A thought or two on divorce, more for putting down my thoughts so as to clarify that muddy matter (wide disagreement, even within a given denomination, like our own). The reason why the matter is so important is that it is not peripheral to the well-being and survival of the race – like war, murder, etc. – but is at the very heart of it all, involving the very essence of society, its fabric. Marriage is not an optional institution, like different forms of government, but is itself the means by which society and the race itself continue. Marriage is mating, by which we all come into existence, and that in turn involves planned parenthood, polygamy, abortion, and divorce. So – all that the Bible has to say about the subject, as usual, is only for our own good, individually and collectively. God couldn’t care less as far as it really affecting him; He’s “untouchable” by it all. He is not come puritanical crank who likes to see people be miserable in marriage rather than find happiness outside, etc.
OK; all this talk about divorce being OK or permissible, when and where, etc. puts it in a class with whether marriage is OK or not for a given person – or whether God wants me to be this or that in life, or marry this person instead of another.
Premise 1. Divorce is sin, wrong, bad. There may be reasons for getting one, but that does not make it right or good. Like cutting off a person’s arm – it may be necessary, but can you ever imagine a situation in which we say that it is not bad, wrong, harmful? In other words, it is a sin, and like ANY sin, it can be forgiven (under proper conditions). The big problem (or sin!) with some people is that they deny that a given divorce is wrong, bad, contrary to the ideal, what God wants, etc. (I can mention is no more wrong than breaking up a business partnership, which, of course, is not a matter of morals – unless you renege on the terms of the partnership, which people do in marriage, having promised NEVER to part, etc.).
2. So – we say divorce is OK a/c adultery of one person. They have “broken” the marriage, so to speak. But, even there; divorce is not automatic. Many people have spouses that were unfaithful, and then were genuinely sorry, and the marriage kept on as before.
3. The big question regarding forgiveableness of divorce lies in that very matter of repentance, regret, etc. Many even plan divorces (sometimes with a new mate in mind) and then pretend “sorrow” in order to stay in the church. The church has become so all-fired indifferent, lazy about the epidemic of divorces that they don’t do anything about it by way of asking as to repentance. Such repentance would naturally include every effort at reconciliation if the previous partner has not remarried.
4. When one of the divorcees remarries, the first marriage is obviously unrestorable. Back in Leviticus God forbids a man (or woman) who finds that spouse No. 2 is no better – or worse – than No. 1, to go back to first partner. That is an “abomination”, says God; wife-swaping; legalized bed-hopping. An “innocent” person can then remarry (if previous partner remarries). Till then, ideally, neither should, always hoping for a day of restoration, which in many cases would take a “miracle”, but that’s what our faith is all about – changing us to such an extent that we become brand-new, different people.
5. If the conduct of one of the divorcees proves that he or she is a non-Christian, including absolute refusal or unwillingness at reconciliation, then, according to I Cor 7:15, the presumed believer, the “innocent”, is also free to remarry. In the eyes of God they no longer are of one flesh.
This pretty well covers just about every situation, doesn’t it? As often, we make it more confused and complicated than what it is. What we want is to have our cake (church membership) and eat it too (get divorced). I can respect, while not approving, a church member who gets a divorce and says, “I know it is contrary to the rules of God and church, and so I will step out.” Like the case above, they make the church look silly by getting their way and continuing to defy other rules.
That’s why we take an all-together different position or attitude toward divorce on the part of unbelievers than we do of professed Christians. They too should not divorce – for own sake, the kids, society, etc. But they don’t have the means at hand (God himself in them and their marriage) to make a go of it if certain intolerable conditions exist. Then God (and the church) as much as say, “Better to divorce than to ruin your lives” – and the kids – in that fashion. But that is like saying war is “OK”, or capital punishment, even though to kill a person is always wrong; in some cases it is a necessary evil, or the lesser of two, like shooting a person to prevent his killing a dozen. We do not say it is OK; we say it was an unavoidable, inescapable action – again, like cutting off an arm.
Which is what divorce is like. It is no magic answer for married unhappiness. No. 2 rarely goes much better than No. 1. If if lasts longer, it is usually because the partners are older, wiser, more experienced. Or, they wake up, too late, to the fact that the fault was not in the other person (No. 2 is no better, really) but in the demanding relationship, plus their own failures. A good marriage is not a difficult thing to achieve; humanly it is impossible. Happy the person who realizes in this, as in EVERY OTHER ASPECT OF LIFE, I can’t hack it in myself – never, ever – but God can; Christ in me can do ANYTHING.