Most people who are divorced remarry. In 2004, the last year reported, about a third of all weddings in the United States included at least one spouse who had been divorced. So the answer to the question "Can a divorced person remarry?" is, legally, yes. But is it a good idea? And what does the Bible say?
The Bible only mentions three situations in which a divorced person may remarry. It is believed that Matthew 5:32 gives a person permission to remarry if their marriage ended due to adultery on the part of their spouse. First Corinthians 7:39 says that a widow or widower may remarry; combined with 1 Corinthians 7:11, this would extend to someone who remained celibate after divorcing for non-adultery or abandonment reasons. First Corinthians 7:11 goes on to say that if a divorced couple has not remarried others, they are encouraged to reconcile and remarry each other. If there are other circumstances in which remarriage is endorsed by God, the Bible doesn't mention them.
But should a divorced person remarry, even if the Bible specifically allows it? In 1 Corinthians 7:40, Paul says, "Yet in my judgment she is happier if she remains as she is…" that is, divorced and unmarried. Is this advice to the Corinthians, who were about to face severe religious persecution? Or is it universal?
If any divorcee chooses to remarry, it would at least be a good idea to address the causes of the divorce. The more often a person is married, the more likely any subsequent marriage will fail. A change in spouse doesn't change the heart. In fact, previously married people are 90% more likely to divorce in subsequent marriages.
Why does this matter? Because it shows that people who are divorced and remarry have not dealt with the issues that caused the first divorce. It could be judgment in choosing a spouse, communication skills, trust, or just the inability to commit to another person the way God designed us to. Until and unless those personal issues are addressed and resolved, even the most innocent divorcee should seriously reconsider before marrying again.
Here's another sobering statistic: children who have divorced parents are 40% more likely to divorce their own spouse. But children whose divorced parents remarry other people are 91% more likely to divorce. While witnessing a divorce up close compels children to become ambivalent about the worth of commitment in their own relationships, realizing that a partner can be easily replaced more than doubles that ambivalence.
Those who are eager to remarry after a divorce are caught up in a lie that is propagated by both secular society and Christian culture—that marriage is the standard and singleness is inferior. Jesus is clear that singleness can be a gift (Matthew 19:12). Paul says that singleness can mean a life free to serve God in a way married couples cannot (1 Corinthians 7:32-35). One's marital status should reflect the Lord's leading, not fear of loneliness or the judgment of people who don't interpret Scripture properly.
Can a divorced person biblically remarry? Not if they committed adultery during their first marriage. Not if they divorced their spouse for trivial reasons. And not if they haven't resolved the issues that fed their first divorce. Still, God is gracious and forgiving. If we seek His kingdom first, it may be that He will restore the years bad judgment and emotional trauma have stolen.
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