What if I was Divorced Before I Became a Christian?

There are many people who become Christians after they were divorced.  Obviously some have also been remarried before they became Christians as well.

God forgives all sins and this includes any involving divorce and remarriage.  A person is a new creation when they become a Christian.  Ezekiel 36:26 says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

As Christians we are called to repent of past sins and not repeat them.  This doesn’t mean that a person who is remarried and is guilty of adultery because of it should leave their current spouse.  But it does mean that a divorced person should remain single if they have not remarried.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7:17-24:

17 Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. 18 Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. 19 Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts. 20 Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him. 21 Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. 22 For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord’s freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ’s slave. 23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. 24 Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to.

There are numerous reasons for divorce.  In the article “Should I Get Remarried?” the times when remarriage is appropriate is discussed.  There are very few times that it is clear from scripture that remarriage is acceptable.  This applies to a person who was divorced before they became a Christian as well.

Even though the sins of the past are forgiven and a Christian is a new creation, there are still consequences of past actions.  This is no different from a prisoner who becomes a Christian.  Their crimes have been forgiven but they must still serve the sentence they have been handed.

We cannot change the actions of our past.  God has forgiven them and they are behind us.  But they are still a part of our history for better or worse.  We are responsible for our current actions however.  No matter what we may have done in the past, it is the decisions that we make today that matter most now.

This is why Paul tells the Corinthians to remain in the current situation.  All of 1 Corinthians 7 is about marriage which is why we know that Paul is addressing marriage in the passage above.  It is because the past is past that we should remain in our current situation.  We can’t change it no matter how much we may like to.  We are responsible for our actions now which is why we must make the best choices we can and to live for Christ.

A person who was divorced before they became a Christian has consequences of their past actions just as everyone who becomes a Christian must deal with consequences of their past actions.  A Christian must strive to not repeat sins of the past and instead strive to live their life according to the Word of God.

What Does God Say About Divorce?

The word divorce only appears 33 times in the entire Bible but few topics are as controversial in the church.  The Bible discusses divorce in clear terms in the Old Testament, in the teachings of Jesus, and by the Apostle Paul.  Despite thorough instruction on divorce in the Bible, there are still some questions that people have.

Far more than a lack of knowledge concerning divorce is the problem of the emotional side of divorce.  Marriage is the closest personal relationship with family coming second.  Anytime divorce is discussed it raises intense personal feelings on the topic because it affects the two deepest personal relationships in life.  For this reason we will stick strictly to what the Bible says on the topic.

There are three main passages in the Bible that address the subject of divorce.  Malachi 2 addresses how divorce had affected the Israelite’s relationship with God.  Throughout the gospels Jesus addresses divorce and remarriage.  We’ll examine Matthew 19 as it contains all of Jesus’ teaching on the subject.

Finally Paul speaks on the subject of marriage in 1 Corinthians 7.  This is the most thorough examination of the rules of marriage in the Bible and ironically comes from a bachelor.  Nevertheless, Paul is writing with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and his words should be considered as coming from God.

All three passages are looked at in more depth on the following pages.

Malachi 2:13-16

Matthew 19:1-12

1 Corinthians 7:10-11, 39

Should I Get Marriage Counseling?

The short answer is that counseling can’t hurt even if a spouse will not go along.  Ideally both people will be willing to sit down and to discuss the problems of marriage.

There is a stigma about counseling to some people as it implies a weakness that a person cannot solve their own problems.  However, it is like a Christian who must acknowledge they can’t make it on their own and trust God to help them.  It takes more strength to admit that a marriage needs help than it does to ignore the problems and continue on in frustration.

Communication is a key to any good relationship and having an objective third party listen to each side’s frustrations can help a couple work through their problems.  Counseling can be avoided if a couple is open and honest about their feelings and if they discuss them regularly.  Many times however one person is more willing to talk than the other and that is when a third party is needed to draw out the feelings of both sides.

Many pastors have have some but limited training in counseling.  It is good to sit down with a pastor to discuss problems that are occurring.  These conversations should be kept completely confidential by the pastor.

Because pastor’s have limited time and limited training it is not uncommon to be referred to a professional marriage counselor.  This doesn’t mean that a couple’s problems are so great that they can only be handled by a professional.  It simply means that the pastor takes the marriage seriously and wants all of the needs addressed even if they are outside of his realm of expertise.

While marriage counselors abound, Christians should seek a Christian counselor.  There is often a lot of psychological advice given by other counselors that is not backed up by the Bible.  A good Christian counselor should stick to the Bible first a foremost and should strive for peace and harmony within a marriage.