Keeper of His Home

by Chelsea McCafferty


photo credit: Skley via photopin cc

Divorce is no joke. It’s not a laughing matter, though the world would like to turn it into one. There is nothing funny or even amusing about the end of a marriage that was entered into before the face of God. It is a broken promise, to each other and to the Lord. It is the death of a love that made two people into one flesh. It is the end of something that shouldn’t have had an end except through death and yet so many people are carelessly and far too quickly signing those divorce papers. They are breaking their vows. They are separating one flesh. It’s no laughing matter. Divorce is a terrible thing.

In this chapter we are going to explore what the Bible says about divorce and separation. As we read it questions may arise in your heart about why God would want people to remain in an unhappy marriage instead of divorcing, or what qualifies as a Biblically-permitted divorce. We have all been influenced by worldly counsel for so many years that the Word of God can sometimes sound so foreign to us and sometimes harsh.

The world tells us that the only thing that matters is our own happiness. If you go to a secular counselor, he will constantly ask you how this and that makes you feel. He will tell you that you need to be selfish and think of your own needs. He will instruct you to put yourself first and that the most important thing is for you to love yourself. This is in direct conflict to the Word of God and is new age guff. Does God want us to be happy? Yes, I believe He does. He wants us to experience His joy, which is not based on circumstances. He wants us to be happy in doing things His way, and He knows that we won’t be happy any other way. So let’s stop asking ourselves how we feel and start asking how God feels about the epidemic of divorce.

“Yet you say, ‘For what reason?’ Because the LORD has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant. But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. ‘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.’” Malachi 2:14-16

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24

“So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matthew 19:6

In Malachi God tells us straight out that He hates divorce. He gives no circumstances in which He delights in or desires his children to divorce. Even though God allows divorce in a few circumstances, His plan was never for marriages to end in divorce and He hates the concept of it thoroughly. If our Lord God hates divorce, then as Christians we must hate it as well. We must never delight it in or joke about it. As a body we must encourage people to remain in marriage and to work hard to make their marriage work. We must advise them to persevere and not to turn so quickly to divorce and separation as solutions. People these days are divorcing so easily and with so little consideration in many cases to the long-lasting damage it will bring upon everyone in the family. We know that God is not pleased with this for He has made husband and wife one flesh. How can one flesh be separated? It leaves a gaping wound, which is painful and may never fully heal. What God has joined together, let no man come between.

It is interesting that in the passage in Malachi; God says that He made husband and wife one that they may have godly offspring, or children. Does that mean that when people divorce they lessen the chance that their offspring will turn out to be godly people? Interestingly studies and research conducted over the course of recent years have shown that children who come from homes of divorce are more likely to experience problems in school, depression, aggressive behavior, rebellion, attempt suicide and to rebel from “religious” activities, such as going to church. Children are tremendously affected by what they see growing up. Divorce is never simple and never amicable—especially not when kids are involved and not when divorcees are claiming to be Christians.

Over the years I’ve had many friends and family members file for divorce from their spouses. I’ve sat with them and heard them give their reasons for why they believe they are justified in divorcing their spouse. They talk about being neglected, about being sick of their husbands’ laziness in not taking care of the house as they should, about their lack of spirituality and their dullness. They share about the depth of their unhappiness and how they just know in their hearts that God is allowing them to divorce so that they can find happiness. They talk about there being not enough sex or too much sex or boring sex. They talk about their husbands’ lack of love towards them and say they have simply fallen out of love with their mates. It’s all very sad. There’s no doubt these women are suffering and I’m sure many have very good reason, but does that mean they are justified in seeking a divorce? So many of the reasons they give do not line up with what God says about granting a certificate of divorce.

Let me make it perfectly clear that the Bible gives two—and only two—allowances for divorce. The first is in the case of adultery. If your spouse commits adultery, you are permitted to divorce. The second allowance is in the case of an unbeliever and a believer who are married. If the unbelieving spouse chooses not to remain married and to dwell with the believing spouse than the Christian spouse is free of the marriage. These are the only two allowances for divorce according to the Word of God.

“The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?’ And He answered and said to them, ‘Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.’ They said to Him, ‘Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?’ He said to them, ‘Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.’” Matthew 19:3-9

I love the way Jesus answers the Pharisees here. They ask him if it is legal to divorce and His first reaction shows how He feels about divorce. He abhors the very idea of it. I love that He doesn’t just answer with what a cold law says about it but rather with emotion, showing us His very heart on the matter. He gives them the Word of God and explains that God’s plan was never for divorce. In the beginning it was not so. His plan was for marriage to last for life—no divorce under any circumstances. When they then ask why Moses allowed it, Jesus answers that it is because of the hardness of their hearts that it was allowed. Therefore we must conclude that people who divorce and claim to be happy about it, have hardened hearts and are deceiving themselves if they think divorce brings happiness or contentment.

Jesus says people can only seek to divorce their spouse for sexual immorality or adultery. The word used for “sexual immorality” is the Greek word “PORNEIA” which is the root word for pornography. It also means, “Adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals, sexual intercourse with close relatives and so forth.” It would cover any sexual activity outside of the marriage bed. Although the word is the root word for “pornography”, we do not see in the definition that simply looking at pornography qualifies under this title, but that is something that is debated amongst scholars and unclear.

It is also important to observe that there is a consequence for divorcing outside of this umbrella. If a woman divorces her husband for any reason other than adultery and marries another, she becomes an adulteress herself and causes her new husband to be in adultery with her. The marriage is still binding in the Lord’s eyes because the divorce was not permitted by Him. God doesn’t care if the courts of our land say a marriage is over. He made them one flesh and only He can really separate them.

Now, what about the case of a Christian woman married to an unbelieving husband? Does she have the right to divorce her husband who has left her and chooses not to dwell with her?

“Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife. But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. And a woman, who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?” 1 Corinthians 7:10-16

Okay, there is a lot to this passage. First of all we see the issue of separation. The first verse states plainly that a wife is not to depart from her husband. It seems black and white here and it really is. God does not desire a husband and wife to be separated. In my opinion, the only time separation should be considered is in the case of physical abuse. If a woman is being beaten by her husband, I believe she should press charges against him according to the law of the land. People who break the law are subject to punishment by the law. An abusive husband should always be reported to the police and receive the punishment he has earned. Many wives are often too scared or ashamed to press charges, and that is understandable. God created government to punish those who commit wrong against others. I believe He would have abused wives go to the police. I also believe that if a woman can remain married to her husband while he is facing the repercussions of his actions then there is always a chance for reconciliation later. God often reaches people at their low points, and maybe this is that husband’s lowest point. A wife can keep a safe distance and still pray for his salvation and wait on the Lord. Wait on the Lord.

I write none of this with a cold and uncaring heart. I judge no woman for leaving and even divorcing an abusive husband. I can’t imagine what living through something like that would be like. I don’t think any wife should sit around and let her husband abuse her. Not at all! She should leave for her safety and he should get what’s coming to him in prison. And should the man find Jesus there in that miry pit and commit his life to the Lord, and his wife welcomes him back with a forgiving and loving heart, what an amazing testimony! I’ve seen things like this happen. I believe God is a God of miracles!

So scriptures tell us that women are not permitted to leave their husbands—not even in cases of a mere separation or “break”. God knew, however, that many would disobey and do it anyways, so He added a consequence. A woman who does leave her husband should remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. Does He say for how long a woman should remain unmarried? No He does not. This leads us to the conclusion that He means as long as it takes. If a woman leaves her husband, and neither one of them is in sexual sin, she is to remain unmarried as long as she lives unless she is reconciled with her husband, or He chooses to marry or commit fornication. God gives no exceptions.

For the believing wife with an unbelieving husband, we see that the Lord desires the wife to stay with her husband as long as he is happy to dwell with her. If that unbelieving spouse is willing to live with his Christian wife, let her not divorce him. Even if the marriage stinks and there is no affection, God desires this wife to remain in the marriage, and to continue in good, godly conduct that she might win her husband to the Lord. It can be a long, hard battle, but the Lord can do miraculous things when a person is willing to obey and trust Him. The unbelieving husband is sanctified by his wife, making the kids holy. Remember Malachi and the issue of godly offspring? Interesting that it appears again here.

However, if the unbelieving husband departs, and chooses no longer to dwell with the Christian wife, she is freed from bondage to the marriage. Reconciliation should always be the prayer in these cases, but the Lord knows that there are those who have hard hearts and have been convinced by the world that they deserve better. They tell themselves that God wants them happy, regardless of whether or not they obey Him. Make no mistake—God desires obedience from his children.

Divorce is awful. Anyone who has been through divorce can tell you that. It affects family life forever. Family holidays are never the same. Then you have blended families and the difficulties than can come with step-parents and step-siblings and joint custody. When you stood before God and committed to dwell with your man until death parted you, God took your words seriously. As Christians, we need to remember the sacred nature of marriage, and that God is the one who joins us together as one with our husbands. If we break that connection, we are destroying what God has built, and it has to be taken seriously.

If you are a Christian woman considering divorce, I would urge you sister to pray and get into the Word. God hates divorce. He hates ALL divorce. As a follower of Christ, you must have the same attitude toward it. You may be lonely and hurting. You may be married to an unbeliever who is making life miserable. You may be neglected and unloved, but you do have the Lord Jesus Christ by your side holding you together. If you pray for the strength and power of the Holy Spirit to help you through this difficult time, He will give it to you because you are praying according to His will. He desires for you to try harder and to keep on trying in this marriage. If you are being abused, go to the police. Be brave and trust in the Lord. He will never leave or forsake you.

If you are a divorced lady reading this book, I want you to know that I’m sorry for all the pain and hurt you’ve been through. If you have divorced for a reason other than sexual immorality, and you have never asked God for forgiveness, do so now. He is the restorer of all things and He will forgive. If reconciliation with your husband is possible, pray for that to happen. If not, then trust in the Lord that He will make beauty from ashes. Remember that He loves you, and that He is our first love and bridegroom.



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4 responses to “Divorce

  1. Christine Baird says:

    I have never recovered from divorce initiated by controlling relatives. Lost years, children, home, health, integrity, love, peace, faith, companionship the list is endless …………

  2. Grace Palmer says:

    Is there any place for forgiveness on the husbands part if the wife admits to emotional adultery?

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