Can I Divorce My Spouse?
To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife. (1 Cor. 7:10-11 ESV)
The above passage is one of those passages that has fallen out of favor in recent years. The idea that a person should not seek to divorce his or her spouse, and if they do, they should remain single or else be reconciled to their spouse is just a foreign concept that many have sought to circumnavigate. Even Evangelicals in recent years have sought to read between the lines of scripture arguing that people may legitimately get divorced for mental, emotional, or physical abuse. If you are unhappy, simply claim you are suffering emotional abuse from your spouse and then you can get a divorce. The reasoning goes something like this: Jesus permitted divorce on the grounds of “marital unfaithfulness” (Matt 5:31-32; 19:9); thus, when a person is mentally, emotionally, or physically abusive, he or she is violating the marriage covenant. They are violating their marriage vows “to love and respect and cherish till death do you part.” Thus, they are being “unfaithful” to the marriage covenant; they have committed the sin of “marital unfaithfulness.” Therefore, divorce is now permissible. The problem is that the apostle Paul says, “the wife should not separate from her husband…and the husband should not divorce his wife.” The second problem is that Jesus never said divorce was permissible on the grounds of “marital unfaithfulness.” What he said was “everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery” (Matt. 5:32, emphasis added). Jesus permitted divorce for sexual immorality, not simply marital unfaithfulness. The underlying Greek word for “sexual immorality” is one word, the word porneia, from which we get our English words pornography or pornographic. According to standard Greek lexicons, the meaning of porneia is “generally, of every kind of extramarital, unlawful, or unnatural sexual intercourse.” Thus, Jesus allowed divorce only for the reason of engaging in sexual intercourse with someone who is not your spouse. To be clear, the Bible does not require someone who is in a physically abusive relationship to stay in the home. He or she is certainly permitted to move out of the home and seek protection someplace else; however, divorce is not an option, according to Jesus. Or, as Paul goes on to say in 1 Corinthians 7:12-13, “if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him.” Thus, if the unbelieving spouse desires to remain married and has not engaged in sexual intercourse outside the marriage, the believing spouse does not have biblical grounds for divorce. All of is to say, being careful to marry a Bible-believing, God-fearing man or woman is tremendously important. Marriage should never be entered into lightly nor speedily. Marriage is designed by God to last for a lifetime.
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