Divorce may be an accepted fact of life in our culture. But for many Christians in broken marriages it presents a moral dilemma. Do they stay in an unhealthy, perhaps even harmful marriage for the sake of their vow and covenant? Or do they act against their beliefs and seek a divorce? The stark choices can leave Christians in a kind of limbo—no longer feeling committed to a marriage that is irreparable, but unable to take that step towards a new life.
As a Christian marriage counselor, I commonly encounter couples who are struggling with the challenge of whether to divorce or not, along with questions like these:
- Are Christians sinning in seeking divorce?
- Are they condemning themselves to hell?
- Must they suffer through an unloving, unwholesome marriage?
- Are there any circumstances that permit Christians to divorce?
What the Bible Says About Divorce
Let’s first consider what the Bible says. Deuteronomy gives us the only law about divorce in the Old Testament. Here, the Israelites are given a law which permits divorce, allowing a man to write his wife a “document of divorce,” and “she is free to marry another man.” (Deuteronomy 24:1-2). Opinions differ on whether this law is intended to justify divorce and/or remarriage, but most theologians agree that this law was in fact given as a way to provide PROTECTION to individuals who are in a situation that deals with divorce and/or remarriage.
In the New Testament, Jesus initially offers a more nuanced view to this question. In Matthew, the Pharisees ask Jesus, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” (Matthew 19:3). This verse is preceded by the phrase, the “Pharisees came and tried to trap Jesus” by trying to get Him to provide a black-and-white answer to determine where He stands on the law regarding divorce that was provided by Moses in Deuteronomy.
But Jesus knows their hearts and their intentions and recognizes their hardened hearts. Instead of answering their question, Jesus quotes Genesis and concludes: “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” As the Pharisees continued in their questions, Jesus takes this opportunity to expand on the law of Moses to explain that divorce is not what God intended. Jesus states, “Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended. … whoever divorces … and marries someone else commits adultery.” God’s standard, as stated by Jesus, goes beyond the law and states that God’s intent is for no one to divorce.
Forgiven Seventy- Seven Times
What we see here is similar to what we see when Peter asked Jesus about forgiveness in Matthew 18. Peter asked, “How many times should I forgive…seven?” But like the Pharisees, Peter wasn’t asking because he wanted the answer. He wanted to elevate himself and Jesus saw right through it. Jesus responded stating that God’s standard would be to forgive seventy-seven times.
What we see here is a true example of what Jesus expects of us: Don’tt have a begrudging heart. Don’t just check the box. He wants us to do everything we can to pursue HIM. Pursue Him with a pure heart. Not live life doing the minimum. But having a heart that is an offering to Him.
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- Portions of this article used by permission from Jeff Domen, found at https://gbfamilylaw.com/blogs/divorce-for-christians-can-it-be-an-act-of-faith/