Sin has caused so much damage to God’s wonderful creations. Since the fall of man to sin, the world in its perfectly beautiful and harmonious state, has been plunged into a disfigured and chaotic condition. Imagine how that broke God’s heart since He loved His creation so much. The Apostle John described sin as an act of violating God’s divine law (1 John 3:4 Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.). If you look at the story of the fall of man (Genesis 3:1-11), the core of sin is all about listening to something else other than God, whether it is through our thoughts, emotions, desires, words, or actions. Sin is destructive because it affects not only one’s self but also other people and the whole of God’s creation. It has affected and continues to affect every generation. Marriage, God’s beautiful invention for man’s benefit, has also been greatly disfigured by sin. God’s authority and standards in marriage have been constantly challenged, disrespected, and set aside. Just like Adam and Eve, man started listening to something other than God’s will in marriage. A covenant meant to be an unbreakable lifetime bond has been turned by many into a flimsy and changeable relationship based on emotions, opinions, and circumstances. Divorce entered the picture and has wreaked havoc ever since.
God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16 “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,”[a] says the Lord Almighty.), and Jesus said that man doesn’t have the right to break the marriage covenant (Matthew 19:3-7). However, Scripture also gives us two clear biblical grounds for divorce. Thus, divorce is sinful when it is done for reasons aside from what Scripture explicitly allows.
When God created marriage, He mandated it to last for life. Jesus clearly states that God does not want anyone destroying the sanctity of marriage. When we violate what God declares as sacred, we are guilty of sinning against Him. So, if divorce is sinful, what about those who have been betrayed by their spouse through extra-marital affairs, abandonment, or abuse that threatens the safety of the spouse and children? Should they just tolerate these injustices in marriage to keep the marriage intact, simply because divorce is sinful? Scripture also tells us of certain exceptions that make divorce not sinful.
In Matthew 19:3-7, Jesus was tested by the Pharisees, who asked Him what He thought about divorce. They asked Him if it was lawful to divorce your spouse for any and every reason. In Jesus’ time, two popular schools of thought regarding divorce existed. One was the conservative view taught by Rabbi Shammai, which holds that the only reason a man can divorce his wife is adultery. The other was the more popular and liberal one, taught by Rabbi Hillel. He holds that any offense of the wife against the husband constitutes “marital unfaithfulness.” This allowed grounds for divorce to be as shallow as burning a husband’s food or not properly tying up her hair. Jesus replied by reminding them of God’s original design and standard for marriage since the time of creation. God bound couples in marriage, a covenant that man should never break apart. However, He also taught about the exception that God allows as a ground for divorce when there is sexual infidelity.
God values marriage so much that He does not allow anyone to tear it apart, but He also cares for those spouses who have experienced betrayal when the other spouse committed sexual immorality. Adultery is a direct violation of God’s 7th commandment (Exodus 20:14 “You shall not commit adultery.).
The other acceptable reason for divorce is mentioned by the Apostle Paul in his first epistle to the Corinthians.
In 1 Corinthians 7:10-16, Paul addresses the question of the Corinthians regarding divorce. He gave the couples a charge not to be separated from each other, but if they were separated, they should remain unmarried or be reconciled again. If any believing woman was married to an unbelieving spouse and was willing to live with him, she must not divorce him. Hoping that the unbelieving spouse may be won over to Christ. However, in the event that the unbelieving husband abandons and decides to divorce her, she may let him go. This principle also applies to a believing man with an unbelieving wife.
So, according to the verses above, these are the only two biblically acceptable grounds for divorce that are clearly expressed. Even though Scripture gives us these legitimate reasons, it is still best to hope and strive first toward forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration; when the offender remains unrepentant, divorce should be the last recourse.
Apart from the two legitimate grounds for divorce, according to Scripture, what about those spouses who are physically and emotionally abused, along with their children? What about those who have been deprived of their basic needs due to an irresponsible spouse? Or those who are in constant danger from a heavily alcoholic or drug-addicted spouse? Would it still be a sin if they resorted to divorce to protect themselves and children from a dangerous family environment?
Even though the Bible does not say anything about divorce due to life-threatening spousal or child abuse, it would not be right to advise an abused spouse to remain married to a spouse who puts their family in constant mortal danger. God hates divorce, but He also hates oppression and injustice. For instance, in the book of Malachi, God was indignant when He heard the cries and saw the tears of the divorced wives of the priests. He heavily reprimanded them for how oppressive they were towards their wives. Also, the Apostle Peter wrote in His epistle that husbands should be loving and understanding, showing honor to their wives as equal partners in the gracious gift of life (1 Peter 3:7). Spousal and child abuse are not only an offense to God but also a civil offense that should be reported to the authorities. The one who is abused should immediately consider separating from the abusive spouse and seek help from authorities and the church community.
When our marriages are challenged, we must always pause and consider God’s standards before considering divorce, except when there is imminent mortal danger brought about by the partner in the marriage. We sin against God when we justify divorce outside the bounds of what God allows. We must learn to trust God when we face marital problems and to always choose the path of repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration.
In John 16:33, Jesus told His disciples the reality of life on earth. There will always be challenges of different kinds that will test our walk of faith. When we vow to commit ourselves to marriage, we sign up not just for God’s blessings but also for the troubles that will inevitably come. Fortunately, Jesus assures His peace when we come against those tribulations in marriage. Find courage in His promise that, together with your spouse, you will overcome it all because Jesus is with you and able to overcome it all for you.
Will God love me if I get a divorce?
Knowing that getting a divorce for reasons outside what the Bible allows can make a person feel condemned by the thought that they are living a sinful life that can never be forgiven. This is especially true if that person belongs to a conservative church, which will often condemn people who are divorced. Divorce causes a lot of pain to a person emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. It can break a person’s life with so much grief, so much self-condemnation, relentless regrets, painful memories, trauma, and a badly broken heart. Indeed, a mishandled marriage ending in divorce brings bad consequences, not just to the spouse but also to the children. The damage and burden that it inflicts can be grueling and may drag on for years or forever. Not only will divorce break your heart and your life, but most importantly, it will break God’s heart. That is why God abhors divorce.
So if God hates divorce so much, will God still love a person who gets a divorce? The answer lies not in the awfulness of divorce but in the benevolent character of God. If we come to Him in repentance, He is faithful and just and will forgive and cleanse us from all the wrong we have done.
God’s love is unconditional. His love and mercy are not based upon our deeds but upon His character. God’s heart is abundant with mercy and filled with so much love for us (Ephesians 2:4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,). No matter how much, how big, or how awful our sins are, God will never love us any less. He may discipline us when we disobey, but ultimately, His love and forgiveness are always available to those who repent with a broken heart.
However, God’s unlimited grace does not mean that we can continue living in sin. That would be utterly disrespectful to God and devalues the sacrifice He made on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins and for our redemption. When one has gone through a badly handled marriage, that person must repent and learn from it. If possible, they may try to work out reconciliation and restoration, trusting in God’s restorative powers. Suppose the person is the one who committed adultery or the offender in any way. In that case, they must leave the sinful affair or any sinful acts that broke the marriage and seek forgiveness and restitution. God is loving and merciful, but He does not tolerate sin. He brings harsh discipline upon those who continue to be unrepentant in their ways. Discipline is part of how God shows His love for us as His children.
We find in Hebrews 12:4-11 that we must never take the Lord’s discipline lightly. We must be humble enough to receive it and learn from His corrections. As a father, God disciplines the ones He loves. We certainly won’t enjoy His discipline at first because it will always be painful. But later, after we have embraced the discipline and learned our lesson from it, we will enjoy the peace that comes from doing what is right before God.
Whenever the urge to turn to divorce tempts us, when things in marriage start to get rough and tough, we must look to God for strength and wisdom. After all, He is the author of marriage and the one who sustains it. We must trust in His character and His power. We must believe that He can always find a way out of seemingly impossible and messy situations. His discipline matures us in every stage of our lives and at every level of adversity.
In Galatians 5:22-23, it says that trusting in the fruit of the Holy Spirit will enable us to succeed in marriage, despite the troubles we may face. The Holy Spirit produces in us the character that brings love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We need this fruit to overcome the temptations of the flesh to control our marriage.
Lastly, reading from Romans 5:6-8, while we were helpless in our sins, Christ died for us to demonstrate how much He loves us. When emotion starts to cloud our sensibilities, when we are confronted with differences with our spouse, we may start to respond without love and respect. In those moments, we could entertain thoughts that tell us that our spouse is not deserving of our love and respect. Remember that Christ still chose to die for us, even though we are unworthy of His love. We must not forget that while we are personally unable to rescue ourselves from the problems in marriage, Christ died for us so that we may live victoriously. That is a beautiful thing about our God. Even though we are failing Him in our marriages, Christ chose to sacrifice himself for us to show His great love. God loves you so much; nothing you have done or ever will do will make Him love you less.