Some wish the Bible gave more instructions, because the questions that remain in the minds of many have sometimes fueled controversy within churches.
The question of divorced candidates is not a new one. Everyone knows the Bible says that a deacon is to be the husband of one wife. Those who say that this statement leaves no room for discussion readily admit that a man who is remarried after first wife has died is within the biblical guidelines. Yet, he is no longer the husband of one wife, if one is to simply take the statement at face value. What about a man who has never been married? Most churches would prefer that a man be married, but they would not want to rule out Jesus, Paul, and many other notable leaders in Scripture, as being unqualified. It is not difficult to see that there is room for some discussion on the matter.
What has evolved in all too many churches, is that the question of divorce and remarriage has become the end-all litmus test for the qualifications of a prospective deacon. In biblical reality, this is merely one of several qualifying factors given in the Bible.
Some argue that the statement, “husband of one wife,” is in reference to being a “one woman man,” in other words, not a poligamist. If the terminology, “two living wives,” applies to a divorced man, then the question arises as to whether or not he should be admitted to church membership. If a drug pusher desired church membership, but wasn’t willing to stop selling illegal drugs, the attitude of the church would likely be that he would need to be committed to ceasing his sinful activity before coming into the church family. Most people really do not view a divorced person as having two living spouses. Jesus demonstrated that this was not His view point, when He talked with the woman at the well. He agreed with her that she did not have a husband, although she had been married to five different men, and the man she was now with was not her husband. Sounds like our day and time, doesn’t it?
While we recognize the compexity of the above questions, and we recognize that most churches have some men who have been divorced and remarried, who are godly men with servant hearts, we also recognize that our first responsibility is to be as true to the teachings of the Bible as we know how to be. When the answer to a question is not abundantly clear, we believe that if we err, we ought to do it on the side of biblical obedience. Therefore, we think it best not to ordain those who have been divorced and remarried.
Why would God give such instructions? Perhaps, it is because God knew the twenty-first century would be riddled with broken homes and broken hearts, and that the only institution that would still be standing for traditional family values would be the church. Maybe it is because His foreknowledge saw that there would need to be some people to whom others could look as an example, that eventhough the going gets tough, marriage can still last for a lifetime.
We do not believe those who have had the misfortune of divorce are second class Christians in any way, or that they can’t serve in other positions of responsibility within the church. We do not believe that divorce is the unpardonable sin, but we simply defer to our best understanding of biblical teaching. It seems that it would be better, at the judgement, to hear God say, “That’s not what I meant by that,” than to hear Him say, “Why didn’t you take my word seriously?”