The Pharisees once asked Jesus if God disapproved of divorce, why did Moses give instructions for a proper handling of a divorce in the Old Testament? Jesus replied, “Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended” (Matt 19:8).
Is divorce permitted? Yes. Is it ever the best option? No. People now get divorces over trivial things – inability to get along, loss of romance, stress associated with children, etc. What does the Bible permit as actions that are divorce-worthy?
Two times in the Bible God gives allowances for divorce (but many people would even argue with these two issues). First, if a spouse has been sexually immoral and unwilling to repent (Matt. 19:8-9), divorce is allowed. Second, if a non-Christian spouse permanently deserts the Christian spouse (1 Cor. 7:15), divorce is an option. Even with these two scenarios, just because divorce is permitted, a person must go down that path after many attempts at reconciliation and prayer. Divorce brings about consequences.
You might be wondering, “What about an abusive relationship? What about a spouse who is an alcoholic or in trouble with the law?” While the Bible does not speak specifically to those issues, the concept of trying to maintain the vows at great costs should still be attempted. No one should stay in a home where a spouse puts one or one’s children in physical danger, but that also doesn’t mean that divorce is the only option.
When Moses allowed a certificate of divorce, he knew that if he did not provide a reasonable approach to handling marital disagreements, many worse options would begin to transpire with the people of God. If a man disliked his bride and was unable to divorce, he may try murder, adultery, polygamy, or isolation. If those were the options, Moses allowed an escape clause out of the marriage, but it was never seen as a good thing. If there are issues in a marriage, try to work them out at all costs.
The Bible’s stance on divorce: It is permitted but never promoted.
For more info: “How Should a Christian View Marriage and Divorce?” Amy Desai, J.D. – Focus on the Family
Or to hear a great message on divorce and remarriage, go here.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.