I have been reading your scriptural interpretation on remarriage, and as a member of the church of Christ I was surprised. You said that if both spouses had committed adultery, there was a possibility for remarriage. I was always under the understanding that if they both committed adultery, neither one could remarry. Is this not the case? If a spouse is forgiven and then the other spouse commits adultery, it allows the one of them to remarry?

When I first received your message, I wondered if I accidentally left out a "not" somewhere (as I sometimes do) and said the opposite of what I meant. If I did, I cannot locate it.

But on further searching, I think you are referring to either "If a woman accepts her husband back in desperation, can she later divorce him?" or "Is there a time limit on seeking a divorce?" Both questions involved a claim that one spouse had forgiven the other spouse of an earlier adultery.

Your note leaves me wondering just what you think forgiveness involves. Forgiveness is granting another person a favor. You are pardoning them of some wrong that they have committed against you, fully releasing them from any debt that they may owe you. We can see this in the forgiveness that God has offered us. "Indeed it was for my own peace that I had great bitterness; but You have lovingly delivered my soul from the pit of corruption, for You have cast all my sins behind Your back" (Isaiah 38:17). To place something behind your back is remove it from the forefront of your thoughts. It is no longer considered and when the person is view it is no longer the first thing of which you think. But God goes further than this. "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more" (Hebrews 8:12).

It is not that the one forgiven doesn't remember his past sins. Paul sometimes mentioned his past. "For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me" (I Corinthians 15:9-10). But when we discuss God's forgiveness of our sins, we understand that God doesn't hold those past sins against us. Once those sins are forgiven, God doesn't constantly remind us of our sins.

Paul lists a number of sins that the Corinthians had been involved in, "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God" (I Corinthians 6:9-10). But these things were in their past. They no longer apply. "And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God" (I Corinthians 6:11). Some once were adulterers, but they were forgiven and they are no longer adulterers.

When Jesus stated, "And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery" (Matthew 19:8), his phrasing in the Greek is in the active present tense. In the exception that allows for remarriage, the person asking for a divorce is doing so because the spouse is involved in fornication (unrepentant and unforgiven) -- not that they once had committed fornication in the distant past, and not that they had been forgiven of fornication because then they would no longer be a fornicator. As I pointed out, if a person claims to have forgiven another of a sin, then that sin cannot be brought up again later as a convenient excuse. It isn't love because love "does not take into account a wrong suffered" or as the NIV puts it, "it keeps no record of wrongs" (I Corinthians 13:5).

God tells us "bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do" (Colossians 3:13). Does Christ state he forgives us of our sins and then holds that forgiven sin against us at a later date?

The real problem is that people are too loose and too casual about their offers of forgiveness. They claim to offer forgiveness, but they don't really forgive. Yet, they feel they must offer it because they know their own forgiveness before God rests on their ability to forgive. "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:14-15). Therefore, they go through the motions without any sincerity behind their words.

If a person forgives his spouse of fornication, then that debt of sin no longer exists between them. It cannot be brought up again at a later date when he decides he wants out of his marriage. The covenant between them had been ratified when forgiveness was requested and granted and remains in effect.

Yes, if both commit adultery, neither is repentant, and a divorce is issued as a result, I agree that neither has the right to remarry. But that was not the situation presented in the prior questions.

See also:

Questions and Answers regarding Divorce and Remarriage
Questions and Answers regarding Forgiveness