Have you ever wondered what the Bible has to say about divorce? It seems like almost everyone has been divorced at some point or another in their life. If your life is anything like mine, you probably have family members, neighbors, co-workers, and friends who have had a divorce before. I recently heard a statistic that claimed that the divorce rate is now around 50%. I have seen so many families ripped apart by divorce and that makes me so sad. In my mind, divorce is flat out wrong. God has blessed me in that I live in a house where there is no fear of divorce. My parents love each other and there has never been any fear of them getting divorced. Many of my Christian friends live in similar households. They live without fearing whether or not their parents will get a divorce. But unfortunately, this isn't the environment that everyone lives in. The simple truth is that divorce is becoming expected of marriages in America. People are beginning to almost anticipate married couples to get divorced after a few years. It has become the cultural norm. And so with divorce becoming more and more common in America, we ought to take a look at what God the author of romance, has to stay about ending a marriage.
But before we look at what the Bible says about marriage and divorce, we must come to a common understanding that God is the Creator of romance and of marriage. As we'll look at in just a second, it was His idea for a man and a woman to become one, and so we ought to abide by His rules and His advice. No one knows more about the subject than God, so we should trust what He has to say (whether we like it or not). He created it, so what He says goes. That said, let's look at what He has to say.
There are two questions we need to answer: 1) Is it ever okay with God to get a divorce?, and 2) If yes, then under what circumstances will God allow a divorce? There is only one place to find God's law on marriage and that is in the Bible. The very first mentioning of marriage in the history of the world can be found in Genesis 2:18-25. I'll share part of that passage here:
"The Lord God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him'... So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, 'This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.' For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh."
What should we take away from this Scripture? One thing I take away is that marriage is a good thing. God created it for our benefit and our pleasure. I also believe it brings God great joy when two of His children marry. He certainly seemed happy to make the woman for Adam, and that only reinforces the fact that marriage is a good thing. Another thing we can learn from this story is that if God brings a man and a woman together to become "one flesh", who are we to rip that one flesh apart? Why should we think it's okay to separate something that God has formed?
The next passage I want to look at is in Matthew 19:
"Some Pharisees came to (Jesus) to test Him. They asked, 'Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?' 'Haven’t you read,' He replied, 'that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.' 'Why then,' they asked, 'did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?' Jesus replied, Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.'"
This definitely agrees with what I just said about how it's not okay for man to separate something God has formed. Jesus said that when a couple marries, they become one flesh. One person. They are to be one in body, mind, and spirit. Now of course He isn't say they literally become one body. They don't morph into a two-headed person or anything like that. That's not what He's saying at all. Have you ever seen a husband and wife finish each others' sentences? Have you ever seen them communicate without talking? I know some couples who can almost communicate just by looking each other in the eye. On the other hand, I've seen marriages who aren't physically romantic with each other. We couldn't have children if we didn't have marriage. God has given us the gift of marriage so we can have babies, so we have someone to go through life with, so we can have someone who can comfort and love us, and simply for our great pleasure. He has also given us marriage as an example of Christ's love for us. For as a husband loves his wife, so Jesus loves the Church, the body of believers. Jesus loves His bride (the church, the Christians) in the same way a man loves a woman.
But Jesus said something else that's very relevant to our discussion. He said, "...anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery." Right here, we have the answer to both of our questions. Yes, there is one valid reason for divorce, and that reason is if your spouse sexually cheats on you. In other words, if my wife sleeps with another man, I have the right to end the marriage. It's my decision to make. I can either leave her or stay with her. If that ever does happen to me (which I pray it never ever does), then I would see how repentful she was before I made my decision. If she truly was sorry and convinced me that she would never do it again, I probably would stay with her. It would be really hard knowing she has intercourse with another man while married to me, but that'd be my decision and my burden to carry. On the other hand, if she wasn't as sorrowful or repentful as I want her to be, I probably would leave her. I simply have no desire to be with someone who would be unfaithful. Of course, there's more to it than that, because I would also have to take any children we have into consideration. But bottom line is if I chose to leave my unfaithful wife, it would be allowed by God.
The flip side of this is if my wife had been faithful and I left her, then I would be breaking God's law. If for whatever reason I chose to leave my faithful wife, that'd be sinful. If I get divorced because "I fell out of love," "I just need to be free again," "I love somebody else now," or "You're just not good enough anymore," those aren't valid reasons for a divorce. The only time divorce is permitted by God is if your spouse has cheated on you. For no other reason will a divorce follow God's law on marriage. God goes as far as to say that you commit adultery if you divorce your spouse and remarry. (I do want to clarify that this accusation is for the person who initiates the divorce. For example, if your spouse leaves you against your will, then you are clear of these charges. If you mutually end the marriage, you're both to blame. And if you leave against your spouse's will, the accusations will fall solely on your head.)
If you get a divorce for a reason other than marital unfaithfulness, you are a liar and a deceiver. Allow me to explain. I believe that when you say "for better or for worse," you better be meaning it. The wedding vows are just what they are: vows. They're promises. When you say that you will love that person for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, then you're telling that person you will remain faithful and committed through thick and thin. No matter what happens, I will always love you. I will always be with you. I will always be faithful to you. I will never leave you. That's what it means to really love someone. Remember the definition of agape love, the type of love talked about most in the New Testament by Jesus and the authors of the New Testament books? Agape love means unconditional love. When you say your wedding vows, you are confessing unconditional love. By saying you will love that person for better or worse, for richer or poorer, you are saying that no matter what, I will always love you. That's unconditional love. No matter what the conditions are, I will always love you. If you don't mean that, don't say it. If your love is conditional, please don't disgrace the wedding vows by acting as if it were anything else. If you aren't committed to sticking with that person through thick or thin, don't marry him or her. Save your time and don't tie the knot.
When you're married, you will go through a lot of crap. That's the truth. You may experience infertility, the death of a child, moving across the country, new jobs, loss of jobs, loss of house or transportation, death of parents, prodigal children, the challenge of raising kids, the challenge of staying faithful to each other, the death of your siblings, and an endless host of other problems. I have seen marriages end from everything from falling "out of love" to the death of a child. When a child (say, a toddler) dies unexpectedly, sometimes it can be hard for the parents to remain together because they remind each other so much of that lost child. The pain is too fresh, the memories too painful. (I'm not saying I think it's okay to leave under these circumstances; I'm just saying it won't always be easy to remain faithful and committed.) Now you may not go through the loss of a child, but you will go through some terrible pain. You will have really hard and tough times. If you leave your spouse when times get tough, then you're turning your back on the vows you made to your spouse at your wedding.
I want to leave you with an encouragement to be a servant leader in your romance. If you want to have a successful and enduring marriage, you'd do well to be patient, kind, humble, respectful and respectable, selfless, forgiving, honest, and committed. Be committed to love your spouse through the good and the bad times. Love your spouse no matter what the conditions are.