The charm:   Ideally, a vow before God shuld actually mean something.

Let Your Conscience be Your Guide?

Mary Fairchild of About.Com put it this way:

Though divorce is a serious matter in God's opinion (Malachi 2:16), it is not the unforgivable sin. If you confess your sins to God and ask for forgiveness, you are forgiven (1 John 1:9) and can move on with your life. If you can confess your sin to your former spouse and ask forgiveness without causing further hurt, you should seek to do so. From this point forward you should commit to honor God's Word pertaining to marriage. Then if your conscience permits you to remarry, you should do so carefully and reverently when the time comes. Only marry a fellow believer. If your conscience tells you to remain single, then remain single.

Conscience can trick you sometimes. Your conscience is a powerful mechanism, ingeniously designed by God to prompt our moral compass. But it is not necessarily an absolute thing. So far as I know, the only real test of love is time. If it’s really love, then what’s the rush? If you’re all hot for sister, give it a year. Get to really know her—the good and the bad. Then see where you’re at. The main reason most Church Folk I know remarry is for sex. If you took sex out of the equation, there’d be no pressing need to remarry. Loving someone is no sin. Being close to someone doesn’t require God’s blessing or, say, a license. In most cases, these are folks who have hot drawers. They are probably already hitting the rack together, anyway, and their conscience is driving them to marry to avoid shame. But avoiding shame is a disastrously stupid reason to marry.

There is, in fact, only one reason to ever marry: the absolute conviction that this is the person God has ordained for your life. And that conviction needs to be tested and tried. You have to give it time. A firm foundation is made from concrete. But just because concrete appears solid doesn’t make it so. Concrete not only has to dry (where it looks solid), it has to *cure,* a chemical process of reaching its absolute hardness and purity. Time is the only way concrete will cure. Marrying someone while you’re still in that heightened state of arousal, that dimwit infatuation where your nose is all wide over the person and you can’t keep your hands off of them—is a stupid thing to do. You’re not building on a firm foundation and you’re not giving that foundation time to cure. You just want to hit it. Or you’re already hitting it and you feel guilty.

Marriage is a God-given sacrament, one to be entered into soberly and prayerfully. It should not be used to assuage your guilt or solve some problem. Using marriage for such purposes actually blasphemes God more than the unsanctioned rack-hitting because marriage is a sacramental covenant ordained by God, committed to in the presence of God. As I’ve said many times, God responds not to our words or even to our deeds but to our motives. You can throw the biggest Juanita Bynum circus-wedding in the world, if your motives stink of apostasy, God is insulted by your abuse of His privilege. It is worse than the unbeliever taking communion. You are marrying the wrong person at the wrong time and for the wrong reason, all for show, just because you’re embarrassed that people know you’re engaging in morally questionable behavior.

For me, it’s really not a question of conscience. I still love my wife. It’s really that simple: God has not released me from that bond. We stood together and made a promise before God. I take that sort of thing seriously. I can't imagine some woman being gullible enough to actually take a wedding vow from me seriously. Why would she believe me? I mean, I took that vow before, said those words before. I gave her everything. Everything. Everything I was, everything I ever wanted out of life, I surrendered for her. And she still left. Why would I believe the next her? How could I trust her? I don’t trust her. I don’t believe her. I won’t stand before God and pretend. I won’t stand there and tell that lie. Your mileage may vary, but a sober perspective on this business of serial marriage casts serious doubt on the maturity and sanity of people who keep putting themselves through that. It seems ultimately selfish; playing with God while calling yourself “Christian.”

Beyond that, I’m old and cranky and frankly have not met anyone I was even remotely interested in marrying. I’d rather not have a half-baked marriage of sexual convenience, someone to keep me company and remind me to use fabric softener in the wash. What I had was amazing. Magical. Intoxicating. Once you’ve experienced that, it’s really hard to settle for second best. I tend to suspect the people who nag me about remarrying have never themselves actually experienced that kind of love. There’s no definitive litmus test to tell you when it’s really love as opposed to infatuation or something else. But we’ve been apart twenty years, now. and there has not been a single day that I have not thought of her, prayed for her. It was an experience I’ll always cherish, and one I am forced to honor by not cheapening it to merely one of a rapid succession of “marriages.”

Your own mileage may vary, but I've yet to hear a convincing argument in favor of Christians remarrying and, certainly, not the ridiculous serial marrying of a third or fifth spouse. God does not bless sin. God is not glorified, not pleased, by our reducing this divine and amazing gift to just sex. I'm happy to listen to any pastor who wants to give this a shot, convince me they're not blaspheming God by performing these serial unions, but I'd advise him not to hold his breath. We're Christians. Believe it or not, once upon a time that used to mean something.

Christopher J. Priest
5 July 2013