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Learn some Bible principles for divorce and separation. As a note, if you are affected by this I would advise you to counsel with your pastor before you make any decisions related to this. You have to live with the consequences of this decision, so you should seek godly counsel.
Also, if the story of your life has been touched by this, it is not my desire to hurt you or put you down. God works in your life where you are at right now, He doesn’t hold your past against you as far as your relationship with Him is concerned. God will not treat you differently because of mistakes in your past, I will not either. However, this is an important issue that needs to be dealt with.
Table of Contents:
- What Does God Think About Divorce?
- God’s Principles for Separation.
- Value of Staying Together.
1. What Does God Think About Divorce?
Everyone has an opinion these days, but what about God who invented marriage? It all started with the first man and woman when He put them together and created the covenant of marriage.
Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.Genesis 2:24
In the marriage ceremony, a vow is made between husband and wife. When this vow occurs God puts these two people together in the covenant of marriage. This is not just a legal matter of the state, but a matter of faith. Two become one in the bond of marriage. A man and woman who enter into this covenant are made one flesh by God.
We all come together with family and friends to celebrate this union. This is because marriage is an integral part of our faith, it is not just something we do. For legal purposes, you get a wedding license and are recognized by the government as in marital status. However, God is the one who makes you one, not the government.
This is an important concept to understand in the modern marriage debate, as bad as some people want, the government cannot force God to accept what people call gay marriage today. God will not make a man and a man one flesh, nor will he make a woman and a woman one flesh. He made them male and female and this is God’s formula for marriage even though the government may make it legal.
God Hates Divorce
Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.Malachi 2:14-16
God feels so strongly about the matter that He uses the word hate. This is because it destroys the beautiful picture that He painted with the marriage covenant. Marriage is a symbol and type of the relationship between Christ and the Church. (See Ephesian 5:21-32) In verse 32, the Bible says, This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. As a Christian, your marriage represents the Gospel message to this world. When you break that covenant you break that message that God intended for marriage to send out.
To be honest with you, I hate divorce too. To see what it does to people and relationships. To think about how it impacts children for the rest of their lives. Frankly, it is a shame that it is so prevalent in the church. It is shame a Christian couple can’t learn to get along. The truth is that sometimes you have to put in the effort to make your marriage better. It may take some work on your part. You could seek Christian counseling. You could work with each other and compromise your pride to make your relationship right. I just don’t think you should throw your marriage away.
Sometimes people are too concerned with being happy, instead of being holy. Therefore, when your marriage is not making you happy, you look for that happiness somewhere else. Marriage, however, is for better or for worse and quite honestly it is in those worse times that God generates holiness in your life. The secret is that finding restoration in your relationship will eventually give you that happiness. It takes you dying to YOU and becoming more like Jesus.
As a Christian, I have experienced His Grace, mercy, and forgiveness many times. When I have messed up, then made things right, I discover that He was always there waiting on me to make things right with Him. That is your standard for marriage, to exercise so much faith in your marriage partner that you are ready and waiting for restoration.
This may not be what you want to hear, or what this world’s culture is pushing today, but it is the truth about love and marriage.
Jesus Is Against Divorce
Jesus taught the perils of divorce during his ministry on earth. So the Pharisees came to him in an attempt to trick Him into saying something wrong.
3The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? 4And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 5And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 6Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. 7They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? 8He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.Matthew 19:3-19
Why does the law offer writings of divorcement if it is wrong? They were referring to Deuteronomy 24:1-4 in this text. They were thinking about the ambiguity of that law and all the gray areas that they thought could be manipulated.
When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife. And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the LORD: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.Deuteronomy 24:1-4
God did not intend for there to be divorce. Jesus said, but from the beginning, it was not so. He also said, What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder. God intended for marriage to be a lifetime commitment. However, because of sin and the hardness of people’s hearts Moses had to put rules about divorce into the law for Israel. So in other words, sin and the hardness of your heart are why there is even divorce, to begin with.
There is however an exception mentioned by the Lord. Jesus said, except it be for fornication. (Matthew 19:9) Fornication is a broad term for sexual immorality that includes sexual immorality and incest. It is my interpretation that this is not necessarily an isolated incident, but rather an ongoing problem. Such as your spouse has left you for someone else and there is no hope for reconciliation, or that your spouse is involved in gross sexual sins without remorse or hope for repentance. If you are in this situation, you should consult with a godly counselor or your pastor for direction in this matter.
The Bible also gives other clear instructions about divorce in the Book of I Corinthians:
And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.I Corinthians 7:10-11
I want to point out something here. Notice the words of scripture, But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried. Many people have differing opinions about Matthew 19:9 above, but regardless you must look at what the Bible is saying. If there are grounds for divorce, then there are no grounds for remarriage. If you are using the Bible to justify your divorce, you will not find the justification to remarry. This is not my opinion here, this is what the Bible says. You have to make the decision for yourself, but this is what the Bible says.
God also, recognizes the problems of having an unbelieving spouse. If you are in this situation you can find Bible instructions in I Corinthians 7:12-16. Never marry an unbeliever, but if you are saved after your marriage, then living the Gospel in front of that person can lead them to Christ.
The Laws of the Government Make Rules for Divorce
Just like Moses had to address the issue of divorce, there had to be rules about it. This is the way things are with the government and the laws of society. I can only speak of the spiritual side of this issue and not to the legal side. There as certain legal things involving divorces like child custody, child support, and law enforcement protection that I am not qualified to speak. For that, you will have to consult a lawyer.
2. God’s Principles for Separation
There may be extreme cases where it may be necessary to separate from your spouse. Examples of this would be physical abuse, or if the children are being sexually abused in the home. Especially in cases where one spouse or the children are in danger or feel threatened with harm. Obviously, God and the principles of the Bible are against such treatment, anyone who tells you otherwise is grossly and willfully ignorant of scripture.
So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:Ephesians 5:28-29
And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.Ephesians 6:4
These verses along with many others make this principle clear. In fact, in cases of abuse, these should be reported to law enforcement. There is nothing spiritual about not calling the police. Our justice and law enforcement systems are designed to protect and help in these cases.
Some people separate because of disagreements. If you are arguing, I suggest you seek out godly counsel instead of giving up on your marriage and each other. You should, in turn, follow that godly counsel. If you are going to separate during this time for reconcillation then you should still act like you are married and meet with your spouse for regular counseling sessions. This means that you don’t flirt or date with other people. No, you don’t change your Facebook status or put out one of those Youtube selfy videos about what is going on in your marriage. In fact, in South Carolina, you have to be separated for 1 year before you are able to get a no-fault divorce.
The Bible Principle of Separation in Church Discipline
15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. 18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.Matthew 18:15-20
God gave the Church this method for reconciling its members who have gone astray. The steps are as follows:
- Confront him alone.
- Confront him with one or two witnesses.
- Tell it to the Church
- Finally, separate from that person, let him be like a heathen or publican.
The reasoning is by separating from this person, you give them a chance to understand how serious their problem is and to realize the importance of reconciliation.
In I Corinthians 5, there was a case of fornication between a man and his stepmother. The end result was separation. However, the separation led to restoration in II Corinthians 2:5-8. Some were having trouble letting him back in, Paul admonished them to show him, love.
Principles for Separation in Marriage
This is what we learn from that. Separation should be used after all other means for reconciliation have been tried. It is the last resort for extreme cases. It should be done in a way that the offending party, realizes how serious this is and gets the help he or she needs. They will think, I may lose my marriage. This should encourage them to get help and seek reconciliation. Also, it should be done with reconciliation in mind. You should be ready and willing to forgive and reconcile.
So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.II Corinthians 2:7
In review, the three principles of separation are:
- Separation should be the last step.
- The purpose is for restoration.
- You should be willing to forgive and restore.
3. The Value of Staying Together
There is the reward of working through your problems each day and just committing to stay together. After all, you probably said, for better or for worse in your wedding vows.
For example, in order to make steel tools, the metal must be hardened and tempered. In this process, the steel his heated to extreme temperatures then quenched in oil. This is the process that your love goes through in the heat of problems in your marriage. If you let God, He will harden and temper your love and make it useful and more lasting.
Should You Leave Your Spouse?
- What does God think about divorce?
- God’s principles for separation.
- The value of staying together.