Christians have been trying to figure out for centuries: is divorce and remarriage ever the right thing to do? For some, that’s an intellectual discussion – for others, it’s a huge, unexpected reality in their lives.
Back in Episode 13, we answered the question, “Is it ever OK to say, ‘If you do XYZ I’m going to divorce you’”? In response to that post, a spouse wrote us to ask, “If there are repeated acts of infidelity over several years, is it OK to say, ‘If you do this one more time, I am going to divorce you’? One comment that the listener provided was: “Once you say that, the whole nature of the relationship changes.”
I want to be up front about a few things here. The following is what Caleb and I believe to be right, at this moment. We reserve the right to change our minds – we don’t want to come across as having it “all figured out”!
Also, I have extreme empathy for any of our listeners who are in this situation and are wrestling with this question. It is very difficult even to write this through my tears knowing the pain and questions in so many people’s hearts. So, if you’re in this situation, please reach out. We’d love to connect with you. For those of you not in this kind of dilemma, be thankful and then work on your marriage EVERY SINGLE DAY so you never find yourself in a situation like this!
That said, here’s our take:
Divorce does not please God. It is very hard on both spouses and very, very hard on children.
Generally speaking, husbands and wives should not desert or divorce their spouses and if they do, they should remain single and attempt to be reconciled. (1 Corinthians 7:10 & 11) However, there are three exceptions where a person can remarry:
•Where an unbelieving spouse deserts the marriage, the saved spouse is free to remarry. (1 Corinthians 7:15)
•In the case of sexual immorality; the bond is already broken and the faithful spouse is under no obligations to the covenant. (Matthew 5:31-32)
•If your spouse dies. (Romans 7:1-4)
Other than #3 though, life rarely fits so clearly or easily in the categories that we provided!
We believe that a couple should always aim for reconciliation, forgiveness and rebuilding. We have seen that those marriages are often sweeter than even marriages that have never experienced the trauma of something major like an affair.
Pruch, a writer from a Baptist Seminary, suggests that “all cases should be handled on a case-by-case basis with great care and reliance on God’s Spirit through prayer, in concert with one’s elders and church family, while urging the guilty towards repentance.”
Perhaps, instead of divorce, we should be placing more emphasis on separation and suspending the divorce decision, while we work through a process of facilitating restoration and reconciliation.
When we discussed this issue in Episode 13 (link above), it was more for “minor threats”, or even using the threat as a joke or a way to get your own way. Obviously, the question from this listener is no joking matter.
So, to our listeners who are currently struggling with this, it’s definitely a complex matter. You have some biblical guidelines and you need to make your decision based on a multitude of factors including:
- Your own ability to forgive and reconcile.
- Your evaluation of your spouse’s ability to seek help and find healing so that they become safe, monogamous lover for you.
- Your own willingness to own your flaws and mistakes and not in any way enable the relationship to return to its broken state.
- Your understanding of your own beliefs about whether remarriage is an option for you or if you would prefer to remain single.
- Your understanding of your church community’s position on this.
Again, deciding whether to remain, separate or divorce your partner takes a lot of prayer and wise counsel. Therefore, we would recommend that you talk to responsible members of your church that can provide you with some helpful spiritual insight.
To all our other readers, our prayer is that your marriage NEVER gets to this point. That’s why we work to provide you with tools to help you build a thriving, passionate marriage.
Don’t take your marriage for granted – but steadily work to improve it!