Why Christians Divorce

By Mike Mazzalongo Verse: Matthew 19:9 Posted: Sun. Feb 16th 2014
There are less instances of divorce among Christians but it still happens. This lesson explores some of the reasons Christians divorce, despite training and teaching to the contrary, and how to avoid this situation.

The Bible teaches that a man and a woman are to remain married for life (Matthew 19:5-6). Of course, this principle is violated in many ways as people commit adultery, divorce, or simply live in ways that are against God's will.

When people become Christians, however, they once again strive for this ideal (one man and one woman for life) as their standard for marriage. For this reason it is sad to see Christians getting divorces. I mean, you expect to see this in non-Christian homes, but when Christians divorce they go against a very basic belief and command of their faith. This trend seems to be growing because more and more Christian marriages are ending in divorce.

When I say "Divorce", what do you see? Most see lawyers, court papers, division of property and custody battles. We think that if we are not at the point of hiring lawyers, we have no problem with divorce. But divorce happens long before we get to court, and if we want to avoid it there are some things we need to know and do.

Understand what divorce is and when it is happening to you.

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
- Genesis 2:24-25

In Genesis 2:24-25, we see a man and woman create a new union when they become one flesh.

And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.
- Matthew 19:9

In Matthew 19:9, when Jesus is speaking of divorce, he uses the words "put away" translated into English as divorce. This Greek word meant to loosen, or to untie, like a knot that was tied and is now being loosened and untied. When using this term, Jesus is not talking about court proceedings or lawyers or papers. He is talking about what is actually taking place in the life of the couple. He is talking about one partner beginning to untie the bond that unites them to the other partner. Jesus reminds us that divorce does not begin in court, it begins in the heart and ends in court. So, according to the words used in the Bible, you have a divorce problem when you desire to be joined/united to someone or something else other than your partner: another person, work, hobbies or yourself. In other words, you allow someone or something to come between you and your partner: sin (lies, bad habits, unkindness, indifference, selfishness), family (joined to your partner, not your parents, children, etc. In a Christian marriage, your spouse is your priority), ambition (don't go where you cannot take your partner).

Many people are legally married but they have been working on a loosening of the bonds or untying the knot for a long time.

Know what God really thinks about it.

I have mentioned this before, but the Bible condemns divorce as a sin and this should make Christians think twice about doing this, or things that lead up to it. The guilty party is not the one who gets a lawyer and actually files for divorce, the guilty party is the one who unties the knot, loosens the bonds, separates themselves from the partner in a thousand little ways that cause the final decree in court.

When God pronounces on divorce, He is not just talking about lawyers and judgments; He is talking about the loosening, the putting away and the untying.

"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 2:16

Malachi 2:16 says that He hates it. Why? Because divorce is sin and causes pain.

So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.
- Matthew 19:6

Matthew 19:6 says that He forbids it.

Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
- Hebrews 13:4

Divorce begins by a lessening of the commitment to remain bonded together and finishes with a final legal break in court. God condemns the beginning as well as the final result. God never approves of us loosening or breaking our bonds but He does protect the innocent:

And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.
- Matthew 19:9

You are innocent if your marriage is broken through the adultery of your partner, innocent if the marriage is broken by the departure of the unbelieving spouse.

Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace.
- I Corinthians 7:15

God did not give these exceptions as a way out of marriage, He gave them to protect the innocent victims of broken marriages… so that they would not have to bear a burden of guilt in addition to the pain they suffered from a failed marriage.

Know what to do to keep the bond strong.

It is not just about avoiding bad things, it is also about doing certain things that will help avoid the temptation to loosen the bonds that lead to divorce in the first place. Here are some things necessary to keep the bonds strong:

1. Complete honesty

Good marriages require good communication and good communication requires total honesty. When the bond is weakening or threatened, we need to be open and honest about the reasons for it. If it is sin, we need to confess it. If it is someone or something, we need to expose it; usually both parties have things they need to reveal. If it is family, children, friends, work or hobbies interfering, we need to offer reassurance that our partner has a priority position.

There should be no such thing as keeping part of lives private. "One flesh" means one mind, one body and this is impossible without total honesty.

2. Complete fidelity

Fidelity does not mean just avoiding sex with someone else (although this is naturally included). Faithfulness in marriage means that we keep ourselves totally exclusive for our partners. The best side, the best words, the best attitude, these we reserve for our partner.

Some men are cheerful at work, charming with the waitresses and good sports with their buddies, but none of that seems to make it past the front door when they get home. They have given the best of themselves away and have nothing left for the one person they owe their best selves to.

Some women get along with their parents, will excuse the shortcomings of their friends, but continually nag their husbands. Some spouses work harder at their jobs than at trying to please their partners.

The more exclusive our relationship is, the more precious it becomes. Exclusivity keeps our emotional and physical relationship fresh and satisfying. If we trust our partner because of their demonstrated absolute fidelity and devotion, we will have confidence to open-up, to explore and to change in order to please them.

If we feel neglected or sense a lack of fidelity by the other, we will not have the confidence to completely give ourselves, and a vicious cycle of unraveling marriage ties will be the result.

3. Complete submission to Jesus Christ

In the end, what is it about a woman that will make her a joy to her husband?

Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.
- Proverbs 31:30

I want my wife to be a good Christian because that is the only way she will be complete as a wife for me.

An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, But she who shames him is like rottenness in his bones.
- Proverbs 12:4

In the end what makes a man worthy of a godly woman?

If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
- Joshua 24:15

A man completely dedicated to doing the will of the Lord will win the respect and confidence of his wife. A woman will gladly submit to a man who, like Christ, is willing to lay down his life (pride, selfishness, desires) for the good of his wife, as Christ laid down His perfect life for the church.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,
- Ephesians 5:25

When Jesus Christ rules the heart of the man and the woman, He is the knot that keeps the couple tied together as one flesh.

4. Develop spiritual intimacy

The marriage vow enables us to practice emotional and physical intimacy without guilt or shame. In marriage we become one flesh and create physical intimacy. In order to secure the bonds, however, we must learn to cultivate spiritual intimacy alongside of physical intimacy. Spiritual intimacy comes from the overflow of our own personal spiritual intimacy with God. It is hard to develop spiritual intimacy with someone else if you have not experienced it between yourself and God.

There are several other roadblocks that hinder the development of spiritual intimacy with our partner:

  • Hectic schedules: no time for prayer or sharing.
  • Poor communication skills: people do not know how to share or open up about spiritual things.
  • Unresolved problems in marriage: the couple uses prayer time to rehash old squabbles.
  • Feelings of spiritual inferiority: one has more Bible knowledge than the other.
  • Lack of spiritual experiences: couples who do not go to church, never study the Bible, have a hard time developing spiritual intimacy.

There are also several things you can do to develop a spiritual intimacy with your partner:

  • Unconditional commitment to the marriage.
  • Ask for what you want. This opens honest communication.
  • Model what you need in your life. Modeling helps the other see the things that are important to you.
  • Understand spiritual types. Some know God through study, others feel God and His love, and some do God's work. Different people come to "Godness" in different ways.
  • Listen to each other. Study to know your mate and identify their expectations from you.
  • Spend time together. You need quantity time to build quality relationships. Avoid too many separate activities.
  • Check-in time. Let the other know where your emotional and spiritual center is each day.
  • Share "bonding" times. Trips, projects (challenge, crisis), prayer, worship, study, serving, giving.

We tie the knot at the wedding but we tighten the knot by developing spiritual intimacy.

Summary

Divorce is always a temptation in this society but we can divorce proof our marriages:

  1. Watch for the danger signs and admit them – things that tempt us to loosen the bond.
  2. Understand that it is morally wrong. Regardless of what society says, God forbids it.
  3. Work at things that will keep the bond strong:
    1. Complete truthfulness
    2. Fidelity in all things
    3. Submission to Christ
    4. Cultivate spiritual intimacy as well as physical intimacy.

Remember, while we are still married, it is never too late to avoid divorce.