Questions From Readers
◼ If a faithful Christian wife has been divorced by her husband, though neither of them is guilty of adultery, would it be Scripturally proper for her to share the marital bed with him when he visits the family?
God’s Word clearly indicates that sex relations are proper between a husband and a wife, not between unmarried persons. Hence, a divorced couple should not have sex relations with each other, for that would amount to fornication, but not freeing them for remarriage.
Christians, understandably, are concerned primarily about God’s views and directions. His Word specifically advises: “Let marriage be honorable among all, and the marriage bed be without defilement, for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.” (Hebrews 13:4) Let us consider what bearing that has on the situation raised in the question.
In many parts of the earth it is common for a man and a woman to engage in sexual relations without being married. Some claim that this is both morally fitting and acceptable to God as long as the two are in “love” or have made a commitment to each other. That, however, is not the Christian view. Appreciating that “God will judge fornicators and adulterers,” Christians want to avoid both adultery and fornication.
When a man and a woman get married they establish before all that they are united as husband and wife. In the sight of the law, society and God, they have a right to share in the privileges of marriage, including marital relations. The Scriptures, in fact, urge mates not to withhold from each other the sexual due: “The husband should satisfy his wife sexually. In the same way, the wife should satisfy her husband’s sexual needs.”—1 Corinthians 7:3, Simple English Bible.
What, though, if a couple gets a mere separation, which is legally possible in some lands? Since they are still husband and wife legally and Scripturally, they must not share in marital relations with anyone else, for to do so would be adultery that would ‘defile their marital bed.’ But a separated couple have the option of making up again and of living together as the married couple that they are, after legally canceling their separation.—1 Corinthians 7:10, 11.
Consider next the situation of when one mate, for example the husband, takes matters farther than a separation and gets a divorce. A faithful Christian wife who later learned that (before or after divorcing her) he had been morally unfaithful could remarry, considering her former marriage ended both legally and in the eyes of Jehovah God. On the other hand, if there was a legal divorce but no adultery, the divorce would not of itself end the marriage in God’s view, for the Bible shows that immorality by one’s mate is the only valid basis for a divorce.—Matthew 19:6, 9.
That is the situation with the case in question, for it is definitely stated that no immorality has occurred. The husband left his wife and got an unscriptural divorce. As a consequence of that divorce they are no longer man and wife in the full sense, for he terminated the marriage legally. So what if he visited his family and wanted to satisfy his or her sexual needs? For them to have sex relations would, legally and in the view of the community, be essentially the same as two unmarried persons having sexual relations; it would be tantamount to fornication.
In that situation no third party is involved, as would be needed to give Scriptural substance to the legal divorce; so in God’s sight neither the man nor the woman would be free to marry other individuals. (1 Corinthians 6:16-18) Yet their having sex relations with each other certainly would be in disregard of God’s advice; to a degree they would be defiling the marriage bed since their legal marriage ended with the divorce. This conduct would bring reproach on them and on the Christian congregation of which the wife was a part. So, for her to remain in the congregation, she should avoid sex relations unless the marriage is made legal again. She should hold to the Scriptural and morally upright stand that sex relations should be limited only to legal marriage mates. She thus would add to the dignity that the Bible shows marriage deserves.