When is divorce permissible?

My spouse and I are Christians. She says she is no longer in love with me and is filing for divorce, and I am against it. What does the Bible say about divorce between Christians?

Answer

Divorce, the legal dissolution of marriage, is a departure from what God intended and is not endorsed by Scripture except under limited conditions, and even these conditions are debated by many evangelicals. Jesus stated that, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.” (Matthew 19:8). Pride and selfishness often contribute to the conditions that lead to divorce. It was not God’s original design for marriage. 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. Divorce is often the product of inflexible wills. No manipulation of Scripture or rationalization makes divorce right.

Scripture states:

1. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)

2. 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.” (I Corinthians 7:10)

3. “Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. So, guard yourselves 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)

Although many Christians see that divorce is not an option, there are limited conditions under which divorce may be permitted:

1. When a spouse is guilty of sexual immorality such as adultery or homosexuality and has no intention of repenting or seeking god’s forgiveness, or forsaking his or her sin and living in faithfulness to his or her spouse. (Matthew 19:9)

2. When one partner deserts the other, especially when an unbelieving partner deserts a Christian spouse. (I Corinthians 7:15)

Just having an unbelieving spouse is not grounds for divorce. The Bible encourages the Christian spouse to “live in peace” with the unbelieving partner, with the goal of winning him to faith in Christ. ( I Corinthians 7:12-16)

Before you get a divorce, you need to count the cost of such action:

1. Is it displeasing to God? (Malachi 2:15-16)

2. Will it disrupt the continuity of life and adversely affect other people: children, parents, extended families?

3. Will it really solve any problems, or will it rather create a whole set of new ones? Divorce is an emotionally traumatic experience.

You need to exhaust every option in your search for solutions. This is especially true because of your position as husband, the spiritual leader of the home!

1. Attempt to work things out on a personal level in all humility and with a forgiving spirit. (Matthew 18:21.22)

2. Submit to serious counseling with a Christian marriage counselor or a qualified pastor.

3. If necessary, experiment with 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.

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