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Christian Life

What Does the Bible Say About Divorce?

I’d like to preface this article by saying that my own parents have been divorced for 15 years. What follows is not my opinion, but the research on what Scripture says about divorce.

Currently, the divorce rate in the United States is around 50 percent. That means that for every two couples that get married, one will get divorced at some point. Some of the most common reasons people give for divorce are:

  • “I fell out of love with my spouse.”
  • “We just don’t have anything in common.”
  • “He/She/I would be happier without me/him/her.”
  • “We are incompatible.”
  • “He/She isn’t a Christian”

Many people rush into marriage without realizing that marriage is not all sunshine and roses; marriage is hard work. So is it okay for couples to divorce due to the reasons listed and others like them? Let’s look at what God’s word says.

‘Take heed then to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth. For I hate divorce,’ says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘and him who covers his garment with wrong,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously’  (Malachi 2:15b-16).

I think this verse in Malachi makes it pretty clear how God feels about divorce–He’s not a big fan. God considers divorce as dealing treacherously with one’s spouse. The Bible does, however, give a few situations in which divorce is acceptable.

Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?’ And He answered and said, ‘Have you not read that He who created them from 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 they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.’ They said to Him, ‘Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?’ He said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery’  (Matthew 19:3-6).

According to this passage, the only reason God ever allowed any provision for divorce was because of our sinful and stubborn hearts, but divorce was never God’s intention. Jesus makes it very clear that divorcing for any reason other than immorality (sexual abuse, physical abuse or adultery) and getting remarried is the same as committing adultery.

But what if one person is a Christian and their spouse is not?

Well, as we’ve seen from the verses above, Jesus says that only immorality is grounds for divorce. The Greek word that the Bible translates as immorality is “porneia,” from which we get the word “pornography,” and it means illicit sexual intercourse with anyone or anything that is not one’s spouse. According to the verse in Malachi, one is not to deal treacherously with their spouse and I can’t imagine much that is more treacherous than any kind of abuse.

Jesus didn’t say, “If your spouse doesn’t believe in me, then go ahead and leave them,” or “if you’re unhappy then get a divorce.” He said not to divorce for any reason other than immorality.

Paul gives his own thoughts on this in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16. Paul makes it clear that these are his own thoughts on marriage between believers and unbelievers: As long as the faith of the husband or wife is not a problem for the unbelieving spouse, then the believer should remain in the marriage.

Since God did not provide a specific provision for the marriage of believers to unbelievers, we’re probably safe taking Paul’s advice regarding this issue. Peter also takes this view of marriage between believers and unbelievers, saying that the conduct of a believing wife will win her husband to the Lord (1 Peter 3:1-2).

The conclusion we can draw from this is that there are few Biblical grounds for divorce, and many divorces today do not meet the criteria set forth by God to allow for divorce.

What do you think about what the Bible says regarding divorce?

What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate (Mark 10:9).

Image: Thinkstock | istockphoto

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17 Comments

  1. Project Inspired

    Posted by 247girlyattire on August 31, 2012 at 19:51

    Divorce is really sad thing. My best friend’s parents got divorced, and it was awful for her for three reasons:
    1. Her parents were getting divorced
    2. She had to get rid of her dog–she loved that dog, it has been three years and she is still upset about it.
    3. She had to move 4 hours away, so now we only see each other a few times a year.
    And she was only 8 when it happened, so it has been an awful experience.
    But even though it has been though on her mom, and on her siblings, her mom is much happier now. I believe the only reason God allows divorce is because He made everyone a perfect match, and if they marry the wrong person they might not meet their match. So He allows divorce.
    And if both people are not Christians when they get married, then their marriage will not last.

  2. Project Inspired

    Posted by live life to the fullest on August 25, 2012 at 16:09

    I totally agree… God does not like divorces no matter what. Thank you very much! Also if you do get divorced you shouldn’t get remarried. “He who marries a divorced woman commits adultery”

    • Project Inspired

      Posted by Gods Angel on September 8, 2012 at 15:16

      I think that we as Christians cannot twist the Bible our way, and I do know for a fact that God does not like divorce at all. It is good that Christians encourages other married believers to stay together. However if a Christian guy or girl has a partner whether they have children or not and their partner is unfaithful to them they have every right to divorce and remarry, because there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, unless, let’s say I would get divorced and remarry too quickly than I would also commit adultery and the person who marries me, but if I wait a year or more I am not committing adultry. We as Christians should not twist the Bible, however we should learn not to take things too literally?

      I know I am writing too much and, why do I think it is important not to take things too literally, because one of my relatives belongs in false doctrine for taking some things of the bible too literally she actually thinks that a women named Jerusalem is Jesus’s wife and not the city itself.

  3. Project Inspired

    Posted by peanutbutter on August 25, 2012 at 13:48

    I like how the bible says you shoudln’t get divorce. if you dont know the person ,dont get married. if you think you know the person but dont then dont get married.

  4. Project Inspired

    Posted by lisaleach602 on August 24, 2012 at 20:57

    i disagree with some of the comments in that i dont find this article to judging anyone who has been divorced.
    it’s not condemning, it doesnt say that youre not forgiven if youve been divorced. it doesnt say anything bad about people who have. all it did was quote God’s word.

  5. Project Inspired

    Posted by JennaBel on August 21, 2012 at 21:13

    My parents are divorced, they have been for seven years, but I totally agree with this. There is no excuse for divorce except the reasons the Bible listed. My parents weren’t divorced on Biblical grounds, both of my parents are good people who love me and my sister very much, but I believe their divorce had no excuse. I believe they should’ve tried harder to stay together to please God, but that unfortunately I wasn’t the case. I plan to learn from their mistakes as well as others and take marraige very seriously when the time comes for me. Thanks for this article, it really cleared things up for me!! 🙂

  6. taytay

    Posted by taytay on August 18, 2012 at 17:32

    I’m a little confused…so if someone made a mistake and married someone who wasn’t “the one”, God doesn’t want them to get a divorce?

  7. Paris

    Posted by Paris on August 15, 2012 at 22:02

    Very well researched article! Outstanding job,Jenn!

  8. Project Inspired

    Posted by hugsnkisses0706 on August 15, 2012 at 12:16

    my parents divorced when i was around 3-5 years old… so yes its okay to divorce if your spouse is unbelieving and trying to make you give up your faith.. also if there is abuse or sexual immorality going on …. God doesnt want us to suffer or give up our faith.. so we should choose who to marry wisely but at the same time stuff happens and people make mistakes… God will forgive us no matter what..!!!!!

    • Project Inspired

      Posted by Jiune57 on August 15, 2012 at 21:53

      You make it sound like we can just be careless and whatever because it doesn’t matter. Well, I think it does. Yes, Jesus will forgive us for our sins, but only if we truly mean it. I agree with you on saying its okay to divorce if abuse or immorality is going on, but we shouldn’t just get divorced and then say, “Meh, doesn’t matter, Jesus will forgive me.” Yes, Jesus will, but only if you are truly sorry for separating what God has joined or just not get divorced at all. Even if you are unhappy, try to make the most of the situation, and try to make a happy atmosphere for you and your husband. Maybe then, you can learn to be happy, and will be glad you stayed in the marriage after all.

  9. Project Inspired

    Posted by on August 15, 2012 at 10:33

    I have to disagree. I think that first of all, the best way to prevent divorce is to really make sure that you want to get married. If them having different beliefs is a problem for you, then you shouldn’t marry them in the first place. However, if you really do love someone and you get married and then you later feel that you have both changed and you aren’t happy anymore, obviously you should see if it can be worked out, but if you really have irreconcilable differences and you aren’t in love, why should you stay together?

    • sparklesgurl

      Posted by sparklesgurl on October 12, 2012 at 08:30

      The questions this comes down to are do we trust God? Do we care to discover what he said? If he said he hates divorce (Malachi 2:15b-16), then we need to trust Him to provide for us even if we don’t like the situation that we are in.
      I challenge everyone here to base their opinions not on circumstance but on God’s word.

    • Project Inspired

      Posted by hugsnkisses0706 on August 15, 2012 at 12:18

      i totally agree on this! i think people should stop judging others on divorce and everything in general… we all make mistakes.. my mom and dad have married 3 timees to other ppl and my stepmom had to divorce because her husband turned into an atheist!! God still loves us and works with us anyway

    • garneraddy

      Posted by garneraddy on August 15, 2012 at 12:06

      Why should they stay together? Because they made a promise to God at the altar on their wedding day. “For better or worse. For richer or poorer. In sickness and in health.” A wedding bond is a commitment.

      • Project Inspired

        Posted by on August 16, 2012 at 14:02

        “Will you love her, comfort her, honor and keep her in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others keep you only unto her as long as you both shall live?” If you aren’t loving, comforting, and honoring each other, then you shouldn’t be together.

  10. figlllgisalt

    Posted by figlllgisalt on August 15, 2012 at 10:13

    I love this website because you have facts to back everything up. And facts from the best source: the bible! I have always wondered what the bible said about divorce. Thanks!