Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What Does the Bible Say About Divorce?

Over 1 million couples will file as married on this year's tax form, for the last time. That is, until they get married again, and risk an even greater rate of divorce. More people file for divorce the day after the federal tax deadline than any other day of the year, when the couple's monetary worth is revealed. What is the true measure of a couple's worth? Let's go to the Bible to find out, since after all, marriage is a covenant that we made with our spouse and God.  

The first Bible search word that came to my mind regarding marriage was 'long-suffering'. (Tee hee hee - I couldn't help myself!) Actually, in Ephesians 4 it says, "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love".  This is the measure of your patience, and the real test of patience is not in the waiting, but in how one acts while he or she is waiting. 

I know I can wait quite patiently when I distract myself by stewing a plan of vengeance. Obviously, this is not good idea. These verses in Romans 12 remind us that God will take care of repaying wrongs… "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." I imagine God's disappointment and punishment can far outweigh mine. 'Tis best to just forgive.

How do we measure up in the forgiveness department? In Colossians 3 it says, "Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye." 

The next verse goes on the say, "And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness." Hmm…charity; the highest form of love from God, far surpassing erotic and emotional love. This is unconditional love at it's finest, and must be what they are talking about when they say you must love your spouse even when you don't like them. 

Let's say it goes way beyond not liking your spouse. Let's say we don't even want to breath the same air as they are. Let's say, as the Bible says, we want to "put them away". Can we? This is what the Pharisees asked Jesus, and our Lord's response was,  "Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." (Matthew 19) That last sentence always gets me. 

If one is really searching, there are two (and only two) reasons a divorce is tolerated by our God.  The first reason Jesus reveals in later in Matthew 19, "Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery." Therefore, if your partner has been unfaithful, you are pardoned. And the second reason, as told by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 7, is if your spouse is not a believer in Christ as his or her Savior, and leaves you. (You cannot, however, leave them if they wish to stay.) 

As always, it is best if we follow God's own example. He 'married' us when we came to believe in His Son, as we are the Church, the bride of Christ.  There is absolutely nothing we could possibly do that would cause Him to leave us. How blessed are we?!

Divorce, as very hard as it is, is actually the easy way out. Staying married is much harder work, yet this endeavor is what God wants of us. If pleasing God is not enough motivation for us to bear through it, maybe not pleasing Satan is. One of the prince of lies' most successful plans to win souls has been the break-up of the family unit. United we stand against him. What it looks like we really need to do is to take to heart Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra's quote: “The worst reconciliation is better than the best divorce”  Since our marriage reflects our relationship with God, there is nothing we should want more than for it to be overflowing with charity. 

Please remember, BIBLE BAIT is written by a novice Bible study student, (who happens to be divorced and remarried) not a Bible scholar. If something doesn't look quite right to you, dig into God's word. The one thing I promise you is that you won't get bored! Many thanks to my Bible study friends who proofread for me every week.