Let me start off by saying that I believe God desires reconciled relationships. The very theme of the gospel is reconciliation. With all effort, choose repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation in your marriage relationship. In a perfect world, divorce would never be possible. But, living in a broken world, some relationships are irreparably damaged and divorce appears imminent. The question becomes, “When is divorce appropriate?”
If Scripture is our resource, we discover divorce is appropriate following infidelity or abandonment.
Matthew 5:31-32 grants divorce in unfaithfulness. The key phrase is this Greek word “porneia” which is translated sexual immorality. The word is a catch all for any unsanctioned sexual activity. More specifically, it is the misplaced affection by a partner choosing to embrace someone or something instead of the one he or she vowed to love. The activity of inappropriate behavior is the degrading of one’s body and/or the abusing of the body of another. While this includes any number of sexually immoral behaviors (affair – emotional or physical, incest, fornication, prostitution, pornography or sexual addiction), it is not just limited to the obvious. I’m going to take a very liberal understanding here and incorporate physical abuse in the context of abusing the body of another. I believe those who live in a physically abusive relationship have the right to separate and ultimately divorce.
1 Corinthians 7:10-16 permits divorce in abandonment or desertion. The word here is translated separate which means to divorce or send away. While the context is an unbelieving spouse, it has application to a believing spouse who chooses abandonment rather than reconciliation. In order for reconciliation to work, it take both husband and wife committed to the process. If your spouse chooses abandonment, you are just in divorce (the one who is left behind, not the one who chooses to go). How can you remain married if your spouse leaves? You can’t.
Again, reconciliation is the goal. But, in the examples cited above, divorce is acceptable.