There is a group of people in our churches today that are treated as outcasts and lepers. I am talking about the divorced. As one who has experienced it, I do know what I am talking about. Before I had the trouble I did in my own marriage I was one those who looked down on those that had failed marriages. I guess you could say I had a pharisaical view. Being a deacon on the board of a church put me in a place where when somebody’s name was mentioned for a leadership position one of the first things that would disqualify them was whether they had ever been divorced. In Many cases it was not the fault of that person. They had tried everything to keep their marriage together. I remember not wanting to attend a couple of friend’s wedding because one of them had gotten divorced before he was a believer. It hurt them both because many from our church refused to attend. We had a tendency to look down upon those that were divorced and treated them as second class.
Let me be clear on this subject. Marriage between a man and a woman is a sacred thing. For the believer, it is a covenant made with God and is an earthly representation of Christ and His bride, the church (Eph.5:25-33). Which is one reason why satan hates it with a passion and will do his utmost to make a marriage, especially a Christian marriage fail. Malachi 2:16a: "I hate divorce, says the Lord God of Israel." According to the Bible, God’s plan is that marriage be a lifetime commitment.
Jesus was asked what He thought about divorce one day.
3Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?"
4"Haven’t you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’
5and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."
7"Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?"
8Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery." Matthew 19:3-8
The Greek word translated "marital unfaithfulness" is a word which can mean any form of sexual immorality. It is can mean fornication, prostitution, adultery, etc. Jesus is saying that divorce is permissible if sexual immorality is committed. Sexual relations is such an integral part of the marital bond "the two will become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5; Ephesians 5:31). Therefore, a breaking of that bond by sexual relations outside of marriage might be a permissible reason for divorce. If so, Jesus also has remarriage in mind in this passage. The phrase "and marries another" (Matthew 19:9) indicates that divorce and remarriage are allowed in an instance of the exception clause, whatever it is interpreted to be. It is important to note that only the innocent party is allowed to remarry. Although it is not stated in the text, the allowance for remarriage after a divorce is God’’s mercy for the one who was sinned against, not for the one who committed the sexual immorality.
Another exception is given by Paul when talking about divorce in 1 Corinthians:
10To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. 11But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.
12To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. 14For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.
15But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. 1 Corinthians 7:10-15
Also I believe that in the case where a spouse is abusive towards their wife or husband or the children that they should never be forced to stay in that kind of situation.
I loved my wife. I wasn’t the best husband in the world, but she was just about everything to me. When she became mentally ill our families and I tried everything to convince her she needed help. Many pastors tried to counsel her concerning it and they had failed. Her mental illness and the way she approached the children and I was becoming more dangerous with each passing day. It was decided after much counselling and advice from pastors and doctors that I should have her committed. Her mother and I had to get a court order to do so. It was one of the worst days of my life. The hospital after evaluation said that she was paranoid schizophrenic, but she was refusing treatment and they could only hold her for 10 days. As soon as she got out of the hospital she filed for divorce. For seven years I fought against that divorce and tried everything within my own power and through God to reconcile our marriage. Many great pastors and ministries tried to convince her she needed help and that she needed to work out our marriage but she refused even when she was confronted with the word of God. After the seven years I felt God was telling me it was time to let go and the divorce was granted to her. I never wanted it.
I came to see from the other side how many believers treat those who are divorced. I wasn’t even allowed to usher in the church I had known almost all my Christian walk. I knew I was called to ministry and yet I was not allowed at all to be part of leadership in any area. Those days became the darkest and loneliest days of my life and I slipped into depression. A great spirit of condemnation fell on me and many of the brothers and sisters that I thought were close friends withdrew from me. But God broke through. He sent a pastor to me who told me that God was not finished with me. That yes, divorce was a sin, but I was forgiven. He prayed with me and I was delivered from the depression and condemnation.
Today God has brought me to the place in leadership He always intended for me. I am more satisfied than I have been than at anytime other time in my life. God’s grace and mercy is greater than divorce or any sin.
Please don’t misunderstand me. Every avenue should be taken in order to try and preserve a marriage before going to divorce. But there are those who will look for any excuse to divorce and that is wrong and there have been some bad examples out there including a Christian singer who while she was married shot a music video with a country singer and decided that it was that country singer that God wanted her with and not her husband.
About 20 years ago we had a case that rocked a denomination. Two children of a couple of well known pastors in Quebec got married. It was a highly celebrated marriage and one of the largest Christian marriages that had ever been seen in the province. Within two years, the woman decided that she had made a mistake and wanted a divorce. The young man did everything he could to stop it but failed and within months of the divorce the young woman was married to someone else.
These people and many others have made a mockery out of Christian marriage. But there are those that have done everything they can to hold a marriage together and failed. Many people that God has called into leadership are destroyed not because of their divorce, but because of those in the church that lack wisdom and understanding. If God can forgive them why can’t the church? They have seen their ex-spouses go on to other marriages and what they see as happiness and yet their own church treats them with scorn and they wonder if they are really children of God. Please they need your love. The pain and shame that many of them feel is more than many of you can imagine. Divorced people are hurting people. They need your compassion and understanding. They need to feel part of the body of Christ again. Reach out to them. It’s what Jesus would do.
28"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30
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