“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce. But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.'” – Matthew 5:31-32 NIV
Is divorce always wrong? Is divorce ever allowed? If so, when? Is remarriage after divorce allowed? If so, when? Simply raising questions about divorce and remarriage can cause a great deal of tension, because so many have either been through a divorce or been impacted by the divorce or remarriage of a loved one. Trying to understand the very challenging words of Jesus can be troubling indeed, so let’s seek to understand exactly what Jesus is communicating to us.
Right away, we see that Christ makes it very clear that God intends for marriage to be for life. The only exception is for unfaithfulness, which is another way to say sexual immorality outside the bonds of marriage. What Jesus is saying is that unfaithfulness on the part of your spouse allows for divorce, which I believe means He allows for remarriage. Otherwise, He would be defining all divorce as the one sin from which we can never be completely forgiven – and we know that’s not the case.
Still, it’s clear that God hates divorce for the harm it does to both our relationship with God and others. So, how can He ever allow it? When a man and a woman have made vows and created a covenant with one another before God and those vows have been broken, God allows for divorce. It’s not what He wants. It’s not a command. He simply allows for it, knowing the hurt can be so great and the trust so irretrievably broken, that the relationship cannot continue. While God hates divorce, He doesn’t hate the person who is divorced. He loves the person who is divorced.
What if you’ve already messed up and divorced your spouse for unbiblical reasons? What if you were the guilty party in the breakup of the marriage? Well, that’s one of the beautiful things about God. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.
Divorce and remarriage are incredibly complicated. But for those who are still married, please remember—marriage is for life. For those who are divorced, when you seek the forgiveness of God, you are forgiven. He sent His Son to die on the cross for the sin of divorce, the sin of murder, the sin of adultery… for every sin known to man. And because Christ has given His life to cleanse us of all sin, there is hope after divorce. There is always the chance for a new beginning when you are willing to claim the forgiveness of God. And that is mighty good news.