Thereâ€™s nothing more painful than the death of a marriage, no place where true grace is more needed. often the church sees divorce as the unforgiveable sin. How often have your heard the line, â€œDivorce never entered my mind. Murder, yes. Divorce, no.â€ Funny as it is, what that says is divorce is worse than murder! the other side, more common today, it a casual attitude: â€œdivorce happens. Letâ€™s get you into a recovery group so you can get on with life and find another spouse.â€ Itâ€™s not that obvious, but it comes out as a victim thing where the absent spouse if the sinner and the present one is just a wounded soul.
Iâ€™ve taken a first pass at a statement of divorce. I put it here, hoping I can get some good comments to move it toward some level of adequacy.
Biblical marriage is the publicly pledged, permanent, exclusive, covenantal union of one man and one woman, husband and wife for life. Jesus confirms the permanence of marriage, saying "they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."
(Matt. 19:6). Building strong marriages and families is one of the church’s highest goals (Eph. 5:22-32; 1 Pet. 3:1-7). When a marriage runs into difficulty, the priority is true reconciliation, not just patching up. Anything short of that is a failure to honor God’s commandment.
The Bible prohibits marital unfaithfulness of all kinds, including neglect (1 Cor. 7:3-4), sexual unfaithfulness before or during the marriage (Gal. 5:19-21), and leaving a marriage for another person (Mal. 2:14; Matt. 5:32). Failure to honor the marriage vows is always sin (Ex. 20:14; 1 Cor. 6:9; Heb. 13:4).
Divorce is when a marriage dies, when the soul tie, the life connection, between husband and wife is broken and cannot be repaired. Jesus addresses two specific things that can kill a marriage: hardness of heart (Matt. 19:8; Deut. 24:1) and sexual uncleanness (porneia Matt. 19:9). He is clear that there are no "approved" divorces, no circumstances where divorce is sin free. The grace agenda is always forgiveness, healing and reconciliation. But when that is impossible, where there is irreconcilable abandonment, death of the marriage, divorce is a reality. Even as Jesus condemns husbands who leave their wives for other women, He expects the abandoned wife to be remarried, charging the adultery to the husband (Matt. 5:32).
Divorce is always the product of sin, but it is not the unforgiveable sin. The goal will be to move divorced people to God’s grace, back to God’s pattern for life. That will begin with support so they will find forgiveness and cleansing for the trauma wreaked by the death of the marriage. That will always include personal sin, not just damage from the sin of the spouse and the circumstances. When restoration has brought the person back to wholeness, there is the possibility of another marriage. Though that marriage will always be overshadowed by the presence of the former spouse and the broken marriage bond, it can be successful when done under the care of the church, with honesty about sin, and the power of the Spirit for Christlike life. Grace never ignores sin, but works God’s healing in moving broken sinful people to God’s pattern for life and marriage.