Marriage is meant to be a beautiful thing. Divorce is ugly, any way you look at it. That being said, I have run into quite a few people lately on message boards who have a real hard line stance on divorce. Basically, there position is that the only thing that ends a marriage is death. No divorce allowed (they re-interpret the exception clause about adultery). Today, I want to post about the 3 biblically valid ways to end a marriage, as I understand them.
Three Valid Endings to a Christian’s Marriage
1. Death of a spouse (Romans 7:1-3)
Nearly everyone seems to agree on this. 'Till death do us part' is true. Death ends a marriage. A widow(er) is free to re-marry b/c death has ended their previous marriage in God's eyes.
2. Departure of unbelieving spouse (1 Cor. 7:12-16)
In a mixed marriage, if the unbeliever desires a divorce, Paul says the believer should not stop them. The divorce is unfortunate, but is, nevertheless, recognized by God. A valid divorce in God's eyes is real. The believer is free to re-marry.
3. Divorce for reason of unfaithfulness (Matt. 19:9)
Even in the case of 2 believers, if one party has sinned by committing adultery, the offended party is allowed to initiate a divorce. Of course, reconciliation would be the highest hope. But a divorce in this case would be valid. And where there is a valid divorce in God's eyes, there are 2 single people.
I would also have to admit that I don't think #'s 2 & 3 are as black & white as some make them out to be. Let's say you have a marriage of 2 professing believers. If one initiates a divorce without biblical grounds (no adultery) and resists the other parties attempts to reconcile (1 on 1, counseling, appeal to the church for help), the initiator is demonstrating that he/she is not a true Christian. After this process of attempted reconciliation, he/she falls into #2. Furthermore, I am not extremely black & white on what exactly constitutes 'adultery' or 'unfaithfulness.' Is it only sexual intercourse with another person? What about sexual neglect? Addiction to pornography? Etc. I think, as a counselor, one must determine the heart of the offended party. Are they just looking for a way out of an unwanted relationship? Or are they just being broken? These issues need to be dealt with on a case by case basis, but biblically.