We briefly discussed this back in July, but I thought it'd be worth it to take a closer look at the subject. Today’s devotional won’t have a lot of new material, mostly a summarizing of what I’ve said before about this.
The issue of marriage (and the corollary question of when is it right to divorce) is the source of a lot of debate over the years. The Roman Catholic Church basically says “Never,” while most Protestants say “Usually wrong.” The problem with us Protestants is that despite our professed belief that divorce is usually wrong, our practice doesn’t reflect that very well. There are way too many Christians who are on their second or third marriages, separating even from spouses that they married when they were believers.
As we mentioned last month, in the time of the Gospels there were a lot of various opinions of the rightness of divorce. Some taught that it’s perfectly fine for a man to divorce his wife for any reason he deems necessary, including cooking his food badly. Others taught that divorce is only an option when one spouse is unfaithful. Jesus obviously agreed with this latter opinion, but he went further back than Moses’ time, right to the beginning of the human race. Adam and Eve were the prototype, and their relationship is the pattern for all of us: one man united with one woman for life.
Why did God give Moses his instructions on how to divorce in Deut 24:1-4? Because he wanted to discourage divorce, not encourage it. In a perfect, sinless world, there'd be no divorce, but that world is not this one. There are cases in which no reconciliation is possible. Adultery is the only legitimate reason for believers, and if a Christian is married to a non-Christian and the non-Christian wants out, then divorce is allowed for the nonbeliever to seek (not the believer).
What about remarriage? This is pretty touchy. In no way do I want to encourage anyone to get a divorce, but--as John MacArthur argued--it seems to be acceptable for a believer to remarry if the divorce was on biblical grounds. Under the Old Covenant, the penalty for adultery was death, and the faithful spouse was allowed to remarry after the adulterous spouse was executed. Under the New Covenant, we don’t execute adulterers, so the unfaithful spouse is allowed to go on living. Should we then punish the faithful spouse because under the new system we’re more lenient? His argument sounds persuasive to me.
But to even ask under what circumstances divorce is legitimate is to completely miss the point. Divorce is never a good thing. It might be necessary in some situations, just like amputation is necessary in some dire scenarios. But it’s always the last option, not the first. Why? Because God wants us to remain in a miserable marriage? Does the God of the Bible strike you as some sadist who takes pleasure in people’s misery? If that’s your impression of the God of the Bible, then I feel for you. His first desire is for his glory, but he has no desire to see us miserable. The reason why he hates divorce, why he hates adultery, why he hates pornography, etc., is the same reason why a doctor hates cancer: because of what they do to people. He hates those things because he loves marriage and loves people.
Please forgive if you read this before in my earlier blog, but it really bears repeating:
I also fully understand that a lot of people reading this have already gone through a divorce. That's tragic, but it doesn't have to be the end of your story. No matter how much at fault you were for the breakup (and I'd venture that in virtually all divorces there's no one single party 100% at fault), you can have a new beginning right now. Confess and turn away from any lingering sin (sexual and non-sexual) and resolve to start doing things God's way today. Not the culture's way, and certainly not the way you've been doing things up till now. I warn you, you're going to hear this aphorism a lot if you hang around with me for long, since it consolidates so much truth in so few words: There's never been anyone in the history of mankind who did things God's way who ended up regretting it.
What he wants is for the marriage we have now to be a colony of heaven instead of the other place. When we place him as the center of everything in the home, and follow his instructions, we’ll be amazed at how it sweetens our marriage and makes the home the place where we actually want to be.
Lord Jesus, help me to be the kind of spouse I’m supposed to be. I’m supposed to be a servant, but way too often I only serve myself. Please give me your attitude, please change me.