By Edward O. Bragwell, Sr.
In grammar, a postfix (or suffix) is “a sound, syllable, or syllables added at the end of a word or word base to change its meaning, give it grammatical function, or form a new word” (Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language 1457).
It occurs to me that postfixing (to fix after) is what some are doing on account of their divorces. Often there is the account given at the time of the divorce and then a postfixed one given at the time of remarriage. The story is now fixed, after the fact, to include scriptural grounds for divorce. Why? Because the scriptural reason is now far more important than it was at the time of the divorce.
A person is in a difficult marriage. Things have gotten so bad that divorce seems to be the only way out. The person is so disgusted and hurt by this marriage that he or she just wants out. To find another mate? Never! He has had it with this marriage. He has had it with marriage – period. The quicker he can end this misery the better. So, he gets the divorce, using the easiest provable grounds he can find that the state will accept (which is almost any reason or no reason) to get the divorce over with. He is fed up with this intolerable situation.
Had the person’s spouse committed fornication? He says he (or she) really doesn’t matter – because he is going to get the divorce anyway. But, what if he should change his mind later and decide to remarry? He assures us that this is not going to happen. But it does!
Years ago, I was riding a bus to a meeting in Georgetown, Kentucky. A young lady with two small children boarded the bus at Louisville and took a seat directly behind me. Just outside of Louisville a man boarded and sat down just across the aisle from the young lady. She was in a talkative mood. She began telling the story of her life. She had just gotten a divorce and was on her way back to her parents. She was disgusted with men in general. If she could just make it to her parents, she would make it just fine, without ever looking at a man as long as she lived. This kind of talk went on for several minutes. Finally, the man across the aisle began talking with her. He did not have a wife and needed one. By the time we stopped in Frankfort the young lady had been talked into getting off the bus there with her new friend with the view of giving further consideration to their possible marriage. How quickly the mind changes.
While that young lady’s case may be an extreme example, it illustrates how easily minds are sometimes changed. We know of several cases where divorced people have adamantly affirmed that they would never want another spouse, but have changed their minds with the passing of time – some within a few weeks, some within a few months, and others within a few years. They meet the new love of their lives and would like for their new marriage to be scriptural and accepted by faithful brethren. So, now the “postfixing” begins.
Maybe they did have scriptural ground for divorce after all. So, they begin the quest for evidence by recalling things that happened before their divorce that seems now to point to the unfaithfulness of the ex-spouse. Why did they not bring these things up before? Could it be that they were so bent on getting out of the marriage they simply overlooked them? Or, could it be that they are now more concerned about the divorce being scriptural than they were at the time? Or, could it be that, with the passing of time and the increased desire to have the right to another spouse, the facts (?) that were fuzzy at the time have become clearer as the desire to remarry has become stronger? At any rate, they are not convinced that they did have scriptural grounds after all, but because of the pressure at the time of the divorce they did not use them. They can now marry their new love convinced that they are alright and that good brethren will accept the facts (?) as they are now being presented.
But alas, the Scripture still reads, “But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery” (Matt. 5:32, NKJV). “And I say to you whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another commits adultery” (Matt. 19:9 NKJV).
My friend, sexual immorality has to be the reason for the divorce – not an afterthought to justify another marriage.
The person who has “postfixed” his divorce story might or might not have found the scriptural reason for divorce had he or she investigated enough at the time. But he did not. He was only interested in getting out of an undesirable marriage. The fact is: he divorced his spouse for reason(s) other than fornication (sexual immorality). Whether or not the divorced partner was guilty of fornication at the time or prior to the divorce is not really germane to the question at this late date. The fact remains the spouse was not divorced for that reason. The spouse was divorced for a reason other than fornication. Fornication, among other things, may have even been suspected at the time – but it was not the reason for the divorce action.
It is dangerous to re-write a divorce story to fit the present need and desire for a scriptural marriage. Like necessity, desire is the mother of inventions. A desire to remarry that was not present at the time of divorce can easily cause one to rearrange the facts (?) to justify the present situation.
One may come to believe his revised version. The brethren may accept it. But, remember the Lord knows the real facts. He will not be mocked. His memory does not became fuzzy with time or biased by desire.
Again, if you are divorced and want to remarry, the only way that you can do it within the bounds of scriptural authority is for fornication (sexual immorality) to have been the reason (at the time) that you divorced your former spouse – assuming that the one you want to marry now has a scriptural right to marry.
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 2, pp. 44-45
January 16, 1992