Divorce is a very sad and painful subject. One friend of mine said it is the worst thing that could happen to you in this life. This paper on divorce is not meant to serve as personal guidance as to what anyone should do, but just outlines the biblical position on the subject.
Please reserve judgment on what I’ve written until you’ve read everything. I know good, faithful Christians who disagree with some aspects of what I’m about to say. But, in the end, our primary concern should be for each spouse to be reconciled to God. That reconciliation will probably involve repentance of some sort. One thing to remember is that the only unforgivable sin is not divorce but rejecting Jesus as your Savior.
The Purpose of Marriage
There are several purposes for a man and a woman to be married;
– it provides companionship (Genesis 2:18)
– it provides a sexual release that produces an intimate bond between a man and his wife (1st Corinthians 7:1-5)
– it is an expression of and is symbolic of the relationship between Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:21-33, 6:7, 10-18)
Marriage vows are solemn pledges that bind 2 people together forever in this life (Matthew 19:6 & Mark 10:9). Making a vow is voluntary and were to be made only after careful consideration (Proverbs 20:25). But after it is made, it had to be performed (Deuteronomy 23:21-33 & Ecclesiastes 5:5).
Deuteronomy 23:21-23 says, “If you make a vow to the Lord your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the Lord your God will certainly demand I of you and you will be guilty of sin. But if you refrain from making a vow, you will not be guilty. Whatever your lips utter, you must be sure to do, because you made your vow freely to the Lord your God with your own mouth.”
Ecclesiastes 5:5 says, “It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it.”
Breaking vows is an affront to God (Malachi 1:14).
What are you vowing to? According to the bible, husbands are to take over the responsibility from their own father and the girl’s father. This is what is meant by him “leaving and cleaving” to each other (Genesis 2:24). What do fathers do for their children? They provide food, clothing, shelter & protection (Genesis 3:17-19). The man and wife must also put each other first, pray for each other and help to bring each other into God’s calling for their lives. They stand behind each other in health and sacrifice for each other. God expects the spouses to fulfill their vows.
Before we get into the subject of divorce, let me make a few points about interpreting scripture. If you read 1st Corinthians 12:4-11, it lists several spiritual gifts. By just reading this passage, you may think that these are the only spiritual gifts. But Ephesians 4:11,12 and Romans 12:4-8 list other spiritual gifts. Each of these 3 scriptures list some of the spiritual gifts but nowhere does it say that these lists are comprehensive, that it’s a complete list. The principle here is that we must always interpret scripture in its context but also in light of what other scriptures say.
Another point is what happens when moral laws in the bible contradict each other? For example, we’re told to obey our government (Romans 13:1-7). In Germany, in WWII, would you turn in or hide Jews from the government? Many Christians felt obligated to obey the “higher” moral law and hide the Jews. There are several biblical examples of obeying the “higher” moral law:
– Daniel was told to eat unclean meats (Daniel 1:8) and to stop praying (Daniel 6:7) but in each case, he chose to obey the higher moral law.
– Peter and John were told to stop preaching the gospel, but they chose the higher moral law (Acts 5:29).
How do you determine what the higher moral law is? The bible says to love God and love man (Matthew 22:37-39).
– Love God more than anyone or anything else (Luke 14:26).
– People are more important than things (Matthew 6:19-24)
So the hierarchy is God, people and things.
That’s why Peter and John could disobey the government with a clean conscience. It was the same with Daniel. It was also the same with Corrie Ten Boom when she and her family hide Jews in their house in WWII.
However, the bible does not always say what we should do in every situation. It would be impossible to list what you should do in every situation. Instead, the bible gives us basic moral principles to weigh and balance against each other, carefully and honestly, to determine what we should do in a given situation. It is up to us to properly apply them in a rational, honest and ethical manner.
Here are some of the moral laws regarding divorce:
– God hates divorce (Malachi 2:14,15)
– the bible specifically states that adultery, fornication, desertion by a non-believing spouse, non-support, and a lack of reasonable spousal sexual rights are all legitimate reasons for divorce.
– the bible teaches that we should violate a lower moral law if that is the only way possible (within reason) to comply with a higher moral law when no good options are available to us. An example of this is when extreme physical abuse is done to a spouse or children. We cannot expect to give up our or their life because we think we cannot leave or divorce our spouse.
But angry disagreements between spouses are not sufficient reasons for seeking divorce. God does not want us getting divorces for what He considers trivial reasons. Realistic threats to our health or life, such as physical beatings or systemic patterns of mental torture are legitimate reasons for leaving a spouse. The victims of such abuse would want to consult 2 or 3 reputable Christian counselors or pastors who can advise them regarding their situation. There is safety in a multitude of counselors.
Proverbs 11:14…For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won thru many advisers.
Proverbs 15:22…Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.
Proverbs 24:6…Surely you need guidance to wage war, and victory is won thru many advisers.
For His Kingdom,