Biblical Divorce–Three Reasons: Adultery, Abandonment and Neglect

The Gutenberg Bible displayed by the United St...
The Gutenberg Bible displayed by the United States Library of Congress, demonstrating printed pages as a storage medium. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Divorce is not the unpardonable sin. Despite the fact that divorce can be forgiven and remarriage can ensue, it is never to be taken lightly. If you love your spouse, but are not “in love”, if you are best friends with him or her, then you best work on your marriage. Marriage is not romance and tingling loins–marriage is a compact of mutual respect. It honors God.

Marriage has lost its sacred nature, and we, as followers of Christ, need to resurrect that component. However, the Bible gives us clear-cut examples when divorce can be “no-fault” (so to speak) to the innocent parties–Adultery and desertion AND neglect.
1. Adultery

Matt 19:8-9

8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.” NIV

Most of the New Testament couches this with the man toward the woman. When a man is responsible for the well being of the wife and her offspring, he needs to know that the lineage she produces is his. That’s obviously not the case today.

And Paul writes in Galations 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”KJV

In a world where women can fend for themselves through their careers, she can seek the divorce. Remember, a woman in Bible times had no means of support. If her husband divorced her, she could do little and generally lived in poverty–often having to turn to prostitution in order to survive.

2. Desertion

1 Cor 7:15-16, “But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. NIV

God does not want us to be tied to a person who refuses to live with us, support us, and fulfill what God has joined together.

3. Neglect

I’ve seen abused women stay in a marriage because they believe only desertion and adultery qualifies as grounds for divorce. However, we must understand the culture of the day and what the people who initially heard Jesus, understood.

Jesus did not forbid divorce in cases of abuse. I recently read an interesting article by David Instone-Brewer in Christianity Today. Brewer is the senior research fellow in rabbinics and the New Testament at Tyndale House, Cambridge. His research definitively shows how Jesus never commanded a spouse to stay in a marriage if abuse and neglect abounded. Next week, I will distill his argument. However, I have included the link below so you can read the entire article.

Divorce involves humans–men and women of broken spirit. Christians serve a God who understands their needs and hears their pleas. If you have any testimony about your life as a divorced Christian, I’d love to hear from you.

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