Some Thoughts on Divorce

Mark 10:1-12 & Matthew 19:1-10 (click the verses to read them at Biblegateway.com) provide pretty succinct Biblical discussions on divorce. In these passages Jesus tells us that Moses allows for divorce because people have hard hearts. He then quotes Old Testament Scriptures that say divorce is not what God intends.

Matthew 19 indicates that sexual immorality may be legitimate grounds for divorce, but if you read it closely this passage isn’t really granting people permission for divorce. It’s actually saying that if you divorce for any reason except sexual immorality then once you or your former spouse remarry you’ll be committing adultery. It doesn’t really say, “Because of sexual immorality, divorce is okay.”

To be clear, it says, “Divorce is bad, don’t do it. If you think divorce is your only option count the cost and consider what the affects will be.”

Divorce is only a legitimate option because of the hard hearts of people. Sometimes this hardness of heart leads to adultery. Sometimes to wrath. If someone is in a physically abusive situation they should get out now.

The End of Grace

Divorce, historically, has carried a stigma, as though God somehow considers divorce more wicked than other sins or divorced people second class citizens. This simply is not true. From a spiritual perspective, divorce represents the end of what is almost always a long list of unrighteousness. The tragedy of divorce is not simply the damage done to a family but that divorce represents the end of grace. It’s two people saying to one another, “There is no hope for repentance, reconciliation or restoration between us. I’m giving up on you.” I believe this is why God hates divorce (not divorced people). Scripture is clear about the grace God has given those who believe. He is faithful even when we are unfaithful. His love for us remains sure, His grace remains strong and His mercy is everlasting in spite of how often we disobey or disappoint.

One design God has for marriage is that it should be a picture of His relationship with His people. It’s simply contrary to His character to give up on His people. When a couple gets a divorce they destroy that picture.

God is so passionate about His faithfulness to us that he once commanded an Old Testament prophet, Hosea, to marry a prostitute in order to illustrate His relationship to His people. God told Hosea, in spite of her unfaithfulness and adultery stay with her, love and cherish her. You are an example of my (God’s) relationship with Israel. They are my people, they have been unfaithful to me, but I will remain faithful to them. Nothing will separate them from my love.

I know couples whose marriage has survived the misery and devastation of adultery. They survived because the unfaithful spouse asked for forgiveness and the faithful spouse gave it. It’s a choice I’m not sure I could make. But I’ve seen it happen on multiple occasions. These marriages, like Hosea’s, have served as an example of God’s faithfulness in spite of our unfaithfulness.

I’m not suggesting that remaining married in the face of adultery is the first, best or only choice. Just like everything else in marriage it takes two. It takes one to seek forgiveness and one to give it. In most marriages both people need to ask forgiveness of one another and give it. It takes both repentance and forgiveness. That’s what leads to a restored relationship. If no one is willing to repent it’s impossible to offer the kind of forgiveness that leads to a restored relationship.

In the end Moses was right. Adultery, outbursts of wrath, selfishness, envy, uncontrolled and unreasonable spending, an unwillingness to repent or forgive – all these things represent a hardening of the heart that can (and likely will) lead to the end of a marriage. Are they ‘legitimate and Biblical’ grounds for divorce? Legitimate, maybe – Biblical, I’m not so sure.

In the end God’s desire is the same, remain faithful to one another. Keep your promise. Anything less is not His perfect intent for you and your spouse.

Practical Thoughts

If you’ve been divorced – You’ve lived through one of the most painful life events a person can experience. You may feel shame or failure. You may feel freedom. Whatever the case I can assure you of a couple of things:

  1. God loves you. You have not done anything that God cannot redeem.
  2. You have a future. It may involve another marriage, it may not. Either way, it’s never too soon to begin practicing faithfulness.

Your divorce happened because someone hardened their heart. How will you cultivate a pure heart that willingly yields to God?

If you’re considering divorce – You are living through one of the most painful life events a person can experience. You may feel shame or failure. Whatever the case I can assure you of a few of things:

  1. God loves you. You have not done anything that God cannot redeem.
  2. Count the cost – divorce will cost you something. It will cost your kids. You will break a promise to your spouse and your children. Is the price worth paying?
  3. Someone has hardened their heart. Examine yourself. Is it you? Is it both of you? Is there room for grace? Are you willing to forgive? Are you willing to ask for forgiveness?
  4. You have a future. It’s never too soon to begin practicing faithfulness.
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