Divorce In The Bible
Is It Permitted?

Photo by Steve Snodgrass
divorce in the Bible
One of the most quoted statements about divorce in the Bible is that "God hates divorce" (Malachi 2:16). I can understand that. I hate it too. I have born the fear and sadness as a child of divorce and the overwhelming sense of failure because of my own divorce. I hate the hurt, sorrow, pain and despair it causes. I hate that children grow up without the daily presence of one of their parents. I hate the fear of attachment and betrayal that often arises in the hearts and minds of those abandoned. I hate that it makes it even more difficult to grasp what love really is.

However, if you are divorced or even a child of divorce, be assured that God still loves you. God does not stop loving you because your marriage ended or because your parents divorced. God does not love you because of what you do or do not do. He loves you because of who he is. God is love.

The Bible says God created marriage. From the beginning with Adam and Eve, God’s intent was that one man would unite with one woman and they would become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). Unfortunately, in this fallen world, things do not always work out that way. When sin entered the world, it brought with it behaviors and attitudes that often become the causes of divorce. When sin takes root in someone’s heart, it not only affects their relationship with God, it also grows like a weed choking the life out of the relationship between a husband and wife.

God is not silent about divorce in the Bible. Like everything else in life, there is the world’s view, your personal view and God’s view.

I personally had to wrestle long and hard with the topic of divorce in order to align my understanding with God’s thoughts. I wanted the Bible to say it was okay and I was not guilty of sinning against God. You must examine your own view and opinions about divorce in relation to God’s view.

“I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery." Matthew 19:9

Jesus said that divorce is not permitted unless there is unfaithfulness. He is not saying, “your spouse cheated, you have to get divorced”. Even if your partner was unfaithful, Jesus says that divorce disrupts God’s plan for marriage (Matthew 19:4-6). Jesus instead invites repentance and forgiveness.

Is Divorce a Sin?

It is important to understand the conversation Jesus had about divorce in the Bible in Matthew 19 with the Pharisees. They believed that absolutely any reason was a good enough reason to divorce one’s wife; even something as petty as bad cooking. In response to their opinion, Jesus, in Mark 10:2-12 and Luke 16:18 says, "that anyone who divorces and marries another is guilty of adultery".

In Jesus’ day, the Greeks, Romans and Jews divorced for many reasons. It is the same way in the world today. In fact, divorce is so common today that you do not need a reason. You can lump everything into the one category of irreconcilable differences. “We are not compatible anymore”, “we no longer enjoy the same things” or “we grew apart” are not reasonable grounds for divorce in the Bible. These fickle attitudes show disregard for the sanctity of marriage.

What about “we just don’t love each other anymore”? Well, love is not a warm fuzzy feeling. Love is a choice. Love is not about what you get out of it, as the world often portrays it to be. It is about what and how you give. It is choosing to put the needs of someone else before your own.

Paul also talks about divorce in the Bible. He agrees with Jesus’ stand against divorce and says it is not permissible between two believers (1 Corinthians 7:10-11).

Paul, however, deals with a new situation of divorce in the Bible – that involving unbelievers and believers. Paul is addressing new Christians who, upon conversion, find their non-believing spouse no longer willing to live with them. He tells believers to stay with their spouse if their spouse is willing to stay with them. It is easier to win them for Christ by staying with them and being faithful to the marriage. However, if an unbelieving partner chooses to leave, the believing spouse is to let them go (1 Corinthians 7:12-15). When a believer is abandoned by their unbelieving spouse, they are not bound to that marriage.

Abandonment by a non-believer is not a common reason for divorce in the USA and Canada where the Christian population is 76% and 93% respectively. However, in countries like India for example, over 80% of the population is Hindu and Christians only represent slightly over 2% of the population (over 24 million people). Like the Christians in Paul’s time, a change in religion represents a fundamental change in all aspects of life that is, for the most part, incompatible with the lifestyle of Hindu and Muslim religions. Real Facts About India tells us that Hindu divorce laws in India include a change of religion as a reason for divorce indicating this is a very real issue for people coming to Christ in other nations.

At the time of my separation, my situation did not meet either of the permitted reasons for divorce in the Bible. Later, when I realized how far from God’s will my thoughts and actions were, I felt like a failure. I could not conceive that God could forgive me for getting divorced.

The Bible says God can and will forgive me if I confess my sins (1 John 1:9). No sin exists that the blood of Christ is not able to cover. My biggest struggle and perhaps yours as well, is how to forgive myself and others. No matter what you have done or who you have hurt, God is willing and able to forgive you.

What about you?

How do the passages about divorce in the Bible relate to your situation? Does God’s view of divorce motivate you to make a renewed effort to save your marriage? Many marriages, even after a time of separation can be restored. If your marriage cannot be restored, you can still reconcile with your estranged spouse.

Does God’s view of divorce bring you to a place of confession and repentance? You cannot change the past. But, you can surrender it to God and let him provide you with divorce healing and fill you with hope after divorce.

Today, you undoubtedly face a different life than you expected. You agonize over what the future holds. But, God’s word offers hope after divorce and divorce healing to the brokenhearted. You can survive divorce and experience full divorce recovery. God will heal you and make you whole again if you put your trust in him.

How Do You Feel About What the Bible Says About Divorce?

Has your understanding of what God says about divorce changed since visiting this site? What affect has your belief and the belief of others about divorce had on you? Share your story!

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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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