Connect with us
Advertisement

Marriage, divorce, and remarriage: what does the Bible say? Part II

The controversy over whether divorce and remarriage is allowed according to the Bible revolves primarily around Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9. The phrase “except for marital unfaithfulness” is the only thing in Scripture that possibly gives God’s permission for divorce and remarriage. According to these texts, you can only divorce IF your spouse has broken their covenant by having sexual relations with a third party.

Only when there has been marital infidelity can divorce be considered. Many interpreters understand this “exception clause” as referring to “marital unfaithfulness” during the “betrothal” period. But that is trying to be technical on issues that are straightforward. In Jewish custom, a man and a woman were considered married even while they were still engaged or “betrothed.”

According to this view, immorality during this “betrothal” period would then be the only valid reason for a divorce. That, however, is tantamount to laboring under an assumption. On such grave matters, we cannot afford to assume; we must find out the truth.

The Greek word translated “marital unfaithfulness” (porneo) is a word which can mean any form of sexual immorality. It can mean fornication, prostitution, adultery, etc. Although we generally understand fornication to mean sexual relations between unwed people, the original term is much broader than just premarital sex.

Homosexuality, for instance, would fall under fornication. Jesus is possibly saying that divorce is permissible if sexual immorality is committed. Sexual relations are an integral part of the marital bond: “the two will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5; Ephesians 5:31).

The act of sex is that which seals a marital union. It's the adhesive that holds the two individuals together in a visible, physical expression. Therefore, any breaking of that bond by sexual relations outside of marriage might be a permissible reason for divorce. If so, Jesus also has remarriage in mind in this passage.

The phrase “and marries another” (Matthew 19:9) indicates that divorce and remarriage are allowed in an instance of marital infidelity, whatever it is interpreted to be. It is important to note that ONLY the innocent party is allowed to remarry. Although it is not stated in the text, the allowance for remarriage after a divorce is God’s mercy for the one who was sinned against, not for the one who committed the sexual immorality.

There may be instances where the “guilty party” is allowed to remarry, but it is not taught in this text. And where the Bible is silent, it would be foolhardy to take its silence as license. We are always safer reading from the text rather than reading into the text. As I've already pointed out, some understand 1 Corinthians 7:15 as another “exception” allowing remarriage if an unbelieving spouse divorces a believer.

However, the context does not mention remarriage, but only says a believer is not bound to continue a marriage if an unbelieving spouse wants to leave or abandons the believing spouse. Here, abandonment or desertion of the marital home can be taken to mean the end of a marriage.

Others claim that abuse (spousal or child) is a valid reason for divorce, but that argument is not addressed in the Bible. While this may very well be the case, it is never wise to presume upon the Word of God. We should never presume to use our experiences to interpret the Word of God or to justify our actions.

The Word of God should interpret our experiences, not the other way round. Sometimes lost in the debate over the exception clause is the fact that whatever “marital unfaithfulness” means, it is merely an allowance for divorce, not a requirement for it.

Even when adultery is committed, a couple can, and should, through God’s grace, learn to forgive and begin rebuilding their marriage. It should not be that every time there has been marital unfaithfulness, we run to the courts to file for divorce. God can repair and heal a broken marriage if both parties are willing to stick it out and honor their vows, even if one of them has foolishly and selfishly dishonored them.

Those of us who profess Christ especially, God has forgiven us of so much more. Surely we can follow His example and even forgive the sin of adultery committed by our spouses (Ephesians 4:32). However, in many instances, a spouse is unrepentant and continues in sexual immorality.

That is where Matthew 19:9 can possibly be applied. Many also look to quickly remarry after a divorce when God might desire them to remain single. God sometimes calls people to be single so that their attention is not divided (1 Corinthians 7:32-35).

Remarriage after a divorce may be an option in some circumstances, but that does not mean it is the only option. It is distressing that the divorce rate among professing Christians is as high as that of the unbelieving world. As I've already stated before, the Bible makes it abundantly clear that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) and that reconciliation and forgiveness should be the marks of a believer’s life (Luke 11:4; Ephesians 4:32).

"Hate" is a very strong word. It carries with it not just a psychological persuasion but also an emotional bend. If God, who is love, can explicitly express hatred towards something, we cannot afford to be casual and nonchalant about it. However, God recognizes that divorce will occur, even among His children.

A divorced and/or remarried believer should not feel any less loved by God, even if the divorce and/or remarriage is not covered under the possible exception clause of Matthew 19:9. God often uses even the sinful disobedience of Christians to accomplish great good.

The pain, confusion, and frustration most people experience after a divorce are surely part of the reason that God hates divorce. And sometimes there are innocent children caught in the middle, who, sometimes, never fully recover from the trauma of their fractured families. Even more difficult, biblically, than the question of divorce, is the question of remarriage.

The vast majority of people who divorce either remarry or consider getting remarried. What does the Bible say about this? "I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery." See also Matthew 5:32. These Scriptures clearly state that remarriage after a divorce is adultery, except in the instance of "marital unfaithfulness" (Matthew 19:9).

There might be certain instances in which divorce and remarriage are permitted without the remarriage being considered adultery. These instances would include unrepentant adultery, physical abuse of spouse or children, and abandonment of a believing spouse by an unbelieving spouse. This does not mean that a person under such circumstances should remarry. The Bible definitely encourages remaining single or reconciliation over remarriage (1 Corinthians 7:11).

At the same time, God might offer His mercy and grace to the innocent party in a divorce and allow that person to remarry without it being considered adultery. A person who gets a divorce for a reason other than the reasons listed above, and then gets remarried has committed adultery (Luke 16:18). You cannot divorce because of financial hardships, constant arguments, "falling out of love," or saying you made a mistake. If you do then remarry, you have committed adultery.

The question then becomes, is this remarriage an "act" of adultery, or a "state" of adultery. The present tense of the Greek in Matthew 5:32; 19:9; and Luke 16:18 can indicate a continuous state of adultery. At the same time, the present tense in Greek does not always indicate continuous action.

Sometimes it simply means that something occurred (Aoristic, Punctiliar, or Gnomic present). For example, the word "divorces" in Matthew 5:32 is present tense, but divorcing is not a continual action. It is my view that remarriage, no matter the circumstances, is not a continual state of adultery.

Only the act of getting remarried itself is adultery. Let me be sure to drive this point home: according to the Bible, if you divorce except for marital unfaithfulness and remarry another woman, you have committed adultery. The only way for you to remarry and not be committing adultery is by reconciling with your former spouse. In the eyes of God, divorce clauses notwithstanding, the only thing that should end a marriage is death.

"For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man" (Romans 7:2-3).

Divorce is rampant everywhere, and it is rampant among Christians and non-Christians alike. But what do you say to people who have been divorced and remarried multiple times perhaps before knowing the truth? There are some instances where people have married not once or twice, but three, four, five, or six times.

They have had a succession of mates, a succession of children, and a succession of problems. There is no easy answer. But we must always keep in mind that God is on the side of people. He loves people, and He understands what has happened in such situations. However, it is impossible for me to say that this conduct is all right. A minister of God must teach what is in the Bible; yet the teaching must be tempered with the biblical understanding of God's love.

It is very difficult to make hard and fast rules. Does one, for example, tell a three-times-divorced man to go back to his previous mate? What if the previous mate is now remarried? Is it right to ask the remarried couple to make a second divorce and break up a second home?

Obviously not! People would think you've lost your marbles! The basic rule is that divorce and remarriage are not permitted, except for adultery or desertion, and that is the rule the Church should stick to. Young people should be made aware that marriage is for life – for keeps – and not something to be entered into and then gotten out of whenever one feels like it or feels like they've had enough. It's not that simple.

However, given the appalling state of marriage in the modern world, I feel that the Church could probably use its power of "binding and loosing" (Matthew 16:19) to provide guidance in the way of forgiveness to divorced and remarried couples who have received Jesus Christ after their divorce. In other words, the Church should say that what happened in your past life is covered by the Blood of Christ. Enjoy your present marriage and live in it to the glory of God without recrimination.

However, for Christians who have divorced (after being born again) for reasons other than adultery or desertion, I believe they should either be reconciled to their Christian mates or remain unmarried. Sadly, we have too many ministers of the Word of God who are guilty of multiple divorces and remarriage without Biblical grounds.

This is a great indictment on the Church and a sad commentary on either our ignorance of the Word of God, our hypocrisy, or our unpreparedness to obey God. Finally, in these complex personal matters I recommend prayer, study of the Bible, and that you counsel with a wise and godly pastor in you own community.

Continue Reading

Opinions

The Taiwan Question: China ramps up military exercises to rebuff US provocations

18th August 2022

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan has violated the One-China policy, and caused the escalation of tensions across the Taiwan Strait. Experts and political observers across the spectra agree that Pelosi’s actions and subsequent pronouncements by US President Joe Biden gave impetus to an already simmering tension in the Taiwan Strait, provoking China to strengthen its legitimate hold on the Taiwan Strait waters, which the US and Taiwan deem as ‘international waters’.

Pelosi’s visit to China’s Taiwan region has been heavily criticised across the globe, with China arguing that this is a serious violation of the one-China principle and the provisions of the three China-US Joint Communiqués.  In response to this reckless move which seriously undermined China’s sovereignty, and interfered in China’s internal affairs, the expectation is for China to give a firm response. Pelosi visit violated the commitments made by the U.S. side, and seriously jeopardized peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

To give context to China’s position over Taiwan region, the history behind gives us perspective. It is also important to note that the history between China and Taiwan is well documented and the US has always recognized it.

The People’s Republic of China recognises Taiwan as its territory. It has always been  the case even before the Nationalist Republic of China government fled to the previously Japanese-ruled Island after losing the civil war on the mainland in 1949. According to literature that threat was contained for decades — first with a military alliance between the US and the ROC on Taiwan, and after Washington switched diplomatic recognition to the PRC in 1979 by the US One China policy, which acknowledges Beijing’s position that Taiwan is part of One China. Effectively, Taiwan’s administration was transferred to the Republic of China from Japan after the Second World War in 1945, along with the split between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) as a consequence of the Chinese Civil War. Disregarding this history, as the US is attempting to do, will surely initiate some defence reaction on the side of China to affirm its sovereignty.

However, this history was undermined since Taiwan claimed to democratise in the 1990s and China has grown ever more belligerent. Furthermore, it is well documented that the Biden administration, following the Trump presidency, has made subtle changes in the way it deals with Taipei, such as loosening restrictions on US officials meeting Taiwanese officials – this should make China uneasy. And while the White House continues to say it does not support Taiwanese independence, Biden’s words and actions are parallel to this pledge because he has warned China that the US would intervene militarily if China attacked Taiwan – another statement that has provoked China.

Pelosi, in her private space, would know that her actions amount to provocation of China. This act of aggression by the USA seriously undermines the virtues of sovereignty and territorial integrity which has a huge potential to destabilize not only the Taiwan Strait but the whole of the Asia- Pacific region.  The Americans know very well that their provocative behavior is deliberately invoking the spirit of separatism masqueraded as “Taiwan independence”.  The US is misled to think that by supporting separatism of Taiwan from China that would give them an edge over China in a geopolitics. This is what one Chinese diplomat said this week: “The critical point is if every country put their One-China policy into practice with sincerity, with no compromise, is going to guarantee the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”  Therefore, it was in the wake of US House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, that China, in a natural response revealed plans for unprecedented military exercises near the island, prompting fears of a crisis in the Taiwan Strait and the entire Asia-Pacific region. The world community must promote and foster peace, this may be achieved when international laws are respected. It may also happen when nations respect the sovereignty of another. China may be in a better space because it is well capacitated to stake its territorial integrity, what about a small nation, if this happens to it?

As to why military exercises by Beijing; it is an expected response because China was provoked by the actions of Pelosi. To fortify this position, Chinese President, Xi signed a legal basis for China’s People’s Liberation Army to “safeguard China’s national sovereignty, security and development interests”. The legal basis will also allow military missions around disaster relief, humanitarian aid and peacekeeping. In addition the legal changes would allow troops to “prevent spillover effects of regional instabilities from affecting China, secure vital transport routes for strategic materials like oil, or safeguard China’s overseas investments, projects and personnel.  It then follows that President Xi’s administration cannot afford to look weak under a US provocation. President Xi must protector China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, of which Taiwan is a central part.” Beijing is very clear on One-China Policy, and expects all world players to recognize and respect it.

The People’s Liberation Army has made it clear that it has firepower that covers all of Taiwan, and it can strike wherever it wants. This sentiments have been attributed to Zhang Junshe, a researcher at the PLA Navy Research Institute. Zheng further said, “We got really close to Taiwan. We encircled Taiwan. And we demonstrated that we can effectively stop intervention by foreign forces.” This is a strong reaction from China to warn the US against provocation and violation of the One-China Policy.

Beijing’s military exercises will certainly shake Taiwan’s confidence in the sources of its economic and political survival. The potential for an effective blockade threatens the air and shipping routes that support Taiwan’s central role in global technology supply chains. Should a humanitarian situation arise in Taiwan, the blame would squarely be on the US.

As China’s military exercises along the Taiwan Strait progress and grow, it remains that the decision by Nancy Pelosi to visit China’s Taiwan region gravely undermined peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and sent a wrong signal to “Taiwan independence” separatist forces. This then speaks to international conventions, as the UN Secretary-General António Guterres explicitly stressed that the UN remains committed to the UN General Assembly Resolution 2758. The centerpiece is the one-China principle, namely, there is but one China in the world, the government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China, and Taiwan is a part of China. It must be noted that the US and the US-led NATO countries have selectively applied international law, this has been going on unabated. There is a plethora of actions that have collapsed several states after they were attacked under the pretext of the so-called possession of weapons of mass destruction illuminating them as threats – and sometimes even without any valid reason. to blatantly launch military strikes and even unleash wars on sovereign countrie

Continue Reading

Opinions

Internal party-democracy under pressure

21st June 2022

British novelist, W. Somerset Maugham once opined: “If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.”

The truism in these words cannot be underestimated, especially when contextualizing against the political developments in Botswana. We have become a nation that does not value democracy, yet nothing represent freedom more than democracy. In fact, we desire, and value winning power or clinging to power more than anything else, even if it harms the democratic credentials of our political institutions. This is happening across political parties — ruling and opposition.

As far as democracy is concerned, we are regressing. We are becoming worse-off than we were in the past. If not arrested, Botswana will lose its status as among few democratic nations in the Africa. Ironically, Botswana was the first country in Africa to embrace democracy, and has held elections every five years without fail since independence.

We were once viewed as the shining example of Africa. Those accolades are not worth it any more. Young democracies such as South Africa, with strong institutions, deserves to be exalted. Botswana has lost faith in democracy, and we will pay a price for it. It is a slippery slope to dictatorship, which will bring among other excess, assault on civil liberties and human rights violations.

Former President, Festus Mogae once stated that Botswana’s democracy will only become authentic, when a different party, other than the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) wins elections, and when the President of such party is not from Serowe.

Although many may not publicly care to admit, Mogae’s assertion is true. BDP has over the years projected itself as a dyed-in-the-wool proponent of democracy, but the moment its stay in power became threatened and uncertain, it started behaving in a manner that is at variance with democratic values.  This has been happening over the years now, and the situation is getting worse by the day.

Recently, the BDP party leadership has been preaching compromise and consensus candidates for 2024 general elections. Essentially, the leadership has lost faith in the Bulela Ditswe dispensation, which has been used to selected party candidates for council and parliament since 2003. The leadership is discouraging democracy because they believe primary elections threaten party unity. It is a strange assertion indeed.

Bulela Ditswe was an enrichment of internal party democracy in the sense that it replaced the previous method of selection of candidates known as Committee of 18, in which a branch committee made of 18 people endorsed the representatives. While it is true that political contest can divide, the ruling party should be investing in political education and strengthening in its primary elections processes. Democracy does not come cheap or easy, but it is valuable.

Any unity that we desire so much at the expense of democracy is not true unity. Like W. Somerset Maugham said, democracy would be lost in the process, and ultimately, even the unity that was desired would eventually be lost too. Any solution that sacrifice democracy would not bring any results in the long run, except misery.

We have seen that also in opposition ranks. The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) recently indicated that its incumbent Members of Parliament (MPs) should not be challenged for their seats. While BDP is sacrificing democracy to stay in power, UDC is sacrificing democracy to win power. It is a scary reality given the fact that both parties – ruling and opposition — have embraced this position and believe democracy is the hindrance to their political ambitions.

These current reality points to one thing; our political parties have lost faith in democracy. They desire power more than, the purpose of power itself. It is also a crisis of leadership across the political divide, where we have seen dissenting views being met with persecution. We have seen perverting of political process endorsed by those in echelons of power to manipulate political outcomes in their favour.

Democracy should not be optional, it should be mandatory. Any leader proposing curtailing of democracy should be viewed with suspicion, and his adventures should be rejected before it is too late. Members of political parties, as subscribers of democracy, should collectively rise to the occasion to save their democracy from self-interest that is becoming prevalent among Botswana political parties.

The so-called compromise candidates, only benefits the leadership because it creates comforts for them. But for members, and for the nation, it is causing damage by reversing the gains that have been made over the years. We should reject leaders who only preach democracy in word, but are hesitant to practice it.

Continue Reading

Opinions

The Big Deal About Piracy

21st June 2022
piracy

Piracy of all kinds continues to have a massive impact on the global creative industry and the economies of the countries where it thrives.

One of the biggest misconceptions around piracy is that an individual consumer’s piracy activities, especially in a market the size of Botswana’s, is only a drop in the pool of potential losses to the different sectors of the economy piracy affects.

When someone sitting in Gaborone, Botswana logs onto an illegal site to download King Richard online, they don’t imagine that their one download will do anything to the production house’s pocket or make a dent in the actors’ net worth. At best, the sensitivity towards this illegal pirating activity likely only exists when contemplating going about pirating a local musician’s music or a short film produced locally.

The ripple effects of piracy at whatever scale reach far beyond what the average consumer could ever imagine. Figures released by software security and media technology company, Irdeto, show that users in five major African territories made approximately 17,4 million total visits to the top 10 identified piracy sites on the internet.

The economic impact of this on the creative industry alone soars to between 40 and 97.1 billion dollars, according a 2022 Dataprot study. In addition, they estimate that “illegally streamed copyrighted content consumes 24% of global bandwidth”.

As Botswana’s creative industry remains relatively slight on the scale of comparison to industries such as Nollywood and Nilewood where the creative industry contributes a huge proportion to West and East Africa’s respective GDPs, that does not imply that piracy activities in Botswana do not have a similar impact on our economy and the ability of our creative industry to grow.

When individuals make decisions to illegally consume content via internet streaming sites they believe they are saving money for themselves in the name of enjoying content they desire to consume. Although this is a personal choice that remains the prerogative of the consumer, looking beyond the fact that streaming on illegal content sites is piracy, the ripple effect of this decision also has an endless trail of impact where funds which could be used to grow the local creative industry through increased consumption, and revenue which would otherwise be fed back into Botswana’s economy are being diverted.

“Why can’t our local creative industry grow?” “Why don’t we see more home-grown films and shows in Botswana?” are questions constantly posed by those who consume television content in Botswana. The answer to this lies largely in the fact that Botswana’s local content needs an audience in order for it to grow. It needs support from government and entities which are in a position to fund and help the industry scale greater heights.

Any organisational body willing to support and grow the local creative industry needs to exist and operate in an economy which can support its mandates. Content piracy is a cycle that can only be alleviated when consumers make wiser decisions around what they consume and how.

This goes beyond eradicating piracy activities in so far as television content is concerned. This extends to the importation and trade in counterfeit goods, resale of goods and services not intended for resale across the border, outside its jurisdiction, and more. All of these activities stunt the growth of an economy and make it nearly impossible for industries and sectors to propel themselves to places where they can positively impact society and reinvest into the country’s economy.

So what can be done to turn the tide here in Botswana in order to see our local production houses gain the momentum required to produce more, license more and expand their horizons? While those who enforce the law continue to work towards minimizing piracy activities, it’s imperative that as consumers we work to make their efforts easier by being mindful of how our individual actions play a role in preventing the success of our local creative networks and our economy’s growth.

Whether you are pirating a Hollywood Blockbuster, illegally streaming a popular Motswana artist’s music, or smuggling in an illegal decoder to view content restricted to South Africa only, your actions have an impact on how we as a nation will make our mark on the global landscape with local creative productions. Thembi Legwaila is Corporate Affairs Manager, MultiChoice Botswana

Continue Reading