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Help to understand when divorce is appropriate for Christians by applying the intent of the Biblical instructions to the circumstances of our modern culture.

Christian Divorce-What Is The Doctrine?

The Christian doctrine concerning marriage has never been easy to obey, but now it's especially difficult to remain married when divorce is so common.  While true doctrine allows for divorce under grave circumstances, many are calling it quits because, "we were never compatible," or, "we were living next to each other, but not together."  When we use such use such excuses we often end up repeating our problems in the next marriage(s).  In this article, we'll attempt to apply Biblical principles about divorce to the issues of today, so we can have some idea how the marriage doctrine would apply to adultery, addiction, molestation, violence and more. 

Jesus, Adultery And Divorce:

Jesus quoted the Law which declared that, through marriage, God made a man and woman one, and no one could separate them.  Still, He approved divorce, but only in the case of marital unfaithfulness.  If someone wants a definite black and white doctrine on divorce, I guess this would be it.  However, Jesus did not say you must divorce someone who has been unfaithful, so, if you feel it was a short-term thing that is now over for good, you could forgive him (or her).

Paul, Divorce And The Non-Believing Spouse:

Paul added to this doctrine, approval of divorce if you were a Christian married to a non-Christian who wanted a divorce.  We can easily see the context of the times...Christianity growing by leaps and bounds...increasing numbers of "mixed" marriages, where one person went to the pagan temple while the new Christian went to someone's house to worship God.  It was a very practical thing, to allow divorce in that circumstance, rather than to allow the couple's growing differences to cause resentment toward Christ.  This divorce, however, was only permitted if the non-believer wanted it.  How this doctrine applies today in our modern context is debatable, but there are clear implications that may free Christians from the dogmatic application of strict legalistic rules. 

Bridging The Cultures To Apply Biblical Doctrines:

When we bring the divorce rules of Jesus and Paul forward 2,000 years, to our culture, we have to look deeper than just the literal statements and get a sense of the intent.  Women, then, were the property of the husband and had little ability to earn a living...which is why divorcing a woman made her a prostitute (so she could eat).  Jesus began the work that resulted in equality for women, but gave no specific direction. 

In fact, specifically, the Bible seems silent on a lot of things in our modern culture.  For instance, now, a man having an affair with a single woman is considered adultery, but not then.  When we look at the intent of Scripture and the nature of God, it's easy to see equality of women (for example) as a Biblical concept that just wasn't being followed by the culture back then.  So let's apply that same reasoning to other areas of our culture and see if we can get an idea of what would be included in a modern Christian divorce doctrine.

Addiction, Molestation, Violence And Christian Divorce Doctrine:

In the cases of addiction, molestation and domestic violence, just like adultery, the selfish wants of one person threaten the health, safety and financial survival of the whole family.  It may be that the offending person is engaging in a serious, but temporary lapse in judgment and self-control.  Once confronted, they may seek God and, with His help, do a complete turnaround, never to offend again.  Praise God if that is a miracle!

What if they don't get better...if the addict continues to drain the family assets and risk their safety...if the molester continues to have sex with the child...if a child or spouse continues to be beaten?  Are we to assume, because the Bible isn't specific about such things that God wants us to continue a marriage under these circumstances?  It's a narrow and completely unbiblical concept of God to answer "yes" to that question.  The God of the Bible loves us and wants no harm to come to us.  He assigns special angels for children.  He wants us to be good stewards and generous with what He gives us.  There really is no place in a marriage for chronic addiction, violence or molestation, even if the Bible is silent about them.

There are many other subjects where a marriage should continue even if it's difficult and requires special effort and faith.  The divorce doctrines specifically mentioned in the Bible have a clear intent to protect the value and sanctity of marriage, while allowing an escape valve in only the gravest circumstances.  When we apply that intent to the circumstances of this modern culture, adultery, molestation, violence and addiction present equally grave circumstances, and certainly justify divorce if no other remedy is found.

How do you see Scripture concerning divorce?

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