The institution of marriage was inspired by God. This sacred covenant was intended to ensure that two people entering into a marriage were aware of the many responsibilities inherent in the contract. God revealed marriage to be a “one-flesh” arrangement: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife.” Genesis 2:24.
A marriage covenant was designed to be something more than a legal contract in today’s terminology. In biblical times, a covenant was consecrated by the blood of sacrificed animals, symbolically showing “May what was done to this beast be done to me if I fail to honor my covenant with you.”
Marriage is a contract between two people that makes divorcing each other tantamount to a physical amputation of a part of one’s own body. As such, it is never meant to be entered into on a whim or based on feelings which can flame and then flicker feebly like a candle in the drafty room.
Malachi 2:14 states: “…she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.” Because marriage is a covenant, we don’t get out of it simply because our feelings have changed, if we want to please God.
So when you elected to marry, the facts were before you in the marriage vows: You’ll have good and bad times (“in sickness and in health”) but as long as you live, you will be committed to your partner.
No one made you say your marriage vows, and in your vows you promised to stay with that person, regardless of the situation or their fortunes, forever. Period. You swore before God to remain faithful to your spouse, come hell or high water.
So God “hates” divorce. But fear not! He doesn’t hate you! He even allows it in certain circumstances. He allows divorce when hearts become hard; when adultery enters the picture, when a believer marries an unbeliever (if it’s the unbeliever who leaves) and in a few other situations.
God does not recognize “mutual incompatibility” or “irreconcilable differences” as a legitimate reason to divorce, even though American law does. Why? Because any time you put two sinners under the same roof, you’re firing the opening salvo to mutual incompatibility and irreconcilable differences! We’re fatally flawed by sin. As such, we’ll never be completely compatible or completely in accord with each other 100% of the time, or even 80% of the time. That’s precisely why marriage is so rarely a bed of roses. It’s a bed of lumps and bruises and calluses onto which fall some irreplaceable, lovely, precious moments.
As a follower of Jesus Christ, “We just don’t love each other anymore” and “mutual incompatibility” are not valid reasons to divorce. Why? Because if God treated us the way we deserve (“divorcing” us!), none of us would ever get to heaven! It is our “job” as Christians to forgive and to love each other “no matter what,” whether we feel like it or not.
But what about Spousal or Child Abuse, Alcohol, Evil Actions or Sins of Our Spouse? All of these fall under the category of “a hard heart.” When people’s hearts turn hard, they begin to abuse others and (usually) themselves.
A spouse has the right, even the responsibility, to withdraw from his or her marriage covenant whenever continuing the arrangement puts them or their children or other loved ones in harm’s way physically, emotionally, financially or spiritually. But if your life is not in imminent danger…stay put while you get counseling from a Christian professional.
Get Counseling from a Christian Professional
As Dr Phil so often says, “You should have to earn your way out of a marriage.” You do this by seeking wise, godly counsel with a Christian professional and recounting how you “fell out of love” with the person you married. You’re too close to the situation and to your own hurt or anger to know whether you can or should be reconciled. If your spouse has committed adultery, you are within your rights to seek a divorce, but… as a Christian it’s your duty to forgive him or her. The duty of forgiveness is greater than the right to divorce. That’s a hard lesson, but the only one Christ teaches. Divorce should be hard, not easy.
Pray for your circumstances because divorce always involves sin, although not necessarily by both parties. Although the innocent party is free to remarry, usually he or she doesn’t want the marriage to end at all. The first question that should be asked is this one: “Can we fix what’s broken?”
Pray for forgiveness, because whether you’re the guilty party or the innocent one, what’s going through your mind is polluted by unholy thoughts and knee-jerk assumptions, many of which are unhealthy and unhelpful illusions.
And Marries Another, Dr Craig S Keener
Divorce and Remarriage, Guy Duty
Divorce and Remarriage (videotape), Dr Tony Evans
Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible, Jay E Adams
May I Divorce and Remarry? Dr Spiros Zodhiates
What About Divorce? Dr Spiros Zodhiates
If you’d like to know why some Christians in California choose to legally separate instead of divorce, complete the form below to schedule a consulting session.
Points of view or opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author.