Summary: Divorce is an unpardonable sin in the church. When a person gets a divorce, he becomes a second-rate Christian in the eyes of the church for the rest of his life. All other sins are forgiven but divorce is not. The stigma of divorce is so great that
Divorce is an unpardonable sin in the church. When a person gets a divorce, he becomes a second-rate Christian in the eyes of the church for the rest of his life. All other sins are forgiven but divorce is not. The stigma of divorce is so great that some have preferred to murder their spouse instead of going through the shame. Is this how God wanted divorce to be? Or is the common Christian stand wrong? This article takes a comprehensive look at what the Bible says about divorce.
The Law is Good
Divorce first shows up in the law. The law set up divorce in Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Without the law, there would be no divorce.
Before you condemn divorce remember that the law is sacred, right, and good (Romans 7:12, 14; 1 Timothy 1:8 ). The law was written by God. Will you dare to say that something established by the law is bad? Did God make a mistake? No, He did not.
Did Jesus Change the Law?
Some think that Jesus condemned divorce and so they do too. He didn’t. What Jesus said is that Moses allowed them to put away their wives because of the hardness of their hearts (Matthew 19:8 ). He was not talking about divorce, he was talking about putting away a wife.
But let’s say that putting away a wife and divorce are the same thing and that Jesus was saying that Moses allowed divorce because of the hardness of their hearts. That does not mean that divorce is wrong.
Most of the law was written because of the hardness of people’s heart. That is why the law says, "Thou shalt not murder." A person who murders someone has hardened his heart. If no one ever committed murder, the command would not have to be there. Do we say the command, "Thou shalt not murder", is bad and throw it out because it was placed there because of the hardness of people’s heart? No. What about the commands given for sacrifices, feasts, conduct, and the treatment of others? These and many more are all in the law because of the hardness of people’s hearts. Do we also make all of these commands bad and throw them out? No, of course not.
But wasn’t it Jesus who suggested that divorce not be in the law? No, no way. Look at the context of Jesus’ first teaching on divorce (Matthew 5:17-48 ). He starts out the section by saying, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven...." (Matthew 5:17-19)
After saying this, Jesus gives examples from the law. Divorce is one of those examples. He was establishing divorce’s place in the law, not destroying or changing it.
Those who say that Jesus spoke against divorce, make Jesus a liar and someone who, according to His own teaching, is least in the kingdom of God.
Breaking Up and Divorce
When Jesus spoke about divorce, he used two terms. These same two terms are found when divorce is mentioned in the Old Testament too (Deuteronomy 24:1; Isaiah 50:1; Jeremiah 3:8 ). The first term is the real topic of his teachings. It is putting away the spouse, breaking up, leaving a spouse, or kicking a spouse out.
This term is wrongly translated divorce in some versions (the KJV sometimes translates it as "put away your spouse" but other times as "divorce").
Putting away a spouse is not divorce. It is what happens before divorce. It is what Jesus condemns.
In Matthew 5:31 Jesus quotes the law as saying, "Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement." (Matthew 5:31) Notice that the first action in this verse is putting the wife away. In this verse Jesus is saying that if a man kicks his wife out, he must make it official by going through the divorce procedure. This statement implies that men were kicking their wives out without divorcing them. If that were not happening, there would be no reason for Jesus to say this.
A World Without Divorce
In America this does not happen very often, but it does happen. I know of a couple that split up because the husband fell in love with another woman. The wife wanted a divorce but the husband did not want to give up half of his pension to her, so he convinced her not to go through with the divorce. He had already moved in with his girlfriend but he did not stay with her for long. Soon he was sleeping with other women. Sometimes he even showed up at his wife’s doorstep. The Bible calls this fornication and adultery. People who think divorce is a sin actually condone this kind of lifestyle because at least they did not get a divorce. In their eyes divorce would be worse.