As a Christian have you ever asked yourself what are the biblical grounds for divorce, and whether divorce is worth it?
There are 5 reasonable justification for divorce. When your partner defiles the marriage bed, when the relationship becomes toxic, when your spouse begins to sexually harass your daughter, when your spouse denounces the faith, and when your spouse denies you the freedom to worship.
“It is estimated that regarding forty-five to fifty percent of married couples within the US divorce. And therefore the divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher.”
The case is totally different for Africa because the majority of men like it better to have multiple partners (polygamous marriage) once they’re bored to death with their spouses. Single parenthood has become the norm of the 21st century, as empowered women opt to not get hitched with since the majority of men have become irresponsible and therefore unreliable.
One of the foremost asked queries is, “on what ground are Christians even to divorce?” At one time when Jesus was in Judaea, the Pharisees came up to Him to test Him by asking if it was lawful to divorce one’s partner for any cause. Before we glance into Jesus’ reply, let’s first see what Paul the Apostle had to mention regarding the same, however during a totally different setting. Chapter seven of I Corinthians, reveals Paul’s response to questions regarding marriage. He offers us one of the bases on which divorce can be justified.
“To the rest, I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace." 1 Corinthians 7:12-15, NIV
What Paul taught about biblical grounds for divorce.
In this verse, he addresses a case of an unbelieving couple where one of them becomes a Christian. In such a case the believing partner can live with the unbelieving partner if he/she consent to do so. But if the unbelieving partner (actually) leaves, he/she is allowed to do so; in such a case the remaining brother or sister is not morally bound, for God has called us to peace. When an unbeliever desires to leave, forcing him or her into the marriage only creates greater conflict. And what benefit is there in living in a house full of domestic violence?
The Apostle Paul, therefore, instructs believers to recognize that, “God, fortunately, allows the circumstances they find themselves in when they come to Christ.” (I Corinthians 7:20). “If they were called while married, then they are not required to seek a divorce. If they were called while divorced, and cannot be reconciled to their former spouse because that spouse is remarried or an unbeliever, then they are free to either be remarried to another believer or remain single.” (I Corinthians 7:24; II Corinthians 6:14).
Can I break the covenant of marriage?
The covenant of marriage is not yours to break, you didn’t form it, hence have no power to terminate it, only God can. The scriptures are clear, let what God and not man has joined together not be broken or separated by any man or anything. If it’s God who joined it, shouldn’t it be Him who has the right to break it? Then why are you trying to do it yourself? Ask God to heal your marriage and restore a renewed love and intimacy.
You can only separate for a moment, just as God would separate his bride (Israel) and send her to exile because of her sins. Then, He would take her back to himself and sanctify her. Divorce is never justified in scriptures on any grounds.
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What Jesus taught about divorce
Jesus reveals that the biblical ground for divorce is unchastity. In Matthew 19:3-9, Christ teaches clearly that, “divorce is an accommodation to man’s sin that violates God’s original plan for the intimate unity covenant.”
“I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.” Matthew 19:9
When Jesus said except for adultery, He was simply aligning with the law. He didn’t mean you have to divorce your wife on any basis including adultery. The proof of this statement is found in the book of Hosea. God had asked this prophet to marry a prostitute. Despite her unfaithfulness, he still took her back. This is how a marriage relationship should work. It should be built on the foundation of truth, love, and forgiveness. God was illustrating His love for us, even though we are always unfaithful.
Love demands a sacrifice and a choice. I am not advocating for adultery, don’t get me wrong. I just want you to understand that forgiveness is a more excellent path. The adulterous spouse has to take responsibility for his/ her sin and has to work out on building trust again.
I personally believe that Jesus was trying to tell the Pharisees that, not even on this ground was divorce justified. Since the divorced and divorcee were not allowed to join themselves with another partner. All point of divorcing your partner proves useless. Instead, the two should seek to reconcile (II Corinthians 5:18-19) by showing mercy to the undeserving partner as they seek to be cleansed.
By this, we know that Jesus never advocated for divorce. In fact, in Matthew 19:4-6, He reveals to us that it was not so from the beginning. God Had always intended that man and woman should be joined together as one (Genesis 2:24). From this, we understand that divorce has never been God’s agenda. Again Jesus puts it clear that what God has joined, no man should put asunder (Matthew 19:6).
The Pharisees argued that “Moses commanded one to give a certificate of divorce to his wife, to put her away.” (Deuteronomy 24:3). They said this to test Him. Jesus replied by telling them, “Moses allowed them to divorce their wives because of the hardness of their hearts, for they were a stiff-necked people. But that was not God’s intention from the beginning.” (Matthew 19:7-8)
Before considering divorce, please think of this.
People justify divorce on the basis of adultery. However, the question is, doesn’t the church who is the bride of Christ do the same? This is what I mean. In Ephesians 5: 25 the Bible commands that “husbands should love their wives the same way as Christ loved His bride and gave up His life for her.” What does this imply?
You and I are the brides of Christ. How many times have you as the bride of Christ broken your covenant with Him through your filthy disgraceful sin? Yet God has not disowned you (divorced you). How much more then, is expected of a married couple in Christ? Have you been conformed into the image of Christ? If yes of which all should aspire to, then as Christ, you can never consider divorce as an option.
What are the biblical grounds for divorce?
These are some of the reasonable justification for divorce, even though they can’t be considered as biblical grounds for divorce.
- When your partner defiles the marriage bed by involving another person sexually, (adultery).
- When the relationship becomes toxic. If there is domestic violence and your life and that of your children are at stake. It is wise to leave such a relationship, lest you lose everything and even your own life trying to save a broken relationship.
- When your spouse begins to sexually harass your daughter by forcing her into a sexual act with him. In such a case you need to save the life of your daughter if you are a true mother. You should never allow your husband to replace you with your own daughter. It’s better he does it with someone else but not your children.
- When your spouse is involved in cultism and has denounced his faith in God. This way you will save yourself from being seduced to idol worship and cultism.
- When your spouse denies you the freedom to worship and he/ she is not willing to be with you anymore. ( 1 Corinthians 7:13-15)
Divorce in the Scripture is permitted only because of man’s sinful nature (man’s sin). From these two cases we have looked into, it is clear that there is no ground on which divorce is truly justified. It has never been God’s intention from the beginning and only death can separate them.
“A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:39)
It’s therefore with no dispute that it is only the death of your partner that can justify you to break the covenant of marriage as you will be free from such covenant.
What do you think, on what are the biblical grounds for divorce? Let me know your thoughts on the comment section below!