Divorce and the Bible
Matthew 5:32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
Just yesterday, one of the members of the church where I direct music made a public announcement that his wife of twenty-odd years has filed for divorce. I'm sure it was very painful for him, and it made me feel as if I had been slapped. So I wanted to get a few things off my chest about this painful subject.
First, let me say that my wife and I have been married for just over ten years, and we have one child, three years old. I realize, there are many people who have been married many more years, and have more children, who have still ended up getting divorced. I don't want to pretend to any feeling of superiority over those folks. According to the statistics, our marriage has lasted longer than many marriages do.
Next, I would like to state something that may make a few people angry. or at least make them dismiss me offhand: I believe divorce to be, hands down, the single most destructive thing affecting today's families. Gay marriage doesn't even come close to having the destructive effect that divorce has. And yet, I can't remember the last time I saw a Christian group picketing against divorce, or supporting an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to outlaw divorce. Let me make it perfectly clear that I am not trying to speak out in favor of gay marriage. I'm simply saying that we, as the body of Christ, are not putting our priorities in the proper place, when we expend all of this energy on the crusade against gay marriage, while divorce is ravaging our families. In the interest of full disclosure, let me tell you that my brother's marriage was ended when his wife decided she was a lesbian. Fortunately, they didn't have any kids. Meanwhile, I know personally dozens of people whose marriages have been wrecked by divorce. My wife went to a Bible college, and she personally knows dozens of couples who are on their second marriages. Which leads me to my next point...
Christian faith should make a difference in people's tendency to choose divorce, but it doesn't. Every reliable statistic I have seen indicates that Christians are just as likely (if not more so) to get divorced as non-Christians. This is a grievous problem in the body of Christ. What's more, many Christians do not seem to look on divorce as sinful, regardless of the verse from the Gospel of Matthew I quoted above. I have known numerous divorced Christians who are leaders in their churches. The news has been full of well known Christian leaders who have ended up divorced. Meanwhile, the Church turns a mostly blind eye on the problem. Am I saying we should stigmatize all divorced people? God forbid! But divorce has clearly become such an accepted part of our lives, that we simply don't notice it as much as we once did. Google "divorced Christians," or some combination of "divorce" and "Christian," and you will find people willing to jump through all kinds of theological hoops, in order to prove that Jesus was not as opposed to divorce and remarriage, as he seems to be on a basic reading of the Gospel accounts. Conservative Christians who would be horrified to find that their minister was a homosexual will accept their pastor's divorce with a shrug, and say, "He's a really gifted preacher!" I have had Christians angrily tell me that divorce and homosexuality are two completely different issues, and so they are. But the principle of calling sin a "choice" is exactly the same.
And then we come to the impact on the children. How many divorcing parents have tried to comfort their children with the statement, "No matter how much mommy and daddy have grown apart, your happiness will always be most important to us"? But is it? Is the happiness of the children really as important as all that, when two adults decide to divorce, simply because they aren't happy themselves? Don't try to tell me that every single divorce is a matter of abuse or infidelity, because it is patently untrue. I would venture to guess, in our current age of "no-fault" divorce, that the vast majority of people who divorce have decided that they are unhappy, that they married the wrong person, that the person to whom they pledged their fidelity is "just not the same person I fell in love with." Our culture has tried to teach us that romantic love is the one necessary thing that makes a relationship, and we (as a society) have bought the lie. How many divorced people have uttered the words: "We grew apart." Or that old chestnut, "I'm not sure I ever loved you..." Marriage is not simply love that goes on and on. Marriage is a commitment, in front of God and the community.
If we truly believe that marriage makes a man and woman one flesh, we should be greatly grieved by something that divides that flesh, as divorce does. We should recognize divorce as the horrible thing it is. We should, as a society, and particularly as the body of Christ, care more about the marriage than we care about the wedding celebration. We should take Our Lord at His word, when He tells us that divorce is something that should be seriously avoided. And yes, we should continue to love our divorced brothers and sisters, the way Christ loves them and died for them.