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Biblical versus Unbiblical grounds for divorce

The Bible specifically addresses two reasons for biblical grounds for divorce.

Matthew 19:8-9

8Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

So your spouse committing adultery is biblical grounds for divorce.

1 Corinthians 7:12-17

12 To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. 15 But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. 16 How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

So the second reason is if an unbelieving spouse leaves.

So this raises questions in our society. What about abuse? What about alcoholism or addiction? What about problems with pornography?

Let’s go back to that first part of Matthew 19:8

8Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.”

Here’s the deal. Hard hearts. What does Jesus mean by your hearts were hard? He is talking about a spouses heart for God. The Bible uses many of these words synonymously – heart, spirit, soul. When a man or woman who is married has a hard heart, it is hardened against God. The spouse is really seeing it playing out as addiction (idolatry), alcoholism (idolatry), abuse (idolatry). Idolizing themselves and their wants and desires over and above their love for the Lord. If your spouse even claims to be a Christian, they will follow Christ. The fruit of their labors will be good fruit. But if a spouse suffers from a heart that is hardened against God, they will follow idols instead. Self is an idol too. Just saying!

Luke 6:46-49

46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? 47 Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”

The point is for both you and your spouse, your house must be built on the foundation of the Lord. If a spouse is following their own selfish desires and when confronted, does not feel conviction or remorse or see a need for change, they are not a Christ follower. In fact their heart is hardened against God and often their god is their own selfish desires. A house built on the foundation is the only one that will stand against the storms of this world. And that’s an individual calling. You have to build your own relationship on the Rock. And your spouse has to build theirs there too. But if one spouse builds there and the other builds elsewhere, it won’t stand.

So is addiction, alcoholism, abuse a legitimate biblical grounds for divorce? You have to reflect on your own marriage and take that to the Lord, but in the case of a hard heart. If your spouses heart has been hardened against the Lord and these issues are all fruit that has come from that, yes. You do have biblical grounds for divorce. Your spouse is not a believer and has abandoned you, maybe not physically, but spiritually and emotionally.

One more thing that I believe is worth saying though. No one, no matter how great their sin, is beyond the redemption of God. The best thing you can do for your spouse is pray. In your own strength, you will never be able to save them or your marriage. But God is strong enough and certainly loves your sinful spouse enough to do a miracle and soften your spouses heart.

Look back at 1 Corinthians 7:12-17 again.

12 To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. 15 But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. 16 How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

God calls us to sanctify our spouse. What exactly does that mean? To encourage them in their walk with the Lord. To build them up. When we sanctify our spouses with our belief in the Lord, the hope is that they will recognize the Lord and begin walking with Him. After all, how do you know if you are not what God will use to save them?

Think of it like this. You are hurting and you have the Lord, your comforter. How much more must your prodigal spouse be hurting then without the Lord? How many tears must the Lord be crying over that lost lamb? As much as you love your spouse, and it must be a lot because the Lord joins us and the two become one. Whatever hurts them is bound to hurt you. How much more does the Lord love them and weep over them, because they are lost? Even if you hate your spouse, do yourself and the Lord a favor and pray for them. In fact, don’t ever stop praying for them. You don’t know Gods plans, but it may just be a miracle.

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