question and response

Can two deeply committed Christians get divorced?

I was asked this question recently and my initial response was “yes.” However, now I am thinking maybe the answer is “no.” I never believe that divorce should be a first choice or seem like an easy option.

I think that there are circumstances where divorce makes the most sense and is perhaps the best option for two people – abuse being a clear example to me. There may be other reasons as well. My first thought was that these circumstances happen to faithful and unfaithful people alike and that being a deeply committed Christian would not preclude divorce.

As I think more about it though, it becomes a little less clear. If two people were practicing their faith and took seriously their vows of marriage then I am not sure that divorce would make sense. I would suggest that if one is living out their faith that abuse would not be a possibility and that in the case of infidelity (which is not something to which anyone is immune) a commitment to the marriage vows should make some difference.

I am still not quite sure on this question. What do you think?

By Andrew Conard

Christian, husband, son, brother, homeowner

10 replies on “Can two deeply committed Christians get divorced?”

Christians, unfortunately, do get divorced. My brother is a pastor and his soon-to-be ex-wife is also a pastor. If we answer the question “no”, then one or both of them must not be deeply committed. Whether or not they’re deeply committed is between them and God. As you can see, the question very quickly leads us into judging other Christians’ level of commitment, which is both dangerous and unnecessary. So the question itself is not helpful.

Clif – Thanks. I think that you are right on here and provide a very valuable addition and corrective to my initial thoughts. Thanks for helping me think about this issue.

I’m sorry if I sound judgmental, but since when is a covenant not a covenant? I agree in the case of abuse there certainly reason for divorce. But as you pointed out the abusive spouse is obviously not living up to their covenant.

I am married to my first on only wife. She has been married twice before. The first marriage she ackowledges she and her first husband were not faithful Christians and didn’t take the marriage vows seriously. Her second marriage ended because of a husband who was a drug users and emotionally abused her and her children. She stayed in that marriage a long time — perhaps even longer than she should have.

Now she is in a marriage that is certainly not perfect, since I am not perfect. But I am committed to the covenent with God and with her that I will never leave her.

I say all this to point out that I believe in grace and forgiveness. I don’t think someone is condemned because of the mistakes of the past. But I’m uncomfortable with the idea that two pastors could divorce without acknowledgement that someone broke the covenant. If a marital covenant is between the husband, wife, and God, as I believe, then who broke the covenant? Surely you don’t suggest that God broke the covenant!

For this reason I think it hinges on whether you believe marriage is a covenental relationship.

I want to echo and expand on Clif’s comment. The term “deeply committed” throws me here. I consider myself to be deeply committed to Christ and yet an important part of that is the realization of how flawed my present reality is to the goal of my commitment.

Recognizing this allows I believe for the understand that abuse and trust issues can and do develop between faithful people. While I certainly believe in the importance of marriage, I think it’s critical that we treat it as a bond and not bars.

If our partner breaks our trust and our commitment shifts from an upholding of our partner to solely an upholding of our vows… what are we really accomplishing?

Some people get divorced for the right reasons, some for the wrong.
Similarly some people stay together for the right reasons, and some for the wrong ones.

If by ‘can’ you mean ability, then yes, I think it’s a consequence of free will that even those who are deeply committed to Christ can still exercise their wills and engage in sinful behavior.

I think it would be helpful to focus on a different question. Is divorce a sin? Here’s why. We tend to qualify whether you are a “good” Christian by whether things look good from the outside. So, can you be a Christian and still struggle with sin? You have to say yes. That is the battle we all have internally. That is what grace is about. That is what transformation is about.

So, can you commit a sin like divorce and still be committed follower of Jesus? yes. But, I think it is important to see it as a sin and treat it like we would any other. Something that needs to be repented of, something by which we need to come to the cross of Jesus about.

A fine line to walk, I know. But an important discussion to have.

Actually I think this one is much easier than say – the homosexuality issue – because we have a direct and unequivocal statement on this issue by Jesus himself. I agree with DMonk – Can a deeply committed Christian get a divorce – of course – the legal system allows it. Is it a deeply sinful act that breaks the heart of God – absolutely. Here is the relevant scripture, Its hard to argue that Jesus’ point wasn’t clear.

Matthew 19
3Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

4″Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,'[a] 5and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'[b]? 6So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

7″Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

8Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

I personally think that we make a commitment to the Lord and do not translate that same commitment to other relationships in our lives; we fail to appreciate the correlation. How many have expressed a profound love of the Lord but continue to live like the devil? Far too many fail to make the connection. There are numerous references to what the marriage covenant expresses and the intense moral responsibility it demands.

No, we cannot judge any individual person, but we can and should judge acts that betray who we are as a people of faith. We are a people committed to higher ideals than our own. Our deep commitment to the Lord is expressed in our willingness to put self aside and strive for the highest ideals regardless of how these ideals may or may not suit us because it is, first and foremost, about the Lord, is it not?

Incidentally, I’ve been married for nearly 27 years. During the earlier years and according to the standards of a worldly society, my wife had every reason and right to leave me. Now, these many years later I am a better man because of the faithful witness of my wife. This is precisely the encouragement of St. Paul to the Corinthians. Committed Christians are exactly that: committed. What non-believers choose to do is outside of our control but never beyond our ability to witness.

Being unfaithful to the marriage covenant is not restricted merely to the physical act of adultery.

I think that by the time a divorce goes through the legal system, the marriage is pretty over. It could be for one reason or another, but I think the covenant is broken long before the judge signs the certificate of divorce.

Many marriages die a slow death. Many marriages suffer due to reasons that are less black and white than adultery–in fact, adultery is often a way of acting out a deeper issue. So, part of me wonders if the question should begin earlier than the point of divorce…should a good Christian neglect his or her marriage vows? I think it’s in the everyday, small decisions that the chasm begins, which can either be mended or could lead to a greater, and final, break.

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