For Christians, getting divorced can be a difficult and emotional experience. Divorce goes against the traditional Christian view of marriage as a lifelong commitment, and can leave individuals feeling conflicted and unsure about their faith.
On one hand, you know in your gut that getting divorced is the right path and yet, on the other hand, you fear the wrath of God could come bearing down on you. As if getting divorced wasn’t tough enough already. So, how can Christian divorce and human imperfections be reconciled?
Is it okay for Christians to get divorced?
Life is a complex mishmash of gray and while it would be so much neater to give a yes or no answer, life doesn’t work that way. Moreover, a Christian divorce is just as messy as any other divorce.
Many scholars and religious wise people have analyzed what the Bible is really telling us and how to interpret it. All these people offer slightly different angles.
On the one hand, many hold tightly to the claim that God’s view on divorce is that it is a sin. As evidence, they’ll quote Jesus Christ on divorce as stated in Mark in the Revised Standard Version of the Bible:
“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” [Mark 10:11-12, Revised Standard Version]”.
Interestingly, the old testament is perhaps more forgiving if you look at Deuteronomy 24:1-4: “Suppose a man enters into marriage with a woman, but she does not please him because he finds something objectionable about her, and so he writes her a certificate of divorce”.
In the latter verse, it almost seems to encourage getting a divorce.
There is always a danger in looking for black-and-white answers about processes and laws because we can miss the main message. The Bible is about love and compassion for each other.
So, if you have done the best you can and are doing right by your spouse but you can only bring love back into your life with divorce, perhaps that is ok. Nevertheless, only you can answer that question and how you feel in terms of how you relate to God.
The Biblical basis for marriage
As this article on the Christian divorce rate states, there is some research regarding where divorce rates are highest. On the one hand, it seems that regular churchgoers are less likely to get a divorce. Nevertheless, religion doesn’t completely shield us from human baggage and neuroses.
Despite all this, the aim of marriage within the Bible is to promote family, spirituality, and community. In short, it’s a sanctified process for us to keep creating and building life.
With that in mind, how does God view divorce? At the black-and-white end of the scale, it’s an institution created by God and anyone who breaks it goes against His will.
A perhaps more modern and open-minded view on Christian divorce is that people make mistakes.
This is even alluded to in the Book of Matthew [19:3-9, Revised Standard Version] when Jesus explains that Moses allowed a divorce to take place because it was a more peaceful way forward than the alternative.
Christian views on divorce
As you can imagine, Christians and divorce do sometimes go together. Although, of course, no one wants to get a divorce and most people tend to give everything they have before finally concluding that divorce is the only way.
It’s also worth remembering that we are imperfect and sometimes we need challenges, such as getting divorced, to help us grow. Perhaps that’s how we then reach the stage when we can finally have the stable and fulfilling relationship we hear about in the Bible.
Another way to look at it as described in this paper on What Jesus Really Said, is that the translation that gave us the word divorce might actually have meant “to send away”.
Essentially, it seems that Jesus could have actually been saying that we shouldn’t just throw our spouse out of the house for no reason.
Instead, we should do things properly with a legal process and reason for a divorce. Others again support this claim, as this Religion Online article on A Theology of Divorce indicates, that perhaps Jesus was protecting women from being rejected by their spouses and left out on the street.
So, perhaps it isn’t so much the concept of Christian divorce that is wrong but instead, it’s the idea of not treating people in a Christian way that is sinful. Even if you are separating, you owe it to each other to go through a kind and compassionate divorce process.
Challenges in a Christian marriage
All relationships have their particular challenges. Nevertheless, having a Christian backdrop can both be a blessing and an emotional test. This is particularly true if you both look at it from different angles.
The Christian church is vast with many different beliefs and assumptions. Let’s not forget that these have caused wars and various turmoil over the centuries. To expect to fix those debates within a marriage would be naive.
As always, to avoid getting to the point of divorce in a Christian marriage, you need to communicate. Make sure you talk openly about your beliefs, including the different male and female roles that you’re happy with.
Moreover, remember to forgive yourself, just as God taught forgiveness. We can all be hard on ourselves but Christians can sometimes over-focus on their sins and forget that they’re human.
So, support each other through the muddles of being human and work at your relationship so that the phrase “Christian divorce” never even comes up.
The impact of divorce on children
When dealing with divorce and Christians, the children should always come first. That doesn’t mean you don’t get a Christian divorce if that’s the best choice for everyone but it does mean that you talk to your children.
And if you think you’re talking enough to them about what’s happening, then talk again some more.
In the following video, neuropsychiatrist Dan Siegel explains how connecting with children’s inner thoughts can help you support them emotionally. You too can do this by using feeling words such that your children express and process their emotions:
Then, of course, there is the practical side. That means making sure the children live with the parent that works best for them. In that case, make sure you also get guidance from a Christian divorce lawyer.
Legal and practical considerations
As a Christian divorce attorney will tell you, the law is non-religious and applies equally to everyone.
Of course, if you want to divorce a Christian, you might want to follow your own Christian process and guidelines. That’s why working with a Christian lawyer can be beneficial because they have a similar mentality.
Nevertheless, a Christian divorce is just like any other divorce. You have to take into account the financial implications, including dividing your assets. In addition, you now have the chance to rebuild your life as a single adult.
Naturally, the arrangements for the children are also critical. This is both in terms of where they live and how their school work might be impacted.
As part of this, you also need to decide what happens to the family home. For instance, you might need to find somewhere temporary to live.
Support and guidance for Christians going through divorce
Christian divorce is hard. Any divorce is hard but in this case, you might also feel lost in terms of how it impacts your relationship with God. In that case, it’s worth reaching out for guidance and support.
The process of divorce in Christianity has changed over the millennia. Nevertheless, in the end, God’s message is to support and forgive each other, including ourselves. So, do your research with Christian books on divorce and talk to people but whatever you do, be kind to yourself.
If you still feel lost with regard to your Christianity and divorce, don’t suffer alone. Make sure you reach out to online marriage counseling to help you find clarity while staying connected with your faith.
Getting through divorce as a Christian
Divorce is one of the toughest life events you’ll have to face. Moreover, getting a divorce as a Christian can put your faith in disarray and cause you even more pain.
Instead of being too hard on yourself, bear in mind that there are many interpretations of the Bible. These have also led to a multitude of views on Christian divorce. The point is to remember forgiveness and to reconcile for yourself what feels right in view of your own special relationship with God.
Rachael Pace is a noted relationship writer associated with Marriage.com. She provides inspiration, support, and empowerment in the form of motivational articles and essays. Rachael enjoys studying the evolution of loving partnerships Read more and is passionate about writing on them. She believes that everyone should make room for love in their lives and encourages couples to work on overcoming their challenges together.
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