“And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery, and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (Matt. 19:9). This passage has been the center of controversy on the divorce and remarriage issue for many years. While I still believe this subject is very easy to understand, for the honest heart who desires to do the Lord’s will, I would like to address this passage from a different aspect.
Let me state clearly what I believe on this subject, to avoid any misunderstandings by the readers of this article. From a close study of this subject, attending numerous debates over the past four years, and living in a place where error on this subject has been preached for almost three decades, my conclusions have not been reached without much thought, study, and prayer. According to the scriptures the only cause for divorce is adultery (Matt. 19:1-12; 5:32). The doctrine of brother Homer Hailey concerning Matthew 19, I believe to be error. Olan Hicks, Jerry Bassett, and Jack Freeman all have different slants, but all are full of errors, according to the scriptures. I’ve listened to all three men defend their doctrines, without success. I love them as brothers, but must oppose what they teach because of my love for the truth. The doctrine of desertion, according to a misinterpretation of 1 Corinthians 7:15, I also believe to be in violation of the sacred scriptures. My prayer is that these men, along with many others, may wake up to the damage their teachings are doing to the souls of men and women all across this country. I have witnessed first hand results of this error being taught unchecked for decades. It brings tears to my eyes, and breaks my heart; the results are devastating!
However, my purpose in writing this article is not to debate this issue. Let me explain more fully where I am coming from. In August of 1982, my first wife left me and moved in with another man. In December of that same year, she asked to come back home, and I took her back. In February 1983, she decided she “was happy but not con-tent.” After a meeting with this man in her home town, she left the second time that same month. What should I do? Following much prayer, tears, and soul searching, I divorced her in April 1983 for the cause of adultery. Later that year she sought to return a third time, for reasons I will fully explain later, but I could not take her back. Since this time I have remarried a woman who went through a similar situation (much more hurtful and public than my own) and also is a Christian. Ten years have passed, you have the background, and now the reason for this article.
Let me begin by telling you, I have the same attitude about divorce that God does. “For the Lord God of Israel says that he hates divorce” (Mal. 2:16). Divorce is a terrible experience for anyone to go through, even when he has grounds from God for doing so. Still I well understand why God made this the only cause for divorce. When a mate has been unfaithful, it does something to the other mate. It is a deep scar that remains for a very long time. Speaking from my experience, it took me six months to get over the hurt. How did I feel? Numb! I cried for hours, blamed myself for everything, and yes I even hated my wife! I understand that God tells me very plainly that I have no right to hate anyone, but that is the way I felt. When you truly love someone, this process is much worse than losing a mate in death. Death is final, divorce is not! My life was an emotional roller coaster. My faith in God, was not weakened, but my faith in myself was. Do you know when it hurt me the most? At the services of the church! When I saw other couples, friends we had made over the years and their children who played with my kids, the emptiness gnawed at my soul! Now I was an outsider, a third wheel. I no longer fit in. I believe I was even a little jealous! What did I do? Unfortunately, I drew away from my spiritual family.
If you think this was bad, it gets worse. In this same process I lost something else, my kids! My daughter was five at the time and my son was almost four. In the state of my residence the mother retains custody of the children, unless she can be proven to be unfit. (Sexual immorality does not make one unfit in the eyes of the courts!) Going into those empty rooms was a pain I cannot begin to explain. Brethren I did not bring children into this world to watch them grow up from a distance! Family life was important to me, and I loved being a father. To be fair, it was nowhere as bad for me, as it was for them! God intended for parents to bring up their children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). This cannot be done properly in a broken home! Why? From my experience, when one home is not a Christian home and the other is, it teaches two sets of values. How does a young person cope? To this day, this is a situation I have great difficulty accepting. It is my “thorn in the flesh.” I was in the military at this time. When my wife’s “boyfriend” came down to move “our” belongings, I had to watch. Then this man came to me and told me he would “treat my kids kindly.” If not for being a child of God, I would have … I don’t even want to think about it!
How has my life been since? My wife is a wonderful woman, and I thank God each day we have each other. I have two step daughters whom I love just like I do my son and daughter. The girls live with us and my kids live with their mother. I see them two months in the summer, I call them often, and pray for and think of them always. Yet, the hurt is not over. My children are brought up in a home where God is not mentioned. Their mother has remarried, to a man who does believe in a Supreme Being, but does not see the need for religion in his life or theirs! On many occasions, he has told my children my values and teachings are “outdated” and just my opinions. Living together is not a sin, teaching kids to use condoms and such, is teaching them “personal responsibility.” I would like to quote a statement my daughter’s mother made tome a few months ago: “I have no false notion that our daughter will graduate from high school a virgin!” My dear friend I have more confidence in my daughter! Yet, with the values, examples, and teachings at home, it’s going to be an uphill battle. What can I do? Not one thing about what they are taught at their mother’s home. I have no say!
A few years ago my son was in my garage crying. “What’s the matter?” I asked. He said he didn’t want to talk about it. After some prodding he finally told me. “Dad I want it like it used to be, when we were all together.” Tears ran down my cheeks that day, and even now as I write. What answer can a person give a nine-year-old boy who loves both his father and mother? Sadly, there is no easy or comforting answer. Such is the lot of children from a broken home. How it hurts to have to make that statement, that my children are victims of a broken home. Truly they pay the highest cost of all. Grandparents are deprived of their grandchildren. Cousins and other close family members really have no relationship with them. (My step daughters visit their dad while my kids are here in the summer.)
Many people have told me, “You had grounds for divorce so you can start over. That will make it easier for you.” Please hear me carefully, divorce is never easy, and it causes many others than the two people involved to suffer. Today I cannot in good conscience tell anyone to seek a divorce not even when they have scriptural grounds! Brethren, many other areas of your life will be affected by a divorce, scriptural or not! What’s the point of my article? Let me put it plainly, adultery is not worth the price you will pay for the pain that it will cause! Two people who have some moments of pleasures, will reap a lifetime of heartaches for others who neither wanted it nor made the decisions which brought this pain into their lives. Regrets? Not about how I handled the divorce or in remarrying. Yet, if you’re asking for what all four children must endure after the fact, the answer is a resounding Yes!
My prayer has always been that my children, all four of them, may never experience what my wife and I have had to endure. We try to teach all of them the importance of God in their lives, to put him first in all we do. Marriage is a lifetime commitment for one man and one woman. This is God’s plan. Time will only tell what affect all this will have in the future, but it has affected them already. No one can take the place of a child’s parents. Asking a child to choose between his father and mother is a cruel harsh lesson of life. If this article will save one person from stepping over the line or help and encourage others who have had similar Situations, it will have been worth my efforts.
One last comment: I cannot say enough of my Christian brethren who saw me through these darkest hours of my life. Honestly speaking, I would have never made it through without the love, concern, and patience they kindly gave me during these dark days. God never left me, yet, for a time I left him. Thankfully, the Lord allowed me time to recover. I no longer have hatred in my heart; no longer am I bitter or jealous. Yet, the scars still remain. Watching my children grow up two thousand miles away is very difficult.
Knowing that the “double standard” they are being taught could cause them to be lost is constantly on my mind. I may never fully understand the why, yet, I will always understand one thing. God knows much better what is best for man than he does. Please my friend, do not learn this lesson of life the hard way. I’m recovering, you may not be so lucky!
Additional Notes .. .
This article is “anonymous” for two reasons. To protect the four children involved and not to cause the “other” parties involved any more shame than has already been done.
I like to share some personal thoughts. What do other Christians say when a marriage is breaking up for a brother or sister? Can you understand? Do you know how they feel? To be sure, we need to be caring and concerned. How does a Christian handle a divorce and not lose his Christianity in the process? To be perfectly honest, the do’s, don’ts, and what “pattern to follow” are not even considered. My biggest worry? How am I going to get through this? Some of my brethren tell me, “You must get the divorce for adultery, and be the one who puts her away.” How does one get a divorce for the cause of adultery, when over forty states say it is not even grounds! My ex-wife’s lawyer refused to let her sign a paper admitting she was guilty, because she did not have to do so, according to civil law. Does this leave the innocent person with no recourse? Remember, we must abide by civil law, but God’s law is our main concern. Does God know what the cause is? Please read Hebrews 4:13. My cause for divorce is in the written court record. Some cannot be so lucky!
How bad does it get? Everyone is different, but I do believe some aspects are the same. Complete apathy! I did not care about anything or anybody, save my kids. All I wanted is the hurt to go away. How strong is your faith? Believe me, you are going to find out! Then you are angry, jealous, and even feel envy toward your friends who continue to be happily married! Yes, I still believed in God, and I did not blame him. How did I cope? Christian friends who gave me time and space helped me! If I needed them, I knew they were there. One’s mind is so confused it is difficult to think straight about anything! What did I need most from my brethren? Understanding and patience. Luckily, I have some wonderful brethren. Sadly, I must admit, some others I have known did not have this luxury! Explaining how it truly feels, is very difficult to put into words. Hopefully, you will never learn first hand!
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 1, p. 16-17
January 6, 1994