What Jesus Says About Divorce

Here are a few statistics I found online that may (or may not) surprise you.

The U.S. has the sixth-highest divorce rate in the world. Some data indicates 40-50% of married couples file for divorce, but others say the actual divorce rate is nearer 30%. Of remarriages, 60% of second marriages and 73% of third marriages end in divorce. The average length of marriage in the U.S. is 8.2 years. According to one study, 69% of Americans say cohabitation is acceptable. More people than ever live together without getting married, which is one reason divorce rates have declined over the past decades.

Why is divorce, remarriage, and living together without marriage so common in our culture? And why are those statistics not significantly different among those who identify as “Christian?”

Scripture is clear about God’s expectations of marriage and sexual purity, but what we once called the “Judeo-Christian values” that gave some stability to our relationships have been forgotten. Human nature prefers to make its own rules, and we are seeing the effects.

Reading Mark 10 this week, I’m reminded that while the world of unbelievers isn’t concerned about Jesus’ teaching, His followers should be. Perhaps we need a “refresher course” on what the Bible actually says.

Mark 10:4-12 – They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and the two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” In the house the disciples began questioning Him about this again. And He *said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery.”

This one teaching provides a great foundation for how we should view marriage, divorce, and remarriage. Along with other scriptures, here’s the biblical view.

  • Marriage is defined as the joining of one man and one woman (not the same sex). God made two genders (male and female), and marriage is a joining of those two people into one unit. Whenever scripture refers to marriage, the words “husband” and “wife” are always used.
  • God never intended for divorce to be the answer. It exists because of our hard hearts. God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16).
  • Divorce is permitted in scripture for only two reasons: your spouse was unfaithful (Matthew 5:31-32; 19:3-9) or an unbelieving spouse chose to leave (1 Corinthians 7:15).
  • If a divorce occurs, this does not mean you are free to remarry (Mark 10:11-12; Matthew 19:9; 1 Corinthians 7:11,15). In fact, remarriage, while your former spouse is living, is considered adultery.
  • Adultery (physical relationships between a married person and someone who is not their spouse) and fornication (physical relationships between unmarried persons) are sins in God’s eyes.

Scripture says some hard things about this topic, but it also gives hope to those who have already found themselves outside the boundaries of what God intended for His people.

Hebrews 13:4 – Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 – Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

Adultery, immorality, and divorce aren’t unforgivable sins. God offers forgiveness if we confess and repent, turn away from our past sin and walk forward in the righteousness of Christ that covers our sin and makes us clean. But considering the condition of our culture and the prevalence of divorce and immorality, even in the church, we ought to be teaching our children and grandchildren they can do better. God’s standards of holiness haven’t changed. It’s a sin to live together without being married. It’s a sin to have sex without someone who isn’t your spouse. These aren’t trivial things and as disciples of Jesus, we would do well to take heed to the words of our Teacher.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.