Can a Christian divorce? (part 1)

Olu JegedeDevotional, Relationships

Marriage in our churches today are failing. Thus this is a touchy subject to speak about or even broach. Recently, I was given the opportunity of sharing on this message at our local assembly. I knew that there were those in attendance who had either being divorced, were considering divorce, or remarried. I dared not presume my own knowledge in this arena, so I held tightly to the words of Jesus. I believe that morning I was able to share passionately and with clarity, and hopefully my words were received by some, as God’s word. In this two part article, I reiterate my position (or Jesus’ position) on divorce and remarriage, and I trust it will be a blessing.

The disciples came to Jesus and asked a question that maybe you are asking today.
“Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” (Mark 10:2). This question was asked in purity of heart. They really wanted to know.

This may be your question today. Have you ever wondered for any reason if it was ok to divorce? Today, there are multiple reasons why people untie the knot. Some trivial, and others quite heavy. Many cite irreconcilable differences, while a startling number separate due to infidelity. Could this have been the case in the 1st Century as well? Is that why the disciples wanted to know if it was permissible to divorce?

Unexpectedly so, the answer is yes. See, in the practice of the Jewish law, it seems that divorce for any number of reasons was permitted. That’s why the disciples chimed in that “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” In fact, this could go both ways. A woman could divorce her husband for breaking the Ketubah, or marriage contract. He may have failed in any number of ways to fulfill his vows from material to sexual obligations, and thus she could divorce him.

So technically they answered their own question to Jesus. It is lawful (at least according to Moses AKA, the Old Testament) for a man to divorce his wife.

But Jesus, doesn’t accept their self-righteous answer. He goes to that place, where they don’t want to go. Revealing to them that marriage is actually forever. Moses’ divorce exclusion was a compromise according to Jesus. It wasn’t this way from creation. God ordained marriage forever, after all, according to Genesis 2:24, a man is joined to his wife, and the two have become one flesh. Jesus intimates that this joining is so binding that it forms an inseparable union. One that is only separated by God or by death. (Mark 10:9, and Romans 7)

So according to Jesus, can a Christian divorce? His startling answer in this passage is simply no. This answer shocks us, as Jesus so often shocked his hearers.

Jesus’ constraint is this: work out your marriage issues. No ceremony, no explanation, no excuses.

Are you currently in a situation where you are seriously considering divorce? Can I suggest Christ’s rigid stance on divorce is meant to bring life to your seemingly dead marriage. After all a cord of three is not easily broken. Remember, Christ is that third person in your marriage. He witnesses your pain, the conflicts, and the plethora of broken promises. Yet His enduring belief in marriage causes one to reconsider the permanence of the marriage vows. These vows not only bind you to your spouse, but invited Christ on the scene.

Thus Christ’s answer to your desire to quit is to trust in Him. And maybe if He seems so distant because of the fuzzy haze of your dilemma, cling on to those words in your vows. A marriage vow to love for better or for worse, is powerful. So powerful that it can be a conduit of faith, whereby God supernaturally holds your marriage in His arms, and sees you through the roughest patch. Though you have had it with this relationship, can I encourage you not to give up? Don’t give up seeking counsel, and finding common ground. But equally as important, don’t stop trusting God. Instead of praying the same prayers, try something different. Start to pray your vows. That’s right make your vows into a prayer request. If you do this consistently enough, I believe you will see your spouse as what those vows represent: kind, nurturing, cherishing, protecting and loving. As you do, may the hand of God almighty turn things around for you and your spouse, and restore your marriage to be one that is heaven made.

In our next article we will deal with the unfortunate reality that divorce does occur. If this happens, then how do we navigate this and what are our options? These questions will be answered in the second part.

– Pastor Olu Jegede