I think the strongest case against divorce is to look at what marriage symbolizes. God uses imagery to help us understand our relationship with Him. We relate to Him as children to a parent or as servants to a master. We understand these relationships because we experience them every day on earth. There is no greater image of our relationship with God than that of a husband and wife. Of all the parallels that are drawn in scripture, this is the one that gets the most attention and the one that comes the closest to reflecting what our relationship with God was designed to be.
God says He will never leave us or forsake us, and scripture is filled with His continual pursuit of His chosen people (despite their desertion and unfaithfulness). For a husband or wife to divorce their spouse, flies in the face of all that marriage is supposed to signify.
I find it interesting that Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record the occasion when the Pharisees questioned Jesus about divorce, but Matthew is the only one who mentions the exception for maritial unfaithfulness. Clearly, while Jesus made this allowance, the thing that really stuck out was His emphatic insistence that husbands and wives should never separate (“what God has joined together, let man not separate”).
When it comes to “what’s done is done, can I get remarried?” I think there are a couple of slippery slopes to be avoided. One is the idea that as long as the other party gets remarried, and therefore “becomes unfaithful,” you are therefore free. This would open the door to marry and divorce willy-nilly provided you always make sure your ex gets remarried first. It also places a great deal of importance on timing; ie., who was unfaithful first. It essentially means two people can take the exact same actions, but one of them is guilty of adultery and the other gets off scot free. This clearly is not what God had in mind. I think the allowance for divorce in the case of marital unfaithfulness is restricted to when it occurs in the context of the marital relationship. I don’t think it is a “way out” for two people who have severed their relationship, regardless of whether they are technically (either legally or in God’s eyes) still married or not.
I also think the “lust = adultery = just cause for divorce” concept is a slippery slope. When Jesus said in Matthew 5:28 that lust is equivalent to committing adultery, the word for adultery is moicheuo?. In Matthew 5:32 and 19:9, the word for unfaithfulness or fornication is porneia. Even without looking at the Greek words, I would have a problem with this concept because it again opens up a huge “loophole” to allow unhappy people to get out of their marriage, and I don’t believe that’s what God had in mind.
Does that mean someone who made a mistake and married the wrong person, or made a mistake and got divorced when they should have stayed married is doomed to suffer the consequences for the rest of their life? Well, at the risk of sounding harsh, I definitely think it’s a viewpoint that should be considered. Nowhere does God promise to remove the consequences of our own sin, or even the sin of others. He is more concerned with our holiness than He is with our happiness. The truth of the matter is, we are most likely to be happy when we are holy.
Here are links to scriptures that talk about divorce and scholarly articles on the subject: