Wednesday, January 31, 2018

When Divorce Or Separation Makes Sense

            Marriage between a man and a woman is intended by God as a lifelong union. But separation or divorce in Christian marriages is a reality.

            Census data from India reveals a total of 130,000 Christians who remain either separated or divorced. 6.5 males and 11.9 females out of 1000 married persons are separated, while 2.8 Christian males and 4.7 Christian females out of 1000 married persons are divorced.1

            American Psychological Association confirms divorce in 40-50% of married couples in the USA.2 Pew Research Center reported divorce and separation in 74% Christians in the USA.3

            These are shocking statistics. If these numbers are factual, then, sadly, Satan is having a field day, ravaging Christian homes. The collateral damage is likely to be severe in these homes.

            God’s intent for marriage is well expressed in these four points:

·         “God created marriage as a loyal partnership between one man and one woman.

·         Marriage is the firmest foundation for building a family.

·         God designed sexual expression to help married couples build intimacy.

·         Marriage mirrors God's covenant relationship with His people.”4

When Christian Marriages Don’t Make Sense

            First and foremost, marriages ought to please, honor and glorify God. Unfortunately, many a marriage gratifies man, but not God.

            Quite a few Christian marriages are a sham. These are marriages that are apparently genuine in the eyes of man, but divorced or separated in the eyes of God.

            There are instances of the husband and wife living in separate rooms within the same home but not talking to each other, for years. Although in public they would act as if all is well in their marriage. The husband and wife would playact so to not expose their utter disdain for each other in public.

            Then there are marriages where either the husband or the wife would remain perennially silent about their partner’s abuse or infidelity. Love and trust for each other would have ceased to exist in this marriage. But they remain silent so to protect their children or their family’s reputation. They live in the same home and they perform their routine chores. Aside from this, their marriage is dead.

When Divorce Or Separation Makes Sense

            God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). Hence, undoubtedly, a strong argument against divorce or separation can be presented from the Bible (cf. Matthew 19:6).

            Nevertheless, there is a need to recognize that divorce or separation is, in certain instances, necessary in Christian marriages. Divorce or separation is necessitated because of adultery and unbelief (in God) in Christian marriages (Matthew 19:9; 1 Corinthians 7:15).

            Adultery and unbelief notwithstanding, there are other valid reasons for divorce and separation. The Bible may not have stated these reasons as warrants for divorce or separation, but there are adequate guidelines validating divorce or separation.

            If life or sanity of either the husband or the wife (or even that of the children) is in danger because of abuse and destructive behavior, then is it not worthwhile for the husband and the wife to separate? Should marriage be protected at the cost of sanity and human life? These are classic instances of abusing the spouse without repenting of the sin.

            Relationships that are abusive and destructive or filled with betrayal or addiction, warrant divorce or separation if the abuser or the betrayer remains unrepentant of his/her sins. An article from Christianity Today states, “The Bible tells us what to do when there is sin in a relationship (see Matthew 18:15–17). First, we are to confront the person. If they don’t listen, we should bring in a third party. If they still don’t listen, we ought to ask for help from a church authority. If this doesn’t bring about change, we are to separate from them…”5

            Furthermore, the absence of love and trust in a marriage (between the husband and wife) will lead to various situations of abuse and betrayal that are detrimental to a marriage, necessitating divorce or separation. The metaphor of ‘Christ and the Church’ is offered to the Christian marriage (Ephesians 5:21-33). The relationship between Christ and the church is predicated on love and trust i.e. Christ loves the church and the church believes in Christ. Therefore, a marriage will only be genuine as long as love and trust exist in the marriage. If love and trust cease to exist in the marriage, then the marriage becomes a sham or fake.

            However, any decision pertaining to divorce or separation should be prayerfully and objectively considered.

When Divorce Or Separation Is Shamed

            Spiritual pride is the most common sin among successful Christians. Consequently, Christians who are divorced or separated are often scorned by their fellow [spiritually-proud] Christians, who enjoy supposedly successful marriages.

            Divorced or separated Christians, for instance, cannot hold any positions of leadership in many churches and would not be employed in a good number of Christian ministries (cf. 1 Timothy 3: 1-13; Titus 1: 6-9). However, the process of appointment of Christian leaders in these institutions is questionable because more often the leaders are chosen for their worldly achievement than their spiritual anointing. How many Christian leaders can echo Paul’s words and say, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.”?? (1 Corinthians 11:1, NASB).

            The state of many a Christian church is in a deplorable spiritual condition today because of its leadership. These Christian leaders may be genuinely married, and nothing may be wrong with their marriages. But they may be corrupt, liberal or postmodern or they do not know their Bible because they have not read and studied it (cf. Titus 1:9; 1 Timothy 3:9). Hence, their leadership would be totally debatable and their decisions would not conform to the biblical standards.

            Therefore, when the focus is more on appointing genuinely married people (with their glowing worldly achievement) and not on their spiritual standing in Christ, as the leaders of the church or the Christian mission, the church and the Christian mission is placed in harm’s way.       

            There are many Christian marriages that are abundantly blessed by God. In other words, God’s hedge of protection is upon these marriages.

            Recollect God’s hedge of protection upon Job, “God said to Satan, “Have you noticed my friend Job? There’s no one quite like him—honest and true to his word, totally devoted to God and hating evil.” Satan retorted, “So do you think Job does all that out of the sheer goodness of his heart?...You pamper him like a pet, make sure nothing bad ever happens to him or his family or his possessions, bless everything he does—he can’t lose! (Cf. Job 1: 8-10, MSG, Emphasis Mine).

            Christians, who enjoy successful marriages, think that their marriages are successful because of the good work they invest in their marriage. They, however, fail to recognize that their marriage is successful because it primarily enjoys God’s hedge of protection.

            These Christians shame their fellow brothers and sisters who suffer divorce or separation in their marriages by disregarding and scorning them. This is a sad occurrence in the Christian community.

            Why can’t we be gracious with those who are divorced or separated? Is it too difficult to love them unconditionally, just as God loves us unconditionally? Why are we unable to empathize with their predicament and support them in any which way that we can?

            Let not pride overcome us, instead, may the grace of our Lord Jesus fill and flow through us.

Conclusion: Beware

            Divorce or separation is not the solution to every marriage under duress. Unfortunately today, marriages are undergoing divorce or separation for frivolous reasons. Even in the case of adultery, unbelief, and abuse, divorce or separation need not necessarily be the only course of action.

            Mature and gracious Christians should intervene or should be allowed to intervene in marriages that are under duress. Adequate time should be offered for recognition and repentance of the sin that’s plaguing the marriage. However, when sanity of life or life in itself is under threat, then, and only then, should divorce or separation be considered as a legitimate course of action.

            Satan is enjoying a field day ravaging Christian marriages. Christian marriages are being attacked by Satan. Saving Christian marriages is a duty incumbent upon the church.

            May God bless every Christian marriage and may HIS blessings be upon the honest and prayerful efforts of every church and every Christian, who work ceaselessly to save Christian marriages that are under duress.        


1Times of India, January 9, 2018.





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