DISCLAIMER: A commenter accurately pointed out that this is too broad a sweep. It may be too harsh, too, but not for the people I am speaking of. My experience with the anti-remarriage crowd may only be the most outspoken of them. Though I have found them mostly to be Pharisees, I may be judging only a small portion. The following is written to the harsh ones I have experience with, and if you have experienced their condemnation too, I hope this will help deliver you.
I wrote the following on Facebook:
If, as many are saying, God will not forgive those who have divorced and remarried and allow them to repent and go forward still married, I would rather to go to hell with my godly divorced and remarried brothers and sisters than endure the hell of fellowshipping with those who are obsessed with condemning them. I say this from 28 years of experience with such people.
I did not offer an explanation on Facebook, but I will offer one here.
In Cookeville, TN, there was once an amazing little horse-and-buggy community consisting of mostly people from an Anabaptist background (Amish, Mennonite, German Baptist Brethren, Hutterite, etc.). We loved to visit there. The fellowship we experienced in the various homes was refreshing. so much so that we thought about moving there.
I asked their leader about fellowship outside the community if I lived there. Would I be able to share the Lord’s table with Christians in Cookeville who lived righteously, but also wore belts and tapered their hair. He said no, and I told him that’s too divisive for me. We still visited regularly. We were served meals in their homes, even the leader’s, and I was included a couple times in discussions about church history with all their leaders.
I loved them, but we could not participate in their divisiveness over their community’s particular standards. The most divisive issue they held, which they rarely had to deal with because everyone knew they held to it, was that every divorced and married person whose first spouse is still living is an adulterer.
That doctrine, held by Anabaptists since the time of the Reformation, has a fairly large following among Protestants today, many of whom got this doctrine from the Anabaptists. The Anabaptist are stringent about the doctrines, but are generally polite and peaceable in nature. Those outside the Anabaptist communities who have adopted this doctrine are not so. They hold this anti-remarriage position with ferocity and devote much of their “ministry” to promoting it.
To be fair, the Roman Catholics–and, I suppose, most Reformation Protestants–would have agreed with them in the 16th century.
The reason is that Europe had been under Roman Catholic control for centuries. While the clergy were corrupt in many ways from top to bottom, the Church itself would not authorize divorce or remarriage. The most famous incident, of course, was King Henry the VIII’s remarriage that led to the creation of the Church of England.
Before the Roman Catholic Church, however, Roman emperors and the Senate were in charge of southern Europe and Barbarians controlled northern Europe. Divorce was so common in the Roman Empire at that time that a Carthaginian lawyer once said that Roman women longed for divorce like it was the natural consequence of marriage (Tertullian, Apology 6).
If Romans divorced often, then those who heard the Gospel must also often have been divorced and remarried. Despite this, after reading thousands of pages of early Christian writings from around AD 90 through AD 250, there is no record of any Roman convert being told they had to separate from a spouse because they were in a second marriage. There is a record, in Hippolyptus’ Apostolic Tradition, of converts being told to get rid of their concubines in order be baptized, but nothing about splitting up a remarriage.
I, and probably you as well, have met dozens of Christians, divorced and remarried because of diverse circumstances, who love the Lord and have influenced others to follow Jesus. There is no denying that they have the Holy Spirit. I have experienced the unity of the Spirit with them that we are commanded to make every effort to preserve (Eph. 4:3).
It may seem logical, from things written in the New Testament, to condemn their remarriage, but the letter kills and the Spirit gives life (2 Cor. 3:6). We are spiritual and life-giving people. Those who adhere to the letter can go on condemning and spiritually killing, but we who are spiritual must bring life.