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Lat Blaylock, Editor, RE Today
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Different Christian Views on Divorce
Many Christians believe that marriage is for life. During a Christian wedding ceremony, the bride and groom make promises before God to live faithfully with each other until death. Christians believe the husband and wife become 'one flesh' when they get married, that God actually unites the couple in a spiritual way. This unity is expressed through sexual intercourse.
However, although all Christians believe that marriage is important, they have differing views on divorce. Some fully support divorce, providing there are good reasons; others disagree with it entirely. This resource will explore these two viewpoints.
Why do some Christians believe divorce is unacceptable?
One of the main reasons Christians struggle to accept divorce is because Jesus taught that it was wrong. Two key verses are:
(i) 'What God has joined together, let not man separate.' Matthew 19:6. The Bible teaches that nobody should separate what God joined together; marriage is for life.
(ii) 'I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.' Matthew 19:9. Once a Christian has divorced, the Bible suggests remarrying is the same as committing adultery. You cannot separate what God has joined together, so if you divorce you are still married to the person God united you with (your first husband or wife).
- Marriage is a holy sacrament, divorce breaks the promise a couple makes to God at their wedding.
- The marriage bond is not broken, even if the couple is legally divorced.
The only way for a Catholic Christian to end their marriage would be an annulment, which means that the marriage is dissolved as if it never happened. Examples of the requirements for an annulment which can be found in the 1983, Code of Canon Law, include:
- Bigamy - someone marrying when they are already married
- Someone who is underage
- A couple is too closely related
- The marriage was never consummated, meaning that the couple didn't have sex.
- Someone who is suffering from a serious psychological disorder
- Lack of consent, if one of the partners is forced into the marriage
- Lack of understanding about the purpose of marriage regarding procreation when they married, or one partner deliberately choosing to block having children.
Other Christians, particularly Protestant Christians, whilst accepting divorce is not ideal, will permit it under some circumstances. They believe that:
- Sometimes it may be necessary. For example, if one of the partners is violent and abusive towards members of the family. For their safety, divorce might be the only way to protect them.
- The UK law permits it.
- God forgives people's mistakes and is a God of love so forgives sins.
- Each pastor or minister can make decisions about remarriage in their church based on the context.
In a nutshell:
Divorce is not what God intended for humans
In the New Testament, divorce is seen as trying to separate what God has joined together and so falls short of God's ideal
The New Testament considers marrying after a divorce to be like committing adultery
Christian teaching does not encourage divorce
Some Christians do not allow it under any circumstances
Some Christians believe that although the failure of a marriage is not what God intended, Christians should show God's forgiveness and love to divorced people
Many churches will allow people to marry again in church