Divorce, the legal dissolution of marriage, is a departure from what God intended and is not endorsed by Scripture except under limited conditions. Divorce is the result of sin in the lives of one or both of the partners. More often than not, both are to blame to some degree. Pride and selfishness often contribute to the conditions that lead to divorce.
Divorce is often the product of inflexible wills: “Jesus replied, ‘Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning’” (Matthew 19:8, NIV). Divorce was not part of God’s original design for marriage.
No manipulation of Scripture or rationalization makes divorce right. Scripture states:
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).
The apostle Paul wrote: “To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. . . . And a husband must not divorce his wife” (1 Corinthians 7:10–11, NIV).
“Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. . . . So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. ‘I hate divorce,’ says the Lord God of Israel” (Malachi 2:15–16, NIV).
Conditions Under Which Divorce May Be Permitted
• When a spouse is guilty of sexual immorality such as adultery or homosexuality and has no intention of repenting or seeking God’s forgiveness, and living in faithfulness to his or her spouse (Matthew 19:9).
• When one partner deserts the other, especially when an unbelieving partner deserts a Christian spouse (1 Corinthians 7:15).
Having an unbelieving spouse is not, however, automatic grounds for divorce. To the contrary, the Christian spouse is encouraged to “live in peace” with the unbelieving partner, with the goal of winning him or her to faith in Christ (1 Corinthians 7:12–16).
If the person has divorced and remarried, he or she should try to make a successful second marriage. Leaving the second spouse to return to the first would be wrong. Two wrongs never make a right.
Count the Cost of Divorce
• Is it displeasing to God? ( Malachi 2:15–16).
• Will it disrupt the continuity of life and adversely affect other people: children, parents, extended families?
• Will it really solve any problems, or will it rather create many new ones? Divorce is an emotionally traumatic experience.
Exhaust Every Other Option Before Considering Divorce
1. Try to work things out on a personal level, in a spirit of humility and forgiveness (Matthew 18:21–22).
2. Submit to serious counseling with a Christian marriage counselor or a qualified pastor.
3. If necessary, consider a trial separation while searching for a redemptive solution. In a case of physical or psychological abuse, homosexuality, drunkenness, drugs, etc., a separation might be advisable.
1. Demonstrate a loving, caring attitude. Reassure the inquirer by saying that you are glad to assist in his or her search for a solution. You want to be a friend and share any insights you can.
2. Listen attentively, letting the caller tell the story and ventilate feelings until you feel you have a grasp of the situation.
3. Avoid playing judge. Don’t take sides. Your goal should be to present a scriptural point of view and challenge the inquirer to make the decision, knowing that he or she will have to live with it for life. Remember the example of Jesus. He dealt gently with the woman at the well, even though He knew that she had had five husbands and was then living with a man who was not her husband. He revealed Himself as Savior, and offered her “living water” (John 4:9–42).
4. Tell the inquirer that receiving God’s help means committing his or her life to Christ, whatever the cost. This commitment must be permanent, regardless of the outcome of the present dilemma. Ask if he or she has ever received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. If indicated, present Christian Biblical Counsel: STEPS TO PEACE WITH GOD
5. After receiving Christ, the inquirer can rightfully expect the Lord’s help. He or she will now find a new dimension to life and a new perspective which should be helpful in reaching solutions. For new insights into the divorce situation, he or she should begin to read and study God’s Word, and talk with God in prayer. Prayer and Bible study will bring new dimensions to the person’s own disposition and personality, and will help bring restoration with the spouse through repentance and confession.
6. Encourage him or her to exhaust all options in the search for a scriptural solution.
7. Pray for God’s intervention in putting the marriage back together according to Scripture.
8. If the caller is a Christian, share thoughts on restoration – Christian Biblical Counsel: SEEKING FORGIVENESS AND RESTORATION., emphasizing 1 John 1:9 and Romans 12:1–2.
“He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22).
“When a woman marries, the law binds her to her husband as long as he is alive. But if he dies, she is no longer bound to him; the laws of marriage no longer apply to her. Then she can marry someone else if she wants to. That would be wrong while he was alive, but it is perfectly all right after he dies” (Romans 7:2, TLB).
“The man should give his wife all that is her right as a married woman, and the wife should do the same for her husband: for a girl who marries no longer has full right to her own body, for her husband then has his rights to it, too; and in the same way the husband no longer has full right to his own body, for it belongs also to his wife” (1 Corinthians 7:3–4, TLB).
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:3–5, NIV).
“Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers” (1 Peter 3:7, NIV).
The Billy Graham Christian Worker’s Handbook; World Wide Publications, 1984, 1996