Can a Christian divorce? The Pharisees confronted Jesus about it in Mark 10. Let’s look at how he responds:
T1 hen Jesus left Capernaum and went down to the region of Judea and into the area east of the Jordan River. Once again crowds gathered around him, and as usual he was teaching them.
2 Some Pharisees came and tried to trap him with this question: “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife?”
The debate at the time was between the Rabbinic School of Shammai, which taught that no one may divorce save adultery and the Rabbinic School of Hillel which taught a man could divorce his wife for any reason, even if she spoiled his soup! How does Jesus come down on the debate?
3 Jesus answered them with a question: “What did Moses say in the law about divorce?”
4 “Well, he permitted it,” they replied. “He said a man can give his wife a written notice of divorce and send her away.”
5 But Jesus responded, “He wrote this commandment only as a concession to your hard hearts. 6 But ‘God made them male and female’ from the beginning of creation. 7 ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, 8 and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, 9 let no one split apart what God has joined together.”
So, what Jesus was saying was that sex was created NOT as the satisfaction of physical appetites but as a spiritual union or indissoluble bond. More importantly, He was saying, “God ordains marriage and only He can end it.”
10 Later, when he was alone with his disciples in the house, they brought up the subject again. 11 He told them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery against her. 12 And if a woman divorces her husband and marries someone else, she commits adultery.”
In other words, a person cannot cancel the covenant. If he or she walks away from the union, it still applies no matter what the government says.
We live in a culture where we joke about marriage. For example, have you heard this one, what happens if you miss your Ex-Wife? Get better aim!
According to Scripture, only adultery and abandonment of a believer by an unbeliever (1 Cor. 7:15) provides clear Biblical grounds for divorce.
But in Matthew 19:9, Jesus lists “pornea” as grounds, which The Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Early Christian Literature defines as “various kinds of ‘unsanctioned sexual intercourse.” But what does that mean? Some scholars argue that Jesus is emphasizing that prostitution, which was considered acceptable in the Ancient Near East, was out-of-bounds.
But is it just prostitution? The Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament define pornea as anything “shameful” or “disgraceful.” That means pornography may count but it just isn’t clear.
What about physical abuse? It is certainly grounds for separation but not divorce.
You may object that this isn’t fair? But ask yourself what is life about? Your personal happiness or knowledge of God and a relationship with Jesus Christ. If life is about our personal happiness then, quite frankly, God is doing a lousy job! But if life is about growing in knowledge of God, then it all makes sense but it means that if we have to spend life without sex or romance then it still may be a great life.
Who is willing to say that Paul or Mother Theresa wasted their life because they never knew “the one.”
Marriage is a holy and sacred union. We have no right to violate it but the one who commands us to respect it is one who went to the cross and suffered the most unholy violation of all-time–He was ripped from the fellowship of the Father and Spirit in order to take the penalty for our sins upon Himself to save us.
If my wife and I divorce because we are just sick of each other, I have no right to remarry and that may make for lonely nights but when I breathe my last breath or the trumpet sounds and Christ appears, none of that will matter.