Love because you want to, not because you have to.
God gave us a free mind and will to make hundreds of choices daily. We can choose to do good—or to do evil. We can choose to love or hate. But even if we choose to love and do good, it should be because we want to, not because we begrudgingly have to.
Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion . . . —2 Corinthians 9:7
. . . able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. —Hebrews 4:12
. . . man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. —1 Samuel 16:7
So, it’s not only what you DO that matters to God, it’s also WHY. And if we REALLY understand what God has done for us (saved from the eternal fires of hell), we will have the proper motivation.
A Christian friend of mine is in the midst of a divorce. His wife professes to be a Christian also but refuses to reconcile the marriage. There has been no adultery or other acts that would give biblical basis for the wife to seek a divorce. My friend has followed all of the biblical mandates of Matthew 18. He has attempted privately, then with one or two others, and finally with the church elders to reconcile with her, but she will listen to no one.
My question is, when the divorce is final, is my friend free to pursue other relationships on the basis of treating his ex-wife as a non-believer based on Matthew 18:17?
First, the statements in Matthew 18 you mentioned, made by Jesus prior to the Church Age, were addressed to the Jewish people under the Law and deal with a brother or sister in sin.
When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house —Deuteronomy 24:1
Jesus’ statements specifically on divorce were also directed to those under the law, not those living in the Church Age.
“. . . What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; . . . whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” —Matthew 19:6-9
In the Church Age (post-cross to Rapture), you cannot use the above verse, written to the Jews under law, to make an allowance for divorce, even if adultery is involved. Paul, our Apostle to those living in the Church Age, gave us different instructions.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her —Ephesians 5:25
God would never divorce the Church, so we must never divorce our spouses for any reason. This is because we who are Believers, living in the Church Age, have the God of the universe living inside us. Because we are living post-cross, with God in us, we have a capacity for love and forgiveness that the Jews, living under law, did not have. Our instructions say:
. . . forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. —Ephesians 4:32
(love) . . . does not take into account a wrong suffered. —1 Corinthians 13:5
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. —Philippians 4:13
“All things” means all things . . . which would include a spouse being able to forgive adultery. The Jews under the law, without the Holy Spirit, could not do this. Living in the Church Age, drawing from the living Christ in us, we can forgive and even forget.
. . . forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead —Philippians 3:13
When two Christians marry, divorce should not be an option—even in the case of adultery. You marry for better or worse.
But what if someone divorces you?
. . . if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband. —1 Corinthians 7:11
If your spouse divorces you, your first desire should be for reconciliation. Time is not an issue. Again, you married for better or worse. You can’t say, “It’s been five years since my divorce” because God may have you on a 10-year plan, or 20, or 30. You simply pray for your spouse and wait.
Having said that, God apparently knew few could handle that commandment because the Bible also says:
But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn [in lust]. —1 Corinthians 7:9
Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife. BUT IF YOU SHOULD MARRY, YOU HAVE NOT SINNED; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such WILL HAVE TROUBLE in this life, and I am trying to spare you. —1 Corinthians 7:27-28 (caps added for emphasis)
Therefore, Christians should never divorce for any reason, even adultery. But if they get divorced, reconciliation is the next step, regardless of how long it takes. But if they end up not reconciled and fall in love with another Believer, they can get married . . . but it won’t be easy! It would be best to wait on reconciliation.
There is much confusion in the Church regarding divorce and Christians. Always remember, “[God] hates divorce” (Malachi 2:16). But divorce is not the “unpardonable sin” that many try to make it. As with any sin, it was paid for on the cross, and divorced people are no different than non-divorced people . . . sinners saved by grace and washed clean. And often, divorced and remarried Christians are more humble, more used by God, due to the pain they’ve endured. We expect an avalanche of email as this is not what most churches teach. Make sure you use Church Age verses to show us where we are wrong. Compass has three DVDs as additional resources for this GML: Back to the Garden – Susie Perkins Or you can order these DVDs to be mailed to you at compass.org or by calling 208-762-7777. ______________________________ ______________________________
You can download and watch these DVDs for free from the Compass Digital Store by clicking on the title below—no credit/debit card needed.
Satan’s Top 10 Lies: Lie #1 Divorce Is the “Unpardonable” Sin for Christians – Bill Perkins
We expect an avalanche of email as this is not what most churches teach. Make sure you use Church Age verses to show us where we are wrong.
Compass has three DVDs as additional resources for this GML:
Back to the Garden – Susie Perkins
Or you can order these DVDs to be mailed to you at compass.org or by calling 208-762-7777.
Compass International, Inc. is a 501(c)3 non-profit, non-denominational ministry. Our mission is to defend the accuracy of the Bible from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 by providing solid Biblical resources for maturing Christians. For more information on Compass, our eye-opening Bible teaching videos and articles, future Bible conferences and awesome Holyland trips, please visit our web site at www.compass.org or call 208-762-7777 for a catalog.Misc. Information
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Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible, copyright The Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977. Used by permission.
Answers to questions in GML are intended to be supplementary and in the spirit of Proverbs 11:14, 15:22, and 26:26, which calls for believers to seek counsel from more than one person. Therefore, it is not recommended that any decision be based solely on GML’s answer, but rather it be considered one of several counselors when determining a course of action.Compass International, Inc. www.compass.org