What Is A Christian View Of Divorce?

As a Christian Marriage Counselor in Colorado Springs, Colorado and Durango, Colorado my practice is typically filled with approximately 60% Couples Counseling and the remainder Individual Counseling. Couples who work with me to repair their marriages, learn new communication and problem solving skills, heal painful memories, and find new ways to forgive one another and move forward in life together are far better off than they were before they came to my office.

Occasionally, couples choose divorce as their option though when the problems are so great and have endured for many years. One or both of them decide they simply can’t go on together and it is time move forward in life without the other one. Only God fully knows the heart of each individual and therefore we are not to judge when someone simply cannot go on any longer in the marriage. The most common problem areas that cause divorce and relationship loss are the three A’s – Addiction, Adultery and Abuse. These behaviors create the most discord in relationships because they are such violations of trust.

As Christians, we strive to live our lives according to the teachings of Jesus. We do this as much as we can with God’s help, because we believe those teachings indicate how to live our lives as an act of worship. Jesus taught about many things, including divorce. I help my clients understand that it is the desire of God’s heart that they to do everything they can to heal, restore and preserve their marriages. If both partners make this choice the marriage has a very good opportunity to succeed.

What Is The Christian View Of Divorce?

What did Jesus teach about divorce? We can’t find the answer to this question simply by looking at modern society. Our culture is comprised predominantly of people who identify as Christians, and yet we have a casual attitude toward divorce. It is even possible that the answer to this question cannot be readily found in the modern church. The church as an institution is concerned with pledges and membership, and therefore can be reluctant to articulate views that are unpopular. We must go back to the scriptures if we want to find, and attempt to understand, the teachings of Jesus about divorce.

There is one instance when Jesus was asked by a few people identified as Pharisees to give his opinion of whether divorce is lawful or not. This teaching on divorce appears in similar form in the gospels of Matthew and Mark, and as a glimpse in Luke. We will examine the story in Matthew and Luke.

Pharisees were a Jewish political party and a school of thought during Jesus’ time. They looked primarily to Moses and the prophets to help them discern what God wanted for their lives. A few Pharisees approached Jesus and asked,

Matthew (19:3): Is it lawful to divorce a wife for any cause?

Mark (10:12): Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?

In Jesus’ time, only a husband could divorce his wife. It did not happen the other way around. A wife was not permitted to request a divorce from her husband. A man divorced his wife by giving her a legally binding certificate. These certificates could be written for number of reasons. In theory, a man could divorce his wife for improperly seasoning his food. Divorce was emotionally, financially and socially devastating for women because they depended on their husbands for survival. A woman would likely marry again, in order to ensure the survival of her children and herself.

Matthew (19:7): Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and divorce her?

Mark (10:3): What did Moses command you?

Jesus pointed out that Mosaic law was created because people found it difficult to live up to the ideal of what God desires, in marriage as well as other things (Mark 10:4-5). Yes, it was legal to divorce, but it was not what God wanted.

Jesus taught that divorce fell short of the ideal of the creation story in Genesis:

Matthew (19:4-6): Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them ‘male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave father and mother and will be united with his wife and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.

Mark (10:6-9): From the beginning of creation he made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave father and mother, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.

The Pharisees asked why Moses told them to give a certificate of dismissal and divorce their wives. Jesus said,

Matthew (19:8): Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because of your hard hearts, but from the beginning it was not this way.

Mark (10:5-6): He wrote this commandment for you because of your hard hearts. But from the beginning of creation he made them male and female.

In Matthew’s gospel only, Jesus named one exception on the grounds of which divorce could be permitted.

Matthew (19:9): Now I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another commits adultery.

The word “immorality” is very important, because what we think of as an acceptable reason for divorce depends on the meaning of this word in Greek. The Greek word, porneia, though translated above as immorality, can be translated in many different ways. Porneia was translated in other contexts during that time as prostitution, unchastity, idolatry, sexual immorality, marital unfaithfulness, disease and excess of evil. The word has a broad history of meaning.

The great thinkers of the Protestant Reformation attempted to make sense of the term porneia. Erasmus, Martin Luther and John Calvin thought sexual immorality was a valid reason for divorce. Ulrich Zwingli and Heinrich Bullinger thought the term porneia could have a more general meaning, more like marital immorality, which opened the possibility of ending a marriage due to abuse. The Catholic Church has maintained its position against divorce, but will annul “invalid” marriages.

Even with this exception in Matthew, Jesus made a point to answer the Pharisees by affirming that divorce is lawful, and yet, it is contrary to the will of the Creator. Jesus taught that divorce is lawful, but it is not desirable. According to His teachings each Christian must decide what to do when it comes to staying together in marriage or coming apart in divorce.

If you are struggling with the decision to stay in your marriage or leave give me call at 970-422-6102 for a complimentary 15 minute phone consulation, I can be of help to you.

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