Summary: A discussion of what the bible says about divorce, remarriage, with special focus on 1 Corinthians 7.
1 Corinthians 7 Marriage and Divorce
Itroduction:Today we’re looking at the subjects of Marriage and divorce. There’s more in this chapter than just those topics. But this subject alone will take the whole 25 minutes. So if you were hoping to hear about circumcision in verse 19, or other stuff, I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed.
Much pain is involved speaking on this matter. Fordivorce is painful. But the wounds of a friend are to be trusted, says proverbs, and I hope you consider me a friend. So my aim is to bring you both the bible’s teaching on this matter, and also some statistics and application.
Let’s pray as we begin. Father, please help us to hear your word to us today. May I speak in a helpful way, and may we all please you in our response. Amen.
Australia has been through great change in our practice of marriage and divorce. The change is still fairly recent, so the results are still being worked out.
I mentioned last week that in 1911, 0.15% of the Australian population were divorced. In 1996 it was 6.4% of the population are divorced. That’s a huge change, 4300% higher over those 85 years. And the change brings with it a very different community, very different attitudes, and much hurt.
There are two main factors to consider in explaining the changes. The first is the change in our attitudes, and the second is the change in the law.
In terms of our attitudes, I spoke last week of how our views changed in the 60s on sex and marriage. And that change can be linked to our divorce culture. Another change was the arrival of radical feminism. A famous Australian, Germaine Greer, for example, argued that marriage was bad for women. Marriage was slavery in the home, as well as sexually, said Greer. And many women listened. Many felt free to divorce for the first time.
Further, the question of happiness began to be more important than keeping your wedding vows. The view became common, you shouldn’t stay in an unhappy marriage, even if it meant breaking your vows. Happiness was now more important than faithfulness. And that change in attitude led to a change in the law. So in 1975, about the time when I was born, the Marriage Act was changed, so that divorce was made easy. You didn’t have to show fault with your spouse, you just had to be separated for a period of one year. The change of law in effect changed the definition of marriage. Because marriage was now a contract which would not be enforced by the state.
With the change of the law, there was a massive uptick in the number of divorces. People said it was that all the backlog of unhappy and abusive marriages was being dealt with. But the divorce rate stayed at the much higher level, and never returned. So it was a change both in attitudes and in the law that contributed to the change.
Today 46% of today’s marriages are expected to end in divorce. In 1960, that figure was just around 20%. In 1910 it was in single digits. Clearly the view of marriage has changed in Australia from a lifelong expectation to something else. So we need to bring the bible to bear on this change. What does Jesus say?
Verse 10 sets out his view on the subject plainly enough. Paul says this: To the married I give this command (not I but the Lord - that is the Lord Jesus): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.
Now Jesus says this for good reason. He loves us, and so he tells us the best way for us to go. So let’s look at some stats which show how things have gone wrong, since we started ignoring Jesus on this question.
See, there is a wealth of information on the impact of divorce in the Government report I mentioned last week. It’s called To Have and to Hold: Strategies for Strengthening Marriage. It’s a report from the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.
Here are some of the report’s findings. On the positive side, speaking of marriage, here’s a quote:
"Decades of research have clearly established links between health and well-being and marriage, separation and divorce.
Professor William Doherty notes that ‘for adults, a stable, happy marriage is the best protector against illness and premature death, and for children, such a marriage is the best source of emotional stability and
good physical health.’
Another study by Lilienfield found that nearly every type of terminal cancer inflicted divorced persons of both sexes more frequently than it did the married. In another study, Larson found (that’s not