I’ve read quite a few good articles on divorce and remarriage lately, one article being Matt Walsh’s piece entitled I’ve been divorced four times, but homosexuals are the ones destroying marriage. His premise is simply that it isn’t homosexuals that are destroying the institution of marriage. Those of us who are straight have done a pretty good job of destroying the institution ourselves. Given the high level of divorce even among first-time marriages, the divorce rate is staggering.
The divorce rate truly increases among those who are in their second marriages. 75 percent of all second marriages end in divorce. That means that if one or both of those in the marriage have been married before, then more than likely the marriage will end in divorce. This has to do with the fact that many times those who are coming out of a divorce get married too quickly. They rush into another relationship without dealing properly with their first failed marriage, so that the problems that led to the first divorce, actually contribute to the second divorce. Counselors and psychologist recommend that for every five years of marriage, the person should wait at least one year before getting married again. That would mean for a marriage of 10 years, then those who went through the divorce should wait 2 1/2 years before they start seeing another person.
This is so that the person coming out of the divorce heals from the first one and learns to be complete in who they are, not needing a spouse to complete them. They need to be complete beforehand.
The statistics for those in third marriages is at a whopping 85 percent failure rate. And those going into their fourth marriages, you only have about a 5 percent chance that your fourth marriage will survive.
I also appreciate William VanDoodewaard’s When Divorce is Good and Holy. He helps us realize that when one party commits adultery, the innocent party does not have to go back with the offending party. The act of adultery breaks the bond and far too many in the church have the belief that divorce is the unforgivable sin and never granted by the LORD. This is not true. God has ordained divorce and the innocent party in cases for adultery and abandonment have the freedom to divorce the offensive party.
God’s precepts are not contradictory. Divorce can be a good and holy option–standing fully in harmony with Scriptural forgiveness. You can come to divorce a spouse who has violated covenant, by God’s grace, without bitterness or vengeance, in Christian wisdom and love–and at the same time, pursue divorce. You can pursue the divorce of an adulterous spouse–and forgive them as a fellow believer, upon their confession and repentance of sin.
Those of us who are pastors and elders ought to present this Christ-given option to the spouse whose covenant has been violated. We should do so with gratitude and in faith, knowing that we are providing the innocent spouse with a an option that Christ has graciously and lovingly provided for them.
I think his article is truly timely because so many in evangelical circles treat divorce, and those who have gone through it, as if they have a new Scarlet Letter on their foreheads. Somehow, in these circles, the forgiveness of Christ is just not enough to cover that divorce. The most obvious place that I have seen this is for those going into ministry. My seminary, Dallas Theological Seminary, will typically turn away candidates who have gone through divorces. Not always, but they still do it, which is interesting. When I was living in the dorm, we had all kind of ex-sinners living there. Ex-druggies, ex-pushers, ex-thieves, etc. Those sins seem to be covered by the blood of Christ. But the blood of Christ just doesn’t seem to cover the sin of divorce.
What this usually boils down to is that those who are not divorced and still married to their first and only spouse, are only still married to their first and only spouse because of God’s grace in their lives. There is no room for arrogance in this area. If you are not divorced and still married, thank the LORD that He blessed you with a partner that is willing to stand with you and all minor and daily sins. You have much to be thankful for. But please don’t tell the rest of us it is because you have it all together. You don’t.
There is no perfect marriage, no perfect spouse, no perfect combination of two sinners coming together under one roof. There are only those who have been given God’s grace and press on, and those where one spouse choses to abandon the marriage for one reason or another. A lot of times, those who are divorced can’t help it. There is nothing to be done because one party has set their mind on divorce regardless of what the other party wants. Only God can change the heart of such a person and sometimes in His infinite wisdom and grace, He chooses not to do so and couples, even Christian couples, find themselves being divorced even if they are hoping to work things out. The reason being is the sinfulness on the part of the one suing for divorce.
There are only two situations in which a person can sue for divorce according to Scripture and it not be sinful. The first is for the cause of adultery, as VanDoodewaard pointed out above (Matthew 19:1-10). The other is for abandonment, meaning one party left the other. Sadly, many also try to include physical and mental abuse, but those are not reasons for divorce (1 Corinthians 7:1-16). Those are reasons to separate until the abusive party can be dealt with, but not a reason for divorce. All other reasons beside the two given are sinful reasons for divorce and the kind of divorce the LORD hates (Malachi 2:16).
For those going through divorce, we should not condemn them, but help them. The church and the cross are the best places for that help to occur, for it is in Christ we find our completeness, forgiveness, and strength to carry on as singles. Those going through divorce are not pariah’s in the church, but sinners in need of God’s grace, just like the rest of those there.