So, the topic for this post is whether it’s OK to get divorced.
What does the Bible say?
I noticed a lot of people getting divorced these days in the church, and trying to justify why they are allowed to divorce and why they should be allowed to pursue remarriage. So I’m first going to quote from an article from Focus on the Family by Amy Tracy.
God is very clear, however, that He hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). He also says, “So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:6). According to the New Testament, there are two justifications for divorce: infidelity (Matthew 5:32) and desertion (1 Corinthians 7:15).
Now, I had always taken the rule of Dr. Laura for this. She says that you can get divorced for adultery and abandonment (as above), but she allows allows for physical abuse and drug addiction. But it looks like the Bible is more strict than Dr. Laura, even.
What does the evidence say?
So let’s see if there is any reason outside the Bible that explains why the Bible tells people not to get divorced. The UK Daily Mail reports on a study on the effects of divorce.
Divorcing parents who try to maintain an amicable relationship for the sake of their children are doing nothing to help them, a major study suggests.
The impact of the split on youngsters is the same whether or not the mother and father keep cordial links, it found.
[…]The new study, the first in 20 years to examine how the behaviour of separated parents affects their children, was carried out by US academics.
It covered 270 parents who were divorced or separated between 1998 and 2004 in an unnamed US state that compels divorcees to take part in an education programme on ‘co-operative co-parenting’.
Of these, 31 per cent considered their relationship with their ex-spouse as ‘co-operative and involved’; 45 per cent were ‘moderately engaged’ with their divorced partner, with some conflict between them; and 24 per cent said their co-operation was ‘infrequent but conflictual’.
They were asked to say how their break-up had affected the youngest child in their family. The average age of children involved was eight years.
The study, published in the academic journal Family Relations, said that children of divorced parents are more likely than others to suffer ‘external’ symptoms such as behaviour problems or drug abuse, more likely to have ‘internal’ difficulties like anxiety or depression, and more likely to do badly at school.
But the researchers, headed by Dr Jonathon Beckmeyer of Indiana University, found that these children’s problems were no worse if their parents continued to row and bicker with each other after the divorce.
The study said ‘despite the expectation that children fare better’ if their divorced parents develop a co-operative relationship, the behaviour of children as assessed by their parents ‘did not significantly differ’ between the friendly and the fighting groups of divorcees.
So the take-home lesson is this: there is no such thing as a divorce that doesn’t hurt the children. If you’re thinking of divorce and you have children, just don’t do it. And the Bible sides with the children against the selfish desires of their parents – telling the parents to be careful who they marry, and to give up their happiness in order to provide stability for the children.
One more thing. I run into a lot of people who think that life is unpredictable, and that you just have to pursue happiness, fun and adventures and how that somehow the universe or God or whatever will make all the selfish hedonism “work out”. That’s false. Marriage is not like a slot machine. There are things you can do now to prepare your character for marriage. There are things that your marriage candidate should be able to do to be prepared for marriage as well. If both people practice self-control, self-denial and self-sacrifice before marriage, that’s a good sign that they will be able to make a commitment that lasts. Indulging your desire to sky-dive, surf, zip-line and travel for adventure does nothing to prepare your character for what marriage will require of you.
Marriage is not an engine for personal fulfillment and happiness. You don’t get out of it when you don’t feel happy. Marriage is about changing your character to make you more mature, and providing a safe, stable environment for children to grow up in. The reason so many people are divorcing today is because they think that marriage is a consumer good – that it should be fun. But it’s not designed to be fun, it’s designed to be a challenge. If you stay committed to it, it does produce a return in the long run.