The Bible addresses divorce and remarriage in several passages, providing guidance on when divorce is permitted, if remarriage is allowed after divorce, and other related issues. Here is an overview of some key biblical teachings on this topic:
In Matthew 19:3-9, when asked about divorce, Jesus refers back to Genesis 2:24, affirming God’s intention for marriage to be a lifelong union between a man and woman. However, Jesus acknowledges that due to humanity’s hardness of heart, Moses permitted divorce in some situations (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). Jesus further clarifies that divorce is only permissible in cases of sexual immorality. This implies divorce is not required, but can be permissible when a serious breach of the marriage covenant occurs.
The apostle Paul addresses abandonment by an unbelieving spouse in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16. He advises the believer to remain with the unbeliever if they want to, but says the believer is “not bound” if the unbeliever leaves. This implies the abandonment provides legitimate grounds for divorce.
So in summary, both Jesus and Paul allow divorce in limited situations – sexual immorality and abandonment by an unbelieving spouse. But the overall scriptural model elevates the permanence of marriage, restricting divorce only for the most serious breaches of the marriage covenant.
On the question of remarriage after divorce, there are several perspectives:
1. Remarriage is permitted for the “innocent” spouse: Many believe the exception clauses given by Jesus (Matthew 5:32, 19:9) and Paul (1 Corinthians 7:15) imply permission for remarriage if the divorce was justified. For example, if a person’s spouse was unrepentantly unfaithful, the faithful spouse would be free to remarry after divorcing.
2. Remarriage is permitted for the divorced person if the former spouse remarries: In Deuteronomy 24:1-4, the passage allows remarriage for a woman who was divorced if her former husband marries someone else. Some see this as indicating that the remarriage of the former spouse frees the other person from the broken marriage covenant.
3. Remarriage is never allowed after divorce: This view emphasizes verses like Luke 16:18 and Romans 7:2-3 that declare someone is commits adultery if they remarry after divorce. Proponents argue that even if divorce is justified, remarriage still goes against God’s ideal for marriage.
4. Marriage is for life, but remarriage is permissible: Adherents argue that while reconciliation should be pursued if possible and divorce should only be a last resort, remarriage is morally acceptable. God’s grace and the complexities of real life situations are emphasized.
Overall, there is some diversity of perspective on this issue within Christianity. But most Christians agree divorce and remarriage should be approached with care, counsel, and wisdom.
Key Biblical Principles Related to Divorce and Remarriage
Beyond the specific debates regarding the permissibility of divorce and remarriage, Scripture emphasizes some overarching principles that should guide Christians in this area:
- Marriage is sacred before God and should reflect the permanent bond between Christ and the church (Matthew 19:6, Ephesians 5:31-33). Lifelong marriage is the ideal.
- Divorce is tragic, painful, and stems from sin. It should be avoided if at all possible (Malachi 2:16).
- God hates divorce and intends marriage to be a lifelong covenant (Malachi 2:14-16).
- Jesus calls remarriage after an illegitimate divorce adultery, as it still breaks the original marriage covenant (Luke 16:18).
- Reconciliation and forgiveness should be vigorously pursued prior to any divorce (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).
- Both marriage and divorce should be approached with wisdom, counsel, prayer, integrity, and care for all involved (Proverbs 11:14, Colossians 4:5-6).
- The church should provide love, care, grace, wisdom and support to those suffering from divorce and its effects (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).
These principles help instruct Christians dealing with marital strife, separation, potential divorce, or desires to remarry. God’s intention is to redeem marriages, heal relationships, and uphold the significance of matrimony in witnessing to Christ’s love for the church.
Common Questions about Divorce and Remarriage
Here are responses to some frequent questions that arise regarding biblical teaching on divorce and remarriage:
What if my spouse cheats on me – can I divorce and remarry?
Jesus gives sexual immorality as legitimate grounds for divorce in Matthew 19:9. But forgiveness and reconciliation should be pursued if possible. Many relationships heal even after grievous betrayal. But persistent, unrepentant sexual immorality could warrant divorce. Whether remarriage is permissible is debated – some believe immorality frees the faithful spouse to remarry, but others argue even justified divorce does not permit remarriage.
If I’ve been divorced, can I remarry?
Views differ on this. Some contend remarriage after divorce is never permissible. But most allow for remarriage in some circumstances, either after divorce due to infidelity/abandonment, or after former spouse remarries, or due to God’s grace in complex relational brokenness. Biblical principles suggest caution about remarriage, submission to spiritual counsel, and consideration of factors like any contribution to divorce.
What if I’m divorced – can I serve in church leadership?
Views vary by denomination and local church policy. The key considerations are whether the person pursued divorce righteously, has repented from any contribution to marital breakdown, and currently lives an exemplary life. Some distinguish between leadership eligibility for elders/overseers versus other roles.
If I remarry am I living in perpetual adultery?
Some argue that unless remarriage was fully justified, it constitutes ongoing adultery. Others contend adultery is not an ongoing state, but an event that occurs at the initiating remarriage. Either way, Scripture reminds us God gracefully forgives and washes repentant believers clean from sin.
Can I divorce my abusive spouse?
Abuse violates the marriage covenant, putting the abused spouse’s safety at risk. Separation should immediately follow abuse, with church and professional help sought. Divorce is lamentable, but most Christians and church policies allow it in cases of unrepentant physical abuse. Some also extend this exception to extreme emotional, spiritual or verbal abuse.
If I’m unhappy in my marriage can I pursue divorce?
Scripture does not permit divorce simply because of unhappiness. While marriage challenges can be taxing, God uses difficulty to shape spouses into the image of Christ. Unless a legitimate biblical grounds exists, divorce should be avoided. Instead pursue prayer, counsel, repentance, forgiveness to restore marital love and fulfillment.
The topic of divorce and remarriage is multifaceted, and wise contemporary application of Scripture should consider each situation’s unique circumstances. But God’s plan remains for marriage to reflect Christ’s redeeming love as a life-long covenant. Christians should strive to uphold the biblical ideals of marital permanence, fidelity, and reconciliation – while also extending grace, being slow to judge, and providing healing support to all touched by divorce.