What are the circumstances for Christians divorcing?
First, I must say that the idea that there is a standard in marriage for Christians that is separate from, or over and above, the rest of humanity is absurd. Marriage is a human institution, ordained and equipped by God, regardless of religious affiliation (or the lack thereof). The Marriage Covenant doesn’t change based on the couples belief in God or not. God is pouring out His grace on the Marriage Covenant, for it is a sign of the relationship between Jesus Christ and His church. It is just that many couples (Christian or not) do not know this fact. Many marriages end because they are based on human love rather than God’s love. They are based on emotions that change by degrees rather than God’s love that never changes and has no degrees.
Matt. 19:7-8 – “Why then,” they asked Him, “did Moses command us to give divorce papers and to send her away?” He told them, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because of the hardness of your hearts. But it was not like that from the beginning.” (HCSB)
Accordingly, God’s plan for the Marriage Covenant is one of unconditional love. But because of human emotions God allows divorce in certain circumstances (Matt. 19:9). Based on God’s institution of marriage among humanity, there is no logical reason for divorce (while one could consider numerous emotional reasons).
While Jesus says that only in instances of “sexual immorality” can there be divorce (Matt. 19:9), is this what God intended from the beginning? I mean, if a marriage is based in unconditional love (which, by definition, has no conditions), why would sexual immorality be unforgiveable? God forgave you for all of your sins, including your spiritual immorality. Why would we not be able to swallow our own pride, putting aside our egos, and forgive our spouse for this sin? If we are saying, “I’ll love you as long as…” then we cannot claim to love unconditionally (with which, we have already established, God is equipping the marriage Covenant).
On the other hand, should a woman, whose husband may have never committed sexual immorality, continue to be the victim of his sexual, mental, or physical abuse? Are we claiming that she should stay in this relationship simply because Jesus didn’t say, “in cases of sexual immorality ‘AND ABUSE’”? Certainly not!
Sound reason would dictate that, if you are seeking yourself, then you are not exercising unconditional love, and “no” there is no excuse for divorce.
Likewise, affairs are not logical, but based on often irrational human love. Human love is based on needs, and is thereby emotional; whereas unconditional love is based on God, and is therefore logical. Neither is abuse based on unconditional love and is thereby emotional, and based on human emotions.
Furthermore, concerning Jesus exclaiming that, “in cases of sexual immorality” divorce may occur, and with the understanding that in this case one can never remarry or else suffer yourself the title of “immoral,” wouldn’t this seem more like “separation” than divorce (in modern terms)? It would appear as though Jesus is suggesting separation, which in our day would not allow one to remarry because they’re not legally divorced (for he says to come back together rather than commit adultery).
Finally, add to this the fact that separation would “leave room for repentance” on the part of the one who erred. After all, unconditional love builds up, rather than tearing down. I, for one, have never suggested that a couple divorce. However, I have suggested a separation for “the sake of peace.” Separation can often be a time for each to seek out God for His healing and His unconditional love, individually, and a time where each can be equipped to be the husband or wife that each has been called to be.
If, as Christians, we are really claiming God, we will seek to build up, rather than destroy.