This article is written by Hans Neser and is used with his permission.

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Is it okay to divorce? Let's look at what the bible considers to be adultery and then what the New Testament says about divorce.

According to the New Testament any sexual act outside of the bounds of marriage is considered sexual immorality (Mark 7:20-23):

"He went on: "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.'"

Any sexual act that takes place between someone who is married and someone who isn't their partner is considered adultery even if they have been seperated for a period of time. The verse on divorce needs to be taken in its full context (Matthew 5:27-30):

"You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell."

Here Jesus is reminding us of the original intent of the law as given in the ten commandments (Exodus 20:14-17). Jesus is telling us that sin starts in the heart, the physical act of immorality / adultery is the end product of sin burning within. Jesus is warning us to cut off sin at the root, at the very point where desire begins. It is important not to give into temptation or desire and also to be wary of our feelings - Love is often given as a reason for unfaithfullness or getting involved with someone who is married - I think Jeremiah expresses it best when he wrote (Jeremiah 17:9-10)

"The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? "I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve."

So What About Divorce?
Ok so lets have a look at Divorce - this is a subject that has generated a lot of debate in the religious world. Lets start out by looking at a few scriptures that deal with divorce.

The first thing to realise about divorce is that God hates it and should only be considered in the most extreme of circumstances. When people marry it is for life, the "try before you buy" attitude prevelant today is not biblical, the fear of incompatibility that most people cite is not an issue when two people work on building a Godly marriage. In the NT we see that divorce is allowed in only two circumstances:

1. Unfaithfulness (Matthew 5:31-32)
"It has been said, 'Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.' a But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery."
(See also Matthew 19:1-11, Mark 10:1-10, Luke 16:18)

2. Unbelief (1st Corinthians 7:10-16)
"To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife. 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. 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. 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. 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. How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?"

There is no biblical reason for two believing Christians to get divorced. In the midst of marital difficulties some couples seperate and live apart for a time, I have been in this situation due to sin in my life. In the end it is important to have a focus on God and place him at the center of a marriage - when this is the case a marriage will work out - it takes work and effort but is always worth it.

Where you have a case of a violent partner, sexually abusive partner or emotionally abusive partner it is important to get some distance for the sake of safety. If that partner is unwilling to be councilled and live the life of a true believer then there is a case for divorce - again I stress that this is only in the most extreme cases when councilling has not worked.

Some Biblical References

Exodus 21:7-11
Deuteronomy 21:10-14
Deuteronomy 24:1-4
Ezra 10:1-16
Nehemiah 13:23-30
Jeremiah 3:1
Micah 2:9
Malachi 2:14-16
Matthew 5:31,32
Matthew 19:3-12
Mark 10:2
Luke 16:18
1st Corinthians 7:10-16
Esther 1:10-22
Isaiah 50:1
Isaiah 54:4
Jeremiah 3:8

Genesis 20:3
2nd Samuel 12:14
Job 24:15-18
Job 31:1-12
Proverbs 2:16-17
Proverbs 5:3-22
Proverbs 6:24-33
Proverbs 7:5-23
Proverbs 9:13-18
Proverbs 22:14
Proverbs 23:27-28
Proverbs 29:3
Proverbs 30:18-20
Proverbs 31:3
Isaiah 57:3-4
Jeremiah 3:1
Jeremiah 5:7-8
Jeremiah 7:9-10
Jeremiah 23:10
Ezekiel 18:5-9
Hosiah 4:1-11
Matthew 5:28-32
Mark 10:11-12
Luke 16:18
Matthew 15:19
Mark 7:21.
Matthew 19:9
Mark 10:11.
Mark 10:19
James 2:11.
Acts 15:20-29.
Romans 1:28-32
Romans 7:3
1st Corinthians 5:9-10
1st Corinthians 6:15-18
1st Corinthians 10:8
2st Corinthians 12:21
Galatians 5:19-21
1st Timothy 1:9-10
2st Timothy 3:6
1st Peter 4:3-4
2st Peter 2:9-14
Jude 1:7
Revelation 2:20-22
Revelation 9:21

Exodus 20:14
Deuteronomy 5:18
Matthew 5:27
Matthew 19:18
Luke 18:20
Romans 13:9
James 2:11
Leviticus 18:20
Leviticus 19:29
Deuteronomy 23:17
Acts 15:20
Romans 13:13
1st Corinthians 5:9-11
1st Corinthians 6:13-18
1st Corinthians 10:8
Ephesians 4:17-20
Ephesians 5:3-12
Colossians 3:5
1st Thessalonians 4:3-7

Judges 19:1-4
John 8:10-11

Genesis 20:7
Genesis 26:11
Genesis 38:24
Exodus 22:16-17
Leviticus 19:20-22
Leviticus 20:10-12
Leviticus 21:9
Numbers 5:11-30
Deuteronomy 22:13-29
Deuteronomy 27:20-23
2nd Samuel 12:10-12
Jeremiah 29:22-23
Ezekiel 16:38-41
Ezekiel 23:45-48
Malachi 3:5
John 8:4-5
1st Corinthians 5:1-13
1st Corinthians 6:9-10
1st Corinthians 10:8
Galatians 5:19-21
Ephesians 5:5-6
Hebrews 13:4
Revelation 18:9-10
Revelation 21:8
Revelation 22:15
Jeremiah 3:2
Ezekiel 16:15-16
Hosea 1

Sodomites - Geneis 19:5-8
Lot - Geneis 19:31-38
Shechem - Genesis 34:2
Reuben - Genesis 35:22
Judah - Genesis 38:1-24
Potiphar's wife - Genesis 39:7-12
The Levite's concubine - Judges 19:2
The men of Gibeah - Judges 19:22-25
Gilead - Judges 11:1
Samson - Judges 16:1
Sons of Eli - 1st Samuel 2:22
David - 2nd Samuel 11:1-5
Amnon - 2nd Samuel 13:1-20
Absalom - 2nd Samuel 16:22
Israelites - Exodus 32:6-25, Jeremiah 29:23, Ezekiel 22:9-11, 33:26, Hosiah 7:4
Herod - Matthew 14:3-4, Mark 6:17-18, Luke 3:19
Samaritan woman - John 4:17-18
The woman brought to Jesus in the temple - John 8:4-11
Corinthians - 1st Corinthians 5:1-5.
Heathen - Ephesians 4:17-19; 1st Peter 4:3