Divorce is actually something I know a thing or two about. Even before my ex-wife left my then 3 year old son and me and moved on with her life, I had spent quality time researching this topic to understand exactly what the Bible says and doesn’t say about divorce. I was close to people who were either going through a divorce or could see one in the rear view mirror. I spent a lot of time talking with them about why divorce is so damaging, where to go from here, etc. It’s an incredibly emotional and difficult thing to work through with someone. And of course it’s much, much worse when it happens to you.
For thirteen years of marriage, I believed that we were going to be together for the rest of our lives. I was shocked to learn of infidelity, of her unwillingness to go to marital counseling because someone else was involved... I was shocked to learn that I had just become a single parent. Of course I was thrilled and so thankful that he was going to stay with me, but I never imagined I would be doing it on my own. And I couldn’t believe that we had adopted this little boy when he was 6 days old only to split up a week after his 3rd birthday. But there it was--a letter taped to my steering wheel. And in that moment my whole life changed. She had been through so much (almost a decade of infertility treatments, deaths of five family members in a year including her father, drunk driving accident and eventual suicide attempt of someone close to her, an adoption attempt that fell through on the day we were supposed to leave the hospital with the baby) and I of course contributed to some of our difficulties. But even through all of that I couldn’t understand why someone would just walk away. Still, a year later there we were divorced.
So when I speak of divorce, I speak as someone who has walked through it. I do my best to see it as God sees it. Divorce is despised by God, and rightly so.
“‘For I hate divorce!’ says the Lord, the God of Israel... ‘So guard yourself; always remain loyal to your wife.’“ (Malachi 2:16) NLT
I despise divorce myself. I spent at least a couple months holding my 3 year old son as he sobbed for what felt like an hour every night before he would go to sleep. Sometimes I would cry with him. He didn’t deserve to go through that kind of pain. We love to say that children are resilient. We say that to make ourselves feel better about the pain we cause them. Of course my son is happy and doing well now, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been affected by it. We do eventually heal, but the scars are still there.
But practically, what else does the Bible say about divorce?
“Anyone who divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.’“ (Luke 16:18) NLT
Here Jesus makes it clear that God’s expectation is that marriage is a lifetime commitment. God doesn’t view divorce as a reasonable end to a marriage. Divorce is the path chosen by the selfish, and God wants us to run from it. Jesus makes it clear that getting divorced and marrying someone else is adultery from God’s perspective, because God doesn’t recognize our divorce decree we paid so much money for. He sees a commitment that should be permanent. But there are two New Testament reasons where divorce is evidently allowed based on scripture.
1. Unfaithfulness (see Matthew 5:31-32, shown above)
Jesus says that a person is not considered to have sinned if the divorce is based on the other person’s adultery. Sexual immorality that violates the marriage covenant is allowable grounds for divorce.
2. Divorce requested by a spouse who is not a believer (1 Corinthians 7:15, shown below)
“But if the husband or wife who isn’t a believer insists on leaving, let them go. In such cases the Christian husband or wife is no longer bound to the other, for God has called you to live in peace.’“ (1 Corinthians 7:15) NLT
For those of us who are dealing with guilt because of having chosen to divorce our respective spouses in the past, it’s important to remember that the sin of divorce is yet another sin for which God is faithful and just to forgive us. He casts our sin as far as the east is from the west. In other words, it’s long gone. Once He has forgiven you, then there’s only the matter of forgiving yourself. And that you must do if you are to move on and live the life God wants you to live. I believe that in order to follow Him today we must deal with and let go of our past. Are you dealing with guilt you need to get rid of? I hope you can find a way to do just that. Or, are you considering a divorce that will have devastating effects on those around you? Please consider inviting God into your marriage to help you heal what’s broken and fight for your relationship. Fight the good fight! Shouldn't we love each other as God loves us, despite our flaws and issues? God will certainly bless our efforts.