Can Divorce Be Forgiven
This Is a Hotly Contested Subject
This is one of the most hotly contested subjects among Christians. There are those who steadfastly say NO, God does not forgive divorce! They quote Bible passages such as Malachi 2:16 (NIV): “’I hate divorce,’ says the Lord God of Israel.”
Others say yes, because God forgives all sin. All we have to do is to ask and God will forgive us. And this is the message of the Bible. But what do we have to do to receive this forgiveness?
Divorce Is Not In God’s Plan For Us
The first thing we need to understand is that divorce is not in God’s plan for us. Matthew 19:8 (NIV): “Jesus replied, ‘Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.’”
God explains what divorce is in Deut. 24:1 (Living Bible): “If a man doesn't like something about his wife, he may write a letter stating that he has divorced her, give her the letter, and send her away.” God says that He hates divorce: Malachi 2:16 (NIV) “I hate divorce," says the Lord God of Israel.”
So we need to understand that in God’s eyes, divorce is sin. The English word “sin” comes from the Greek ‘hamartia” which means to “miss the mark and so not to share in the prize.” Thus, sin is missing the mark, or the standard, that God has set for us. And since we “miss the mark,” we miss the prize which is heaven.
Jesus Taught About Divorce
Let’s look at what Jesus said about divorce because Jesus has brought God’s final word on all subjects. Matthew 5:31-32 (NIV): “It has been said, ‘anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 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.”
Notice two very important things here.
1. The only just cause for divorce is marital unfaithfulness.
2. Divorce for any other reason causes adultery.
Adultery Is Just Cause For Divorce
This means that if your spouse committed adultery, and you divorce him/her, you will not be committing a sin. This is because the person who committed the adultery broke the spiritual bond that was between the two of you. You are free to marry again. However, if there was no adultery committed, and you divorce your spouse and marry another, you are committing adultery.
“But, my husband/wife abused me day and night. I could not remain married to him/her.” “Can I remarry?” This is something that you must settle between yourself and God. However, most abusers are also adulterers and if this was the case, the problem is solved. Just remember that God does love you and He wants you to be happy. Spend time in prayer and Bible Study and God will give you an answer.
What If You Are Already Remarried?
What if you divorced your spouse (with no adultery involved) and you are already married to another? Does this mean that you have committed an unpardonable sin? No, it does not. However, you are now spiritually united with two people. To understand how we are spiritually united see the article on Christian Marriage.
The important fact to remember is that God does forgive our sins, no matter how bad they are. The question then is: “What do I have to do to receive this forgiveness?” According to the Bible, there are two things involved.
1 John 1:9 (NIV) says: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Then Acts 3:19 (NIV) says; “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”
What Forgiveness Involves
Thus, two things are involved to have our sins forgiven, confession and repentance. Confession means that we acknowledge that what we did was wrong. Repentance involves three steps:
1. To regret the decision you made or the act that you committed.
2. To think differently than you did before.
3. Have a desire to reverse the decision you made or act that you committed.
So to be forgiven of a divorce, you do have to be truly sorry for divorcing your spouse. You do have to want to correct any wrong that was done. It may not always be possible, but the desire must be there for there to be real repentance.
What If Your Ex-Wife Is Still Single?
What if you have already remarried and your ex-wife is still single? You cannot reconcile your old marriage, but you can continue to willingly support her, just as you promised to do when you married her. Notice that the operative word is “willingly.” Remember it is your attitude, your desire that makes the difference with God.
So the answer to the question is yes, God does forgive divorce. If no adultery was involved, then you both need to seek God’s forgiveness, as well as from each other.
If the divorce was because of your spouse’s adultery, then the action to be taken is dependent on him/her. If your spouse repents and asks your forgiveness, then you are to forgive him/her. After all, didn’t Jesus forgive you when you asked Him to forgive your sins?
What If Neither Of You Have Remarried?
If neither of you are remarried, then reconciliation is always possible. However, each of you will need to change and start living for the other instead of only for yourself. The formula for accomplishing this is: Put God first. Put others second. And put yourself third. God will help you to do this.
God Does Forgive Divorce
Yes, God does forgive divorce, but it is not easy to receive this forgiveness. Remember, to be forgiven of any sin, we must truly repent. The Greek word for “repent” is [metanoeo] which means to think differently, reconsider, feel compunction. This means that your whole attitude toward the divorce must change. You must want to reconcile with your ex-spouse, if possible. If that is not possible, you must be willing to repair any damage you may have caused. For instance, if you are the ex-husband you must be willing to continue to support your ex-wife.
To Be Happy, We Must Obey God’s Commandments
God wants us to be happy. He wants us to receive the best that He has to offer. However, we must receive it God’s way. God is God. We are not. God has outlined how we are to live, even in the midst of a divorce. God will fulfill our desires, and bring us happiness and joy, if we follow his commandments.