Marriage and Divorce
“For the Lord God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garment with violence,” says the Lord of hosts. Therefore take heed to your spirit,
that you do not deal treacherously.” – Malachi 2:16, NKJV
Recently, someone that I know held a divorce party. I think that they are pretty common nowadays, but I had never known anyone to host one until then. While I knew that the party was really just a way for her friends and family to show her their support during a difficult time and circumstance in life, the idea of “celebrating” something so devastating didn’t sit well with me. While I love, support, and pray for her, I do not believe that divorce was in God’s original plan when He instituted marriage.
Even though it wasn’t her ultimate desire for that to take place, I chose not to attend for that reason, along with various others. A complete break in a marriage relationship has detrimental effects for everyone involved. I went through one of my own, and at the time, I remember thinking that I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy and that no one should have to go through a divorce. I wanted, with everything in me, for my marriage to last and to be what God wanted. My former husband and I had trouble making a true break even after the divorce was finalized. We remained in constant contact and still referred to each other and viewed one another as husband and wife up until about a year after the divorce. No matter how amicable two parties may be at the time of the split, divorce is very difficult. I think that’s why God says that He hates it (Malachi 2:16). Yet, it is all too common in this day and age.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2009 about 41% of all the women aged 50-59 years old surveyed reported ever being divorced. For women aged 35-39 years old, it was 27%, and then it was 36% for women aged 40-49 years old. The median age at divorce for men who had a first marriage was 32 years old in 2009 – while their median age at marriage was 24.5 years old. And for women, it was 30.1 years old at divorce and 22.3 years old for marriage. So, divorces are happening for a large percentage of people who marry. And marriages don’t even appear to last for 10 years anymore.
Marriage is an important institution that God first put in place with Adam and Eve in the Garden. After being asked if it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife on any grounds, Jesus said, “He who created them in the beginning made them male and female […] For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate” (Matthew 19:4-6). The Lord intended for marriage to be between a man and a woman, and He intended it to be a lasting bond.
Jesus went on to say that divorce was only permitted by Moses because of the hardness of the people’s hearts, but “it was not like that from the beginning” and that divorce should only occur for sexual immorality – that is, sexual relations outside of the marriage relationship with someone other than a spouse (Matt. 19:8-9). He said that if anyone divorces for any other reason, they commit adultery (v.9). The Lord expounded on the idea when He said that “whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Matthew 5:32; cf. Romans 7:3; 1 Corinthians 7:11). So, anyone who marries a person who was not the guilty party of fornication – or sexual immorality – in their marriage, commits adultery.
God knows what’s best for His children. I think that’s why He intended and set marriage up the way that He did. The Hebrews writer says, “Marriage must be respected by all, and the marriage bed kept undefiled, because God will judge immoral people and adulterers” (Hebrews 13:4). That judgment is true for anyone involved in such a thing. We must respect the institution of marriage in the way God designed it – for man and woman and for life.
Many times people disrespect the sanctity of marriage purposefully. Other times, a spouse may dupe an unsuspecting person into thinking that they are not married and single. Unfortunately, that happened to me once, after my marriage had ended. Although the guy tried to explain that he was in the midst of finalizing a divorce and waiting for the official papers to arrive after his marital status was discovered, that was no excuse. He was still married in the eyes of God.
And no matter how much he apologized and bought gifts, it was wrong for him to have a relationship with someone who was not his wife. He was wrong. Had I been living the way God wanted at the time, I would never have been duped. But I wasn’t; I had gone astray from the faith and was living like the world. And, I was wrong. Many times, people who do get divorced don’t wait until their divorce is finalized before they start dating other people. That’s not showing respect for marriage. God will bring judgment on those who do not respect marriage and defile it, if they do not repent.
Marriage is a beautiful institution built by God. When it’s kept uncorrupted, it benefits all involved – the husband and wife and their children, if they have any. In his article “The Devastating Effects of Divorce,” Wayne Jackson details how people who are divorced are more likely to experience alcoholism; they are more likely to have mental health issues, and; their children are more likely to have behavioral problems. So many challenges in life can be avoided if marriage is treated the way God wants it to be treated – if people are treated the way they want to be treated (Matthew 7:12).
God places a high value on marriage. He compares it to the relationship of Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:22-31; Revelation 21:9). So it’s very important, and it’s meant to be lasting. May we always have and show the appropriate love and respect for marriage and for all people – just the way God wants us to do.