In my lifetime, the divorce rate has been rising. Presently, the number is about one out of two marriages today will end in divorce. However, one doesn’t have to rely on the statistics to be alarmed regarding the abusive attitudes and actions toward marriage. One needs only to look around at family, friends, or even brethren in Christ. Please consider some things that divorce shows us.
First, divorce shows the power of man’s choice. Humans, created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27), are free moral agents, with the power of will to choose good or evil. The scriptures clearly affirm this fact (Genesis 2:16-17; Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Joshua 24:14-15; Matthew 23:37). Divorce is just one more activity which vividly illustrates man’s power to choose evil instead of good. Jesus warned of the havoc man’s choice can inflict when He said, “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matthew 19:6). Man can destroy what God joins together!
God ordained the marriage relationship in the beginning (Genesis 2:18-25), and has revealed His word of truth intended to govern conduct in all man’s relationships. He commands that marriage be held in honor by all and that sexual purity be confined within the bond of marriage (1 Corinthians 7:2-5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8; Hebrews 13:4). Unfortunately, many, rather than choosing to commit, sacrifice, and fight in order to save their marriages, take the easy way out — divorce. Satan has long been in the business of tempting with the “easy out,” as he did when he tempted Christ (cp. Matthew 4:8-10). Remember, our choices have power to not only affect us but others; and they will have both earthly and eternal consequences (2 Corinthians 5:10; Galatians 6:7-8). No more is this observed than when a marriage ends in divorce.
Second, divorce shows that legality doesn’t equate to morality. There are many who with respect to a standard of authority look no higher than our government. They say, “If it’s legal, it must be okay.” Therefore, the fact that one can legally get a divorce for any cause is good enough for them. For the same reason, many will have no reservations about accepting other “legal” but immoral practices like gambling, abortion, or same-sex marriages.
Man answers to a higher authority than government. Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). God, who long ago made this simple yet forceful declaration: “I hate divorce” (Malachi 2:14), now speaks to us in His Son (Hebrews 1:1-4). Jesus, when asked about divorce for any cause, clearly condemned it, giving only one scriptural exception (fornication) whereby one may divorce their guilty spouse (Matthew 5:32; 19:9). We need to be looking to God, not Washington, for our standard of conduct.
Third, divorce shows that one or both have quit working in their marriage. It may be the husband, wife, or both, but when a divorce is granted, it shows that someone has given up on their marriage. A good marriage requires that both husband and wife not only acknowledge their personal responsibilities in the marriage relationship (as commanded in God’s word), but that they faithfully perform them. Remember those vows lovingly made to one another and God, which initially expressed a willingness to commit to and work in the marriage, whatever the circumstances? Unfortunately, with many the vows are forgotten, the commitment grows cold, and the work required maintaining the marriage stops.
While many reasons might be given for the large divorce rate, allow me to suggest what I perceive to be the principle one: selfishness. When the husband, wife, or both begin viewing their marriage with only regard for self, problems are inevitable. I have also observed men who’ve pursued their “hobbies” with such tenacity that their duties at home were seriously compromised. Likewise, I’ve seen women so career-driven, they forgot about their God-given duty to be “workers at home” (Titus 2:5). Because selfishness isn’t replaced by a selfless, sacrificing love, divorce is often the result.
And the greatest tragedy of all by such self-centeredness is the effect on children involved in divorce. Adults more concerned about “getting on with my life” instead of guarding their children from the devastation of divorce are the epitome of selfishness! Despite the world’s thinking to the contrary, God’s wisdom dictates the need for a child to have the love, guidance, and security of both parents.
God commands, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). How much did Jesus love the church? He loved her enough to deny Himself and sacrifice His life on the cross for her. The husband, too, must manifest that same selfless love. Likewise, the wife must love and submit to her husband (Titus 2:4-5). As long as these attitudes prevail, each will look to the desires and needs of the other before self, and by doing so will manifest the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:3-5).
Adapted from Dan Richardson