By Elijah Friedman, Contributing Writer
Divorce is a difficult and personal topic for many people. The majority of Americans have been affected by divorce, whether as the husband and wife splitting up, children within the broken marriage, or friends and family of the couple.
Out of this widespread brokenness come many questions and varying viewpoints on divorce.
Within the wider context of American culture, divorce has become an acceptable, if regrettable, practice. Conversely, marriage has become closely intertwined with self-fulfillment.
Perhaps the predominant cultural narrative surrounding marriage is that people should marry any person they have feelings for and, by extension, can divorce their spouse if those feelings no longer exist.
This egocentric, self-fulfillment, feelings-based understanding of marriage goes against thousands of years of cultural practice and religious teaching on marriage.
As we face the many challenging questions related to divorce, we can easily turn to cultural expectations or fall back on our own assumptions. But as Christians we must adhere to the will of God as expressed in the Bible.
And the Bible clearly speaks on the topic of divorce.
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus spoke strongly against divorce. He said that divorce was a product of human sinfulness.
Jesus called a husband and wife “one flesh” and said, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Mark 10:1-12).
Jesus further addressed divorce in the Gospel of Matthew. He said that divorce was only permissible in the case of sexual immorality. He stated that if a husband and wife divorced for other reasons and then remarried other people, they were committing adultery (Matt. 5:31-32).
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church about a specific issue of a non-Christian abandoning his or her Christian spouse. In that case, Paul advised, the Christian spouse was free to live separately and in peace (1 Cor. 7:15).
Other teachings on divorce in both the Old and New Testaments show that God intends marriage to be a covenantal commitment which joins a man and woman together as one flesh for life.
God’s instructions on divorce are not arbitrary. We must remember that the biblical teachings on marriage and divorce reflect God’s loving and holy character.
Marriage is a reflection of the self-giving love Jesus has for the church. It is sacrificial and demanding. Marriage is not about fulfilling oneself but about loving one’s spouse.
Because the biblical teachings on divorce have existed in writing for thousands of years, we can easily begin to see them as callous commands that harm people who are caught in challenging marital situations.
However, the biblical teachings on divorce, far from being religious platitudes, are firmly couched in real life situations. Jesus’ teachings were no exception. In fact, when Jesus was a baby, his parents almost got a divorce.
When Mary the mother of Jesus became pregnant, the man legally joined to her for marriage, Joseph, had legal and religious justification to divorce her. She had, presumably, committed adultery. The Bible records that Joseph planned to divorce Mary in a respectful way. Jesus was on the verge of being a child with a divorced mom!
But God intervened in that situation, bringing Mary and Joseph together in a healthy marriage. God wants to do the same in every single broken and challenging marital relationship.
As Christians, we deny the power of God if we say that divorce is necessary when marriages become hard. God wants to and is able to redeem any marriage.