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:

Nave’s Topical Bible

Torrey’s Topical Handbook

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Divorce in the OT

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Divorce in the NT

Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary

Relationships (marriage)

Random thoughts on marriage and relationships in general…

Orginally posted 10/14/2004 on bibleforums.org:

I think it’s probably best for two people to be at relatively the same spiritual maturity, or at least on the same trajectory. Being unequally yoked doesn’t have to just mean believer w/ non-believer, it could also be spirit-led believer w/ carnal believer.

I believe God intends for the husband to be the spiritual leader in a marriage, but I don’t think this has anything to do with spiritual maturity. Being the leader means taking initiative and setting the pace, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are the stronger Christian of the two.

On being “unequally yoked…”

Originally posted 2/8/2005 on bibleforums.org:

2 Cor. 6:14-18 does not refer specifically to marriage; certainly it can be applied to a marriage relationship, but it also pertains to other relationships and activities as well. The critical factor is that in order for two or more people to effectively pursue Christ, they need to be united in their motivation and direction. If two people have different life purposes, or are heading in two different directions, they should not be bound together in a relationship. This could be a marriage relationship, a business relationship, or even a social relationship. This does not mean we should not have non-Christian friends, or do business with non-Christians; it means we should not make a commitment to “do life together” with someone who will attempt to lead us in a direction that is in conflict with our desired path.

While the most obvious example of an unequal yoke would be a believer with a non-believer, I think the same principle also applies even for people who profess Christianity. Someone who is a nominal Christian with no desire to grow in their knowledge of Christ, could be a hinderance to a spouse who is trying to follow Christ with all their heart. The “level” of their spiritual maturity is a minor point; what really matters is the trajectory that they’re on.