What are the Biblical Grounds for Divorce?

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One question I frequently hear is, “Are there biblical ground for divorce?”  Sure, there are.  But, I would encourage you to first consider what sinful behaviors and desires are breaking up your relationships with God and with each other.

What does the Bible say about divorce?

It was because of your hardness of heart that Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but it was not this way from the beginning. Now I tell you that whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman, commits adultery.
(Mark 10:8-9, NIV)

The two clear grounds for divorce in the bible are:

  1. Sexual immorality (5:3219:9)
  2. Abandonment by an unbeliever (1 Cor. 7:15)

Let’s talk about adultery. Jesus said, “If you even look lustfully you have committed the sin.” (Matt. 5:27-28) The bar is set incredibly high for anyone to claim that they are perfect. So, if we do not attain perfection—and no one does—then we do not get to hold up our own rightness and say this is the standard.

God’s standard is made clear in the Bible: he wants to heal the broken and reunite relationships. He wants to bless his people, not trap them in terrible, unsolvable conditions. If we try to hold up the standard of biblical grounds then the world will go around blind and lame. That is not the God I know and love. That is not God’s intention.

Even in these two instances, divorce is not required or even encouraged. The most that can be said is that sexual immorality and abandonment are grounds (or allowance) for divorce. Confession, forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration are always the first steps. Divorce should be viewed as a last resort.

What if there is abuse in the marriage? Is separation ok?

Sadly, too many pastors do not see the bigger picture and go directly to saying harmful things such as, “You just have to stay in the marriage and take it because God hates divorce.” God is more complex than simple, short, formulaic prescripts. He knows our hurts and our hearts.

We cannot imagine that it would be God’s desire for a wife to remain with a husband who abuses or harms her and/or their children. In such situations, the wife should separate herself and the children from the abusive husband. The same can be said if the wife is abusing her husband. However, even in such a situation, a time of separation with the goal of repentance and restoration should be the ideal.

Understand that by saying that this is not a biblical ground for divorce, we are definitely not saying that a man or woman whose spouse is engaging in such activities should remain in the situation.

Divorce is not to be considered a good option, nor the first option.

Marriage is more than an oath. It is a sacred covenant, done publicly and intended to bring a blessing to the community. When a divorce happens, everyone loses because we did not keep our oath.

We here at Marriage Recovery Center are trying hard to stop divorce from being the only option you think you have. Even though the Bible gives grounds for divorce, this does not mean God desires divorce to occur. Rather than asking, “Is this grounds for divorce?”, the question should be, “How do I find forgiveness, restoration, and/or counseling?”

If you have questions about this topic or would like to meet with one of our therapists, you can contact us here or call our office at 206.219.0145.