Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Matthew 19:9: The Clear Exception

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In response to the previous article, there’s been a lot of discussion about whether or not Matthew 19:9 really does give us one situation in which an innocent spouse can divorce and remarry with the full blessing of God. I see no way around the passage.  The clause “except it be for fornication” is there for a reason and does not conflict with all the other passages that explicitly state, in various wordings, that marriage is for life. That’s why the exception clause is there. It’s there because marriage is holy and sanctified. Marriage is for life and the one who breaks that vow in fornication has trodden on the most sacred human-to-human vow. He or she (the one who has fornicated) can certainly be forgiven and restored to favor in every situation. He or she can and must be forgiven when penitent. In fact the forgiver(s) will be overjoyed at the penitence. But the restoration to position in the violated home is clearly the one place where the injured spouse is left in a decision-making place. I suggest that the injured spouse is the one human who can discern what is best for the holiness of his/her home at this juncture. 

It has been argued that the penitent spouse is often spurned by the church; but, conversely, I have seen the penitent spouse welcomed back into the body with open arms on MANY occasions. The family of God, is ready, willing, praying to be able to forgive. We want that! But forgiveness has never been the same as restoration to position. It is just not the same. The forgiven child molester will not be placed in the preschool again. The forgiven drug dealer and addict will not be hired as the pharmacist. The convicted, but forgiven perjurer/forger will not be the FBI agent again. God allows restoration in the home, but he does not demand it. He demands forgiveness and the Christian wife longs to forgive and have the trust she once had or at least thought she had. But the passage is clear. She gets to discern and decide about the restoration. She often has innocent souls to consider and she alone can look at the past patterns of insincere (or sincere) penitence as she decides.  Many times, the forgiveness and restoration has occurred on multiple occasions and children are suffering. It’s interesting to think about the cycle of lying, fornication, hurt to children, etc…that could prevail in the life of a married man who is a womanizer, for instance, if there were never the Scriptural ability to stop the cycle of injury/restoration. Restoration without some extended consequences snd rehabilitation is enabling the addiction. 

We cannot take the liberty that is expressly given in this passage away from the innocent spouse. Christ’s words do not negate the passages which state that marriage is a life-long bond. But he does give one exception. That exception does not have to be mentioned each time the life-long nature of the bond is emphasized. 

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