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Question:
I have a friend whose husband died in a fishing accident on the ocean 3 years ago. His body was never found and the government will not issue a death certificate until he has been missing for 5 years. She has recently fallen in love and wants to re-marry. Her lawyer has told her that the only way too remarry before the 5 years is up, is to divorce her husband. She wants to get on with her life, and she is angry that her only option is a divorce. I don’t know how to begin to advise her. I know what the Bible says about divorce, but I can’t begin to imagine her situation. Do you have any words of wisdom that I can share with her that might help??

Answer:

Wow… that will certainly win the “unique question of the month” award.

Of course in a situation like this, I can only speak from opinion and general wisdom… and my opinion is going to generate some heated responses from those who believe that appealing to the SPIRIT of God’s commands is tantamount to RELATIVISM if the LETTER of the law does not appear to be followed (such as when the Pharisee’s criticized Jesus for healing or picking grain to eat on the Sabbath – Luke 6:7).

In this advice, I will argue that the SPIRIT of God’s commands on divorce and remarriage (liberty, conscience) would not be violated even if the technical act of a legal divorce (letter of the law) were pursued.

I answer with this advice based on the following assumptions:

  • Your friend is a mature, committed Christian
  • The death of her husband is not in question in ANY way
  • The man she is wanting to marry is a mature, committed Christian.

Given those assumptions, I think we are left with a matter of conscience and liberty (Heb 13:18; Gal 5:1). God’s principles about divorce are to assure commitment, fidelity and security in the instutition of marriage and family. The SPIRIT of His commandments on divorce/marriage create lifelong dedication and loyalty between two humans who enter into the holy and ordained covenant of marriage.

Again, making the above listed assumptions, I do not believe that the technicality of the government requiring a certain time period to pass to declare widowhood constitutes a violation of God’s principles on marriage and divorce. The “divorce” in this case is legal technicality when in fact, your friend is a WIDOW, not a divorcee, and thus allowed to remarry another Christian (1Tim 5:14; 1Cor 7:39).

Let me re-emphasize: IF THE DEATH OF THE SPOUSE IS NOT IN QUESTION IN ANY WAY. If there is any doubt that he may have simply skipped out on the marriage, then we have a whole other issue. I do not say that to be insensitive towards your friend, but only to make sure that my advice is taken in context.

In my evaluation:

  • she would not be violating God’s commands on divorce because she is in fact a widow;
  • she would not be violating God’s command to obey the laws of the land because she is FOLLOWING the law by “divorcing” before remarrying.

I believe your friend, assuming she is a mature Christian, has the liberty in this very special circumstance to be able to follow her conscience and know whether or not she is proceeding without violating the SPIRIT of God’s commands concerning divorce and remarriage.

She should pray and ask God for wisdom, examine her heart, make sure her conscience is clear before God, and then proceed in her convictions knowing that God is only judge of a pure heart that wants only to serve Him in spirit and truth.

Readers, what do you think? This is certainly a unique situation. Visit the message forum with your comments. Go here…

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