In an article by Jonathan Dudley that was posted on CNN, a point was made concerning divorce among Christian couples which implied that while we preach fiery sermons about what we take to be the really bad sins like homosexuality, alcoholism and adultery, we pay little attention to the many verses that talk about marriage, divorce and remarriage. Here he writes:
And then there’s the topic of divorce. Although there is only one uncontested reference to same-sex relations in the New Testament, divorce is condemned throughout, both by Jesus and Paul. To quote Jesus from the Gospel of Mark: “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery.”
A possible exception is made only for unfaithfulness.
The community most opposed to gay marriage usually reads these condemnations very leniently. A 2007 issue of Christianity Today, for example, featured a story on its cover about divorce that concluded that Christians should permit divorce for “adultery,” “emotional and physical neglect” and “abandonment and abuse.”
It appears that what Dudley is trying to assert in his argumentation is that since Christians are neglecting a lot of scripture in regards to their own marriages, why should we listen to them when they talk about hot topics like same sex marriage? I have a few things I would like to say in response to this.
Dudley is Right
First of all, this is one of the only things I actually agree with in his article. Many personal friends and multitudes of others have constantly neglected the verses of the Bible which instruct us on what marriage should be, while internally justifying their actions in the name of comfort, career, convenience and currency. It is highly disturbing to me that many will go out and rally against same sex marriage when their own is falling apart.
The Bible on Divorce
As Dudley points out, the Bible is not mute on matters of divorce. He points out Mark 10:11 which tells us that whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery. But there is much more to this which is laid out throughout scripture. Take the following New Testament passages for example:
- Matt 5:32 - Whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
- Matt 19:6 - God joins a couple together, therefore we should not seek separation.
- Matt 19:9; Mark 10:11-12; - If someone divorces their spouse, for anything other than adultery, then goes and marries someone else, they have committed adultery.
- 1 Cor 7:10-11 - If a couple is separated, they should seek reconciliation.
- 1 Cor 7:12-13 - If an unbelieving spouse consents to stay, seek reconciliation.
- 1 Cor 7:15 - If an unbelieving spouse leaves, the believing spouse is free to remarry.
- 1 Cor 7:39; Rom 7:3 - If a spouse dies, the remaining individual is free to remarry.
So throughout these verses, we see that there is really only one act for which God clearly allows divorce, and that one thing is adultery.
While many may be quick to object, “What about the abused, emotionally or physically neglected, or the abandoned?” I believe there are simple and clear answers to such questions that may not be what we want, but is what the Bible teaches. Here are my responses:
- Abused Spouses - The Bible does not appear to allow abused spouses to divorce the one they married. However, according to 1 Cor 7:10-11, it appears to be permissible to separate, while trying to reconcile the marriage over time.
- Emotionally and Physically Neglected Spouses - The Bible does not allow divorce for these reasons, but does speak to how spouses should treat those they married.
- Heb 13:4 - Marriage should be held in honor among all and the marriage bed should be undefiled.
- Eph 5:22-23 - The wife should submit to the husband as the head of the house and the protector of the family.
- Eph 5:25 - The husband should love his wife as Christ loved the church, by giving himself up for her.
- Eph 5:33 - The husband should love his wife as himself and the wife should respect her husband.
- 1 Cor 14:4-7 - Our love should result in patience, kindness, rejoicing in truth, bearing, believing, hoping and enduring all things without end. It should not result in envy, boasting, arrogance, rudeness, irritation, resentment, rejoicing in wrongdoing and being insistent on getting our way.
- Gen 1:28 - Married couples should build a family.
Gen 2:24 - Married couples are no longer two, but one.
- Abandoned Spouses - According to 1 Cor 7:15, if one spouse is abandoned by another, they are free to remarry.
In all this, I really do think that marriage is a beautiful thing created by God and given to us as a splendid gift. Properly seen it reveals deeper insight into the trinity, our roles as husbands and wives, men and women, parents and children, creators and creatures. There is a hierarchy that is not oppressive, but should rather overflow into honor, respect and understanding of one person for the other.
On the other hand, divorce is a spiritually violent act that rips a beautiful thing apart and leaves us with a diminished understanding of grace, mercy, forgiveness, love and salvation. So let’s abandon divorce as the wretched result of sin that it is, and then man up, woman up, marriage up and rejoice in the gift that God has given you while together holding it in its proper place of honor as a reflection of God’s love for us (Heb 13:4).
This post was inspired by an article by Jonathan Dudley titled: My Take: Bible condemns a lot, so why focus on homosexuality? Following is a list of responses to claims made within the article:
- The Bible Condemns a lot, why focus on homosexuality?
- Our Church Fathers and Abortion
- Our Church Fathers and Marriage
- Contemporary Christianity and Divorce
- Homosexuality vs Hair Length
- Dudley, Jonathan. "My Take: Bible Condemns a Lot, so Why Focus on Homosexuality? - CNN Belief Blog - CNN.com Blogs." CNN Belief Blog. 21 June 2011. Web. 04 July 2011. <http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/06/21/my-take-bible-condemns-a-lot-so-why-focus-on-homosexuality/>.