Question: Dear Sir, You have been talking about divorce and
how to help those who are going through it. But is divorce really right? I
thought the Bible said that God hates divorce?
Answer: Of course, you are right. God hates divorce, but He
also hates violence in marriage. Truly divorce is not "right," neither
can we can say it is always wrong. Malachi 2:16 states: " ĎI hate
divorce,í says the Lord God of Israel, Ďand I hate a manís covering
himself with violence as well as with his garment,í said the Lord
Almighty." Often a spouse trapped in an abusive marriage finds it hard to
escape because friends and relatives would say that she must stay because
divorce is wrong. This is unfortunate. I feel that adultery as well as cruelty
in marriage break the marriage vow. The marriage vow includes sexual fidelity as
well as cherishing each other.
Marriage is a lifetime covenant before God that should never be severed by
human actions. The marriage relationship is so bonding that not even divorce can
truly separate the two. The oneness of marriage is not only spiritual but also
biological. Research has shown that married couples develop chemical exchanges
as a result of sexual intimacy. Perhaps this is why the Apostle Paul stresses
the importance of sexual fidelity in marriage. Sex is truly the cement that
bonds couples. No wonder Paul said that when you lie with a prostitute you
become one with the her. "Godís perfect will is the preservation of
society and future generations by the preservation of marriage."
My understanding of the teaching of marriage in the Bible is that in extreme
cases there are only two grounds for divorce and remarriage. When adultery has
taken place, divorce is permitted because adultery has already severed the
marriage relationship. Thus, divorce becomes a public acknowledgment of what has
already taken place. This is also the case when there is life threatening abuse
in the marriage, whether it be physical or emotional. My understanding of a
compassionate, loving, and just God, helps me to know that He does not expect
someone to remain in a bed with a spouse who keeps a gun under a pillow for
intimidation. Although Jesus mentioned only adultery as a ground for divorce,
yet the Apostle Paul elaborates in 1 Corinthians 7:15 on other grounds for
divorce. If the spouse is an unbeliever and he leaves the relationship, then the
believer is not bound to the marriage relationship, but is free to marry. This
could imply that when a spouse has been brutalized and it has become impossible
for him or her to remain in the relationship, that this could be equivalent to
desertion, and thus divorce is permissible. I am not suggesting that any act
that breaks the marriage covenant is automatic reason for divorce. It is only a
ground on which one may consider divorce when irreconcilable differences take
place. The covenant of marriage includes the determination of each individual in
the relationship to want to seek help or to find ways for healing.
I must point out that Biblically, except for these extreme reasons, there is
no ground for divorce on the basis of lack of love, incompatibility, loss of
interest, inability to have children, or opposing careers. On the other hand,
must an individual hurting in a relationship just sit idly when love dies or
differences seem so unsurmountable. No. There must be a commitment on both
parties to bring change in a relationship and to take steps to bring healing.
The difficulty arises when only one partner feels the pain and the other thinks
all is well. It is unfortunate that many take their marriage vows so lightly. It
is important to understand that although there are Biblical grounds for divorce
in some cases, yet it does not mean that divorce is automatic in these cases.
Often two intelligent individuals committed to their marriage can find ways of
working things out to bring healing to the relationship.
Although no other ground for divorce is given, one must not judge someone who
is in marital difficulty. Each case must be dealt with individually and
I have discovered that most divorces are preventable. Many divorces in our
country are the result of premature marriages or other high-risk behaviors
before marriage. For examples: 1) Many couples rush from first-acquaintance to
"will you marry me" too quickly, thus creating a premature entrance
into marriage. These rush, rush, marriages are high-risk factors for divorce. 2)
Many couples live together before marriage, jumping the steps for proper
relationship bonding, thus increasing the risk for marital breakups. To put it
bluntly, I have discovered in my counseling practice, through just an observance
of human development, that more than 80 percent of the couples who have
divorced, have lived together before marriage and/or engaged in premarital sex.
3) Sometimes one of the partners in the relationship has not been open and
honest with the other about being promiscuous or using drugs before marriage.
There are also high-risk behaviors after marriage that unfortunately
sometimes lead to divorce. For examples: 1) One partner may feel that he or she
has a right to do any thing he or she wants to do outside of the relationship
without the other questioning it. It may be coming home at any hour of the
night. It may be taking social trips to Miami with someone of the opposite sex.
It may be spending more time socializing with friends than with family. 2) One
partner may continue to keep the sentimental attachments with former romantic
partner(s). Sometimes sharing family secrets, or spending long hours on the
phone discussing personal matters that should be kept between husband and wife.
It may also be showing a more caring attitude to a person other than oneís
spouse. The goal is the avoid high-risk behaviors before and after marriage that
can lead to divorce.
Remember, divorce prevention or reducing divorce-risk activity is much easier
than divorce recovery. Divorce prevention is painless. Divorce recovery is
painful. Divorce prevention is exciting and adventurous. Divorce recovery is
stressful, and physically and emotionally exhausting. Divorce prevention
enhances self-worth. Divorce recovery can whither self-esteem.
If you are not married as yet then take heed. If you are married and there is
high-risk behavior in your marriage that may lead to divorce, remember to do all
you can to be honest and truthful to each other. Commit to rekindling the fire
of marriage first before you decide on divorce.
Barrington H. Brennen is
a marriage and family therapist and board certified clinical
psychotherapist, USA. Send your questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or
write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit www.soencouragement.org or
call 242-327-1980 or 242-477-4002