Divorce: The Middle Ground

I find a lot of Christians fall into one of two extremes on divorce: 1) It’s always sin, never allowed, or 2) It’s sad but often unavoidable and not really a big deal.

The first camp is far more vocal. I know leaders of major ministries who say the Bible makes no allowances for divorce, and they can explain away the clear biblical passages to the contrary. One even goes so far as to say if one or both people have remarried it’s God’s will for them to divorce their new spouse (to whom they are not really married) and remarry each other.

The other camp is far less likely to write or speak about their beliefs, but push come to shove they are just as able to explain to you why the Bible doesn’t mean what it seems to clearly say about divorce.

Divorce: The Middle Ground

You can probably tell by how I have described the two camps that I’m not in either one. My reason for this is simple, I think the Bible means what it says, and I see both allowances for divorce and a call for us to do all we can to avoid it.

My understanding is sexual sin breaks the marriage covenant and a divorce at that point is just paperwork recognising what has already happened*. In the case of divorce due to sexual sin, we are told the wronged individual is free to remarry.

I also see scriptural support for divorce in the case of abandonment. The issue of remarriage on this one is not clear. Many suggest divorce is allowed for abuse or addiction. Abuse is such an ugly thing it would have gotten a man killed by her father and brothers in the old testament. Addiction is a fairly new thing as it was difficult to be a full on drunk for much of history unless you were independently wealthy. I think both of these fall under abandonment, but again remarriage is unclear.

Actually, remarriage is the big issue. While we know God hates divorce, we’re never told doing it’s sin. What we are told is that it’s wrong to remarry when we don’t have a biblically valid reason for the divorce. As I read it, folks who had no valid reason to divorce are to stay single or get back with their spouse. I know that’s not a popular stance, and I’m sure plenty of folks reading this are remarried in such a situation. Fortunately, this is not the unforgivable sin, and God’s grace is just as real here as elsewhere.

*All of that said, having a biblically valid reason for divorce doesn’t mean you should divorce. God is all about reconciliation, and if there is any reasonable hope I think God wants us to work for that. Having the right to do it doesn’t mean it’s right to do it!

When we reject God’s allowance for divorce, we create a situation that can foster a great deal of sin. Adultery, abuse, and addiction become something a spouse is forced to tolerate because it’s wrong for them to divorce. On the other hand, when we’re too soft on divorce we encourage folks who could have a good marriage to throw in the towel. We also lower the bar for marriage because everyone knows they can leave and try again if it doesn’t work out. When people who should not be married to each other get married, divorce is very likely.

Let’s work to find what God wants, regardless of how we feel about it, and regardless of who it might offend. Then let’s live that out and encourage others to do likewise.

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