I am the head elder of a church. I have a very sticky situation, and I need some help as to how to proceed. There is a young divorced man in the church. He was responsible for the failure of his marriage because of his own infidelity. However, this was before he changed his life and accepted the Lord Jesus. He has since been baptized.
This man has become enamored with a lovely girl who has grown up in the church. She is twenty-one years old. Her parents are not happy with this turn of events because he has two children. His wife is still alive and has not remarried.
Did Mrs. White write anything about divorced individuals who have repented? Is the divorced individual condemned to solitude? What can I do?
I am always reluctant to answer inquiries like this one because the situations are highly charged and I frequently don’t feel that I know with certainty how to make them better. If people would simply live up to their promises and determine to do nothing in any line that would displease God or bring discredit on His work here on earth, they would avoid many of these vexing problems. But they do not.
You will find Mrs. White’s comments on these matters primarily in three sources: The Adventist Home, pages 326-347; Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, pages 63-65; and Testimonies on Sexual Behavior, Adultery, and Divorce. The sweep of her general counsel is found in the first two, while the third book deals in more detail with certain situations. I recommend them all to you.
In answer to your question at the end, let me quote a part of Mrs. White’s general counsel as it appears in The Adventist Home and Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing and is quoted in Testimonies on Sexual Behavior:
A woman may be legally divorced from her husband by the laws of the land and yet not divorced in the sight of God and according to the higher law. There is only one sin, which is adultery, which can place the husband or wife in a position where they can be free from the marriage vow in the sight of God. Although the laws of the land may grant a divorce, yet they are husband and wife still in the Bible light, according to the laws of God.
I saw that Sister —————, as yet, has no right to marry another man; but if she, or any other woman, should obtain a divorce legally on the ground that her husband was guilty of adultery, then she is free to be married to whom she chooses (The Adventist Home, 344; Testimonies on Sexual Behavior, 78, 79).
Among the Jews a man was permitted to put away his wife for the most trivial offenses, and the woman was then at liberty to marry again. This practice led to great wretchedness and sin. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus declared plainly that there could be no dissolution of the marriage tie except for unfaithfulness to the marriage vow. “Everyone,” He said, “that putteth away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, maketh her an adulteress: and whoso-ever shall marry her when she is put away committeth adultery” [Matt. 5:32, R.V.].
When the Pharisees afterward questioned Him concerning the lawfulness of divorce, Jesus pointed His hearers back to the marriage institution as ordained at creation. “Because of the hardness of your hearts,” He said, Moses “suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so” (Matt. 19:8). . . . As the Creator joined the hands of the holy pair in wedlock, saying, a man shall “leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one” (Gen. 2:24), He enunciated the law of marriage for all the children of Adam to the close of time (Testimonies on Sexual Behavior, 79, 80).
You asked specifically about the person who has repented. If one has repented, it means he has accepted God’s view of his error, has confessed the error, and has done all he can to make matters right. True repentance will result in one’s seeking to know God’s instruction for moving forward as well. It was disregard of God’s instructions that caused the breakup of the first marriage. Will disregard of His instructions provide a solid foundation for a second marriage?
In our age that gives priority to feelings, sympathy for one in “solitude” may run strong, but it does not alter the commands of Jesus. Our only safety is in obedience, not in following inclination, no matter how the flesh may clamor. God will give grace for holy living if we determine to obey Him and trust Him. This is how I see it. I invite you to read the Bible for yourself on the matter and also to review the comments of Mrs. White.