Summary: Christians are taught of the necessity of honouring marriage. However, much of contemporary practise among churches reflects more of the world than of the will of Christ.
CAN A CHRISTIAN DIVORCE?
“Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, ‘Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?’ He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.’ They said to him, ‘Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?’ He said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.’
“The disciples said to him, ‘If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.’ But he said to them, ‘Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.’”
ivorce touches almost every family in our nation. Studies show that first marriages have a 50% chance of ending in divorce. Second marriages have a failure rate of about 72%; and third marriages end in divorce 85% of the time. However, divorce statistics do not tell the entire story. The statistics generated do not count the incidents of desertion, divorce granted in other countries or judicial separations. Also, the normal pattern for young adults today is to live together for a period in kind of an informal trial marriage. Many of these experiments in self-gratification end in separation, which masks the real extent of divorce.
Here are some disturbing facts about divorce. Almost 75% of divorces are initiated by women. One year after divorce or separation, more than 50% of children will never see their fathers again. The statistics for the United States are slightly better than those for Canada.
There are some other disturbing tidbits of information that point to the serious threats to matrimony in Canada. According to Statistics Canada, the rate of cohabitation without marriage doubled between 1980 and 2000. However, cohabiting creates a less stable environment for couples than does marriage, and over 60% of couples choosing cohabitation as their first conjugal relationship, regardless of whether they marry later or not, will separate.
Make no mistake, divorce is never God’s ideal. In fact, God has gone on record as saying, “I hate divorce” [MALACHI 2:16]. Surely it requires no effort to convince you that divorce is a serious issue; the impact on men and women who experience the breakdown of their marriage injures them severely. The emotional toll taints relationships for years—even relationships that are not moving toward marriage. Severe as the toll is for husbands and wives who experience divorce, the toll on children is more severe yet. Tragically, some of those children carry the scars that arise from the bickering between their parents into their own marriage relationships, thus demonstrating that marriage breakdown contaminates relationships for generations.
Though Christians need to learn God’s high view of marriage and honour that view, it is equally vital that they recognise the danger of accommodating a casual view of divorce. However, we need to recognise that the issue of divorce is not the primary problem in the mind of most Christians; remarriage is the issue that truly disturbs believers. We are social creatures, created to long for companionship. Thus, it is not surprising that we continue to seek out companionship, even after marriage breakdown. Just as God has addressed the matter of divorce, He has also spoken on the issue of remarriage. We do well to have a solid theology of marriage and divorce before being forced by the world to respond to the trials that plague so many of our children and friends.
THE PHARISEES’ QUESTION — “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” Establish in your mind that it was the Pharisees who asked this question. Their purpose was to trap the Master. They might endlessly debate this issue among themselves, but they were united in their hatred of this brash Galilean who seemed to be attracting such a massive following of people that had previously held them in esteem. In their mind, their stature, their standing before the people, was at stake. So, they sought to discredit him before the masses that attended his words.