Is there a moral difference between homosexual practice and remarriage after divorce?

John Meunier is, with good reason, Frustrated by gay debate within his own United Methodist denomination, which mirrors that within the Anglican Communion. John’s frustration is firstly that those “On the pro-inclusion side” are arguing from experience, not from proper biblical principles, and secondly that there is a mismatch between attitudes to remarriage after divorce and to homosexual practice. In a comment I pointed John to an older post of mine which suggests a way of treating these last two matters consistently.

Craig L. Adams left a comment on John’s post linking to an interesting post of his own, on a blog which I have not seen before, in which he takes up the same issue. He writes:

Yes, the relationship of the issues of homosexuality and divorce is interesting — and raises troubling issues and (at the very least) apparent inconsistencies for those of us on SideB. If the church prohibits same-gender sex — even between committed partners — why are Christians so permissive about divorce and re-marriage?

… And, given human “hardness of heart” and the circumstances of violent abuse, unfaithfulness and alcoholism, etc. I can see why — for the physical and emotional health of both partners — [some] marriages must sometimes end.

But, in these instances, divorce is “accepted” (so to speak) not as a positive good, but on the basis of an Exception Argument. Yes, marriage should be forever. But, there are circumstances where divorce is preferable to the alternative. As they say, it’s “the lesser of two evils.”

From this grows the commonly-permissive attitude toward remarriage, as well.

But, when we get to same-gender relationships, conservatively-inclined Christians run into a wall. Here deploying an Exception Argument would justify the very thing that is prohibited: same-gender sex!

Thus, the strange inconsistency.

Yes, there is a strange inconsistency. But it seems to me that the inconsistency is not in the argument but in the conclusions which those arguing wish to draw from it.

Divorce and remarriage has become generally acceptable even in socially conservative circles in western countries. So, to meet their congregations’ expectations, the leaders even of conservative churches have often stretched Craig’s “Exception Argument” to the extent that divorced people are remarried almost as a matter of course, and continue to play a full part in church life.

However, homosexual behaviour is still looked down on as unacceptable deviance by socially conservative people in the West, often for reasons not really connected to any religious beliefs. So their church leaders tend to meet the culturally based expectations of their congregations by taking a hard line against homosexuality, not allowing any kind of “Exception Argument” in this case, with the result that homosexuals are alienated from the church.

As Craig suggests, a consistent approach here requires both a less permissive attitude to remarriage and a more permissive one to homosexuality. But of course the analogy with remarriage must be to a long-term committed and formalised “monogamous” homosexual relationship. Unconstrained homosexual practise must be treated like heterosexual promiscuity: the church should declare consistently that both are unacceptable.

I suspect that here in the Church of England the rules on remarriage after divorce are less permissive than they are in some American denominations. At least in my own diocese remarriage requires a bishop’s special permission, and the bishop needs to be satisfied that the relationship between the prospective couple did not cause the breakup of a previous marriage. This is a proper application of the “Exception Argument”. Stricter rules apply to clergy, and rightly so. There are I think no bishops in the Church of England who are remarried after divorce; there is one in the Church of Wales, but another Church of Wales bishop has just been forced to resign over allegations, which he has denied, linking the breakdown of his marriage with a rumoured relationship between him and his (female) chaplain.

I would not be unhappy if the Anglican Communion were to move, with general agreement, to a situation where (at least in some provinces) formalised homosexual partnerships (civil partnerships and gay “marriages”) were treated in the same way as remarriage after divorce, “not as a positive good, but on the basis of an Exception Argument”. Thus clergy might be allowed to perform or bless gay weddings under certain carefully defined circumstances.

But individual provinces or dioceses should not go it alone in such matters. And there should be proper safeguards for clergy and congregations who do not accept these practices.

We should also remember that the Bible expects higher standards of those in church leadership. Thus it might well be right to restrict people both in homosexual partnerships and in remarriages from some areas of Christian ministry, such as being bishops. The details of course need further consideration – and will doubtless cause huge controversy if any proposal like this is ever put forward within the Anglican Communion.

To quote Craig again (his emphasis) with my complete agreement:

To me the teaching of Jesus is a radical call to repentance and commitment and faithfulness. The making and keeping of commitments is a part of our spiritual formation. Accepting ourselves as beings created in the image of God entails a desire to seek God’s will and purpose in all things — including the expressions of my sexuality.

This is not so much a Natural Law / common-sense good as a call to commitment and obedience and discipleship. We are called to seek God’s will in all things.

0 thoughts on “Is there a moral difference between homosexual practice and remarriage after divorce?

  1. The main error here is the assumption that heterosexual marriage and gay partnerships are comparable; they are not. Nor will they ever be.

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  4. Glenn, I make no such assumption. Jesus says that remarriage after divorce is not “heterosexual marriage” but adultery. So I am equating two things which are both morally wrong, but one of which Jesus explicitly allowed “because of your hardness of heart”.

  5. Having read the above, I feel the views made are very liberal, I make this statement with the utmost respect. I have always understood that homosexuality was not exceptable under any circumstance, Romans 1 verses 26-32.
    But that re-marriage was? Am I being to hard line, I have a few non-christian friends who are homosexual, so please do not take this as homopobia.
    I have always based this belief on the quoted verse, have I taken it out of context. Please advise.

  6. Simon, I quite understand your position, and indeed I am very close to it myself. I want to clarify that I am calling committed homosexual partnerships “the lesser of two evils”, just as divorce and remarriage is. They are “the lesser of two evils” precisely because unconstrained homosexual promiscuity is very evil, as Paul writes to the Romans, just as is unconstrained heterosexual promiscuity.

  7. Peter, as the parent of a lovely lesbian daughter I want to thank you for raising this issue.

    I find myself in a cleft stick on this matter. On the one hand, I have done a lot of study of the relevant biblical texts and I have not been able to shake the conclusion that the traditional interpretation of them is still the right one. Arguments from natural law also seem to point to the conclusion that homosexuality is a deviation and not part of God’s creation intent.

    However, what do we say to people who testify that (a) they have never felt anything other than same-sex attraction, (b) they have struggled with this, perhaps keeping it secret for years, praying desperately to be released from it, and, in some cases, gone for counselling with the hope of being ‘delivered’, but have gotten nowhere, and (c) have now found someone of their own gender who they love and are ready to commit themselves to in a permanent, monogamous union?

    What’s the gospel for people like that? And I don’t want any easy answers like ‘pray and you will be delivered’. Sorry, but I know far too many gay people who’ve prayed for decades and haven’t been delivered.

    For myself, I continue to believe that same-sex attraction is part of the brokenness of a fallen world, and that some things won’t be healed until the world is remade. But I find this precious little comfort when I am trying to counsel people like my daughter.

  8. Peter:

    I find this post interesting….I had never really thought of “homosexual marriage” as a sort of “lesser of two evils”…and I’m still not 100% sure I agree with your thinking, but it’s definitely interesting, and a new way to look at the issue…one that I don’t think has been raised before.

    I’ve been pondering myself, and also reading on other blogs recently about the issue of divorce and remarriage after divorce. I certainly see this as a huge problem within the church…for whatever reason, the church universal has, for the most part, decided that divorce and remarriage among Christians is okay. We have permitted now for so long, I question how we can ever stop it.

    Do you have any personal thoughts/views on how and why the western church has allowed divorce and remarriage to be acceptable?

  9. Good question, Rhea. I don’t think I have an answer. But I think we should bear in mind that we have gone back to the situation which God allowed through Moses, if only because of human hardness of heart – see Mark 10:1-12. Human hearts are mostly as hard now as they were in Moses’ and Jesus’ time, so the same special measures or Exception Arguments are needed. So I don’t actually support any attempts to stop divorce and remarriage, either by legislation or by church discipline.

  10. There is one huge difference. God gave Israel a writ of divorce and sent her away (God is divorced). On the other hand, we have no Biblical evidence that God is gay.

  11. So God is remarried – to the church.

    But God is also gay. After all, the relationship between God and Christ is parallel to the relationship between man and wife.

  12. Tim,

    I am privileged to live beside a wonderful Lesbian couple who have been good friends and an encouragement to me this year. They are simply kind and loving people. One of them is the sister of Catriona LeMay Doan. What a wonderful person she is with the same ready humour as her sister.

  13. Sue, either God is gay or she is female! But then wouldn’t that make her and the church a lesbian couple? 😉

    But, seriously, there is no sex in heaven, Matthew 22:30, and probably no gender with any significance. Talk of God being divorced and remarried is only a limited metaphor for a truth beyond our full comprehension.

  14. I think we can safely say God is a man, but then if God is a man he cant be (a) God. hummmm. If there is no sex in heaven (Matthew 22:30) that would mean that gender was pointless. But that is a different subject. Gods marriage to the church does not involve sex, therefore gender is again not an issue.
    If you are married to your work there is again no sex, so marriage is a word used to discribe a bond of trust and commitment between two parties, with the marriage of a man and women, or same gender there is sex involved. Reference to Peter’s subject matter, I feel the issue is not the bond between two people which takes the form of a marriage, it is the sex within that partnership that is the issue. Remarriage therefore (not taking into account,adultery) is a sin from one teaching, whilst same gender sex is a different sin from a different teaching. So for me they are two different subjects and should be looked upon as non-comparable. Would you agree or disagree with my simification?

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  16. Simon, I don’t quite get your point. Are you alluding to the two natures of Christ in the first part? But I agree that the marriage of Christ and the church is metaphorical like that of a man to his work.

    To me as to Jesus and Paul, sexual activity outside a monogamous heterosexual marriage (not remarriage) is a sin, and it is the same sin whether homosexual or heterosexual. There is perhaps an additional sin in remarriage in that it is a breach of the original marriage vows.

    But God has grace to cover situations where there is no alternative to these sins. Paul teaches that it is better to marry than to burn with passion (1 Corinthians 7:9). Now it would be too much to apply that verse to remarriage or to homosexual “marriage”, but the principle remains that human attempts to remain pure often lead to uncontrollable burning passion, which is a worse sin than a less than ideal marriage.

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  18. Yes, that was me. Poor sense of humour, right?

    I prefer to think of God as my Shepherd. “He shall gather the lambs in his arms and gently lead the nursing ewes,” was my first memorized scripture verse. I also learned about God as L’Eternel and le Bon Berger so I have a particularly ungendered notion of God. I think we really don’t know when to let metaphor be metaphor. Baaaaaaaaaa.

  19. As a personal preference when I refer to a sexual relationship outside of marriage, be it through remarriage or adultary (one and the same really), I think of a heterosexual relationship, to include a homosexual relationship in to the equation distracts from the main issue. To use an example to explain what I mean, it would be the same as discussing killing. If a man is a murderer he has commited a sin, in this discussion it as if we are discussing two different murderers, but one of them committed thief before hand. Homosexual remarriage or adultery is a non issue to me personally, as the initial sin of homsexuality has taken place. If you do not commit the sin of homosexuality, then there is no possibility of commiting adultery through remarriage of having another relationship outside of the marriage. By including homosexuality in the remarriage debate, it is as if it is being condoned.

    I understand your main point is the way remarriage after divorce is looked upon in a very relaxed manner, unlike same gender relationships which are still viewed as a definate no go. But I think the two subjects should be kept seperate for fear blurring the lines of definition and compounding the complexity of the remarriage issue, which you and others have outlined with the “exceptional circumstances” which allow for divorce and remarriage. Where as there is no “Exceptional circumstances” for same gender relationships.

    I am in total agreement with everything you have said, I think the main difference is the subject, i.e. comparing the morality of same gender relationships and marriage after divorce, to me they are two very seperate issues and therefore non-comparable due to one having to take place (same gender) before the issue of remarriage comes into the picture.

    I am waffling now so I will shut up, but hopefully I have comminicated what I mean.
    P.s great blog site, love the topics for discussion and the thoughts offered, makes me consider my own opinion on the subjects in question, which is probably apparent by what I write LOL

  20. Simon, please note that ‘homosexuality’ is not a sin. That would be like saying that ‘alcoholism’ is a sin. It isn’t; drunkenness is. The traditional position is that homosexual behaviour is a sin; homosexual orientation in and of itself is a very complex matter and even now, after years of research, we still don’t really know what causes it. But whatever your views on the morality of homosexual activity, homosexual orientation is simply part of the raw material of life for some people; it’s what they do with it that counts.

    And of course Christians currently disagree with each other about that!

  21. Simon, if you hold that remarriage and homosexual activity are “two very seperate issues and therefore non-comparable”, you are not “in total agreement with everything [I] have said”. For the main point of my post is to link and compare these two issues. You are entitled to your views, but they are quite different from mine.

  22. In Response to Tim. Hi Tim.

    To be an alcholic, you must have been drunk.
    To be homosexual you must have had homosexual sex, How do I know I like chocolate , easy I ate chocolate and liked it. There must be millions of people who have had homosexual thoughts and wondered “Am I homosexual” no is the answer, or at least not until you have had a homosexual or heterosexual relationship and then you will know what your orientation is.
    While this is a very simple black and white view point and I have taken a very complex issue and compressed it into a couple of lines. The difference between Same gender sex and alcoholism is that Alcholism is an addiction , the same as smoking, cocaine etc. And I have experenced the issues of drink earlier in my life and understand the need for alchol and cigarettes, they are not a disease, just an addiction something we become dependant on to make it through the day.

    Homosexuality is something I have a little experience of, and I offer the following with great humility as I am not a scholar. We are the result of our experiences and chooses and how we react to both. As a very young child something of a sexual nature accurred between myself and an older boy, I was probably about five years old at the time, I know this happened on a more than one occasion. So thinking logically my first encounter with sex, was of a homosexual nature, but I am not homosexual or homophobic. The memory is shoved to the back of my mind and never recalled in any detail, I understand it was not my fault and I was to young to understand or comprehend what was happening. But I could have accepted this as the norm, taken the memories and run with them, putting myself in a homosexual mind set. Now not everyone who is homosexual has experienced the same as I did, but I believe that something, no matter how small creates a mind set at a very early age leading to homosexualism (is it ism).
    Please feel free to rip these comments to sheds if you disagree, as it is only by hearing the thoughts of others that we can question our our preceptions.

    P.s this is the first time I ever mentioned this, so ssssshhhh dont tell anyone, but also don’t pussy foot around just because I have put something personal.

    pps Sorry my posts are always so long Peter

  23. Simon, thanks for continuing to comment. But surely someone can know they are heterosexual by orientation without having heterosexual intercourse. Normal heterosexual men are sexually aroused by women in certain circumstances, but never by men – and I know this is true even of men who have never had any kind of sex. I presume that men with a homosexual orientation are similarly sometimes sexually aroused by men, but not by women. So the heterosexual can know that he is that, and the homosexual that he has that orientation, without actually having a relationship or any kind of sexual activity with another person. Presumably the same is true of women.

    Yes, I guess that is different from an addiction.

    I think you are right that homosexual orientation is often a result of childhood experiences. But that doesn’t make it any less real. Just because your experience didn’t make you gay, it doesn’t mean that other people’s different experiences didn’t genuinely affect their sexual orientation.

  24. Hi Peter
    You wrote:

    I think you are right that homosexual orientation is often a result of childhood experiences. But that doesn’t make it any less real. Just because your experience didn’t make you gay, it doesn’t mean that other people’s different experiences didn’t genuinely affect their sexual orientation.

    The experiences are what I believe can turn someone away from a heterosexual orientation, be it a bad experience with a girl, lack of females influence when a child, or lack of male influence. It certainly does make it any less real. As childen I feel we are a blank canvass and every word or act has an affect on the orientation and outlook of that child as they develop. Not having been around fifty years ago, I an presuming homosexuality was no where near as prevalent as it is today. I know it was illegal then, but nowadays, Gays rights and sit coms with gay charactors etc are awash in society. Everywhere you look, gay culture is openly flaunted. and childhood experience is a possible basis for the development of same gender feelings, surely this will only escalate the issue.

    Reference to Tim’s point that that homosexuality is not a sin, but the practice of it is. Is there not reference to the thought being the same as the act. not knowing the verse I will refer to the commandment, thou hall not covert thy neighbours wife, to offer example of what i am refering to.

  25. I don’t understand the complex psychological factors that lead to a person having a homosexual orientation. I certainly don’t think they can be summed up in two paragraphs. And I’d be interested to hear from gay and lesbian people about this. To me there’s something a little patronising about heterosexuals discussing the causes of homosexuality ad infinitum.

    The point I was making by saying that ‘homosexuality’ in and of itself is not a sin is simply this. If you believe that homosexuality is a sin, then you are forced to conclude that a person with a homosexual orientation is living in a constant state of sin. I’m sorry, but I just can’t buy that.

  26. Hi Tim

    you wrote” a person with a homosexual orientation is living in a constant state of sin. I’m sorry, but I just can’t buy that”

    That is a fair point and one I need to contemplate. It would help to have the views of someone with same gender orientation to see their understanding and their experiences and thoughts.

  27. Tim, I agree with you. But I wish that the lesbian and gay community would not live in denial of the evidence that sexual orientation is largely a matter of environmental factors. Of course I can understand their caution about suggestions that homosexuality is a kind of mental illness. Nevertheless it is clearly a matter for investigation by psychologists – if not by psychiatrists who might claim to offer a “cure” for something which is not recognised as an illness.

  28. evidence that sexual orientation is largely a matter of environmental factors

    I’d be very interested to see such purported evidence. I don’t deny that environmental factors sometimes play a role. But if they were ‘largely’ responsible, then surely I would have four gay children, not just one, since we brought them all up in the same way.

    Interestingly, my friends in the gay and lesbian community charge the evangelical world with the opposite offence – living in denial of what they see as the overwhelming evidence that sexual orientation is coded into us at birth.

    These opposing ‘certainties’ would seem to be evidence that the great prophet Paul Simon was right – ‘A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest’!

  29. Tim, thanks for asking. I know Wikipedia is hardly a reliable source on such matters, but surprisingly there is no dispute about its article on homosexuality, which includes the following:

    The American Academy of Pediatrics has stated that “sexual orientation probably is not determined by any one factor but by a combination of genetic, hormonal, and environmental influences.”[81] The American Psychological Association has stated that “there are probably many reasons for a person’s sexual orientation and the reasons may be different for different people”. It also stated that for most people, sexual orientation is determined at an early age.[82] The American Psychiatric Association has stated that, “to date there are no replicated scientific studies supporting any specific biological etiology for homosexuality. Similarly, no specific psychosocial or family dynamic cause for homosexuality has been identified, including histories of childhood sexual abuse.”[83]

    The degree to which sexual orientation is determined by genetic or other prenatal factors plays a role in political and social debates about homosexuality, and also raises fears about genetic profiling and prenatal testing.[84] …

    Environment

    Researchers have found childhood gender nonconformity to be the largest predictor of homosexuality in adulthood.[125] Daryl Bem’s Exotic Becomes Erotic theory theorizes that some children will prefer activities that are typical of the other sex and that this will make a gender-conforming child feel different from opposite-sex children, while gender-nonconforming children will feel different from children of their own sex, which may evoke physiological arousal when the child is near members of the sex which it considers as being “different”, which will later be transformed into sexual arousal. Researchers have suggested that this nonconformity may be a result of genetics, prenatal hormones, personality, parental care or other environmental factors[citation needed]. Peter Bearman showed that males with a female twin are twice as likely to report same-sex attractions. He theorizes that parents of opposite-sex twins are more likely to give them unisex treatment, leading to less masculine influence on the males. Having an older brother decreases the rate of homosexuality. Bearman explains that an older brother establishes gendersocializing mechanisms for the younger brother to follow, which allows him to compensate for unisex treatment.[123]

    From their research on 275 men in the Taiwanese military, Shu and Lung concluded that “paternal protection and maternal care were determined to be the main vulnerability factors in the development of homosexual males.” Key factors in the development of homosexuals were “paternal attachment, introversion, and neurotic characteristics.”[126] Other researchers have also provided evidence that gay men report having had less loving and more rejecting fathers, and closer relationships with their mothers, than non-gay men.[127] Whether this phenomenon is a cause of homosexuality, or whether parents behave this way in response to gender-variant traits in a child, is unclear.[128][129] …

    Malleability of homosexuality

    The American Psychiatric Association has stated “some people believe that sexual orientation is innate and fixed; however, sexual orientation develops across a person’s lifetime.”

    In other words, there are good reasons to think that environment and upbringing is a significant factor, but there is not enough evidence to be dogmatic either way. It would of course be wrong to suggest that any particular person became homosexual because of some fault in their upbringing.

  30. Interesting post, brother.
    I though that I would share my own thoughts and convictions about these matters.

    I believe that it is all a matter of the heart.

    One thing that I have continued to learn from Jesus is that, if we are not careful, we can easily become like the Pharisees who would judge everything not only by the letter of the law (with an absence of the Spirit of the law), but also develop our own applications of the law which were never intended by God.

    The old testament law worked to point out ‘sins’, which were merely manifestations of ‘sinfulness’.
    Trying to fix ‘sins’ does not work. They can only be piled up and lived with (and died with) or washed away by faith in the person and saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Divorce is always the result of some kind of sinful activity. It is always a matter of someone, somehow ‘missing the mark’.
    Remarriage after divorce is also a matter and result of missing the mark.
    However, the bill of divorcement was designed, because of hard hardheartedness, to allow re-marriage. It was basically a document stating that a woman had been released from her former marriage (because of ‘uncleanness’) and now was allowed to re-marry someone else.
    Jesus said that from the beginning it was not so, that a man and a wife, joined together by God should not be divided by man (not “could not”), and that whoever puts away his wife and marries another commits adultery. He also said that whoever marries a woman who is put away causes her to commit adultery.
    Does this mean that God allowed adultery under the law of moses?
    I don’t believe so.
    I think what Jesus is saying in these texts is this:
    “Many of you people are putting away your wives so that you can marry someone else. You have already committed adultery in your own hearts. You are already guilty.
    Furthermore, you make her to look like a fornicator, and she will be called one. Not only that, but when another man takes your former wife to marry her, He will be known as an adulterer as well because he will be married to a woman whose spouse still lives”.

    I believe he was pointing out the sinful condition of their hearts, a condition which leads to a multiplication of painful repercussions.

    Jesus, Himself, does not directly address the issue of homosexuality in any of the four gospels, but there is enough written in the old and new testaments that it is not something which was “in the beginning”.

    I believe that it is also a heart matter, an ‘inordinate affection’, or a ‘lust of the flesh’ which is brought about by temptation from the evil one.

    What many of us miss is that the cross of Jesus Christ was not only the marking point of transition from old covenant to new, but it is also the power of God unto salvation (or deliverance).
    We can be cleansed from the ‘acts’ of sins by the power which is in the blood of Christ, but our sinful ‘selves’ is dealt with by the application of the cross in our lives.

    It is the sinful ‘self’ which causes one to divorce in order to re-marry, just as it is the sinful ‘self’ which causes one to engage in any form of sexual perversion.

    Where sin abounds, grace much more abounds, however, we do not sin so that grace might abound. God forbid!
    We cannot ‘hustle’ God.
    However,the blood of Christ deals with the divorce and even the remarriage, just as it deals with all of the former sins of homosexuality, but it is as we continue to draw near to the cross of Christ and to apprehend, by His faith, that we, also, were crucified with Christ, we also discover deliverance from our ‘old man’, and the lusts thereof and begin to live in New Life as a new,redeemed,creation.

    Please know that I submit this in a spirit of kindness and humility.

    Grace to you all.

  31. This wasn’t really addressed in the comments, but there is one thing that many people find different about adulterous remarriage a gay marriage. The sexual relationship in the first case is morally wrong, but it’s not intrinsically immoral. It’s immoral because of a prior commitment to another living person, one that has been immorally broken in engaging in this new relationship. But most people who think homosexual relationships are bad do not think it’s so for such external reasons. It’s intrinsically wrong to be in such a relationship. So it doesn’t automatically follow that everything you say about one has to be said about the other. It’s possible that there are many analogous points, but I wouldn’t assume everything is parallel.

  32. Jeremy, I understand your point. But I am not in fact convinced that in God’s eyes there is such a difference, between two things which are both wrong. God is not bound by the categories of our theories of ethics.

    I note also that heterosexual relationships are considered wrong outside marriage even if there is no prior commitment to another living person. So, I would suggest, the consistent way of looking at the situation is that all sexual activity is wrong except within a marriage as appointed by God – which implies monogamous and heterosexual. This gives a consistent ethical framework within which adultery, fornication and homosexual activity have the same status, extra-marital sex. I realise however that this begs questions about what defines a marriage.

  33. “What defines a marriage?”

    Good question.
    Although I don’t claim to fully understand it,I believe that a true marriage is a:
    1)spiritual reality
    A joining together of the masculine and feminine (male and female), the positive and negative…, a picture of Christ and the Church.

    which is also…

    2)legally stated.
    In vows and promise, both spoken and written before God and family/community.

    ..and…
    3)expressed and celebrated in a physical way.
    Consummated in love making, and lived out in commitment.

    Essentially, it is a covenant which involves the whole both persons involved; spirit, soul and body.

  34. ~J, thanks for the summary. But issues arise of course when some but not all of these factors are present. And these offer real dilemmas. For example, I know of a couple whose marriage was registered by the state but they never went through with the church ceremony and never consummated it. Were they married in the sight of God? Were their subsequent marriages adulterous? Or what about couples who live together without any formal ceremony, who are accepted as married by English common law? If one becomes a Christian and leaves the partner, can they marry someone else? There are minefields here which have to be crossed by couples and their pastors considering what might be remarriages. I’m glad I’m not in that minefield.

  35. You raise significant points, ones which have been considered for many, many years.
    Over all, I believe that God looks upon the heart, and not the ‘legality’ of the matter.
    I believe that He is that way with everything.

    Adultery is far more than having sex with someone else’s spouse, or marrying more than once.
    Adultery, like any other sin, is a heart issue.
    If we even lust after a married woman, it proves that something is wrong with our hearts. It proves that, indeed, the love of God is not truly shed abroad in our hearts by the holy ghost.

    Some would try to say that ‘lusting’ in our hearts is merely “temptation”, but that is not true. It starts as a temptation, but we entertain it and it becomes lust.

    The penalty for it (adultery), according to the law of Moses, was death,not separation from the ‘illegitimate’ spouse(which is what some church groups would have people to believe).

    Jesus said that it was grounds for divorce.
    In other words, adultery has the potential to ‘put asunder’ what God has joined, and this is fleshed out with a divorce certificate and words spoken in the community.

    Whatever the case, the law has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
    On the cross, a death has occurred on the behalf of all mankind which replaces the death which we, all of us, ourselves, deserve.

    Our righteousness and justification is not determined by our ‘legal position’, but rather it is determined by our faith in Christ which dictates, in Spirit and Truth, the condition of our hearts.
    It is through the person of Jesus Christ, and His faithfulness, and by His Spirit, which causes our hearts to change.

    The heart leads to the deeds.
    Genuine heart repentance is what is needed for all of us, and this leads into transformation, causing us to, by His Spirit, fulfill what the law has always pointed to:
    Love.
    True love.
    True love is not sexually perverted, and neither is it anxiously ill content.
    Love works no ill towards it’s neighbor, etc….
    Christ in US, the hope of glory.

    Sorry for the lengthy ramble, but it is what is on my heart.

    Thank you for your virtual hospitality.
    Peace be with you in Christ Jesus our Lord.
    ~J

  36. I think that a married person having a sexual/emotional relationship with someone other than their spouse is responsible for a great deal of unhappiness and hurt for a number of people. Same goes for their adulterous partner.

    Jesus’ injunction about ‘lusting in one’s heart’ was meant to emphasise the seriousness of a wayward heart. But I think it often gets used to cheapen the seriousness of marital infidelity. Morally and ethically speaking, I still maintain that it’s an outrageous insult to betrayed spouses and children everywhere to compare homosexual lifetime fidelity with marital infidelity.

  37. Pam, I take your point that there is great hurt involved in many adulterous relationships. But by biblical standards a relationship can still be adulterous even when the previous marriage has come to an effective end years before and the (former) spouse is not hurt by it at all. But it is still wrong, at least less than ideal, in God’s sight. It would be a situation like that which is most comparable with a homosexual relationship.

  38. Can anyone show me one new testament verse of scripture which commands any “adulterous” marriage to be broken in the name of “repentance”?

  39. Pingback: Gentle Wisdom » Gene Robinson’s Gay Rite

  40. I think to debate that commited homosexual relationships is the lesser of two evils when comparing against homosexual prominscuity is a waste of time. Sin is sin. I think Homsexuality is actually more obvious and less convoluded then the debate in the churches regarding treachourous divorces/remarriages~ but it is still sin. Jesus did not come to call the righteous or to bend to evil hearts, but to call sinners to repentance and to eternity in Heaven with the Father. Our Heavenly Father never changes. We do not get to Heaven by works or being a good person, we get to Heaven by turning our hearts to Christ and following his commands. I think it sad the church isn’t lovingly pointing how nothing on this earth is worth missing out on Heaven! Christ died for us while we are still sinners; why can’t we die to ourselves and live fully for Him in holiness!

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