One day after getting home from work I switched on the TV to unwind. I usually turn to the news to catch up a little bit. When the screen flashed to life, there was the famous Dr. Phil summing up the end of his day’s offering on married couples who had given up on each other. I offer a paraphrased version of his thoughts sprinkled with a few of my own spiritual observations:
“I think we give up on marriage too quickly in this country. Whether you are a man or woman, you should only walk out the door if you can honestly say, ‘I have no unfinished emotional or spiritual business with my spouse.” If you have done everything you can do; you’ve gone to counseling, you’ve prayed together, you’ve talked to your pastor, you’ve talked to and received counsel from trusted friends, you’ve listened to the advice of treasured brothers and sisters, you’ve submitted to the voice of God in your situation, you’ve read books, and you’ve done all you can do to change, when your child asks, “Why did I have to grow up without you,” you’ll have more to say then, “We just weren’t having fun anymore.” You need to be able to look them in the eye and say, ‘We did all we could do to make our relationship work and decided that the best gift we could give you is to live separately in peace. Remaining in constant agreement on one thing; we would continue to give you all the love and support you required to live, grow and enter into the destiny for which God has called you.’ If you can’t say all these things then you’re not ready for divorce.”
Of course, no body is ever or should ever be ready for divorce. Malachi 2:16 says:
“For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away (divorce): for one covereth his garment with violence, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.”
In Matthew 19: 3-9 Jesus explains why:
“The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, 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. They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, 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.”
In essence He says that marriage is a sacred covenant. When a man and woman agree, in love and before God, to be bound to one another in marriage; God binds them in supernatural mystery. Two hearts beat as one, two bodies become one flesh, and two paths become one journey. We become in the Older Testament a picture of God’s love for His people and in the New a picture of Christ’s love for the church. God hates divorce because as Malachi says, it covers a perfect body of love with a garment of violence.
Jesus goes on to say that Moses made a concession for divorce because of the hardness of our hearts; because we are naturally selfish, unable to keep promises never mind uphold covenants, prone to unforgiveness and ignorant of the power and beauty of sacrificial love. Divorce was allowed for the sake of peace and the avoidance of sexual immorality that would bring disgrace on the chosen people of God and render ineffective the mission to which they had been called: to be His light-bearers to the world.
He goes on to say that from the beginning it was meant to be forever. It should not be entered into lightly because to end it was to declare to all that God’s miracle of creating one flesh, His gifts of love and forgiveness, His call to mutual submission and most importantly His commission to model for the world His love for His people and Christ’s love for the church is of less importance than your freedom from your marriage. He finishes with the stern warning to consider divorce very carefully because except in cases of sexual immorality there could only be one divorce…there could only one marriage; all else was adultery.
For all these reasons, the spiritual and emotional health of our children, our covenant with each other, our witness to the world and the danger of adultery; divorce needs to be the last option and the hardest decision you ever make and not the easy procedure our culture has made it. Whether or not you believe there is forgiveness for the divorcing spouse or there is modern-day provision for future relationships after divorce; God hates divorce! Maybe we too easily have forgotten the words we hear at every wedding: "...what God has joined together let no man split asunder."
Splitting asunder a masterpiece created by the love and power of God should be done fearfully, remorsefully and rarely.