I believe and teach only ONE reason for divorce.
However, when one talks of desertion not being scriptural grounds for remarriage,
what is the meaning of desertion? Most all who separate will remarry.
Especially is this so amongst the younger set. If the deserted party
remains pure, tries to reconcile the marriage, but fails and the partner
does remarry, does the offended have a right to remarry? ~ Don T.
In our efforts to be biblically correct in the face of liberties
taken with God’s Word, even by members of the Lord’s church, we sometimes
react with a narrowness that exceeds biblical prescription.
In my judgment, this is precisely what occurs sometimes regarding the scenario
presented in the query above. The question, essentially, is: “Can
desertion precede adultery?” In short, it is my understanding that
the biblical answer is, “Yes.”
Like the querist, I too “believe and teach only ONE reason
for divorce” and remarriage. The reason is quite simple, of course.
That is what the New Testament, to which we are amenable and by which we
will be judged, teaches (Matt. 19:9). The apostle Paul did not alter
or append what Jesus taught in Matthew 19. Rather, Paul reinforced
what Jesus taught and addressed additionally some aspects of marriage that
Jesus did not address (1 Cor. 7).
Desertion is addressed by the apostle in 1 Corinthians
7:10-16. The gist is that the Christian should not encourage divorce
and should do everything to preserve the marriage, but one’s spouse (in
that context, a non-Christian) may desert the child of God anyway. The
separation of husband and wife leads to temptation to commit adultery (1
Cor. 7:2-5) for which, ordinarily, both spouses bear some responsibility
(sin) for any subsequent adultery (Matt. 5:32). However, in the case
of the desertion of which Paul speaks, the unwilling party to the divorce
is guiltless for any subsequent adultery the leaving party may practice
as a result of temptation.
Still, the apostle Paul does not condone remarriage at
this point, that is, desertion. First Corinthians 7:11 enjoins, in
the face of divorce or separation, only two possibilities: celibacy or
reconciliation. However, if and when the party who perpetrated the
divorce or separation against the will of the faithful spouse subsequently
commits adultery, the scenario is no longer one of merely desertion.
Then, not 1 Corinthians 7 but Matthew 19 is effective regarding the matter.
[I hasten to add that none of this permits a married couple
to voluntarily separate, or for one to drive the other away, and then wait
and see who falters and commits adultery first. In this case, strictly
speaking, there would be no innocent party. Both would bear some
responsibility (sin) for the adultery (Matt. 5:32).]
Some well-meaning brethren would object that the reason
for the divorce or separation preceding any subsequent marriage was “desertion”
and not “adultery.” While the deserting party may have effectively
divorced himself from his spouse, after which he later committed adultery,
the innocent party to the adultery is the one who then becomes active in
the application of Matthew 19 when he or she puts the offending spouse
away for adultery. Besides, the act of desertion and adultery may
often essentially be simultaneous activities (unless one proposes that
Matthew 19:9 and 1 Corinthians 7:10-16 can only be harmonized if, for instance,
a man brings his secretary to his home to commit adultery with her before
he runs off with her and deserts his family).
I believe the foregoing correctly and biblically answers
the question as presented and anticipates further questions regarding my
response. However, should anyone find him or herself in similar circumstances
and harbor reservations regarding the matter, it is always safe to adopt
a posture that cannot be wrong, reverting back to 1 Corinthians 7:11, celibacy
in the absence of the ability to reconcile a marriage where the deserting
party has married another (committed adultery). Others, I would hope,
survey the biblical evidence as objectively as possible and make no hasty
or heated contention.