The question sometimes comes up in the MDR discussion about the “horse.” And here it is: “If a man steals a horse and repents, then he cannot keep the horse and, therefore, if a man steals someone else’s wife and marries her he cannot keep her as his wife. Can he?”
1. If a man “steals” a wife like someone steals a horse…that is called “kidnapping” and those convicted of that crime go to jail!” (In the Old West they would “hang ’em.”) Stealing a horse does not prove/teach anything about divorce and remarriage except how ridiculous such a comparison is and how easy it is to influence/manipulate some who may be already prejudiced against those that have divorced and remarried.
2. Others may misunderstand what it means to get “hitched.” If we think a husband owns a wife like a man owns a horse then we have a problem with our concept of marriage.
3. A man’s horse does not cease to be his horse when his horse is stolen. The horse is still his. But a wife who is divorced does cease to be his wife. That is what divorce is! It is the termination of a marriage covenant! To make any sense out of this illustration one must say that a divorced woman is not really divorced but is still married (belongs) to the one who divorced her–which is not true and never has been. Since divorce actually ends the marriage covenant then no one can actually steal someone’s “divorced wife” because if she is divorced then she is no longer his wife. That is why it is not a sin for one who is “loosed from a wife” to marry. (1 Cor. 7:27-28).
4. If it were not for the “invisible clamp” or “mysterious mystical marriage magnet” that some religious people have “invented” that keeps a couple joined together that are quite obviously un-joined, then people would know that divorce and remarriage should not be equated with horse stealing. (I deal with some of that in Chapter Eleven of my book.)
5. Furthermore, a man is not in a “covenant relationship” with his horse but marriage involves an “agreement” and the will of both parties in order for it to be a marriage in the first place. See Chapter Seven in my book.
6. According to some, one could not keep a horse that had once belonged to someone else no matter what! And that simply is not true.
7. For example:
a. What if the horse turned on its owner and went absolutely wild and started kicking the owner and the owner could not do anything with him because he is a “wild” horse that she cannot tame? So the owner sends her horse away with a note around its neck, which reads, “I no longer want to be abused and kicked and pawed by this horse. If someone wants him, they can take him and they can have him—gladly! Later, a good woman finds the horse and decides to keep it. She later becomes a Christian. Can she keep the horse?
b. Suppose a horse owner simply decides to go out of the horse business and he abandons his horse out in the wilderness. A man who likes horses sees the abandoned horse, and decides to take the horse since it was abandoned and no longer has anyone to take care of it. He later becomes a Christian. Can he keep this horse?
c. Suppose someone owned a horse but he abused, starved and mistreated the animal for years and years. Finally, the “Humane Society” finds out about it and removes the horse. They later sell/give the horse to someone who will take care of it. The man who gets it later becomes a Christian. Can he keep the horse?
d. What if a man actually “stole” a horse and then when he goes to take it back, the man he stole it from decides to “give it” to the man who stole it because he does not want it back! The man who is given the horse then becomes a Christian. Can he keep the horse?
e. Suppose a man does not want his horse. He runs the horse off and refuses to have anything to do with the horse. He then sells his farm, moves to a foreign country, and people know nothing about his whereabouts. A man finds the horse lost, hungry, neglected and with no place to go. He takes the horse home, feed him and care for him. After years and years of riding the horse, taking care of the horse and treating him as his own, he learns about Jesus and become a Christian. What does he do with this horse?
8. Finally, those of us who have been/are guided or influenced by “horse stealing” illustrations may need reminding that we are not dealing with “horses,” but we are dealing with “hearts!” Some of those “hearts” have been abandoned or abused, mistreated and misused, rejected and run off, but have started over in a new relationship that is working for them and now they want the “healing” that coming to Jesus for salvation brings…but they surely do not want to “go through it again!” Others, who have sinned against marriage by committing abuse, abandonment or adultery against a faithful mate in the past want be forgiven and “start over” with the forgiveness that Jesus offers to all of us for the mistakes and sins of our past. But they cannot change the past any more than we can change ours…and to demand that they divorce the faithful mates that they love and are committed to in their present marriage is both “cruel” and “heartless”… as well as “sinful.” The Bible clearly says to “abide in the state” in which one is called (1 Cor. 7:17, 20, 24) which includes the marital state (1 Cor. 7:27-28). The “hurt” caused by bad marital choices or marital mistakes or sins against marriage are not healed by demanding more marital “hurt”…regardless of what one believes about “horse thieves.”