Question: These two questions came at different times, but I believe they could be related. 1. If a husband is into drunkenness, he steals from his wife and their children, he has been verbally and physically abusive, and he has had extra martial affairs, is she wrong for divorcing him (paraphrased)? Even when he refuses to leave the martial home? 2. What does the Bible say about loyalty, once broken, can it ever be restored?
Answer: These are good questions and I know that far too many married couples today are being faced with these very issues. Thankfully God has answers for us in His word the Bible. There are principles from His word that we are to go by, however, how these are applied in each and every life may vary. Therefore, every person has to get before the Lord personally and ask Him, “What would you have me, Lord, do in my situation?”
First off, yes, if a husband is having extra martial affairs you have a Biblical right to divorce him. “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:9)
This verse is speaking for both the husband and the wife. The male religious leaders had asked Jesus this question, so He gave them His answer, but it applies to both the man and the woman the same. Sometimes in different cultures they think it is all right for men to have affairs, but for the woman it not all right. This is just not the truth, for both, in the case of the husband or the wife it is grounds for divorce. God looks at this offense as a very serious breach of the marriage contract!
That being said, does that mean that every woman and every man has to get a divorce when there is sexual immorality? Of course not, it is not a command, but an allowance in the cases where it is needed. This leads us into the second question what does the Bible say about loyalty, once broken, can it ever be restored?
Yes, God can give us His grace, and we can forgive our spouse after they have been sexually immoral. God has forgiven us our sins, and we should forgive others. “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6: 12, 14-15) We need to forgive them for what they have done, but that does not mean that we have to stay married to them. This is a very personal thing between you and God, and your spouse.
There were other situations mentioned in the first question that would not merit divorce, but a separation. For example: the drunkenness, stealing, verbal or physical abuse. These might mean that a spouse would need to get a legal separation or move away from the abusive individual. This may need to be done for one’s sanity and protection. You are not violating some Biblical principle when you separate for these reasons. Also, you may need to get a restraining order.
The reason God doesn’t want us to get a divorce, though, for even these serious things, such as drunkenness, etc. is because if we separate and pray for that individual to get saved, and they are saved the marriage could also be saved. Once sexual immorality has taken place on the part of one, the other has a choice as to what decision they will make. But if sexual immorality has not taken place then Paul says, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband.”
[In other words it would be better to stay together, but in some cases the abuse, etc. may make it necessary to leave, but not to get a divorce]* (my own comment) “But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife.” (1 Corinthians 7:10-11) Again this is speaking of the situation where there has not been sexual immorality, because Jesus has already given His instruction on that subject, Paul is just commanding in cases where there has not been sexual immorality. (We do have a study on this subject of marriage and the Christian it is 1 Corinthians Part 2.)
Now, I believe personally, where both partners have been unfaithful to each other, the principle of divorce does not apply. And again there are cases where the spouse, by God’s grace, has been able not only to forgive the other one, but to continue the marriage. There are many Bible histories of this happening. King David was one that was unfaithful to his wife (wives) because he committed adultery. The book of Hosea in the Old Testament speaks of what God asked Hosea to do in that he had to stay married to a wife that was unfaithful, but this was a picture of God and the nation of Israel. This book is not to be used out of context, because God has not commanded us to do what Hosea did.
Hopefully this Scriptural guideline will be of some help to you, but feel free to write again if you have more questions.
Yours in Christ,
Gary T. Panell
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