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6 Biblical Reasons for Divorce

by Lily Morgen
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6 Biblical Reasons for Divorce

You may struggle in a marriage and want to divorce, but as a Christian, you want to make sure that your reasons for divorce have biblical grounds instead of selfish reasons.

God wants man and woman to respect and honor marriage, and divorce is generally discouraged in the Bible. In Matthew 19:6, Jesus makes clear that marriage is a sacred covenant between a husband and wife meant to last until death. 

However, there are some biblical reasons for divorce if you’re deeply struggling in your marriage. These include sexual immorality, abandonment of a spouse, unbelief, death, chronic hardness of heart, and irreconcilable differences. 

If you are struggling in your marriage and want to consider divorce, make sure that you have valid biblical grounds for doing so. But if possible, forgiveness, reconciliation, confession, and restoration should be pursued and placed in the first place before considering divorce.

1. Sexual Immorality

The Bible specifically states that sexual immorality is a valid reason for divorce. 

In Matthew 5:32, Jesus said, “But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.” This means that if a spouse is sexually unfaithful, the other person has grounds for divorce.

And In Matthew 19:9, Jesus said, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” This is further confirmation of the fact that sexual sin is a valid reason for divorce.

In Deuteronomy 22:22, the Bible states that if a woman has sex before marriage, her father and husband may divorce her. However, this is an Old Testament law and does not necessarily apply to Christians today.

2. Abandonment

Abandonment of a spouse is also grounds for divorce in the Bible. In 1 Corinthians 7:15, Paul said, “But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.”

This means that if one spouse abandons the other, the abandoned spouse can divorce them and remarry without fear of committing adultery.

3. Unbelief

If one spouse is an unbeliever and the other is a believer, divorce can be considered as long as the unbelieving spouse wants to leave. In 1 Corinthians 7:12-15, Paul said that if the unbelieving partner wants to leave, let them go and remain unmarried or else be reconciled to the spouse.

This means that while a divorce is still discouraged, it can be an option if one spouse doesn’t believe in God and isn’t willing to reconcile with the other person.

4. Death

Death is also a true ground for divorce in the Bible. In Romans 7:2-3, Paul said, “For example, by law, a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him.”

This means that if one spouse dies, the other is free to remarry without fear of committing adultery.

In 1 Corinthians 7:39, Paul said, “A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.” This further confirms that when one spouse dies, the other is free from their marriage and can remarry.

5. Chronic Hardness of Heart

The Bible also mentions another possible ground for divorce: chronic hardness of heart. Jesus said in Mark 10:5-9 that if a man divorces his wife because of her “hardness of heart,” he will be guilty of committing adultery against her when he remarries.

This suggests that if one spouse has a consistently hard heart towards the other and does not want to reconcile, divorce may be an option. However, this is more of an Old Testament law than something that applies today and should be taken with extreme caution.

6. Irreconcilable Differences

1 Corinthians 7:11 also states that if a marriage is not reconcilable, divorce is an option. This means that if two people can no longer reconcile their differences and come to an agreement, they may choose to end the marriage through divorce.

However, this should be a last resort and every effort should be made to repair the relationship before considering divorce.

Reasons for Divorce Are Not Acceptable in Bible

It’s important to remember that the Bible does not give permission for divorce unless there is a valid and serious reason. 

Physical or Emotional Abuse, Drug or Alcohol Abuse, Gambling, and Crime

Physical or emotional abuse of a spouse or child, drug or alcohol abuse, gambling addiction crime are not acceptable justifications for divorce in the Bible. And the Bible encourages people to seek help and guidance rather than separating.

As you know, these behaviors are never acceptable in any relationship and should not be tolerated. The wife in this situation should keep the kids and herself away from such a husband. 

However, even in these cases, a period of separation with the aim of restoration is recommended instead of starting a divorce action right away.

But it doesn’t mean that a man or woman should remain in the relationship whose spouse is engaging in such behaviors. If there is any danger to yourself or your children, a divorce is a wise and necessary step.

Disappointed in Your Spouse

It’s important to note that the Bible does not give permission for people to divorce their spouses simply because they are disappointed in them. The Bible is clear that all relationships require patience, forgiveness and grace, so if you are considering divorce due to disappointment, it’s best to seek counseling and guidance before making any decisions. 

Being disappointed in your spouse is totally different from a destructive marriage. When you are dissatisfied with your partner because they are not romantic or work hard enough, or if they are not the person you expected them to be when you got married, it is not a valid reason for divorce according to scripture.

Why do Christians Have a Low Divorce Rate Than Other Religions?

Studies show that Christians have a lower rate of divorce than other faiths, and the reasons are rooted in scripture. 

Christians believe the Bible teaches that marriage is a sacred bond between two people and should not be taken lightly. Therefore, when it comes to divorce, there are only a few instances where it would be permissible according to the Bible’s teachings.

The Bible states that marriage should be a lifelong commitment, and it is only in certain situations that divorce can be an option for Christians. These mainly include adultery or abandonment by an unbeliever. Other than these few instances, the Bible does not condone divorce. Therefore, many Christians try to work through issues and avoid divorce if at all possible.

Christians also believe that God is the ultimate healer and can restore broken marriages. There are numerous stories in the Bible of people who have overcome differences, sorrows, and heartache to build a lasting bond with their spouse. As such, some Christians believe that divorce should be avoided because it does not honor God or the marriage covenant.

Meanwhile, many Christian churches provide a strong support network for couples struggling in their marriages. Through counseling, prayer, and spiritual guidance, Christians are encouraged to work through issues and remain committed to their partners despite difficulties. This can be incredibly helpful for those facing potential divorce and offers hope that reconciliation is still possible.

Final Thought

The decision to divorce or stay in a marriage is difficult to make. The Bible calls us to forgive and seek reconciliation before considering a breakup of the marriage. 

However, if any of these above biblical reasons for divorce apply to your situation, there are resources available to help you through this difficult time. 

You can seek wise counsel from trusted members of your church community and speak with a professional Christian counselor. Remember, whatever you decide, God’s love and mercy are always available to you.

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