The Mind of God Regarding Divorce
On account of the recent controversies regarding marriage, divorce, and remarriage, many brethren despair of ever coming to a good understanding of God’s will on the subject. This despair is especially tragic considering that God has clearly revealed how He feels about divorce.
In Malachi 2:13-16, God powerfully affirms that He hates divorce and expects people to live in faithfulness in the covenants of marriage that they establish. Jesus affirms these truths in Matthew 19:4-6, 8-9, indicating that what God has joined man is not to separate, and that those who divorce their spouses for reasons other than sexually deviant behavior and marry another commit adultery. When God wishes to convey to the Israelites the great pain and misery that their idolatry has caused Him, He speaks to them in the metaphors of adultery and divorce (Jeremiah 3:1-5, Ezekiel 16:1-58, Hosea 1:1-3:5, etc.).
God’s view is clear: He hates divorce. Where there is divorce, there must always be sin: either the divorce itself is sinful, or the sin of sexually deviant behavior was committed that led to the divorce (Matthew 19:9). Where there is sin, there is pain, misery, sadness, and separation, and without repentance, death (cf. Isaiah 59:1-2, Romans 6:23, Titus 3:3-4, James 1:15). Let us remember that sin is offensive to God and required the precious blood of Jesus to cover it (cf. Habakkuk 1:13, Romans 5:1-11). Divorce is never portrayed positively in Scripture, and for good reason: there is nothing positive about it!
We must be prepared with this mentality when we go out into the world. We understand the value of sober-mindedness and preparedness when it comes to the temptations of sexual immorality, lying, and other similar sins of passion: if we make a firm decision beforehand not to fall into snares, it is easier to resist the temptations (cf. Proverbs 4:1-13, 5:1-2). Would this not also be true in terms of divorce scenarios?
There is no end of heart-wrenchingly tragic stories of divorce in this sin-sick world, and it is natural for us to feel compassion for people caught in such circumstances. Jesus, after all, often felt compassion for people (Matthew 9:36, 14:14, Luke 17:3). It is very easy to feel compassion for people in terrible circumstances and seek to find ways to “bend the rules” to justify them. Yet notice that Jesus never justified sin on account of His compassion (cf. John 8:1-11)!
Is divorce different from other sins? Are there not heart-wrenching stories out there about women who went through terrible circumstances and then aborted their children, or people who turned to homosexuality, or impoverished people who turned to stealing in order to survive, or people who immigrated illegally in order to eke out an existence? Are there not horror stories of people who have experienced child abuse or sexual abuse and went on to commit various sins? In all or most of these circumstances, even though we may feel compassion for people because of the tragedies they experienced, we would never think to compromise what God has said in order to justify their sinful conduct. We believe that abortion, homosexuality, stealing, breaking of laws, and other such sins are still sinful no matter what the circumstances.
Divorce is no different. God hates divorce. It is one thing to have compassion on people in terrible circumstances, but we must never misdirect that compassion and justify what God has declared to be sinful. If we arm ourselves with this way of thinking–recognizing that God hates divorce, that divorce either is sinful or is directly caused by sin, and that pain, misery, and suffering are there whenever divorce is present–we will find ourselves better equipped to proclaim God’s truths regarding marriage, divorce, and remarriage in sober-mindedness. Let us share God’s mind regarding the evils of divorce, and proclaim that truth with all diligence!
Ethan R. Longhenry