It’s sad to see so many family units torn apart. Divorce is so common in America! Nearly half of all marriages in this country end in divorce. It leaves children in a precarious period of adolescence that they do not deserve. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be like because by the grace of God my parents have been and will continue to be married for a long time. After the great receptivity to my message on Can a Christian be Married to a Non-Christian? I’ve decided to look at the flip side to discuss when divorce is Biblical.
We need to first look at what God thinks of divorce. He did not create it. It was one of those things that results from free will. He absolutely despises it:
Malachi 2:16 “For I hate divorce!” says the Lord, the God of Israel. “To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “So guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife.”
Why do you think He hates it so much? It is very simple: it reminds Him of how the majority of the world has sought divorce with God Himself! From the days of Eden, Adam and Eve were essentially married to God but committed “adultery” with the evil one. They chose Satan over God. Ever since then, people have divorced or separated themselves entirely from God. That is what divorce does: it separates a husband and wife. The Father sent Jesus Christ to this earth to propose to all of the earth a new marriage. A third of the world has chosen to accept this gift of eternal life as the new bride of God Almighty.
In the Old Testament, divorce was written about in Deuteronomy. Moses had no way of stopping divorce but God gave him the laws to regulate it. Only a man could divorce his wife and not the other way around. The wife could only plead with her husband to do so. He was to give her an official document for the divorce and she was to leave the house and usually return to her parents. The court would only deny the divorce request if the husband had falsely accused his wife of infidelity or if the marriage had been the result pre-marital sexual relations. This meant that from a legal standpoint, a husband could divorce his wife for virtually any reason. Just because this was law does not mean that God intended or desired this: it is a result of free will.
You must look in the New Testament to see where God gives us two cases where He finds it appropriate. First, Jesus is asked about divorce by the Pharisees and He replies by saying:
Matthew 5:31-32 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 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.
For the Lord Himself, immorality is the only reason to divorce. For the purposes of this passage, He says sexual immorality but there is more to it than that. If your spouse becomes a drug abuser, alcoholic, physical abuser, or commits other atrocities like murder or stealing then of course it is appropriate to divorce. Adultery just happens to be the most common reason but not the only one! That does not mean that you can throw in things like, “Well we just fell out of love” or “I can’t take this financial situation anymore” or “I’m not attracted to you now.” That is why choosing your spouse should be a careful process to ensure that you don’t end up with buyer’s remorse like that. That is why He says do not be unequally yoked.
Secondly, divorced is permitted in the case of a non-Christian leaving a Christian in marriage. Let’s say like before, that a couple are married and sometime down the road one of them gets saved and the non-Christian spouse can’t handle it and leaves, God will accept that. Paul writes about this here:
1 Corinthians 7:15-17 Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife? Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk. And so I direct in all the churches.