“They are no longer two, but one. Therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate.” – Matthew 19:6
married couple had their first big fight. They got so mad at each other that
they started giving each other the silent treatment. Both of them were pretty
stubborn, and this silent treatment went on for days. But then, three days into
their standoff, the man realized he needed his wife’s help. He had to get up at
5 a.m. the next morning to catch a flight to
But he still didn’t want to be the first one to crack and break the silence. So, the husband wrote a note to his wife and set it in front of her: “Please wake me at 5 a.m.” The next morning the man woke up, looked at the clock, and saw that it was 9 a.m. He’d missed his flight! He turned toward his wife, about to yell at her. Just then a Post-It note fell from his forehead and fluttered into his lap. It read: “It’s 5 a.m. Wake up.”
an example of a marriage that needed a lot of work. But is it ever okay to give
up on a marriage? What does God think of divorce? In the book of Malachi, He’s
as direct as He could possibly be: “‘I hate divorce,’ says the LORD God of
So in essence, God says in Malachi 2, “Husbands, when you divorce your wife, you are shredding your marriage covenant. You are abandoning your marriage partner. You are breaking the trusting relationship that you promised to her on your wedding day. And when you break your relationship with her, you break your relationship with Me. And I hate it!”
Fast forward 400 years. When the Pharisees ask Jesus about divorce in the book of Matthew, He takes His listeners back to the very beginning—Genesis 2:24: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” And then in Matthew 19:6, Jesus adds the words that have been repeated millions of times in Christian wedding ceremonies. “So, they are no longer two, but one. Therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
Jesus’ critics ask a follow-up question in verse 7: “Why then did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” (As a side note, they’re twisting God’s words. Neither God nor Moses ever commanded a husband to divorce his wife in the Old Testament law.) Jesus responded, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery” (vs. 8-9). Why? Because in God’s eyes, he’s still married to his first wife. Their divorce might have been LEGAL, but it wasn’t BIBLICAL. It might have been sanctioned by MAN, but it wasn’t sanctioned by GOD.
In Matthew 19:9, Jesus goes on to offer us only one reason for a divorce that is acceptable to God: marital unfaithfulness (aka, adultery): “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” You may ask, “Does Jesus give a divorced Christian permission to marry someone else if there WERE biblical grounds for divorce?” If you look very closely at what Jesus says in verse 9, the answer appears to be, “Yes, He does.” If a husband commits adultery, God gives his wife permission to divorce him. God doesn’t command it. God doesn’t even encourage it. But He permits it. And if, after the divorce is final, she chooses to marry another man, God doesn’t command it. God doesn’t encourage it. But He permits it. She is not committing adultery with her new husband, because in God’s eyes she is no longer married to her first husband.
There is only one other acceptable reason for a divorce according to the New Testament. In 1 Corinthians 7:15, Paul writes that a Christian spouse isn’t “bound” to a non-Christian spouse who physically abandons him or her. He seems to allow divorce in such situations, but he doesn’t address the question of whether or not re-marriage is permitted by God.
However, if in some way your marriage is struggling or broken, it’s not enough for me to just tell you, “God hates divorce, so don’t do it!” With good counsel and God’s guidance, I believe struggling Christian couples can build a brand new marriage. One that works. One that God has always wanted the two of you to enjoy together. I urge you to seek that guidance. For marriages that are hurting, unhappy or broken, I highly recommend Dr. David Clarke’s book, “I Don’t Want a Divorce: A 90-Day Guide to Saving Your Marriage.”
God HATES divorce, because God LOVES marriage. So, you’d better believe that He is willing to roll up His sleeves and work with you to make your marriage better than ever.
Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Join us at Impact for Sunday services: in person at 9 a.m., or online at 10 a.m. on YouTube or Facebook. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.