Question:

If a man has two children from a previous marriage and marries a woman who has children from a previous marriage and they have two children in their marriage and the man later becomes a member of the church and several months later his wife becomes a member, does a preacher have the right to cause a divorce in this family, splitting up the family and children?

Answer:

This is an excellent example of a style of questioning called the emotional distraction technique. It has been used in numerous issues where the questioner knows he is on shaky ground. Rather than deal with the actual issue he hopes to distract the focus to an emotionally charged issue.

Let me illustrate: If a man has two children from a previous relationship and then lives with a woman who has children from a previous relationship and they have children together, if they become members of the church does the preacher have the right to insist they split up or get married? You see, the children are not the issue in the question. The issue is that two people are living together unmarried.

I must assume that this question is about your own situation. It appears from the preacher's reaction that you two are not legally married according to God's laws. It is possible for people to be legally married according to the laws of the country or state they live within and still be illegally married according to God's laws. That is because the laws of man don't often consider the laws of God; which is unfortunate since the governments exist because God put them into place. "Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God" (Romans 13:1). Since governments' authority comes from God, if they violate the authority of God Christians are required to follow the higher authority.

It would appear that one or both of you had prior marriages which ended for some reason other than sexual immorality on the part of the partner left behind.

"But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery" (Matthew 5:32).

"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 19:9).

"So He said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery"" (Mark 10:11-12).

"Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery" (Luke 16:18).

The problem is not that children were produced, but that your current relationship is adulterous. Since no adulterer will enter heaven (I Corinthians 6:9-10), the advice is that relationship must end because you have no right to each other under God's law. The preacher is asking you to give up your sin.

If you reject that advice, then the church is required to withdraw fellowship from you and your wife because a church is not allowed to retain members who knowingly remain in sin. "But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner--not even to eat with such a person" (I Corinthians 5:11).

I know you misunderstood my question and purpose for posing it. I guess I tried to make the question too short and not informative enough. First of all I have been married to a wonderful wife for 38 years and we have three children all members of Church of Christ along with their spouses and three grandchildren. I have never been married before and never committed fornication or adultery. My wife and I have been members of the church for about 50 years and she was never married before.

The reason I asked this question is because two close friends of mine who were members of the church had gotten married after getting permission from the elders, on his situation of being married before because his first wife ran off with another man. The lady he married,her first husband was killed in the oil field.

After about 10 years of my friends' marriage , a new preacher came to that congregation not knowing the situation of their marriage, preached to him and he sent a letter in the mail wanting him to divorce her and did so.

And there is another couple at that congregation I have known since I was a little boy, whom the man married a woman with two children from a previous marriage, never saying she left first husband for adultery and that seems to be a case of "don't ask, don't tell" with the indication of the old double standard.

There seems to be some of these larger churches that are accepting re-marriage for any reason. And we know that the only reason is for adultery. My dad preached from 1959 till his death in 1983.

The question I sent to you I sent because I have heard that question asked to members of the church for years. How does it affect the children of these families and does Jesus forgiveness play any part in this? I never thought I would be accused of fornication and adultery for asking a question.

I apologize for concluding something that isn't true. Most letters that I get are about personal problems, even when they are crotched in generic terms. But as I mentioned in the first letter, you framed your question as an emotional argument that distracts from the real issue. I had to assume, given the lack of contradictory information, that the preacher was justified in stating the marriage had to end.

Even with your explanation that the question isn't about a particular situation but completely imaginary, I can't say the conclusion is any different. Sin always has an impact. But sin occurs when people disregard God's laws. When someone gets drunk and has an accident involving a child, the preacher is not at fault for insisting that the man give up his drinking. When a couple marries who have no right to marry, they are in sin. The fact that they compounded the problem by involving children in their sinful life doesn't change the fact that they can't get to heaven while remaining in the sin. Nor can the problem be fixed by ignoring the sin. If a man stole and used the money to support his family, just because Christ can forgive him of his sin, it doesn't mean that he can remain a thief because he has children depending on his ill-gotten gains. What is being left out is the fact that a person must first repent of his sins before he can receive forgiveness of those sins. A person who wants forgiveness while remaining in his sins has not repented of those sins.

Why a couple properly married and having the blessing of elders in that regard decided to get divorced simply because a preacher who didn't have all the facts said so, I have no idea. I suspect that a lot of detail is being left out, but as presented, the preacher was in the wrong and so were the couple in ending their marriage. I'm puzzled, too, why the elders allowed this to happen under their watch.

In the second situation, there is again insufficient information. Just because you don't know if someone made sure there was scriptural grounds for a marriage, it doesn't imply that such didn't happen. I know times when I was asked to marry a couple that I did ask the appropriate questions and only proceeded with the marriage if I got the correct answers, but I rarely bother to tell the answers to anyone else.