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Christianity and divorce: Can Christians divorce?


By Pr Isaiah White and Nathan Kiwere

Christians do not believe in divorce. However, there are some other ‘Christians’ who believe that some circumstances may lead to dissolving of marriages.
The world of Christianity is highly divided on this issue. Whoever got married in Church at least recited the traditional vows known to most of us.
While these marriage vows have words that are not derived from the Bible, they are coined to prove the commitment of each partner to the other.
‘For better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth’. These words should be appreciated in their deeper meaning.
The key phrase in this traditional vow is, ‘according to God’s Holy ordinance’. God wants every choice in marriage to be according to His will. Marriage, therefore, is the will of God. The Bible asserts this in its introductory chapters.

Marriage institution
Marriage is one of the first divine institutions we see in the Bible. When man was created, God declared that it is ‘not good for man to be alone’ (Genesis 2:18).
Man being alone was the first imperfection that appeared in the all-perfect creation of God.
When God detected what was not good, He also made a resolution to make for the lonely man a suitable partner, a woman.
God did not make another man to give company to the lonely man; that would not be marriage but sociology. He rather made a woman for a man and that is the true nature of marriage.
Marriage is a union between one man and one woman, not between a man and a man or a woman and a woman or even between a man and a beast (Genesis 2:19-20).
Besides what various cultures do, marriage is about leaving and cleaving; two adult individuals must leave not only their parents but everyone else and cleave to their spouses.
Marriage is not a corporate business where you serve different clients. It is a mono-business where you serve only one master.

Divine marriage is the seed of a family, and family is the foundation of a community and the community is the plant upon which we harvest a nation.
In other words, without proper stable and consistent marriages, you cannot have a family, which is the nucleus of a community and without functional communities, you cannot have an organised nation.
Dysfunctional marriages breed improper families and then broken communities, and that is how we end up with shattered nations.
Marriage also provides an opportunity to grow in selflessness as you serve your spouse and children.
It is more than a physical union; it is also a spiritual and emotional union. This union mirrors the relationship between God and His Church (Ephesians 5:25). The family is ordained by God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan.
Children are to be born within the bond of matrimony, and raised by a father and a mother who honour marital vows with complete fidelity.
Jesus Christ affirmed the divine origin of marriage: “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?” (Matthew 19:4-5).
From the beginning, the sacred nature of marriage was closely linked to the power of procreation.
After creating Adam and Eve, God commanded them to “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the Earth” (Genesis 1:28-30).
Only a man and a woman together have the natural biological capacity to conceive children. This power to create life and bring children into the world is divinely given.
Misuse of this power (like in the manner of divorce) undermines the divine institution of marriage.

No divorce
Divorce is not restricted merely to the non-Christian community. Christians are also flooding psychologists, courts of law, marriage counsellors and others Church councils seeking to resolve seemingly irreconcilable conflicts in marriage.
Not only are personal lives in a dilemma, but also children, relatives and the communities.
As mentioned earlier, people are divided on the question of whether a Christian can divorce their spouse or not.
We attempt an objective position through the texts that are commonly applied in such discussions.

Old Testament
In the Old Testament, there are three grounds for divorce. In Ezra 10:1-12, the reason was divorcing wives because they were gentile, which was equivalent to non-believers. They did this in reference to the law in Deuteronomy 7:1-6.
The other two grounds for divorce are in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 where a man is allowed to divorce his wife for particular uncleanness while the other, a man can divorce his wife for any reason.
All these grounds for divorce were due to the hardness of the hearts of Old Testament people but not the will of God (Matthew 19:7-8).

God’s attitude
How God thinks about divorce regardless of the Jewish cultural laws that serve as a ground for divorce in the Old Testament is plain and simple. God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16).
Divorce being a legal separation of the marriage union, the legal certificate talked about in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 and metaphorically through the prophets like Isaiah 50:1 and Jeremiah 3:8, is contradictory to the institution of marriage built upon love. No legal procedure should separate what God and love have put together (Mathew 19:6) and it is a commandment by Christ not to divorce (1Corinthians 7:10).

New Testament
In Matthew 19:1-9, Jesus was confronted by the Pharisees who wanted to trap Him into subscribing to any of the two existing schools of thought on the matter of divorce.
Jesus took no position but His. His position was that whoever divorces and remarries commits adultery (Matthew 19:9).
Adultery, therefore, is no ground concerning the acceptability and permissibility of divorce: first, the Greek word used as an exception for divorce in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 is not ‘Adultery’ (Moichea) but Pornea which is translated as ‘fornication’.
The problem is that by definition adultery is sexual immorality by at least one married person while fornication is sexual immorality by the unmarried.
This exception clause is only in Matthew but not in Mark 10:11-12 and Luke 16:18 where the same event is reported. The only way out of marriage is Death (Romans 7:3).


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