What does the Bible say about divorce? The Bible teaches a lot about divorce, one of the few remaining taboos within the church. Despite the church’s reluctance, the controversy is now normalcy, and society increasingly supports those Christians going through it. If you read the Bible looking for a justification of divorce or substantial punishment for those divorcing their wives or husbands, you will indeed find support for both points of view. The Bible contains so many verses about divorce that it is almost impossible to determine a biblical position among the misconceptions and questions created by what the Bible says about divorce. While researching this post’s subject, I had to choose what I considered appropriate, which put me in the position to impose my understanding and belief onto the text, risking that I may introduce erroneous ideas.
Before we look at the title’s question, it is essential to know a few things about divorce in the times of Jesus. Those who read my book – Mary Magdalene: The Lord’s Wife – found a thorough description of marriage rituals and who they affected so that we can understand what the Bible says about divorce. In the book, you will find a couple of key passages from Jesus to illustrate his thoughts about the dissolution of marriages. By reviewing the Lord’s statements, you will get a good understanding of what the Bible teaches about this delicate matter. First of all, Israel was very different from today; it was a radical patriarchal society where women were second-class citizens under the control of their father and then by their husbands. First Century rules mandated that only men could divorce their wives if something improper happened; women couldn’t even opine in the matter (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). For many, a man could divorce his wife for even the most trivial thing like not washing his clothes properly, burning a meal, or displeasing him in any way. Others, including Jesus, thought divorce was acceptable only if the woman committed a sexual offense, such as adultery (Matthew 19:9). Jesus' answers, when questioned about whether it was lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause, illustrate his thoughts on the matter. He said his father created them equal, "male and female." He added, "what therefore God has joined together, let not man separate" (Matthew 19:1-12).
A divorced man did nothing wrong; accordingly, he has no financial or social hardships. Women, on the other hand, suffer the most severe penalties; divorce changed their lives forever. They were looked upon as damaged merchandise, condemned to live single for the rest of their lives. Furthermore, because women were not allowed to work, they have to move back with their families if accepted, become beggars, or go into prostitution. Divorce in Jesus’ days put women in a detrimental position but gave men all the advantages. In my book, I show Jesus opposing divorce on a spiritual and material basis and doing a lot in defending women by giving them equal treatment. Jesus challenged the view that cast women as 2nd class citizens and many of the customs that put women below men. He considered women a valuable part of society and proved it by placing them in prominent roles in his ministry. On a personal note, Jesus started a cultural shift that changed how society viewed and treated women. More than anyone in his time, he fought for women’s rights and opposed the cultural views that cast women aside. The church should continue Jesus’ work. The Catholic Church, in particular, should be placing women in roles where their talents can be fully utilized. In First Century Jewish culture, men were superior to women in every way; the possible exception was giving birth. Jesus understood that these extreme views were not part of God’s plan. It is shameful that some of those prejudices are still in place today.
Regardless of their religious affiliation, a man who divorces his spouse for selfish reasons is doing it wrong and should not do it. Jesus believed marriage unites, a lasting union brought together by God’s original design and intent. He wanted the marriage to last forever. Then, sin came into the picture to separate us from each other and causing irreversible damage to the union.
Biblically, divorce is not approved; it is always a bad decision. Christians should keep this in mind when choosing the lesser of two bad options. Sometimes, divorce is a better option than staying in an abusive relationship. It doesn’t mean we should bail on our marriages when it gets complicated. Reflecting God’s intentions, the Bible teaches that we should try our best to redeem our brokenness before divorcing our spouse.
The Bible, it is clear, does not condone divorce but accepts it when one spouse commits a grave violation of marriage rules; adultery is the best example. There are other extenuating circumstances, such as deciding to stay or not in an abusive relationship. There are no biblical determinations on who commits the violation. The Book treats man and woman equally. Jesus ended the rules that put women at a disadvantage. Christians must understand that God intended their marriage to last until death. I am sure God has not changed His mind about it.He does not want unions to break; the Bible’s message is one of reconciliation and hope.