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When Is Divorce An Option As A Christian?

Introduction

The subject of divorce between a man and a woman is possibly brought up more today than ever before due to the stresses placed on modern couples by a fast-paced world. Sadly, the divorce rate for Christian couples is on par with unbelievers. This is devastating, as God places extremely high importance on marriage.

When you marry, you become one flesh, therefore, treating your spouse badly is like beating up on yourself! Pain and suffering are the obvious results for both partners (Genesis 2:24, Mark 10:8-10).

What Is The Meaning Of Divorce?

Divorce can be defined as the legal dissolution of a marriage. This is a complex and emotionally charged issue. It carries a heavy weight, both in the personal lives of those involved and within the broader societal and religious contexts. In this article, we will explore the topic of divorce through the lens of the Bible, examining its teachings and acknowledging the diverse perspectives held by Christians.

What Does The Bible Say Concerning Marriage And Divorce?

The Bible presents marriage as a sacred covenant between a man and a woman, a bond intended to be lifelong (Genesis 2:24). It emphasizes the commitment, love, and respect that spouses owe each other (Ephesians 5:21-33).

However, the Bible also acknowledges the harsh realities of human nature and the possibility of marital failure. While strongly advocating for reconciliation and the preservation of marriage, it does not explicitly forbid divorce in all circumstances.

It is important to remember that the Bible’s perspective on divorce goes beyond legal pronouncements. It emphasizes the importance of seeking God’s guidance and prioritizing the well-being of all individuals involved. Forgiveness, compassion, and the pursuit of healing are central themes in biblical teachings on marriage and divorce. Therefore, even in cases where divorce is permitted, seeking reconciliation and healing should remain a priority.

The Bible also calls for compassion and support towards those facing divorce. Deuteronomy 24:4 restricts remarriage for the divorced woman to protect her from further hardship. Similarly, 1 Corinthians 7:11-15 encourages reconciliation, but if divorce occurs, it should be done with respect and without bitterness.

Diverse Perspectives Within Christianity About Divorce

Christian denominations hold a spectrum of views on divorce. Some churches strictly adhere to the ideal of lifelong marriage and view divorce as permissible only in the narrowest of circumstances, such as proven adultery. Others adopt a more nuanced approach, allowing for divorce in cases of extreme marital breakdown or abuse. Still others take a more grace-based perspective, emphasizing the importance of individual discernment and pastoral guidance in navigating difficult marital situations.

Origin Of Divorce In The Bible

Divorce is not instituted or ordained by God; rather it is generated by sin and is contrary to God’s ideal for marriage (Mal 2:14).

1. Divorce In The Old Testament:

Divorce is first mentioned in the Mosaic covenant (Lev 21:14 ; Deuteronomy 22:13-19 Deuteronomy 22:28-29), but it was already occurring in Israel. Under the Mosaic covenant divorce was regulated in situations in which it might become common. It was not permitted (1) when false accusations were made about a bride’s virginity; and (2) when marriage occurred because a man had forcibly violated a woman sexually. A high priest was not to marry a divorcee. Deuteronomy 24:1-4 prohibited remarriage of a woman to her first husband after the death or divorce of her second husband. These texts present legal policy whereby quick and frequent divorce is restrained and discouraged. Divorce is not commended, commanded, or approved by God in these passages, but failure to forbid divorce, especially in Deuteronomy 24, de facto means that God’s law tolerated divorce to the extent that no civil or ecclesiastical penalty was imposed.

The basis for divorce in Deuteronomy 24:1 is “some indecency” (ervat dabar). The precise meaning of this phrase is uncertain. When the rest of the Old Testament and New Testament are examined, it appears that “some indecency” probably had sexual overtones — some lewd or immoral behavior including any sexual perversion, even adultery. The imagery of spiritual adultery, resulting in God’s “divorcing” Israel (Isaiah 50:1 ; Jer 3:8), is based on a real referent. Divorce was socially permissible for adultery. Although adultery was punishable by death (Deut 22:22-24), it could still be included in the broad concept of ervat dabar. It is likewise possible that Jesus employed the general term porneia [porneiva] (Matt 5:32 ; 19:9) to refer to ervat dabar in Deuteronomy 24:1. However this phrase is understood, the text implies that this continued “indecency” was so vile that divorce was preferred by the husband. To protect the wife, however, he must provide her a certificate of divorce.

This text also recognizes and allows, without condemnation, the remarriage of the wife. In that culture remarriage would be expected since it was difficult for a woman to survive in life unless she was married or remained single in her father’s house. This does not necessarily mean that God approves of the remarriage in this text. The text prohibits remarriage to the first husband since the woman has already been defiled. Defilement is best understood contextually as the “indecency” of verse 1, not “defilement” of adultery because of marrying the second husband. Adultery would have been punishable by death of the woman and the second husband, if such had been the case. The second marriage is not condemned, nor is a third marriage forbidden.

Deuteronomy 24:1-4, therefore, is a concession made by God to the fallen condition of humankind. It does not approve of or encourage divorce or remarriage, although it allows for both, except for remarriage of a woman to her first husband. These Deuteronomic texts, therefore, regulate divorce.

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Condemnation Of Divorce

Several passages in the Bible explicitly condemn divorce. Malachi 2:16 reads, “For the Lord hates divorce, says the God of Israel.” This verse expresses God’s strong disapproval of divorce, highlighting its negative impact on individuals, families, and communities.

Exceptions And Nuances Concerning Divorce 

However, the Bible also presents some exceptions and nuances regarding divorce. In Deuteronomy 24:1-4, Moses established regulations for issuing a certificate of divorce, suggesting that divorce, while not ideal, was not entirely forbidden in certain circumstances.

The most notable exception is found in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9, where Jesus mentions sexual immorality as a permissible ground for divorce. This exception acknowledges the devastating impact of adultery and betrayal on a marriage, suggesting that divorce may be necessary in such situations.

How To Prevent Divorce: Do’s And Don’ts

The key to avoiding divorce is to realize that your relationship will always need to be worked on. People believe that the day they exchanged ‘I do’s,’ the deal was done. But that’s not true: The relationship is still vulnerable. You can’t take your spouse for granted. Once you win them over, you have to keep winning them over every day. The hard work isn’t over when you get hitched. It’s just beginning.

So we’ve laid out an exhaustive list of steps you can take to help you avoid getting a divorce. These won’t work if you think it will happen overnight. Rekindling the spark you and your spouse once had will take some work, but let us tell you, it is worth it.

What Not To Do If You Want To Prevent A Divorce

1. Don’t Keep Score In Your Marriage

People often evaluate their relationships with a bookkeeping or justice model, and what that really says is, ‘I don’t need to do something for my partner unless my partner is doing stuff for me.’ Well, it turns out this works just fine as long as nobody makes a mistake. I try to use a grace model:

“I want to give my partner grace or mercy when they make a mistake, and I don’t want to keep score; I want to bless my partner regardless.”

Those blessings come back—not in a reciprocal way, but just because you’ve created an environment where both people are out to really elevate the other person.

2. Don’t Expect Perfection

You can’t change anyone but yourself, so stop trying. Accept your partner for who they are—period. Likewise, you need to come to terms with the fact that they were never perfect in the first place.

The taller the pedestal on which you place your significant other, the further they will fall when you find out your hero has feet of clay.

No one can live up to fantasy expectations forever. Everyone is a flawed human. The best relationship is between two people who view each other as equals and admire and respect each other.

3. Don’t Zip Your Lips

What’s done is done. Talking about it isn’t going to change what happened—but it can relieve the person of some of the suffering. By expressing it, it’s not being withheld and turning into some kind of physical or somatic problem.

4. No: If, And’s, or Buts

You have to be tolerant and you have to be accepting. People have expectations of who they want their partners to be rather than allowing them to be themselves. To accept them for who they are is to love them for who they are. You can’t have conditions under which you will love your partner.

How To Avoid Getting A Divorce

1. Communicate – Even when it’s Hard

Some couples often cop to having been lousy communicators in their marriages. Some people never share or discuss the things going on in their lives. It seems to be a common thing: going home from work and not wanting to talk. Silence doesn’t make for a strong marriage. Keeping your mouth shut makes your partner feel shut out—sometimes personally. So, when they ask you about your day, give them the rundown—even if it’s boring. And ask about theirs. If you’re not in the mood to chat, it’s okay. Tell them that you really want to talk, but need a few minutes to first decompress.

2. Reassess your Marriage Needs

The 7-year itch is real. The problem is that whatever you needed at year one, you don’t need anymore, primarily because the other person’s done a good job at filling that hole. When your needs change, ask each other what three things you could be doing differently. It’s not 30 things—it’s three things, and they are concrete as heck. Like, I want sex at least twice a week. I want you to help out with the kids more. And then I’m going to work on your three things and you’re going to work on mine.

3. Remember Why you Got Married

What was it that you liked to do when you first met that you liked about each other? Traveling, going on a picnic, going for a bike ride together? Do more of that.

4. Bring Back The Little Things

Long before you tied the knot, how did you show them you cared? Did you open their car door? Buy their flowers on her birthday? Whatever your little traditions and gestures were, stick with them. During the early stages of a relationship, those seemingly insignificant moves become representations of how you feel about your partner. If and when they stop, they’ll think your feelings have too.

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5. Cash In Compliments

It is important for husband and wife to often tell each other how thankful they are for the things they do for one another, and when you’re appreciated and acknowledged for things, it only makes you want to do it more. That sustains relationship, even when there are rough times. Every couple goes through rough times, and you have to have emotional money in the bank to get through them.

6. Play with your Partner

See your relationship as an adventure that’s constantly unfolding, rather than something you’ve achieved. It’s something you continue to invest in overtime. Lasting couples often have rituals—things they do on repeat, sometimes on a weekly or yearly basis—that remind them of the importance of their relationship. Part of that is play, and having a playful sexual relationship. Those positive emotions bring you resources.

7. Have More Sex!

Don’t just be a roommate—be a lover. That’s something we see couples struggle with as they work more, have children, and get older. The minute closeness dissipates, you have a major problem on your hands. Put your phones down, hold hands, light some candles, and look at each other. It’s a great feeling to know that the flame is still alive and that your spouse is still attracted to you after years. Forgetting the true meaning behind why you’re trying to save your marriage can happen. When you’re doing everything you can and there seems to be no give on your efforts. It is important to remember the “why” behind your endeavor.

Things To Remember About Marriage

1. Marriage isn’t Always Happy

The bumps of everyday life can take the glow off of any marriage. So our advice to you is to dive into issues headfirst: If both people remember that pain in a relationship can produce great people and a great marriage, then the crisis can be a new beginning. Research backs this up. A study from the University of Tennessee shows that anticipating some rough relationship patches results in greater satisfaction over the long haul.

2. Be On The Same Team

No matter how much you disagree, it’s important to remember that you aren’t enemies and you shouldn’t be working against each other. Practice forgiveness. Harboring grudges does not serve you. Be open with your feelings of hurt and anger—but don’t point fingers or hurl insults. Try to forgive and move forward.

3. Make Your Marriage A Top Priority

The marriage is number one, the children are number two, and work is number three. If you make marriage number one, your children will do better and you won’t have to spend that much time managing them—and you’ll be more productive at work. But if you reverse those priorities, nothing works. Make it first. Make it top. We’ve provided you with this list of Do’s and Don’ts to help you prevent a divorce, which can be easier said than done. If you truly apply each piece of this article that resonates with you, there is a chance that you will save your marriage.

What Are The After Effect Of Divorce?

After a divorce, the couple often experiences effects including;

i. Decreased levels of happiness

ii. A change in economic status

iii. Emotional problems

The effects on children can include;

i. Academic problems

ii. Behavioral problems

iii. Psychological problems

Biblical Verses About Divorce In The Bible

“But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” – Matthew 5:32, NIV

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” – Matthew 5:27-28, NIV

That said, our bodies are temples of the Lord and should be respected as such. Extra-marital affairs are too common today. It’s too easy to divorce. People have forgotten God’s laws. As divorce in the Bible is frowned upon by God, marriage should be fought for relentlessly.

Christian counseling should be sought so that both parties can review what went wrong and undertake a journey toward recovering a relationship based on love and respect. It will help you see more clearly the path ahead, so your differences and recriminations can be resolved.

However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. – Ephesians 5:33, NIV

According to Paul, husbands must treat their wives with care and show the same concern for them as they would for maintaining their own interests. Husbands should love their wives as themselves. Then they will have applied the Great Commandment (Matthew 22: 34-40) in a marriage-focused way.

Societies of the past have considered women inferior or less deserving of care than men. Likewise, women should be diligent in showing respect to their spouses. This will bring about mutual love and unity if wives submit to this concept of a Godly marriage, however “empowered” they may be.

No doubt there were troubled marriages in Ephesian Christian society, but there are Godly solutions that still apply today. Divorce in the Bible was as prevalent then as now, but following these simple rules of understanding and loving one another will keep you together.

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Wives, in the same way, submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives. – 1 Peter 3:1, NIV

In writing this letter to the Christians under persecution, Peter indicates how we should respond to human authorities in our lives; the unjust and harsh. Do not rebel, but submit for God’s sake. This shows the confidence we feel in His power, control, and love, and how we can show others our true faith even as we suffer.

Peter then suggests that this includes wives, even if the husband is not a believer. Her respect and conduct toward her husband may finally convince him that Christ brought about that change. When it comes to divorce in the Bible, submission should not be seen as abject obedience. You must obey God ahead of all human authority. Refuse to obey instructions that oppose God’s revealed will for us.

I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries. Yet I saw that her unfaithful sister Judah had no fear; she also went out and committed adultery. – Jeremiah 3:8, NIV

God abhors adultery and here we see it illustrated in two of the tribes, Israel and Judah. Both had committed the sin of idolatry, but God considered Judah worse, as they had seen the bad example of Israel. Thus, the Lord caused them to be taken captive by their enemies and suffer accordingly.

Are we to suffer individually God’s wrath if we commit adultery in our own lives? Well, we won’t be taken into captivity, but we have become captive to that sin for which a price will be paid. Any divorce in the Bible has to be only when one or both partners have conducted an extra-marital affair.

“The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty. – Malachi 2:16, NIV

The Old Testament talks about “covering someone with your garment,” which is a metaphor for protection. Husbands must protect and provide for their wives. (Ezekiel 16:8). Malachi claims this was no longer happening and Israeli men were divorcing their Jewish wives to marry pagan women. God in no sense approves of divorce in the Bible.

He acquaints the act with an attitude of hatred. The Old Rules for divorce were never meant to imply the Lord’s approval. Such laws were meant to lessen the impact of such sin (Matthew 19:7-9). This was to protect the rights of women, who in that culture were mostly dependent on their husbands and children for support.

The people of Israel were busy at this point rebuilding Jerusalem and the temple but under the control of the Persian Empire. This, no doubt in part, accounted for their behavior.

They shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give them to the young woman’s father, because this man has given an Israelite virgin a bad name. She shall continue to be his wife; he must not divorce her as long as he lives. – Deuteronomy 22:19, NIV

Moses is talking to the people of Israel on the Plains of Moab, shortly before they enter the Promised Land. God’s laws for marriage and divorce are part of this speech. Virginity was highly prized in marriages of the day, thus a wife who lied about it was likely to be stoned to death.

But a husband also faced a stiff fine if he falsely accused his wife of not being a virgin. The bride’s parents kept a blood-stained cloth from the consummation of the marriage as proof of their daughter’s virginity. All this sounds quite bizarre to us today, but marriages then were often conducted with young girls barely in their teens.

Therefore, divorce in the Bible was frowned upon by the elders. Looking at the above verses regarding divorce in the Bible, it’s easy to see our fallen world in a new light, whether we be Christians or not. It’s too easy to get divorced in this day and age. One must be certain of your partner’s faithfulness to you, no matter what happens, in today’s turbulent society.

Other Bible Verses To Consider

  • 1 Corinthians 7
  • Genesis 2:18-24
  • Matthew 19:3-12
  • Mark 10:12
  • Deuteronomy 24:1-4
  • Malachi 2:13-16
  • Romans 7:1-3
  • Hebrews 13:4
  • Matthew 18:15-17
  • Ephesians 5:22-33
  • 1 Timothy 5:8
  • Matthew 23:23
Conclusion

Divorce remains a complex and sensitive issue, both within the Christian community and in society as a whole. There are no easy answers, and each situation must be considered with careful attention to individual circumstances and biblical principles. Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to pursue divorce is a deeply personal one that should be made with prayerful consideration and the guidance of trusted spiritual advisors.

Remember, the most important aspect of navigating any difficult situation, including divorce, is to approach it with compassion, understanding, and a reliance on God’s guidance. Also remember that the Bible is a rich and multifaceted text, and its teachings on divorce should be interpreted with wisdom, compassion, and a deep understanding of the context.

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