What the Bible Says (And Doesn’t Say) About Divorce

5 Mins read

Hebrews 13:4 (TPT)
Honor the sanctity of marriage and keep your vows of purity to one another, for God will judge sexual immorality in any form, whether single or married.

If you’ve ever wondered how passionate God is about marriage, you don’t have to look any further than the Book of Genesis. Thousands of years before God formed the Church, He established the family. While God certainly has a mission for His Church to carry out, it’s important to remember that God’s plans for the world begins with a Christian family. The Christian family begins with a Christian marriage. While we know that God is passionate about establishing the family, it’s equally important to note that Satan is passionate about destroying them.

That is why the divorce rate is so high. While you’ve probably heard that 50% of marriages end in divorce, that number is actually lower. While most experts agree that the percentage of marriages that end in divorce is somewhere between 30% and 40%, that number is still high. Some studies show that the divorce rate among Christians is no different than the divorce rates among the unsaved.

Make no mistake about it, divorce is not God’s design for marriage. When the Bible talks about the importance of a husband and wife becoming “one flesh,” it means that God wants those people to remain in unity forever. Unfortunately, that’s often not the way that things work out.

There is established data that states that once a person has divorced once, they are more likely to divorce again. Divorce rates among second marriages is above 60%, while divorce rates in third marriages is 73%. Once a person is involved in one divorce, they are more likely to be involved in others.

Unfortunately, there are many people who don’t know how to effectively counsel people who are dealing with a divorce. If you’re someone who has been through a divorce, or you’re facing one right now, it’s important that you understand what the Bible says and doesn’t say about the topic. Even if you have never been divorced, taking a Scriptural approach to such a serious topic can help you better encourage people you know who have faced or are facing the end of a marriage.

Does God Hate Divorce?
Malachi 2:16 (NKJV)
“For the Lord God of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence,” Says the Lord of hosts. “Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously.”

One of the most common questions that Christians ask about divorce revolves around this passage. “Does the Bible really say that God hates divorce?” Yes, it does. However, there is a lot to unpack here. It’s easy to take a cursory glance at this verse, and think that this is a definitive rebuke of divorce. Before we look at this verse in another translation, we’re also going to look at what God didn’t tell Malachi to tell Israel.

God hates divorce because of the devastation that it brings about. God does not like anything that brings people sorrow, and divorce certainly does that. The dissolution of a family leaves husbands, wives, children, and extended family members reeling. However, the Bible does not say that God hates those who have been divorced. Unfortunately, there are Church leaders out there who believe that people who have been through a divorce should be shunned. That is also not God’s approach.

In John 4, Jesus had an interaction with a woman who was quite familiar with the process of divorce. In fact, she had been through four of them. While we don’t know how old she was at the time of her meeting with Christ, the fact that she had four failed marriages on her record is still a lot. However, Christ didn’t shun her. In fact, He presented the Gospel to her. She then shared the Gospel with the rest of the people in town and their lives were changed. Christ showed a divorced woman love, setting the ultimate example of how we should deal with those who are dealing with divorce.

Yes, the Bible says that God hates divorce, but it never says that He hates divorcees. God doesn’t hate anything but wickedness.

Biblical Grounds for Divorce
Matthew 5:31-32 (NIV)
“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

The Pharisees loved to ask Jesus questions that were designed to trip Him up. They looked for opportunities to get Him to disagree with the Law of Moses so they could kill Him for being a blasphemer. It never worked, but they continued to try.

In this passage, they asked about the topic of divorce. If He said that divorce should be used as a tool of convenience, He was defying what God thought about it. If He said that divorce was always wrong, He was defying the Law.

Christ made it incredibly clear in this verse that adultery was the primary reason for divorce. That has not changed. If a spouse is unfaithful in his or her marriage, the other spouse has every right to terminate the union. There are plenty of examples of God restoring marriages that have been destroyed by infidelity, but the faithful spouse is not required to stay married in those cases.
What About Abuse?
Malachi 2:16 (NIV)
“The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty.

Yes, we’re taking another look at Malachi 2:16, but it’s important in our quest to fully understand what the Bible says about divorce. Tragically, there are many Christians, both male and female, who believe that they are Biblically bound to stay in an abusive marriage as long as their spouse isn’t unfaithful sexually. That is not the truth!

In addition to this verse, there is a New Testament passage that applies to these cases.

1 Corinthians 7:15 (NIV)
But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.

We can look at these two verses together and get a better idea of what God thinks about an abused spouse leaving his or her marriage. First of all, a man who does violence to his wife (or a woman who is violent with her husband), hates their spouse. Since we know that Christians have the love of God living within them, that person is not exhibiting Christian, Godly principles.

The Bible does not dictate that anyone stays in an abusive marriage. Whether the violence and abuse is physical, mental, or emotional, God does not call anyone to remain in those dangerous situations. “God has called us to live in peace,” and you cannot live in peace if you are in an abusive relationship.

A Closing Prayer:
Heavenly Father, today I ask that You restore marriages as only You can do. In those marriages that are beyond the point of restoration, comfort those who are feeling devastated. Allow Your Holy Spirit to minister to them and encourage them in a time where they need You so much. I ask You to protect my marriage and the marriages of my loved ones. In Christ’s name, Amen.

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