Gays in the Church Part 6: Divorce and Remarriage

As I noted in part one of this series, much of the genuine concern from conservatives on this issue is driven by the fear that the truth found in the Bible is being demoted in favor of the winds of cultural change. The perception of conservatives is that if they lose ground on this issue, then how can the Bible continue to act as a foundation or a standard for how we view the world and and how live our lives in a God-pleasing way. It’s easy to understand the anxiety and worry of conservatives given the stakes the issue raises. While I do believe it is imperative for those who are open and affirming on the issue to really understand the conservative anxiety, we must ask ourselves why this anxiety appears to be so pronounced with this issue and not others.

This issue, after all, is an issue of sexual impurity. If we are to take at face value what the Bible teaches about sexual immorality, homosexual activity is only one of the many facets to sexual sin. Sodomy (both heterosexual and homosexual varieties), intercourse during menstruation are a few examples but the one I want to get into in this post is divorce and remarriage.

If the conservative side of the argument relies on taking the six verses about homosexuality at face value, then they must also take what Jesus himself teaches about divorce and remarriage:

Matthew 5:31,32

“It has been said, `Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.

There are other verses but the one above pretty much sums it up. The question this raises in my mind is that if conservatives are ultimately fearful that affirming same-sex relationships will somehow undermine biblical instruction and send us careening down a slippery slope of relativity and promiscuity, then why do they not have the same concern when it concerns heterosexual adultery. If you are a member of the church and concerned about this issue, ask yourself if you’ve been losing sleep at night because there is a couple in your church that has been remarried after a divorce not resulting from an adulterous affair? If the issue of remarried divorcees doesn’t cause you fear or concern, then why not? One would have to deduce that your fears of sexual immorality are not consistent with biblical instruction and must be influenced by something outside of what conservatives would call God’s ideal clearly laid out in the Bible.

What I hope conservatives can recognize is that is they themselves have already let the cat out of the bag. The can of worms is already ajar. The troubling thing for me is that the implications of the issue of homosexuality have already been reverberating around the Christian tradition long before the gay issue has caused its stir. The failure for conservatives to universally and resoundingly sound the alarm for what the Bible calls heterosexual impurity has left their current fear over homosexual sexual impurity in a rather hallow and withered state. They are launching their supposed biblical argument from a very shaky, rickety foundation that they’ve neglected long ago.

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6 thoughts on “Gays in the Church Part 6: Divorce and Remarriage

  1. Not to be argumentative, because I know of many churches against homosexuality that turned a blind eye to the issue you bring up. But there are many, including my church, that take Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5 very seriously and adhere to the implications of it. They don’t ignore either type of sin. At all. Don’t necessarily assume that just because those types of things don’t make it on the news that they aren’t happening.

    Also, the issues are different in the first place. People aren’t campaigning to say that adulterous relationships are ok and should be blessed and culturally acceptable by all. People may do it, but the vast majority recognize it’s wrong. The church is fighting against accepting sin as ok. You won’t find all that many people defending adultery as ok (there are some, I know).

    It’s a complicated issue, and you raise some good points that a lot of conservatives need to answer. Just wanted to present the other side.

  2. Matthew,

    Thanks for the comment. I certainly appreciate your view. And you’re right, there are many Christians and Christian churches who take the issue of divorce and remarriage at face value. I’m aware of this and I didn’t mean to imply folks with your view didn’t exist or weren’t important. As far is ignoring a type of sin, I’m not sure I really expect to change someone’s mind on whether or not homosexuality is a sin. My ultimate hope is to at least cast some doubt on the assumptions most christians tend to have in order that they would, in turn, not exclude homosexuals from full participation in the church. I’m planning on elaborating more on this in the next, and final, post on the subject.

    And to respond to your second point, the reason people aren’t campaigning on the issue of divorce/remarriage is that they don’t need to. Remarried couples are accepted fully in most church communities across America. It doesn’t necessarily mean the most churches think verses like Matthew 5 are wrong. They just overlook them as a criteria to decided whether or not to accept remarried couples into their community.

    I’m curious about your church. Does it exclude remarried couples from any kind of church participation?

  3. As far as I know, they would not be excluded from church participation. I know that our pastor would not marry two people in that situation, but they would be included in the church family. I’m pretty sure, though, that they would be excluded from leadership positions (deacon, elder, etc.).

  4. Oh my, this is what I’ve been saying for quite some time. I’m a Christian and believe what the Bible says, but when Prop 8 came about, I wrestled with it for a long time. Been wrestling with the issue before Prop 8 even came about, actually. When I became a new Christian, I did have a hatred for gays, probably because of the gays I knew weren’t so friendly. But as I grew up and saw things at a bigger picture, especially having dealed with my parents almost getting a divorce, I had a change of heart. These people just want what other people have and that is to be married to the one they love. And my thought has went to these verses. Christians have a very high divorce rate and, from what I can tell, for the most part, are ok with getting divorced. Yet, the Bible teaches are clear about the reasons why should get a divorce. How many people follow it, though? If we really want to clean up marriage and make it to what God did intend it for, we shouldn’t be so much as forcing our thoughts on other people and telling them who they can and cannot marry, but be an example of what marriage is. Work on your marriage and be faithful instead of just giving up and throwing it away. That’s the way we can honor God with the blessing of marriage and yet we, as a church, aren’t doing it. Great read! Glad I’m not the only one that see it this way.

  5. Interesting. I tend to agree with you that it was the conservative church that opened this pandoras box when it became numb to the real issue of divorce let alone remarriage. Divorce is the single greatest threat to God’s purpose in families and to marriage and family (as God clearly spells out in his word) being the very foundation of society. This threat is far, far greater than homosexuality because divorce can, and has become pervasive and the norm within the church, perhaps even more so than in the world. This threat was recognized by the leadership of the early church and viewed as an offense that resulted in excommunication until it was repented of. (see Polycarp, Tertullian, and Origen(not quite as hardcore as Tertullian) among others). As to the issue of gays in the church, I have no problem with it, even to the point of being in leadership, as long as the temptation is not consummated into sin. Even then, while they can at that point, not be in leadership, I do not see it as an excommunicable sin because it could never become “infectious” through the church as heterosexual immorality can and has. Scripturally, the only sins that are excommunicable are those which pervert the church and lead her away from God. All others are to be treated with mercy and a patient awaiting on God to do his corrective work while being upfront and honest in calling a sin a sin.

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