POINTS TO CONSIDER
Did you note the limited and restrictive options the
wives had during the time of Jesus? Jesus was really
stating that, based on expectation and practice, a
divorced woman could be unfairly forced into
prostitution to make a living if the other options were
not available . Jesus was saying, this is not to be
done. Even when there were other options she would be
kept in a dependent state.
that a woman could be divorced for unreasonable,
frivolous reasons, and she had no authority to do the
same to her husband. Jesus' main point was about
compassionate, fair treatment of wives while they are
married. They were not chattel.
All that being stated, I believe that it is wrong to
interpret Matthew 5:31-32 to mean that Jesus is stating
that adultery or sexual unfaithfulness is the only
grounds for divorce.
It is my view that Jesus was stating that marriage is
serious and sacred business, and it is intended to be
permanent. It is unfortunate that many take their
marriage vows so lightly.
I believe that the emphasis of Jesus reply rested on his
message that a woman is not to be divorced for stupid,
frivolous reasons. Thus, He was pointing out that
reasonable grounds on which a husband can divorce his
wife would be as a result of something like
(not the results of) sexual
unfaithfulness--something very serious.
It is my view that the Bible is not teaching about
grounds for divorce but rather about the
"grounds" not to divorce--frivolous reasons. The
Bible is teaching about the sacredness of marriage and
that women are of equal value with men.
It is my view that Jesus was not giving an injunction
against divorce but a liberation of the oppressed.
He demonstrated that marriage is to be a loving
relationship. Isn't it interesting that although Jesus
was addressing the topic and traditional practice of men
divorcing their wives, the text is used today to apply
to both men and women.
Here is a key point stated by James M. Rochford: "The
religious leaders were trying to get Jesus to side with
one rabbinical school or the other. Instead, Jesus
took a radically different position, defending the
rights of women and the sanctity of marriage."
During my years as a marriage and family therapist, I
have seen that there are many other serious reasons
people get divorced. The constant, painful emotional
abuse by one partner to another, is a common reason for
divorce. The abandonment and rejection of one partner
also leaves the spouse with serious feelings of
worthlessness, depression, etc. What must a spouse do
in these circumstances? Must they just sit and boil
indefinitely in the pot of neglect, coldness, and
constant abuse? I refuse to believe that a loving Jesus
would "require" the partner to stay because there is no
sexual unfaithfulness. Some spouses become seriously
physically ill because they have to "stay" in such
relationships. High blood pressure, diabetes, heart
problems, etc, are difficult to resolve while living in
a mean and emotionally rude environment. These health
issues are not only difficult to resolve under
oppressive circumstances, they may be a direct result of
SOME REASONS PEOPLE DIVORCE
Although some might argue that there is no ground for
divorce other than sexual unfaithfulness, one must not judge someone
who is in marital difficulty. Each case must be dealt
with individually and objectively.
Writing from a vantage point of many years of marital
counseling, It is my belief that most divorces are
preventable. Many divorces are the result of premature
marriages or other high-risk behaviors before marriage.
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.
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.
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.
To understand further the reason people divorce, read my
article entitled "Humility,
Love, Pride and the Nagging Good Wife."
Again, here is why understanding this is so important.
There are many Christians, due to their rigid
interpretation of Jesus and divorce, who treat divorce
as the unpardonable sin. Thus, far too many divorced
Christians are laden with guilt and shame. This was not
Jesus' intent. Jesus’ teaching was liberating to
LIVING TOGETHER AND HAVING SEX EXPLAINED
Here's what I have observed in my private practice.
Couples who live together very early in the
relationship, long before they know each other, tend to
have more problems in the relationship than those who
move in after engagement or just a few months before
marriage. I have also observed that couples who engage
in premarital sex very early in the relationship and
before they really know each other, tend to have greater
problems in the relationship and during marriage.
Pre-married couples who have sex as a normal part of
their daily or weekly menu tend to have more difficulty
during courtship and after marriage. Why? Usually one
or both of them, after giving themselves sexually, find
it difficult to end a bad relationship because they feel
they have given so much of themselves. On the other
hand, I have observed that couples who waited or had sex
once or a few times just before marriage (It is not a
regular part of the menu.) and after making a
life-long commitment to each other, tend to have less
problems after marriage. My point is this: premarital
sex destroys objectivity in the relationship.
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 anything 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 abroad 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 a 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 one’s
spouse. The goal is to avoid high-risk behaviors before
and after marriage that can lead to divorce.
In The Bahamas and other countries, the legal reasons
for divorce are lacking, in that persons are almost
forced to remain in a terrible relationship. For
example, the legal grounds for divorce in The Bahamas
Desertion for two years (has deserted the petitioner for
a continuous period of at least two years).
Separation for five years (living separate and apart)
Homosexuality & Bestiality. (Since the celebration of
the marriage been guilty of a homosexual act, sodomy or
has had sexual relations with an animal)
there is no legal grounds for divorce on irreconcilable
or irrevocable differences in The Bahamas and a few
other countries. However, there is certainly a great
need for such grounds for legal divorce. Far too many
individuals have to find "creative" ways to get out of a
messy marriage. This should not be.
There are often profoundly serious reasons for divorce
other than those mentioned in the
Bahamas Matrimonial Causes Act. I have known of
individuals who could not leave the marriage because
there were no "grounds" to divorce. This is a
re-victimization of the one in pain. The two years of
desertion or five years of separation needed to get a
divorce proves in many cases to be far more debilitating
than leaving for “no reasons.” But if the person
leaves, there might be legal ramifications that can make
it difficult for the victim.
At a future date, I
will seek to expound on the topic of remarriage.
However, many of you can rightly deduce that, based on
my views of divorce, any individual is free to remarry
after a divorce. It is my view that a person
is spiritually and legally free to remarry.
However, many are truly not emotionally or
psychologically free to remarry. Okay,
some would argue that if one is not emotionally free to
marry then one is not spiritually free to marry.
What is most important to understand is that far to many
Christians are seriously torn between their natural
needs, feelings and desires and their ingrained,
misguided views about divorce. It is a cognitive
Remember, divorce prevention or reducing divorce-risk
activity is an adventure. It will be challenging.
However it is easier than divorce recovery. Divorce
prevention is less painful. Divorce recovery is very painful.
Divorce prevention is exciting and adventurous, though
recovery is stressful, and physically and emotionally
exhausting. Divorce prevention enhances self-worth.
Divorce recovery can wither 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
write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit www.soencouragement.org or
call 242-327-1980 or 242-477-4002