Divorce is an issue on which Christians have differing views. Some believe that the vows a couple make as they get married are for life and that, even if the couple separate, they are still married from God’s point of view. This is the belief in the Roman Catholic Church, although a marriage can be declared null (as if it never happened) in some circumstances – for example, if the couple never had sex. But many Christians have accepted divorce and remarriage in some circumstances such as unfaithfulness, desertion or where one partner is subjecting the other to violence. Christians think it is right to respond to such traumas with compassion and understanding.
The Bible shows that God grieves at the pain everyone suffers when a marriage ends in divorce.
The Christian view of marriage is that it should be taken very seriously. A couple make solemn vows as they marry, promising that they will stay together for life, whatever difficulties they might face. For Christians, marriage reflects God’s commitment to his people and Jesus Christ’s commitment to the Church. It is a contract built on sacrificial love. But some relationships do break down and, where forgiveness and reconciliation are impossible, divorce may be the only option. The Bible shows that God grieves at the pain everyone suffers when a marriage ends in divorce. In one translation of the Bible book, Malachi, it says God hates divorce. Another translation of this text expresses it slightly differently, ‘”The man who hates and divorces his wife”, says the Lord….”does violence to the one he should protect”…’ The point is that divorce is not God’s best plan for people.
Jesus spoke about divorce during his years of teaching 2,000 years ago, countering the prevailing relaxed mood about it. Centuries earlier God had instituted laws about divorce for the Jewish people to follow. One reason was to provide some protection for wives who were far more vulnerable than husbands if they were divorced. But it was still common in Jesus’ time for men to divorce women for trivial reasons. Jesus was uncompromising in his opposition to this attitude: it was not permissible for a husband to divorce his wife for anything other than her sexual immorality.
Jesus spoke about divorce during his years of teaching 2,000 years ago, countering the prevailing relaxed mood about it.
Church leaders will often want to talk to a couple who wish to marry again after the breakdown of an earlier marriage. They will want to discover why the previous marriages came to an end and to help all sides to forgive any wrongdoing. They will want to be sure that the new relationship is not going to cause pain for the former husband or wife. It might be possible for divorcees to be married in church if that is what they want. The couple should discuss this with the vicar or minister at their local church. Even if it proves impossible, the couple might be able to have their wedding blessed in church after a civil marriage ceremony.