3-Week Series: Double Blessing


Summary: Divorce touches Christians as much, or more, than it does those outside of the church. How should we deal with it?

Is Divorce Okay?

Text: Mark 10:1–12

Derek Helt

One time a couple of years ago my wife and I were talking with a friend of ours. Our friend happens to be a single mother with two children. In the course of our conversation, she began telling us about her marriage to the father of her children. We learned that he was not a very good husband to her or a very good father to their children. He was known to use drugs and party quite a bit. He would sometimes take off and be gone for days at time without telling his wife he was leaving. She told us that one time he left her home for week one winter when it was very cold and their plumbing wasn’t working. Our friend had to take care of her infant son, the animals, and haul the water they needed to the house, after breaking through the ice to get at it. When her oldest child was a toddler, she once found he’d gotten his fingers into a “mysterious white powder” that his father had left out on the coffee table. Surmising that this white powder was almost certainly cocaine, she told him, “I cannot physically stop you from doing this kind of stuff, but if my child gets hurt, you’ll wish you were never born!”

In addition to all these wonderful things, this man was also unfaithful to her, beginning shortly after they were married. One time she found another woman’s clothes in their walk-in closet. When she confronted him, her husband said, “Oh, those must be left from the people who lived here before.” They had been living in that house over three months and she knew this was not a valid explanation. However, she told us she believed him because she wanted to. All told, they were married over six years before they finally separated and even-tually divorced.

After she had told us her story, I asked her, “M------, why did you put up with all that garbage for so long? Why did you endanger your children, put up with the unfaithfulness, the lying, the neglect for so long before doing something about it?” I was not chiding her, but wanted to know what had been going through her head during those years that caused her to stay with this man and put up with his deplorable behavior. Her answer? “I’d already had one marriage go bad,” she said. “I was going to make this one work. I believed in marriage, that it was supposed to last forever — ‘Till death do us part’ — so I was going to ‘make it work’.”

Our friend’s story embodies the dilemma that we in the church face all the time: how do we uphold the biblical principle of lasting marriage, while at the same time be agents of God’s grace when marriages, and lives, come apart? The two objectives often seem to be at odds with each other.

Growing up, our children learn a lot of erroneous ideas about marriage. Knofel Staton, in his book ’Check Your Morality’, lists several of these falsehoods about marriage that young people often pick up while growing up (pp. 102–103). Here are several of them:

· Marriage will solve all my problems.

· If I get married, I will never be lonely again.

· By marriage I can escape my parents.

· Marriage is like an eternal date.

· I will change him/her after we are married.

· In marriage, our differences won’t cause trouble.

· Marriage is a trap or prison.

· Marriage takes all the fun out of life.

· Marriage is simply a legal piece of paper.

These lies, as well as many others of their ilk, will poison people’s marriages if they don’t learn the truth about marriage. God is the designer of the covenant of marriage; and what He designed resembles none of these lies in the least. In this message, I hope to answer a question that I am often asked — Is divorce okay? — by looking at God’s truth about marriage as it is found in the Bible. This is sometimes a difficult topic to address, but I firmly believe that God’s wisdom concerning marriage is simply too valuable to be ignored.

Let’s begin by taking a look at something Jesus said concerning divorce. It is found in Mark 10:1–12:

Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them. Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” “What did Moses command you?” he replied. They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘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.” When they were in the house again, the dis-ciples asked Jesus about this. He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” (NIV)

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Jerry Pawloski

commented on Oct 7, 2006

Very good sermon on this delicate topic. The truth with the right amount of grace and it also includes what the church can do to help.

Vincent Olaer

commented on Oct 26, 2009

Divorce is never ok... I would rather stick to what the Bible says about divorce. The problem with most people now, is that they focus more on the exemptions rather than the teachings itself. In 1 Corinthians, Paul made a strong emphasis saying: "not I, but the Lord..." Here''s a sermn that I preached few weeks ago. http://thedisciplers.com/bible-teachings-about-marriage-marital-relationship-and-divorce/ I don''t want to be skeptic about it, but I don''t want to be focusing on the exemptions. Once I do that, then, all things will start to decay for I will try to justify whatever I do. I think that was the problem that lead America to moral degradation. Instead of focusing on the standard, people have become more concern on the exemptions. And eventually, each one wants to have an exemption.

Vincent Olaer

commented on Oct 26, 2009

I would also disagree with some points here. I quoted this paragraph below. "Now, I want to caution you at this point: Don�t misunderstand what I�m saying, or get only part of picture. I�m not saying that all marriages fail simply because people lack the commitment to work through problems. I�m not even saying that every marriage ought be saved. Certainly the wife whose husband is physically abusive to her or her children should never stay with him. Even if divorce is ultimately not in order, church leaders should never be the ones telling a woman to go back to the man when doing so puts her or the children in harm�s way! Get out of there, now! It should be unthinkable to the Christian to try and send her back." - I do disagree on this, because as we said, Christians are supposed to be "pro-marriage". Let us there was a husband who put his hands on his wife. I believe that it is justifiable to be separated from him for a while at least for the time being that the husband will realize that it is important for him to have his wife. But ultimately, if the husband has proven that he has changed, I believe that the wife should go back to his husband. Again, we have been so gracious with the women, but at the same time, we can be ungracious to the man. What I am saying is that, both sides could probably have a change of attitude, character, lifestyle, etc... if only each one of them will try to work out their marriage. If they cannot do this, then I think Jesus has been very clear of his statement, "A man who married a divorced woman commits adultery." So if someone prefer divorce, then I believe he should not marry and he/she should focus himself to God.

Revd. Martin Dale

commented on Jan 23, 2011

Mr Olaer, May I say that from my experience as a pastor, an abusive situation is very similar to the Pauline Privilege. While Derek Helt does not go quite as far as my position (set out in my sermon under Dt 24), he is right - people need to be protected from abusive situations. And there is a Biblical line for Divorce (I am not peddling a liberal idea)

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