Divorced? Remarried? Me too.

I am divorced.

I am remarried.

This is my reality (and the reality of many others).

The circumstances that led to my divorce and remarriage are not pretty. I was unfaithful to my first wife. I sinned against her. I allowed my heart to grow hard and refused to turn from my sin and trust God. And as a result, my first wife rightfully filed for divorce. I did not fight it. I simply allowed the process to happen in order to get my way.

I live with this reality every day.

Unfaithful. Divorced. Remarried.

Over the last 18+ months, I have listened to multiple sermons on divorce and remarriage. When I was a pastor, I preached several messages on this difficult subject. Heck - I even wrote a 300+ page PhD dissertation on the subject. And yet, my reality remains: unfaithful - divorced - remarried.

Of the many homilies on this subject I have listened to or presented, almost all of them deal with the "how to avoid it" side of the issue. Most approach it from a preventative perspective or the point of view of what the Bible does or does not say about the issue. And let's be honest, the Bible is clear on the subject - God intends for marriage to be between one man and one woman for a lifetime. Anything less than God's ideal in this foundational relationship falls short of God's intention (as does any other sexual sin that distorts the leave/cleave/one flesh paradigm of Genesis 2:24).

But what about the multitudes who have fallen short of God's ideal? What about the already divorced? The remarried? The unfaithful? The promiscuous?

Sin destroys the ideal. That is why adultery, divorce, married people looking at porn, and a host of other marriage-related sins are so destructive yet prevalent. And our communities and churches are filled with people who are living with this less than ideal reality.

I know from personal experience that it is easy to grow content with less than God's ideal. I also know the guilt and shame that accompanies that mindset. For many months, I was persuaded that because of our sinful choices that my second marriage would always carry a less than ideal stigma. And to be honest, very few of the sermons I heard or taught left much space for anything else.

And then I heard a message by Andy Stanley on this issue that God used to speak directly to my heart and dramatically reshape my thinking.  While a lot of the sermon reiterated God's ideal when it comes to the covenant of marriage, it was the second half of the message that spoke precisely to those in my situation (which based on statistics are a large part of every congregation).  Andy introduced a phrase to us to which we have clung since that day: second marriage grace

While we fell short of God's ideal in our first marriages and live with those consequences every day, God has provided us second marriage grace. This concept is what the gospel is all about - redeeming the broken.  Translation: God redeems bad relationship choices for His glory!

What Andy said in that message was not profound, but for us it was life-changing. We realized and believed for the first time that God wants our marriage to honor and glorify Him. He wants to be the center of our hearts and home. He wants our marriage to succeed! He wants us to embrace His ideal - one man/one woman for a lifetime.

I have heard and taught many messages on divorce and remarriage but God used that particular sermon to convict our hearts and shape our future. We repented to God and to each other. We cried. We begged for God's forgiveness. I humbly asked Ashley to forgive me for what I did to her and to her first marriage. She asked me to forgive her. And in the process, God did something in our hearts - something that would transform the direction of our marriage.

A large part of preaching is instilling hope in your hearers - a hope that stems from the reality that no matter who you are, what you have done, or where you find yourself, Jesus did everything necessary to provide redemption, healing, and life.

Be clear on what the Bible says about this tough subject but don't forget in the process to remind those who have fallen short of God's ideal that there is grace for them as well. After all, that's the story of the Bible. 

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