Departing and Remarriage:
Is It Acceptable?
There is an age old question of when is it right to leave your mate and marry another. The
Pharisees tempted Jesus with this question, "saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away
his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which
made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man
leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined, let not man
put asunder. They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of
divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your
hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto
you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another
committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery" (Matthew
Only the hardness of men's hearts makes room to put away a mate and marry another. In the
beginning, God made one woman for one man. They were not to go to another. One who would
do otherwise was (and is) an adulterer(ess). This was nothing new; the law plainly taught this
Only one exception is given to this law: "except it be for fornication," to put away a mate and to
marry another is adultery. Only sexual infidelity is an acceptable reason to put away a mate and
remarry. Of all the "reasons" man can think of to put away a mate, of all the "reasons" granted in
the courts of our land, there is only one that God has sanctioned: fornication.
This means the reason for the "putting away" must be fornication, not an afterthought excuse. At
the time the "putting away" takes place, it must be fornication. That does not mean that years
later (or any time after the fact) it may be discovered that the mate committed fornication and
then decide the "putting away" was for fornication. The reason for "putting away" cannot be
retroactive; it cannot be decided after the fact.
Must one "put away" a mate for fornication? No. One can, but they do not have to. Marriage is a
life-time commitment that can survive infidelity, depending upon the individuals involved. It takes
a great deal of mercy, and many times creates further problems "down the road;" but, it can be
done. That is the decision that must be made by the one involved in the situation, carefully and
prayerfully. Many times the pressures of family and friends makes the decision on putting away
a mate. It must be remembered that the decision must be lived with by the one in the situation.
There are enough difficulties facing one whose mate has been unfaithful without additional
pressure from family and friends; it is a time to be supportive, not pressuring.
Some have mistakenly assumed that if the fornicator in a marriage repents and asks their mate
to forgive them, that they must take the fornicator back and cannot put them away. If they repent
an ask forgiveness, the mate must forgive them (Matthew 18:21,22); however, forgiveness does
not always mean the elimination of the penalty or consequences of the action. When David
committed adultery and murder, God (with Bathsheba) forgave him but still had David pay the
penalty of the death of the child (II Samuel 12:1-14). One can forgive a mate, and still decide to
"put them away" for fornication.
Some have the mistaken idea that in order to "put away" a mate, even for fornication, the one
"putting away" must be "purely or totally innocent." By this, they mean that the one who "puts
away" a mate must not be able to look at their actions and say they did anything to contribute to
the infidelity. It is true that people can almost be driven to commit fornication by their mate; but,
they cannot be made to commit fornication by their mate. Each and every person is responsible
for their own actions. Jesus did not say one must be "totally innocent" in order to put a mate
away for fornication. He merely said it was the one exception. On the other hand, those, who in
many ways contribute to develop the situation where fornication takes place, will be responsible
for their actions. It might be good for them to consider, before they put their mate away for
fornication, if their actions have really been any better. However, if one "puts away" a mate for
fornication, they have met scriptural requirements.