Divorce in the Bible

Divorce is far from a new concept, which is why it is unsurprising to discover that the Bible has plenty to say on the subject. Christians looking to divorce tend to ask the following question: Is divorce a sin? In order to best answer the question, it is important for Christians to seek the guidance of the Bible. As a general matter, divorce is forbidden for the Christian, with three explicit exceptions for separation as outlined in the Scripture. First, and most importantly, Jesus himself weighed in on the issue in Matthew 5:31-32. In these verses, Jesus informs his audience that whoever divorces their spouse and marries another commits adultery, with the exception of when adultery has been committed. If a spouse cheats, a divorce is permissible for a Christian. Is divorce a sin? For spouses who have been cheated on, the answer is no.

The second exception comes from Paul in his letter to the Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul states that the act of abandonment effectively ends a marriage. While Paul does make it clear that these are his views (in his words, he wrote “I, and not the Lord, say…”), Christians believe that all Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit, meaning that abandonment is a valid reason for divorce.

In the same chapter of Corinthians, Paul gives women a unique exception that is not afforded to men. While husbands are not permitted to divorce unless there is adultery or abandonment, women may separate from their husbands and live a single life or attempt to be reconciled from their husband. This third exception is often considered the proper choice for Christian women that suffer from domestic abuse, whether that abuse is verbal or physical. However, the Bible does not explicitly allow for a divorce in these circumstances. They must either “live single” or “be reconciled”. Thus, for divorce purposes, the analysis remains the same for men and women. If there has been adultery or abandonment, there are Christian grounds for divorce.

Examples of Biblical Divorce

Is divorce a sin? Are there any people in the Bible that can serve as an example of sinful divorce? These are all common questions, but the Bible does not have an extensive cast of characters who divorce in the Scripture. However, there is one “almost” divorce that occurred in the Bible which is helpful for understanding the Biblical exception for divorce. Mary, the mother of Jesus, birthed Christ through solely divine means, according to the Scripture. Joseph, however, did not see things that way. His human intuitions suggested that Mary had committed the act of adultery.

While the couple ultimately did get married thanks to an angel’s revelation, it is important to note that Joseph would have been well within his rights to divorce if his beliefs that Mary had committed adultery were actually correct. However, many Christians that are considering divorce want to know God’s view on their behavior. Ultimately, if a Christian wants to divorce but there is no exception allowed Biblically, the Christian wants to know the million dollar question: Is divorce a sin? And, if so, why is divorce a sin?

Is Divorce a Sin?

As mentioned, all of the previous analysis ultimately adds up to one big question: Is divorce a sin? Simply put, the answer is yes if one of the Biblical grounds for divorce are not present in the marriage circumstances. For Christians that ask the famous Is divorce a sin? question, it can be shocking to hear that the answer in some cases is that it is indeed a sin.

So, why is divorce a sin? If you asked Billy Graham, the popular evangelist about sin he would have the following response: Why is divorce a sin? Sin, broadly defined, is “any thought or action that falls short of God’s will.” Why is divorce a sin? It is a sin because it falls short of God’s will for marriage. While there a great deal of debates, scholarship and philosophy about sin, marriage and divorce in the Bible, the ultimate takeaway is that God wants a better future for our marriages than divorce.

If you are a Christian that falls into the Biblical justifications for a divorce, contact our divorce attorneys so that you can receive the Biblical separation you need to move on with your life.