Summary: Divorce is not "The Second Unpardonable Sin."

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"The Dilema of Divorce" Mark 10: 1-12

Richard F. Harsell

The issue of divorce among believers has been

a centuries-old problem within the Church

which remains a spiritual "hot potato" still

today. Here in America, statistics tell us

that 43% of first-time marriages end in

either separation or divorce.

50 years ago, divorces were a rarity among

Christians. Furthermore, when church members

got divorced, they seldom remarried, because

they were convinced that to remarry while

one’s former spouse was still alive was to

enter into an adulterous relationship.

Many of us present here today can remember

a time when most pastors of major

denominational churches would completely

refuse to perform marriages for previously-

divorced persons if either partner had a

living former spouse. And formerly-divorced

people who went ahead and remarried while

their former spouses were still living were

considered to be "living in sin" and in

many cases ran into difficulty if they

desired to become members of most

evangelical churches.

And most certainly, any minister who was

a victim of a broken marriage would never

be considered for a pastoral role in any

main-line church

For thousands of years, the church has not

really known what to do with people who

have been victims of divorce, and they; to

some degree; have been guilty many times of

treating such people as kind of "spiritual

lepers," and condemning divorce as if it

were the "second unpardonable sin" which

would plague those unfortunate enough to be

its victims for the rest of their lives

But times have changed, and divorce has

become common within the ranks of all

evangelical Christian churches,

especially in the past few decades.

I’d venture to say that nearly all of us

are acquainted with people who are

products of broken marriages, whether

they be among our friends, families, or

acquaintences, and the church has been

forced, although often with a great deal of reluctance, to adapt to the situation.

I, for one, feel that these adapations

are long overdue!

Today it is a rare thing for a church to

refuse membership to a couple because one

or even both parties have been previously

divorced. The former stigma that had been

attached to divorced people for centuries

has lessened greatly and it is common to

find previously-divorced and remarried

people serving both as officers and

teachers in many churches. In addition,

we even find a number of prominent

evangelists and pastors who are included

in this statistic as well.

But even though the attiudes of people and

even churches have become much more relaxed

on the subject of divorce, a number of

questions still remain for the evangelical

Christian who seeks to be Scripturally correct regarding divorce and remarriage. Is divorce a

sin which God holds against a person for the

rest of his or her life, and is that sin

compounded to even a greater degree, if that

person elects to remarry into what Scipture

terms an "adulterous" relationship?

Furthermore, if a person has been a victim

of divorce and has remarried, does he or she

live in a continual state of adultery?

And finally, is there forgiveness for the

sin of adultery?

This unfortunately, has remained one of those

"gray areas" of theology which the majority

of preachers have chosen not to address

through the years, for fear of causing

embarrassment, if not open rebellion in the

ranks of their congregations. Among Southern

Baptists, for the most part, pastors are

pretty-well left to decide the issue for

themselves based on their personal convictions,

in how to handle the questions which arise

concerning divorcees.

I find that my own personal conviction on the

subject was greatly influenced by a statement

made years ago by one of my college professors

who had been my former pastor as well: In a

class on pastoral practices one student

brought up the question about performing

marriages for people who had previously

lived together in an unwed state, and as we

discussed the subject it sort of "self-

enlarged" to include people who had been

previously divorced as well. How were we

to balance our "right-wing" interpretations of

Scripture with compassion and Christian love

to an ever-enlarging group of hurting people?

When questioned on the subject, our wizened

professor, who was normally an ultra-

conservative man in every way, made a remark

which took most of the class by surprise in saying, "if I am so self-righteous that I

feel a conviction against dispensing

the ordinance of marriage to sinners, which

will bring them OUT of a sinful situation,

then who am I to share the love of Jesus

with them and their need for Him in their


As we see in the Genesis account, which was

later affirmed by Jesus, God’s original plan concerning the maritial relationship was that

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Wanda Altman

commented on Oct 6, 2006

Very insightful and helpful in my study and sermon preparation. Thanks!

Allen Chamberlin

commented on Oct 7, 2006

This comment mirrors my exact feelings on divorce and remarriage. It is what I was looking for to give a sermon on in my mission.

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