Family, Marriage, Counsel
Divorce and Remarriage
by Ed Vasicek
The subjects of divorce and remarriage are complicated and have always been matters of controversy among Bible-oriented Christians. When addressing this matter, I recognize that many top-notch scholars agree AND disagree with my understanding of Scripture. I am personally satisfied that the evidence in Scripture is strong enough for me to come to certain conclusions, yet others with differing views feel the same way.
Interestingly, the strictest Protestant groups in matters of divorce and remarriage are many Baptist groups. Many Baptists believe it is never right to divorce and remarry. The most liberal mainstream religious group is the Reform Jews who view divorce as unfortunate but not really a moral issue. Surprisingly, Baptists have the highest divorce rate while liberal Jews have the lowest. The lesson needs to be learned that a stricter position or harsher approach does not necessarily produce better results.
Our goal in a Scriptural matter should be to find out the meaning of the text as understood by the writer/speaker, not to use verses to further our own personal agendas or viewpoints. The issue is not, "What viewpoint controls divorce the most?" but rather, "What do the Scriptures teach?" In Malachi 2:16, God's general attitude toward divorce is clear, "I hate divorce." In Matthew 5 and 19, Christ tells us that divorce and remarriage are permissible on the grounds of immorality, a broad word that includes the concepts of adultery, the practice of homosexuality, or other perverted relationships.
That does not mean one MUST divorce a spouse guilty of such offenses, but rather that one MAY do so. I advise continuing the marriage if the unfaithful spouse is truly repentant. If children are involved, it is usually better for the kids to have two natural parents with a strained marriage than one parent or step-parents (according to studies done by Dr. Wallerstein).
Here is a brief summary of my perspective on divorce and remarriage.
Divorce and remarriage can be proper if there is a breach of faithfulness through immoral practice, such as adultery. Even in these situations, divorce is not always advisable (as per above), but often is appropriate (Matthew 19:3-9).
Divorce and remarriage can also be proper if one is deserted. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 7 that Jesus did not address THESE issues, which is why Paul does (1 Corinthians 7:12).
If a spouse finds living with his/her spouse is intolerable and divorces (due to things like abuse, illegal activity, etc.), then he or she must remain single or be remarried to their former spouse, divorce with NO remarriage, NO cohabitation (which is ALWAYS wrong), or NO dating (1 Corinthians 7:10-11). Though "unmarried"—hence divorced—her spouse is still "her husband." This concession is obviously made for extreme situations, not disappointment nor boredom.
Lack of happiness or incompatibility are no grounds for divorce. Marriage is a commitment until death; we should not look back, second guess, or dream of greener pastures.
When believers have fallen away from the Lord and divorce for improper reasons and are now cohabiting, etc., it may be better for them to remarry in certain instances. Since adultery has already been committed, sometimes the question is, "What is the lesser of evils?" This is especially complicated if the couple have had children together.
Remember this: whenever we leave God's ideal will and start looking for "least worst choices," we are the losers, even if things "work out." The marital vows are commitments, not options. Commitment, not the chemical high of romance, is what holds most marriages together.