When Christians Get Divorced
A popular Christian blogger recently announced that she's getting divorced. She knows all the biblical reasons to stay married, and she understands the far-reaching repercussions when Christians divorce. On her personal blog she writes, "I can see why the Scriptures say God hates divorce. It's not that he hates either of us (although at times, it's easy to believe otherwise), but he hates what the brokenness of divorce does to the very souls of a man and his wife. He hates what it does to the people who love them. And even the people who maybe they've never met." But, as she says, her marriage is broken beyond repair. "We, along with others in our lives, have tried desperately to fix it, to bring it back to life, to see a broken covenant redeemed. But the life is gone, and in order to preserve peace and love in our relationship, our marriage needed to end."
She is certainly not alone. Although recent reports indicate that the divorce rate for practicing evangelical Christians is lower than the American average of 50 percent, it still stands at 38 percent. In other words, 5 of 10 marriages in America are likely to fail, and nearly 4 of 10 marriages among practicing evangelicals fail. (Incidentally, 6 of 10 marriages among non-practicing evangelicals [those who don't attend church] fall apart, a statistic that raises its own set of questions.) How should the people of God, both individually and corporately, respond?
Before I was married, it baffled me that anyone who could call themselves a Christian could get divorced. Jesus himself stated God's ideal for male and female: "They are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate" (Matt. 19:6). Jesus goes on to say that divorce and remarriage is the equivalent of adultery. Moreover, other biblical passages uphold the sanctity of marriage as a covenant that teaches us about God's love for the church (see, for example, Eph. 5:21-33). Christians had a responsibility not only to stay married, but to demonstrate through marriage the way God's love works.
Now I'm married. Happily married. And now I understand why Christians get divorced. There's the impact of our culture, of course. The divorce rate in American is higher than most other nations, and cultural change has weakened the institution of marriage. As the Pew Research Center recently reported, "millennials" (defined as those between ages 18 and 29) value "being a good parent" as "one of the most important things in life" at a far greater rate than they value "having a successful marriage." But divorce is nothing new, which is probably why the Bible has so much to say about it. Marriage, in any culture and at any point in history, is hard work.
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