In 2016, a total of 827,261 divorces were concluded in the United States. According to the best numbers we have today, approximately 45% of all marriages end in divorce. No matter how you slice and dice the numbers, divorce impacts many homes and continues to divide children, parents, and friendships. When relationships are broken, families experience the effects of such divisions and the ripples continue to work through the different layers of friendships and family relationships.
Consider the following numbers about divorce in the United States:
- Every 13 Seconds, someone, somewhere, files for divorce.
- 66% of divorces are filed by women
- 4% of people in the military file for divorce each year
- 50% of children in the US will see their parents divorce in their lifetime
- 43% of children in the US are living without their father involved in their lives
- 41% of first marriages end in divorce
- 60% of second marriages end in divorce
- 73% of third marriages end in divorce
- The average first marriage lasts 8 years
One of the most popular divorce practices in our day is the “no-fault” divorce. Up until about thirty-five years ago, most states required that “fault” be shown by the complaining party. In a “fault divorce,” the individual must state a reason that is recognized by his or her state. If the couple simply does not get along then the reason for divorce could be “incompatibility,” “irreconcilable differences,” or “irremediable breakdown of the marriage” (basically a “no fault” divorce). In short—divorce has become a very popular choice for Americans that has resulted in a robust divorce industry.
If you search online, you will discover websites that provide ideas for divorce parties. This new secular trend demonstrates a lack of shame and remorse for the breaking of vows and the termination of marriages. Such divorce parties include everything from brownies and beer to a Jaws theme (pointing out the idea that things could always be worse). What we must be sure of is that Jesus attended weddings and supported marriage, but you would not find him in attendance at a divorce party—save the invitation.
What does the Bible teach about marriage and divorce? Marriage is a beautiful thing. God has instituted this divine ordinance and it puts on display the radiance of the gospel of Christ. In Matthew 19:3-9, Jesus made it clear that divorce was never commanded. Further, he made the following statement, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matt. 13:6). Only in the case of sexual immorality is divorce permissible, but it’s still never commanded. The word “sexual immorality” in Matthew 19 is “πορνεία” (porneia). It’s a word that is literally connected to another word—prostitue. It is used to speak of illicit sexual intercourse. This word could also be used to describe child molestation, homosexual practices, or intercourse with animals – which would of course be condemned.
God has always hated divorce. The same God described in Malachi 2:16 who hates divorce is the same God who speaks of the high view of marriage in Matthew 19. Jesus should never be viewed as the “gentle Jesus” while the God of the Old Testament is viewed as the “wrathful God.” We must remember that God is one and Jesus stated, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). Jesus was present and equal with the Father when Malachi penned the words of Malachi 2:16 and he was likewise involved with the establishment of marriage from the beginning. James Montgomery Boice writes, “Instead of trying to find loopholes in God’s commandment or trying to convince ourselves that our spouse is not a Christian or is at least not behaving as one and therefore divorceable, we ought to be shouting the holiness of marriage from the housetops. It is better to endure much personal unhappiness than to treat as expendable the solemn vows of the wedding service.”
It’s abundantly clear that Jesus does not support the divorce practices of our culture or any other culture. The breaking of the marriage covenant is a very serious thing and one that should never be approached flippantly. A Romanian woman filed for divorce after fifty years of marriage because she was angry with her husband who was spending way too much of their money and time feeding stray dogs. In Canada, if your wife can prove that you snore too loudly, she has a reason for divorce. This type of divorce practice shatters the hearts of children (and grandchildren), reproduces itself in coming generations, and encourages a society to have a low view of marriage.
Marriage is not about being in love or attracted to your spouse. Marriage is not about being happy. Marriage is about God and it displays the glory of God in the gospel. Stay married and work through trials and difficulties. Don’t throw in the white towel and break a covenant promise that you made to your spouse and to God. While we should be clear that divorce is not the unforgivable sin and there can still be a profitable life ahead for those who experience a divorce, the church of Jesus Christ should still find divorce something that brings shame as opposed to renewed freedom. In a day where people look for every opportunity to treat marriage like a disposable solo cup, we must remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ who stated the following:
What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate (Mark 10:9).