Let’s start by pointing out that divorce can be a difficult and painful subject to discuss from a personal point of view because people in the midst of divorce, or those seriously considering it, are often times irrational and emotionally out of control. However, the subject of divorce from a spiritual and Biblical perspective is quite clear and simple to discuss. But that’s the rub. Does someone who is in the midst of this situation really care what God’s word says?
Sometimes when we are unhappy, caught up in sin, and out of control we can allow ourselves to get wrapped up in lies, so much so that we attempt to convince ourselves and others around us that we are right and justified in the decisions we make, no matter how misguided those decisions may be. What can make a man turn from the truth and embrace a lie? What can make an otherwise rational Christian become bitter and indifferent to God’s word? What can make us twist Scripture to make it say what we want it to say and embrace the things God calls sin all the while claiming God’s acceptance of our rebellion? And how can we ever convince ourselves that these things will make us happy or that God just wants us to be happy?
Marriage was instituted and founded by God when he created Adam and Eve. He created them “male and female” – Gen. 1:27 and said that the two shall become one flesh. This bond of becoming “one flesh” was never meant to be broken. Jesus affirms this in the New Testament when he quotes Genesis 1 to the Pharisee asking about divorce and responds with this statement, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What God has joined together, let no man separate” – Matthew 19:6. The two became one flesh in marriage, but God joined the couple together. From the beginning of time God designed marriage to be a union between man and woman and thereby ordained the concept of two people becoming one flesh and the idea that this union should not be broken. How is it that we can convince ourselves that at some point in our lives God, for the sake of our happiness, wants us to divide this “one flesh” union?
Marriage is a vow and covenant between the man and the woman with God as the witness. This is made clear in the Book of Malachi. God refused to accept the offerings of the people because he was standing firm as a witness against husbands who were being unfaithful to their wives. You might find it interesting that these men refused to remain faithful to their marriage covenant and yet they still expected God to remain faithful to them. They even ask the question “Why isn’t God accepting our offerings?” God’s response is found in Malachi 2:14 “Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.” I believe the marriage covenant is linked to our spiritual well-being and when this covenant is threatened or broken it disrupts our spiritual life. However, I also have to take into account the idea that a broken relationship with Christ is likely a factor in the marital problems to begin with. Malachi’s emphasis on the faithless husband is just one of the numerous symptoms of a people who already had a broken relationship with God.
The Bible tells us to be imitators of Christ and to have the same mind as Christ. It says husbands should love their wives like Christ loves the church and the Bible speaks often of marriage being a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church. In the metaphor, Jesus is understood to be the groom and the church is His bride. If we are to be imitators of Christ as the Bible says, then the relationship of Jesus Christ to the church becomes our example for the marriage relationship. Jesus is faithful to his bride, the church, even though the church is a whore who is continually unfaithful to him. He was faithful to the point of death. That’s the example we are to follow.
Divorce is a sin. It’s wrong. It’s outside of God’s will. It’s selfish, self-seeking, and does not honor God. It was not meant to be. Even Jesus says in Matthew 19 – “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” He goes on to say that anyone who divorces his or her wife and marries another woman commits adultery.
Jesus gives only one reason for divorce, sexual immorality. This, however, is not a command nor is it meant to be used as an excuse for divorce. Divorce is allowed in this case but is not desired by God nor required by Him. In fact, if Jesus is our example then forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration of the marriage should always be the first option. Even though the church is unfaithful to Christ and he could rightfully “divorce” her, he chooses to pursue his bride instead, seeking reunion.
These are the things I know to be true because I believe the Bible to be true. The problem still lies in the question, do Christians in this situation really care about what the Bible says or what God thinks? Does the urgency of their present situation trump the authority of Scripture? Does our culture’s acceptance of divorce as a common practice make the Bible’s teachings on divorce a moot point? The obvious answer is no. Yet is that how we live? It’s unfortunate that divorce is rampant within the Christian community.
Part of the problem may be that we get caught up in the lie that says “I need to start thinking about me and caring for myself and doing what makes me happy.” When we come to the point where we believe life is about us and our own enjoyment then I must assume that Jesus is no longer in the picture, since he would teach and live the exact opposite. Jesus says that in order for us to follow him we must take up our cross and deny ourselves. Paul says in Romans that we are to sacrifice ourselves daily as our spiritual worship. Denying ourselves and sacrificing ourselves is the opposite of living for our own happiness and pleasure.
That’s the truth, plain and simple. So why can’t we just call it what it is? If someone is going to get a divorce then why do we need to sugar coat it, look over it, and make it ok when it isn’t? It’s sin, let’s call it what it is. But in the same respect, staying “married” in name only just because it’s something you’re supposed to do and then avidly chasing other things or other people isn’t right either. If you are looking to do the right thing as far as God is concerned there is only one answer, follow the example of Christ. You have to choose to passionately love your spouse and unconditionally pursue him/her regardless of his/her faults.
Giving up on Christ and seeking after your own pleasure and enjoyment is unfulfilling and you’ll never truly be happy apart from Him. However, it is just as unfulfilling and wrong to “do” Christianity because you think it is what your supposed to do. The only right thing in the Christian life is to passionately love Christ and unconditionally pursue Him regardless of your own sins, faults, and weaknesses, knowing that he has passionately pursued you. Christ is the key to happiness. Divorce is just a symptom of a much deeper problem.