On what ground should one divorce? Statistics show that about 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce, and the divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even much higher. The case is different for Africa, as the majority of men choose to have multiple partners (polygamous marriage) once they are fed up with their spouses. Single parenthood has become the norm of the twenty-first century, as empower women choose not to get married since the majority of men have become irresponsible and therefore unreliable.
One of the most asked questions is, “on what ground are Christians justified to divorce?” At one time when Jesus was in Judea, the pharisees come up to Him to test Him by asking if it was lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause. Before we look into Jesus’ reply, let’s first see what Paul the Apostle had to say concerning the same, but in a different setting. I Corinthians 7, reveals Paul’s response to questions regarding marriage. He offers us one of the basis on which divorce can be justified.
1 Corinthians 7:12-15
To the rest I declare–I, not the Lord [for Jesus did not discuss this]–that if any brother has a wife who does not believe [in Christ] and she consents to live with him, he should not leave or divorce her.
And if any woman has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she should not leave or divorce him.
For the unbelieving husband is set apart (separated, withdrawn from heathen contamination, and affiliated with the Christian people) by union with his consecrated (set-apart) wife, and the unbelieving wife is set apart and separated through union with her consecrated husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean (unblessed heathen, outside the Christian covenant), but as it is they are prepared for God [pure and clean].
But if the unbelieving partner [actually] leaves, let him do so; in such [cases the remaining] brother or sister is not morally bound. But God has called us to peace.
In this verse, he addresses a case of 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, trying to keep him or her in the marriage may only create 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].
What Jesus taught
Jesus reveal that divorce is allowed if the marital bed is defiled [for the purpose of unchastity]. In Matthew 19:3-9, Christ teaches clearly that divorce is an accommodation to man’s sin that violates God’s original purpose for the intimate unity and permanence of the marriage bond [covenant].
I say to you: whoever dismisses (repudiates, divorces) his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits’ adultery, and he who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
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. The all point of divorcing your partner proves useless, and 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 advocate for divorce. In fact in Matthew 19:4-6, He reveals to us that it was not so from the beginning, as 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].After all means are exhausted to bring the sinning partner to repentance, the Bible permits release for the faithful partner through divorce [Matt. 5:32; 1 Cor. 7:15].
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 that 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.
Divorce in the Scripture is permitted only because of 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.
1 Corinthians 7:39
A wife is bound to her husband by law as long as he lives. If the husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she will, only [provided that he too is] in the Lord.
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.