Divorce. It is a word that should strike terror and revulsion into the heart of any married disciple of Jesus Christ. It is a word of pain and failure and regret, and, tragically, it is a word that is spoken by those who claim to follow the Lord Jesus and who profess to read and obey His Word. Yes, divorce brings immense damage to people’s lives, but that is true for believer or unbeliever. For the disciple of Jesus, there is a more important aspect to divorce than the wreckage that divorce brings to the lives of all those who are affected. Divorce is willful disobedience and willful sin.
When I consider the subject of marriage and divorce, the words that first come to my mind are “obedience” and “commitment.” What most clearly marks the believer is their obedience to the commands of the Lord. Jesus said, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is that loves Me (John 14:21; also 14:23).” So, the disciple of Jesus is marked by a hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matthew 5:6), and that is manifested in obedience. Now, when the subject of divorce comes up, the student of the Bible will know that divorce and obedience do not live in the same place. Therefore, the disciple of Jesus must be very careful when they spend long periods of time contemplating things that dwell far from obedience.
The other quality that marks the believer is commitment and the fulfilling of their vows. In life, there are a very few times when a person makes a public commitment to do something. The marriage vows represent one of those times, when a public commitment is made to stay with someone “till death do you part.” Jesus said, “What, therefore, God has joined together, let no man separate (Matthew 19:6; read verses 3-6 of this chapter for Jesus’ view of divorce and marriage).” In the wedding, the two people have committed to one another “before God and these witnesses.” There is no other way to look at the exchange of wedding vows, except to see this event as making a lifetime commitment. To break a vow made before the Lord, the Holy One of Israel is a serious thing, indeed. In Psalm 15, the psalmist asks the question, “Who may abide in Your tent and who may dwell on Your holy hill?” Then David lists qualities that mark the one who can live with God. “He swears to his own hurt and does not change (15:4).” So, obedience and commitment are the twin qualities of the righteous man.
In 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 Paul makes clear that believers are not to divorce. Period. The implication is that the follower of Jesus WILL NOT DIVORCE. Another way of saying this is that disciples are not permitted to divorce. For believers, divorce is not to be considered as an option. Since God is amazingly gracious, however, Paul says that women can divorce, but that they can never marry another, but must either remain single or be reconciled to their husband.
Our Lord Jesus endured the horrors of the cross (Hebrews 12:2) and bore the full wrath of God against all the sins of those who would ever believe in Him. Our Lord committed to the task and was perfectly faithful in accomplishing the work His Father had given Him to do (John 17:4). Can we not be faithful to the wife the Lord has graciously given us (Proverbs 18:22)? God has given us one woman to love “as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25, 28).” Can we not fulfill this one assignment? Can we not faithfully love ONE woman? Or will we be faithless to our wife? Read Malachi 2:13-16. Will we “deal treacherously” (NASB 2:14) with the woman who is our wife by covenant? “For I hate divorce,” says the LORD. Surely reading this passage should slow down any contemplation of divorce.
Other ideas that occur to me:
- Don’t make a shipwreck of your life (1 Timothy 1:18-19).
- Leave a legacy of faithfulness for your children (especially for your sons), not a legacy of failure and surrender.
- Drive all thoughts of divorce from your mind and do not let them return. Instead of these thoughts, fill your mind with thoughts of obedience and faithfulness and purity. (Philippians 4:8)
- The Bible warns against divorce. (Verses already given, but there are others.)
- There is no blessing associated with divorce, only warnings and threats. On the other hand, there is blessing associated with all faithfulness, perseverance, sacrifice, love and forgiveness.
- Divorce is selfish.
- Divorce is failure, and you may never recover.
- Divorce is willful disobedience.
- Divorce causes major damage to others (your wife, your children, your church family, your Christian testimony before a watching world).
- Divorce gives Satan a major victory in your life.
- Divorce destroys your family.
- Divorce ruins your Christian testimony.
- Marriage pictures Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:28-33), but divorce pictures separation and loneliness and judgment.
Those are some thoughts that I have on the subject. On this subject of divorce, it is obvious that I land heavily on calling the man to be a man and to fulfill his vows and be obedient, no matter the personal cost to him. Men are made to die for what they believe in and to defend their hill until they are killed or the enemy surrenders. (See 2 Samuel 23:11-12.) That’s what a man does. That’s why God called men into His kingdom. Men are to protect and to provide and to press into enemy territory, not to shrink back and take it easy and play video games. A man may be taken down by superior firepower, but he should not implode because things aren’t like he expected them to be. Notice that the apostle Paul never complained about the food or the accommodations in his Roman prisons, but he did say he was going to press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:13-14). May every man who claims to follow Christ do the same. Don’t quit! Don’t cave! Don’t surrender! Never give up! Always keep the cross in view and resolve to take up and carry whatever cross you are given and to follow Jesus faithfully.
SDG rmb 1/4/2020