We have been talking about God’s design for marriage. So far we have said:
- 1. Marriage is a critical element of God’s design – for raising children and for displaying God through unity in marriage, and also our joy and companionship.
- 2. Unity in marriage displays God because we are sinners, which separates us. The unity results from giving ourselves to God, which displays Him.
This time we want to focus on the subject of divorce. Our culture approves it, but it is not acceptable in God’s design. A question for us is whether we believe in God. And if we believe in God, are we willing to do what He calls us to do, even if it might be difficult?
Avoiding divorce can be very difficult because sometimes our love has gone away, or perhaps the spouse is doing something wrong, or perhaps we have fallen in love with another person. To stay married can be pretty hard.
There is a question whether there are any valid reasons for a divorce. There are two possible reasons in Scripture.
- In Matthew 19:9 there is a reference to “immorality.” If a spouse is having immorality it can be a basis for divorce. But even in that case, if the immoral spouse repents we might stay married.
- In 1 Corinthians 7:15-16 there is a reference to separation from an unbeliever spouse – if the spouse leaves. In other words, we as a believer do not separate from the unbeliever, but if the non-Christian spouse steps out, we can let it happen.
Apart from these two possibilities there are no references to a reasonable divorce. Here are some passages that can help us to see God’s view of it:
“I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, . . .
- 5 MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH (Genesis 2:24)
- 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.
1 Corinthians 7:10-14
- 10 . . . the wife should not leave her husband
- 11 (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.
- 12 But to the rest I say . . . that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her.
- 13 And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away.
So divorce is not God’s design, and there are two basic reasons why divorce is not what we should do. First, marriage itself is God’s design. His pursuit is raising mature, responsible, believing children who contribute to His kingdom.
This is very important to our children – and to God’s design. Fatherless homes lead children in bad directions whether the fatherlessness is due to unwed childbirth or due to divorce. It not only makes the children depressed, it also makes it more difficult for them to believe in God. When there is a genuine oneness in marriage, it reveals God to our children – part of why we stay married and pursue “oneness” in marriage.
The second idea for avoiding divorce is that our oneness in marriage is a form of displaying God. The difficulty of oneness is the fact that we are sinners and we are different people, and those things make marriage difficult. So when we have unity it is because we have given ourselves to God. Because we are committed to God we are willing to sacrifice our personal desires to pursue His, and that reveals the fact that He is in our hearts. The fact that He is in our hearts displays Him – to our children, to other people, even to ourselves.
Avoiding divorce is a way that we as believers in God are being different than the culture. When we respond to our flesh, then divorce is something that make since to us. Not only does our flesh lead us toward divorce, but also the culture is promoting it through movies, TV, websites, magazines, etc. Do we listen to the culture and to our flesh, or do we respond to God through Bible instructions and the work of the Holy Spirit?
Ephesians 2:1-3 talks about how sin is part of both flesh and culture. Then in Ephesians 6:12 Paul says that it is Satan who is leading us in the wrong direction. “Flesh and blood” (and culture) are actually the very things that Satan uses to take us in the wrong direction.
So what do we do if our marriage is not good? The difficulties come up and we want to divorce. How do we manage a marriage stability? The basic answer is that we do not live for ourselves, but for God and for our spouse. Here are two helpful versus:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,
1 Peter 3:1-2
. . . wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.
The point of these two verses is living for the other versus living for self. See also Matthew 16:24-25:
- 24 If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.
- 25 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
We can see that living for self is not God’s design or calling – which is exactly what our flesh and the culture say to us, and what Satan says to us through our flesh and the culture. When we go the opposite direction we are not only having a good marriage, we are also giving more to the stability and the spirituality of our children, and we are displaying God.
Having seen that divorce is not God’s view, I hope that we can give ourselves to God’s design and calling in marriage.
First published September 15, 2013
Tom Clark is a Family Life Ambassador with the Family Life Ministry and on the Advisory Board of the Virginia Christian Alliance.