Before attempting to respond to your inquiry in detail, it’s important to clarify our overall perspective. Here at Focus on the Family we place the highest possible value on the sanctity of marriage. Next to an individual’s relationship with God, we believe that there is nothing in this world more important than the bond between a husband and wife. That’s why we’re dedicated to doing everything we can to strengthen good marriages and bring healing and restoration to those that are struggling to survive. A large part of our ministry has been devoted to the preservation of marriage, and as a result we are strongly opposed to divorce as an “easy” way of solving marital discord.
That said, we’d like to share with you several biblical passages that have played an important role in shaping our thoughts on the subject of marriage, divorce, and remarriage. In general, as Bible-believing Christians, we take the view that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) and desires to bring healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation to broken marital relationships. Nevertheless, we feel that there are three situations in which the Scriptures make allowance for divorce and remarriage:
- When the first marriage and divorce occurred prior to salvation. Although a person cannot undo all the sins he has committed, he is forgiven for the wrongs he did before accepting Christ (see II Corinthians 5:17).
- When one’s mate is guilty of sexual immorality and is unwilling to repent and live faithfully with the marriage partner. Jesus states specifically that divorce and remarriage are acceptable when due to this kind of “hardness of heart” (see Matthew 19:9).
- When one of the mates is an unbeliever and willfully and permanently deserts the believing partner. This does not refer to a temporary departure, but a permanent abandonment (see I Corinthians 7:12-15).
Here’s a list of some other biblical references that may prove helpful to you in gaining a clearer understanding of the Christian view of marriage and divorce:
- Marriage: Genesis 1:27; Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4-6; Romans 7:1-3; I Corinthians 7:1-40.
- Divorce: Malachi 2:13-16; I Corinthians 7:10-11, 27; Matthew 19:3-9; Colossians 3:12-14.
- Extra-Marital Sexual Activity: Exodus 20:14; Matthew 5:28; 1 Corinthians 6:12-20; Hebrews 13:4.
- Biblical Role of Husbands and Wives: Ephesians 5:21-33; Colossians 3:18-19; I Peter 3:1-7.
With these things in mind, it’s important to add the caution that we must not become so caught up in assigning accountability for the circumstances of divorce that we fail to have compassion for the individuals involved. They need our friendship and understanding regardless of the circumstances surrounding the breakup of their marriage. To treat them as “lepers” or second-class citizens is not only cruel and insensitive, it is also a breach of Christ’s commandment that we love one another as He has loved us. There can be no sense in inflicting greater pain upon those who are already wounded. Instead, we are called to become agents of healing in their lives.
If your marriage is hurting, or if you have further questions about this subject, we’d like to invite you to call and speak with one of our staff counselors. They’d be happy to help you in any way they can.