A few days after we returned from our honeymoon my hubby and I stood in the kitchen having a half joking, half serious conversation about divorce. Yeah, really, one week after we were married we were already discussing divorce. Now, don’t get me wrong, we were not talking about divorcing each other, just divorce in general. My hubby wrapped his arms around me and said, “You aren’t getting rid of me EVER! I don’t believe in divorce so I hope you really meant it when you said til death do us part.” I looked at him stunned and replied, “You aren’t getting rid of me either. The only way you are getting out of this marriage is dead.” Jokingly, hubby replied, “Agreed! I guess when I get tired of you I’ll hire a hit man.” Anyone who knows us knows we have a pretty dark sense of humor so no need to worry. Even today, anytime my hubby is being particularly annoying (he won’t give me the remote control or refuses to stop tickling me) I jokingly threaten him with divorce. He does the same thing to me whenever I am poke fun at him. He can be heard saying something like, “I’m going to find a nicer wife.” These jokes are our way of reminding each other what we both know very well…that there are only two biblical concessions for leaving our marriage and neither of us plans to travel that road…so guess what, we’re stuck, happily of course!
Because divorce devastates the companionship and oneness that God desires between husband and wife, it is not a part of God’s plan. Surely some of you must be thinking, “Aren’t there instances where divorce is best, especially if a couple is not behaving in a godly manner?” The bible says when two are joined together they are no longer two but one (Genesis 2:23-24; Mark 10:8). That means that you and your spouse are “one” no matter how poorly your marriage is functioning. God’s plan is that your commitment to trust Him to help rebuild your marriage takes precedence over your desire to break up the marriage. Although God does emphasize to us the importance of permanence in marriage, the bible does cite two instances in which divorce is permissible:
1. A Unbelieving Spouse Chooses to Leave a Believing Spouse: This is spelled out by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:15 where he says that if one spouse leaves another, the abandoned person is no longer bound to the marriage. While it is easy to rationalize leaving an unbelieving spouse who does not support or encourage your faith, it is not biblical. In the case of a Christian and non-Christian spouse there are two reasons to remain married:
(a) A Christian spouse serves as a witness to an unbelieving spouse. A Christian may play an important role in winning his or her spouse to the Lord. Scripture says that the Christian wife of a unbelieving husband can have a powerful influence on her spouse through her godly actions and example, which may encourage him to come to the faith in Christ (1 Peter 3:1-2). The same is true for Christian husbands.
(b) A Christian spouse can influence the couple’s children for Christ. If you separate, as Paul states, there is a good chance your children may not come to faith. It will help them to see your faith in the context of a united family.
If, however, your unbelieving spouse abandons you, and you have done everything you could to keep the marriage together, God will not hold you to that relationship. This is one of the few marriage “release clauses” found in scripture. You can’t stop someone from divorcing you; therefore God will not force you to stay married to an unbeliever who doesn’t want to stay married to you.
2. Adultery/Sexual Sin: Breaking the marriage vow to be faithful is a serious offense, however; because we serve a God that teaches us reconciliation and forgiveness, he wants us to follow that example in marriage. Our marriages are to mirror Christ’s relationship with us. As Christians, we know that Christ loved us so much that he died so that we might be forgiven for our sins. Christ’s willingness to die for our sins is the ultimate example of His love and faithfulness. This example teaches us that if Christ could forgive us, surely we can forgive one another. While it is permissible to separate on the grounds of adultery, God would much rather us turn away from our sins, repent and ask for His and our spouse’s forgiveness.
Just as one should count the costs of getting married, one should also count the cost of getting a divorce. Not only does divorce destroy the oneness created by God for marriage, but it can greatly affect any children the couple may have. Have you considered this cost? God’s plan for marriage is one of lifelong commitment. In fact, God doesn’t even want us to consider divorce. The following scripture lets you know just how serious God is about divorce.:
“I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel (Malachi 2:16).
What God has joined together, let man not separate…I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery (Matthew 19:6; Matthew 19:9).
Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery (Mark 10:11-12).
If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him (1 Corinthians 7:12-13).
There are some serious biblical consequences to divorce as we see listed above. For the most part, a person who divorces outside of biblical reasons is judged by God as an adulterer. Scripture warns, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous,” (Hebrews 13:4). Outside of biblical reasons for divorce, God recognizes the covenant that was made between a husband and wife forever. Even within the limits of a “legal” divorce God still views a divorced couple as man and wife. That is why a man or woman who divorces for reasons other than biblical reasons commits adultery. If God still sees you as married and you remarry you are committing adultery not only against the former spouse, but the new spouse as well. Don’t fool yourself into believing that divorcing for reasons other than the two biblical reasons listed above is okay with God. People will try to use unscriptural reasons for divorce and even twist scriptural reasons to satisfy their own agendas. Jesus said that divorce for unscriptural reasons and then to remarry is to commit adultery. Any confusion about the subject of divorce arises when we try to accommodate the divine standard to the lack of standards in our contemporary morality.
Our God is a restorer of marriages. My prayer is that you heavily consider the costs of divorce both spiritually and an on your family. If you choose to separate, please use that time as an opportunity to seek biblical counsel with a pastor or marriage minister at your church so that you can begin to rebuild a solid marriage foundation. Pray without ceasing because you never know how He’s using this situation in your life for your own or someone else’s good. Trust that God did not make a mistake in bringing you and your spouse together. In fact, he called you into your marriage for the purpose of serving Him. Remember that God created a plan for marriage and your participation gives you the opportunity to demonstrate God’s love, peace, grace and promises. Many blessings.