Monday, July 21, 2008

Is there divorce in God's Kingdom?

What does God think about divorce? HE HATES IT! (Malachi 2:16) How does Jesus handle the topic of divorce? He shuts the door on it and re-establishes marriage as something that should not be broken-up. (Matthew 19:1-12)

Jesus proclaimed 2,000 years ago that the reasons being used to justify divorce no longer hold water. Why? Because, the kingdom of God has come. And because the kingdom of God has come, everything has changed - including marriage. Jesus came to make everything right again. Because of Christ and because the kingdom has come, we now have all we need to stay married. Is divorce really an option if we are living in God’s kingdom? No! Because the kingdom has come and because of Christ, our hearts no longer need to be hardened toward each other and we can now live His way. “We have all we need for life and godliness.” Jesus has thrown the excuse of “irreconcilable differences” right out the window; this is no longer a legitimate reason for divorce.

What about infidelity? What about adultery? At first glance, it looks like Jesus leaves the door open for divorce in these situations. (Matthew 19:9) But, before we quickly make an assumption that divorce is always OK in the case of adultery, let’s take a look back at the passage in the Gospel of Matthew which immediately precedes this passage on divorce. Forgiveness is the theme of His teaching at the end of Matthew 18. If we follow His teaching on forgiveness, then divorce will not occur because of an act of infidelity. How could we claim to have forgiveness for our spouse if we divorce them after they have repented from the sin of adultery? I realize there are some extremely unique circumstances that can only be addressed on a case-by-case basis, but why do we throw the divorce card out there so quickly when there has been infidelity? Sadly, church leaders are often guilty of quickly encouraging or endorsing divorce when adultery happens. But, is divorce the answer? Is it God’s way? I submit it is not.
“Whatever God has joined together, let NO MAN separate.” – Matthew 19:6
Before I conclude, I want to speak to those who might have divorced for un-biblical reasons. Remember, God is full of mercy and forgiveness. Therefore, repent and accept the amazing forgiveness of God.


Peter Kirk said...

I agree that adultery which has been properly repented of should not be used as grounds for divorce. But surely most cases of divorce on the grounds of adultery are where the adulterous partner is unrepentant and has in fact gone off to live with someone else. Or they may be cases of repentance which is clearly insincere because it is repeatedly followed by further sin. How many times should such repeated sin be forgiven? I don't know.

Eric Jones said...

Good to hear from you. I trust all is well on the other side of the pond.

Unfortunately, I see divorce happening where the sinner has not left and where the offended party sadly does not give their spouse the opportunity to turn from the sin and come to true repentance. Instead they quickly get "lawyered-up". How long should they be given to show true repentance? I don't know. Like I said, there are unique circumstances that are hard to make blanket statements about.

You asked, "How many times should such repeated sin be forgiven?" Jesus said 490 times. That's a hard one for me to imagine, but it is the only thing I can come up with on the fly that might represent God's perspective.

Byron Harvey said...

Perhaps you're right, Eric, but I'm not sure that pastors and church leaders are so quick to counsel divorce. Maybe I'm just considering my own situation and the counsel I'd give as a pastor, but my guess is that most don't counsel divorce so "quickly". Maybe you have evidence to the contrary?

Eric Jones said...


I do have some evidence. However, as I re-read my statement, "Sadly, church leaders are often guilty of quickly encouraging or endorsing divorce when adultery happens," I feel that I overstated the point when I used the words "often" and "quickly".

Thanks for your comments.

J.G. said...

Doesn't this mean the one and only way to repent of divorce is to re-marry one's original husband or wife?

My father left my mom for a woman he was cheating with and married her, almost 20 years ago.

Though my father now goes to church regularly and reads his Bible, the Biblical perspective means that my father will go to hell due to his failure to repent of this sin. Repentance means only going back to my mom, according to the Bible.

You cannot repent of divorce yet stay married to your new spouse.

Is this correct?

Eric Jones said...

I think we need to differentiate between repentance and reconciliation. Repentance is the changing of our minds which leads to obedience and no longer committing the sin we are turning and repenting from. Reconciliation is more about restoring what we messed up because of our sin. Repentance is always possible in Christ, but reconciliation is not always possible.

If your dad hadn’t remarried, I would say make every effort to reconcile and remarry his first wife. However, things are a little different - he has remarried. So, we don't want to fall into the two wrongs make a right trap. In other words, if your dad divorces his 2nd wife, he will just be committing the sin of divorce all over again which doesn’t show repentance as he is committing the same sin that he is intending to repent from in the first place.

Bottom line, sin messes a lot of things up and leaves a wake of destruction. If we are sinning, we need to stop and make it right where possible. Sometimes our sin will leave a mess even after we come clean and repent.