What Does the Bible Say about Divorce and Remarriage?
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The Bible is explicit about divorce and remarriage. In the Old Testament, Moses permitted a man to obtain a divorce on just about any grounds.
"If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the Lord. Do not bring sin upon the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance" ().
Later on, in the New Testament, when Jesus was asked about divorce, He replied that Moses gave permission to divorce because of the hardness of their hearts. He said that in the beginning it was not this way. Jesus continued:
"Haven't you read that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?" So they are no longer two but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate" ().
Before God, marriage is a lifetime relationship that should never be severed by human action. In the book of Malachi, God says that He hates divorce (). God's perfect will is the preservation of society and future generations by the preservation of marriages. God will give anyone great help in sustaining a marriage relationship or in the reconciliation of estranged marriage partners. In extreme cases, there are only two grounds for divorce and remarriage.
When adultery has taken place, a divorce can be obtained, because adultery has already severed the marriage relationship and divorce is a formal acknowledgment of what has already taken place.
The apostle Paul added to the teachings of Jesus what is called the "Pauline privilege." According to this concept, Paul taught that if an unbelieving spouse leaves a believer, the believer is not bound to the marriage relationship, but is free to remarry" (). And some people recognize such a thing as a "constructive desertion," which would be when a husband so brutalizes his wife that it is impossible to live with him any longer; or when a wife has so harassed, or brutalized her husband that it becomes impossible for him to stay with her. When that happens, whether or not the person actually moves out, the situation is the equivalent of desertion, and divorce and remarriage are permissible.
Except for these reasons, there is no justification given in the Bible for divorce. No grounds exist for divorce on the basis of incompatibility, lack of love, or differing career goals. Frankly, it seems impossible that two born-again Christians who are dedicated to serving Jesus Christ can find any grounds for divorce.
Obviously, when a person who does not have biblical grounds for divorce remarries, he or she is technically committing adultery.
What Should I Say To Two Believers Who Divorced, Remarried, And Are Now Aware Of What The Bible Says About Divorce?
Divorce is rampant in the United States, and it is rampant among Christians and non-Christians alike. There are some instances where people have married not once or twice, but three, four, five, or six times. They have had a succession of mates, a succession of children, and a succession of problems.
God is on the side of people. He loves people, and He understands what has happened in such situations. But it is impossible for me to say that this conduct is all right. A minister of God must teach what is in the Bible; yet the teaching must be tempered with the biblical understanding of God's love. It is very difficult to make hard and fast rules.
Does one, for example, tell a three-times-divorced man to go back to his previous mate? What if the previous mate is now remarried? Is it right to ask the remarried couple to make a second divorce and break up a second home? The basic rule is that divorce and remarriage are not permitted, except for adultery or desertion, and that is the rule the church should stick to. Young people should be made aware that marriage is for life - for keeps - and not something to be entered into and then gotten out of whenever one feels like it.
However, given the appalling state of marriage in the modern world, I feel that the church should use its power of "binding and loosing" (see) to provide guidance in the way of forgiveness to divorced and remarried couples who have received Jesus Christ after their divorce. In other words, the church should (and I personally would) say that what happened in your past life is covered by the blood of Christ. Enjoy your present marriage and live in it to the glory of God without recrimination. However, for Christians who have divorced (after being born again) for reasons other than adultery or desertion, I believe they should either be reconciled to their Christian mates or remain unmarried.
Finally, in these complex personal matters I recommend prayer, study of the Bible, and that you counsel with a wise and godly pastor in you own community.
Is Cruelty Grounds for Divorce?
It depends. I do not think mental cruelty is grounds for divorce if mental cruelty concerns the way a mate twists the toothpaste tube or hangs stockings in the bathroom. That type of mental cruelty has been defined in so many different contexts it has no meaning.
However, I do think physical brutality and abuse, and mental abuse of a nature that endangers the person's mind or body, are clearly grounds for divorce. The Pauline privilege, which I mentioned earlier, () permits divorce on the grounds of desertion by an unbelieving spouse. For mental cruelty to be grounds for divorce, it must involve conduct which makes it impossible to live with the spouse without endangering oneself.
The sort of cruelty I have in mind would not spring from a criticism of a souffle or a brother-in-law. Minor irritations need loving attention, but should not be allowed to rupture a holy relationship.
Obviously, a couple composed of two born-again Christians does not fall under the Pauline privilege. Divorce and remarriage for any reason are truly unthinkable for two people who sincerely love God and are trying to serve Him.
Scripture references are taken form the New American Standard translation of the Bible.
Excerpt taken from Answers to 200 of Life's Most Probing Questions, Copyright 1984 by Pat Robertson.
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