I am amazed on both the excuses that people make about divorce and the bad hermeneutics of some “scholars” concerning biblical text. They let their own broken state be the lens of their scholarship. What the biblical text actually says is quite intense and very clear.
Make no mistake about it: Divorce should never be an optional for two believers full of the Holy Spirit fire. Never. Divorce is only an option for unbelievers. Believers are not allowed to leave their spouse even in the act of adultery. (Matthew 19:3 makes it clear who Jesus was speaking to at the time.)
The following is a nice chart on when a believer can and can’t divorce.
|Death of Spouse||Yes||Yes|
While many might take issue with the chart, doing so biblically would be a challenge. When you read the passages in context, it is quite clear that divorce is not an optional for believers. While it is true that if you are abandoned, (1 Corinthians 7:15) you have to let go but you are given a “get a new spouse” card. (1 Corinthians 7:10-11 is clear on this).
Marriage is very serious to God and it must be serious to the faithful. Our marriages are a prophetic signpost to the unfaithful world of the Bridegroom. The sinners of this world are watching your marriage as a testament of God no matter if you like it or not.
Matthew 19 and Divorce
In Matthew 18, we read about a few things of importance. We see the importance of protecting the children, the wandering sheep, how to address sin among us, and the unmerciful servant. (Remember until 1551, there was no chapters and verses!)
We flow from that in Matthew 19. Jesus was dealing the issues of sin and attitudes and now the we see who comes around in Matthew 19:3,
Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”
How we miss this in the interpretation of the passage is something I just do not understand. Hermeneutics 101 tells us who is the audience is the first question one must answer to understand the larger text. Verse 3 is very clear that Jesus was addressing the Pharisees, religious zealots that were unbelievers; not the disciplines that go on to lead the apostolic church.
The sixth verse is where the Lord comes again and makes his position very clear about marriage. Again, how we miss this in our interpretation of the text is mind blowing.
So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
After Jesus gave the Pharisees his harsh take on divorce for the unbelievers, he turns and has a heart to heart discussion with the followers, future believers and he says something that is profound.
Jesus goes into a discussion about eunuchs and tells them some are born that way, some were forced to be one and others chose to be one for the sake of the Kingdom.
Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given…The one who can accept this should accept it.” (Matthew 19:11-12)
What about 1 Corinthians 7?
Paul’s writing to the church in Corinth, a church in complete compromise, is another passage that people don’t care to put in context. They try and make the passage justify their desires; not address their sinful nature against the written text in context.
In 1 Corinthians 7:1-15, Paul gave apostolic directive to the church in the city about marriage. The anchor verse of the passage would be verse 10-11.
To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.
Any interpretation of the verses around this verse would be through the lens of this verse. There is no getting around this. You must either stay single until the spouse perishes or you have to work things out to re-marry. There are no options for a second marriage. I am not sure where people get ideas for anything other than this.
A question becomes what about abandonment. In 1 Corinthians 7:15, it talks about this. There is a few things that you have to consider. First of all, the spouse has to be a unbeliever who leaves because of the faith. If the leaving spouse is a believer (on any level), it does not apply. Secondly, it says you are to let go and are not bound but it does not you can re-marry. The anchor text of verse 10-11 would still apply in the case of verse 15.
When does abuse become grounds…..
Some people in the more liberal churches suggest that abuse is grounds for divorce. Before answering this, abuse is a hard thing to define. A husband saying mean things to you in a disagreement is not abuse. If someone gets physical in a fight one time, that is not abuse either. Abuse must be a pattern, not an event. Many people cry “abuse” when there is no pattern of such.
With that said, the scriptures does not provide any support at all for divorcing because of abuse. It just is not there. Liberal thinkers who try and use “the heart of God” as grounds for adding grounds for divorces are on dangerous ground at best.
I am NOT suggesting that a woman should be the body bag of her husband that beats on her. I am only saying that using this for grounds for divorce is not biblical. In this is truly a pattern happening, pastoral care should be underway immediately to get to the core of the issues. There also might be legal issues at play depending on your state.
The root of most physical abuse is “sins that beset us.” (Hebrews 12:1) It is things like anger, envy, and debauchery that leans to physical abuse at home. There are no easy answers on how to deal with true abusive marriages but a time of separation should be reserved for the most extreme cases and divorce is never an option for the believer.