What does the Bible say about divorce?

Common opinion is that half of all marriages will end in divorce. While the actual numbers may be a little lower than, closer to 45%, divorce is a significant issue in America. Though divorce is widespread it remains a controversial subject. The extensive no-fault divorce laws have not only simplified the process of divorce they have facilitated the increase of divorce. Divorce is an emotionally charged subject. The love that once existed between two people has become anger or sorrow. The intensity of anger, the depth of grief, the great shame and concern for children are just a few of the factors that add to the personal challenge of divorce. The Bible speaks about divorce. What does it say?

Jesus speaks clearly about divorce. His word’s in the Gospels echo the rest of Scripture. God’s intent is for marriage to be permanent and divorce is never in accord with the original design of God. Divorce was permitted only in specific, narrowly defined situations. Jesus rejected no-fault divorce and divorce for petty reasons. Falling out of love, meeting a soul mate, growing up, wanting to reach one’s dreams, feeling held back or being stifled are not valid reasons for divorce. When the Pharisees heard Jesus’ teaching about marriage they wanted to know why Moses gave commands about divorce. “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” (Matthew 19:8) Jesus said Israel was given instructions regarding divorce was because of the sinfulness of man. The Mosaic commands about divorce did not endorse the practice but regulated it.

Jesus’ taught that God created man and woman and He created marriage. When a man and woman are joined together in marriage they are made one by God (Mark 10:8). No one should attempt to divide what God has joined.

Jesus said adultery was the only justification for divorce. “But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.” (Matthew 5:32) “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.”

1 Corinthians 7 contains further teaching on this topic. The apostle Paul answers some questions about the responsibility of a Christian to his or her unsaved spouse. If an unsaved person leaves their saved spouse the saved one does not have to try to preserve the marriage. If the unsaved spouse is content to stay with the saved then the saved person is not to leave the unsaved spouse.

The Biblical teaching is that marriage is for life. Only when the other spouse has turned their back on the vows of marriage is a person permitted, but never required, to be divorced. Even though divorce is at times allowed, it is never a good thing. Malachi 2:16 declares God’s opinion of divorce. “For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that He hateth putting away.”

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