Why is the divorce rate amongst Christians the same as it is amongst those who do not profess any faith or church membership? Are Christians as solidly grounded in the details of God's will when it comes to marriage, divorce, and remarriage, as they claim to be?
Divorce is the failsafe that is designed by the Lord God to undo the most intimate relationship two human beings can have on this earth…but only in the case of the greatest betrayal: adultery. Yet, in reality, divorces on the grounds of adultery are not common; as a matter of fact, other reasons are usually cited, with the act of adultery occurring after the marriage partners are separated.
There are no winners in a divorce, but the real losers are the children, who almost always bear the brunt of their parents' bruised egos, contentions, and selfishness; many a parent hopes that finding new happiness in the arms of another will be better for the children (if the parent is happy, the child will be, too), yet statistics show that children may unconsciously hold grudges against their parents, and when the latter enter advanced ages, they will find themselves without the much-hoped-for filial support they might have otherwise enjoyed. (1) Of course, many a child is thrust into poverty when a divorce takes place, so perhaps this is part of the reason why aged parents of divorce-impacted children will not find themselves on the receiving ends of financial and emotional support. (2)
By way of a short refresher, here are some of the expectations God has of a marriage; marriage is…
between one man and one woman (Matthew 19:4-5)
a life-long commitment, not to be dissolved except in the case of marital infidelity (Matthew 19:9)
a relationship based on the social equality of man and woman (Galatians 3:28)
…a relationship that has roles assigned to it, with the woman being submissive to
the man (1 Corinthians 11:8-9) and the man giving up everything he has/is to serve his wife and keep her safe spiritually (Ephesians 5:25-27) (3)
But What about the Murky Waters of Divorce and Remarriage?
Does the Bible also speak on these issues? Why yes, it does! While these ideas may not be hugely popular in certain denominations, they will be even less celebrated in a culture where "#1 does not refer to God, and where "Self is no longer a noun or a prefix, but instead the celebration of a lifestyle memorialized by a magazine. Here are some of the specifics:
1. Those who become Christians during adulthood are accepted into the fellowship in whatever marital or divorced state they are. It is unscriptural to demand that a person divorce a new spouse in order to reconcile with a previous one. Similarly, it is forbidden to encourage a Christian to divorce the other spouse for not holding the same beliefs as s/he does.
2. The only valid reason for a Christian to divorce is adultery. The marriage bond is broken for both parties, and either one is free to remarry should they choose to do so. (Matthew 5:31-32)
If a Christian seeks to divorce for other causes, s/he is in violation of God's command, and--should s/he proceed with the divorce anyway--must remain unmarried. The only hope s/he may have for a husband-wife relationship is reconciliation with their divorced spouse. (1 Corinthians 7:10-11, 1 Corinthians 10:13).
3. If a Christian is deserted by a non-Christian spouse, s/he is no longer bound by the marriage vows and may divorce the deserter. (1 Corinthians 7:12-15)
So what does this mean?
If you are a Christian who is dating a divorced Christian (divorced from another Christian for reasons other than adultery), you will need to end the dating relationship. The other person is not free to pursue a dating relationship. Similarly, if the shoe is on the other foot, you will need to refrain from dating yourself.
If you are the Christian spouse of another Christian who abuses you or the children, you must get to safety and you do have the right to separate, always in the hope that the abuser‘s spiritual immaturity and weakness will be repented of. You should stay separated until you are certain that abuse will not reoccur.
If you are a Christian who is married to an unbeliever, you must remain righteous and not pray for the unbeliever's departure. Instead, you must work with all diligence on preserving the marriage relationship, and not view the possibility of divorce in case of the unbeliever's desertion a goal to be worked toward. (1 Peter 3)
But what if you are unhappy/dissatisfied/disillusioned with your spouse? What if s/he gained weight/got wrinkles/lost all fashion sense? What if s/he is a slob who burps/smells and doesn't care about your love for the ballet? What if s/he doesn't "understand you, and you are sure that the God-fearing co-worker you have been eating lunch with would be much more suitable for you? What if the single down in the front pew is gainfully employed (as opposed to your spouse who sits at home on the sofa and hasn't held down a job in goodness knows how long) and would be a much better provider than your spouse could ever be?
Well, first and foremost, you are probably deluding yourself with the notion that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. If that little bit of common sense cannot stop you from committing a sin against God and your spouse, there is only one last emergency break left…
Malachi 2:16:"‘I hate divorce,' says the Lord God of Israel.
Ecclesiastes 5:4-6: "When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, ‘My vow was a mistake.' Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands?
There is no gray area when it comes to divorce. As a Christian parent, you must have a deep conviction about this for your own life, before your children can have a prayer for theirs. Yes, it may mean heartache and loneliness, but God can fill the void better than any (wo)man.
1. What Goes Around Comes Around" by Frank Monaldo
2. Government and Divorce" by Frank Monaldo
3.All I Ever Needed To Know About Protecting Marriage, I Learned From Adam And Eve" by Yours Truly
This article was previously published at Suite101's Christian Parenting topic.