Is Marrying A Divorced Woman Always A Sin?

I was told by an acquaintance that I occasionally keep in contact with that he somewhat recently had an affair on his wife with another woman.  He lost a great job because of it.  I asked him if he and his wife were still together and working on repairing the relationship.  He said that she tried to work with him to repair the damage, but that he just couldn’t let the other woman go.  So they got a divorce.

Matthew 5:32 says:

“but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

This, I’m sure, is a heavily debated verse, especially given the high rate of divorce.  So how do we interpret this?  What happens in the case of the woman I mentioned above?  Her husband cheated on her.  She tried to work on it with him, but he ultimately left her for another woman.  Is she not allowed to remarry then?  There seems to be a pretty big difference between a woman who divorces her husband because she “doesn’t love him anymore”, versus a woman who is cheated on and then left for another woman, but that sort of distinction doesn’t exist in Jesus’ teaching here.

According to the first part of this verse, she did not commit adultery, because it ultimately is based on unchastity.  The semi-colon on the next verse somewhat separates the previous thought to a degree.  Jesus says whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.  There are no conditions like divorce in the previous sentence.

So while I know this is heavily debated, I’m curious what you think.


4 thoughts on “Is Marrying A Divorced Woman Always A Sin?

  1. Sorry, I must have interpreted the above post incorrectly; it sounds as if you are suggesting that the woman whose husband cheated on her is somehow at fault, and will be labeled essentially as a whore should she choose to remarry another man who isn’t a scumbag. This must have been a misreading on my part, though, because for any modern man (e.g. yourself) to suggest that a woman is sinful to remarry – under ANY circumstances – while men enjoy the privilege guilt-free (as long as they stay away from those other divorced women – the whores!) would be extremely hypocritical, sexist, and in all other ways blindly entitled to his own gender convenience.

    For any modern man to especially hold this view based on, say, a 2,000+-year-old document written by other men and translated thousands of times, is especially laughable. Almost as laughable as our current Constitution reverting back to those “good ol days” when slaves were considered 3/5 of a person! Crazy how cultures and laws change over the course of even one hundred years, right? So I must have read this entire thing – that women are at fault and can transfer this fault to others, while men have a chance to avoid this particular label simply because of their gender – incorrectly. How silly of me.

    • Sara,

      Is the sarcasm really necessary? In the post, I am not, as you say, suggesting that the woman I wrote about in the post is at fault. I am deeply saddened by her situation, and from what I have heard, I find no fault in her. The verse I mentioned from the Bible is a tough verse. Jesus said, “and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” I was simply asking people’s opinion on how to take this. I wasn’t asserting my own opinion in any way, especially as you say in the last part of your comment. This verse might specifically be talking about only when the woman commits adultery and the divorce is because of that. It may not at all be including the situation of when a man commits adultery and a divorce occurs because of that. I really don’t know for sure, and that’s why I was asking the question.

  2. Honestly, I do think a lot of Christians treat the Bible like the Pharisees did of old. The Pharisees saw a text and took it to the extreme of what it meant, adding all sorts of things that weren’t even part of the original law or command. We do that a lot with the Bible now, too. We see a statement of Jesus and we fret over it and add to it and are so worried about getting it right and are legalistic. However, just as Jesus came to show the Pharisees the heart of the law, so, too, we must honor the heart of the Bible. Not necessary every little jot and tiddle.
    Therefore, in this case…Yes, Jesus said that divorce is a sin and you can’t get remarried, etc. However, in divorce you cannot control things sometimes. This woman in your piece could not control her husband’s affair. Even if she did some things wrong, the husband is responsible for his actions. She tried to reconcile, but it sounds as if he wanted no part in it. This woman, then, followed Jesus as best she could.
    The heart of the law is about love and grace. Jesus paid the penalty of our sins on the cross. He died for the sins of divorce, etc. This woman should not be penalized for sins she didn’t commit and tried to fix. I believe Jesus would look at her and have pity, see her wounded heart, and know that, of course, she could remarry again–if she truly followed God and His leading. And even if she was somewhat at fault, but truly repented and wanted to do things right the next time…I don’t think Jesus would care if she got married again. It’s all about the heart and repentance. It’s all about grace, because we will all fail in this life, but Jesus died to cover those sins.
    Paul talks himself so much about living by the Spirit, not by the law. He grew up as a Pharisee, and he knew what it meant to live by the law and follow every single law and worry all the time about pleasing God. When he was freed from that, he knew there was a better way: living by the Spirit and seeing the heart of each of the laws.
    Living by the law would be to say to all woman, YOU MUST NEVER GET DIVORCED AND NEVER REMARRY! Living by the Spirit would be to see a woman who is divorced, hear about the circumstances involved, see her heart of trying to follow God, knowing she has repented and learned from any mistakes in the marriage, and knowing that God’s grace covers her. (Or, it would be praying and seeing that she is truly unrepentant and had a lot to do with the divorce and didn’t try to fix it and immediately went on to another man…Showing her heart isn’t right. Then I would tell her she probably shouldn’t get married b/c her heart isn’t right before God).
    God loves women, divorced or not, and wants the best for each woman. This could mean staying single or getting remarried. This could mean divorce (if the man is horribly abusive or cheats, etc) or staying with a man and trying to work it through (if he is truly repentant and wants to fix his abuse or affairs, etc). Each divorce case is case-by-case basis. It takes a lot of prayer and discernment to know what is right in each case. But there isn’t a blanket overall statement saying, EVERY WOMAN IN ALL TIME WHO IS DIVORCED CAN NEVER, EVER GET MARRIED AGAIN!!! That wasn’t Jesus’ intent. That wasn’t God’s intent.
    Following God is complicated and messy, yet beautiful all at the same time. Following the letter of the law never allows for mistakes, always condemns, and keeps us in constant worry if whether we’re doing everything right. (I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be trying to live righteously and doing what’s right. However, it’s about truly following God and listening to His promptings and following His heart, not just following a list of rigid rules).
    Anyway, I hope this made sense. This is my take on it. I’ve wrestled with legalism a lot in my life, and God has shown me the last few years that it’s not about getting every little thing right, it’s about our hearts and following His Spirit (which is actually a lot harder, but so much more beautiful and freeing). His grace is sufficient.

    • Teryn,

      Those are good thoughts. I agree with you. There’s a balance to be found between just saying God’s grace and love covers all so let’s not obey what God commands of us (Romans 6:1), and being legalistic.

      I am with you in the understanding that Jesus is not saying that every woman that is divorced, under any reason, is not allowed to get married again. This verse seems to be saying more specifically the woman caught in adultery in marriage gets divorced, then someone else marrying her would be considered adultery. It doesn’t seem to specify the results of the man being caught in adultery in marriage. Perhaps it’s exactly the same consequences for him as it is with the woman in that case. So, in the case of the woman I mentioned in the post, I would not consider it wrong for her to get married again.

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