Marriage: When to Call it Quits


First, consider the following texts from God’s Word:

  • But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.” (Mal 2:14-16)
  • “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (Mat 5:31-32)
  • They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” (Mat 19:7-9)
  • To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife. (1Co 7:10-11)

These texts limit divorce to the unfaithfulness of one spouse.  Jesus, God through he prophet Malachi, and Paul all say that marriage is permanent.  The meaning is clear in these passages, “one man and one woman for life.”   However, before we toss in the towel and decide that once we are in a “bad marriage” that we are stuck, there is one more idea to consider.  One that ultimately comes from scripture.  The disciples state this principle in Matthew 19 and Jesus confirms it.  I think we need to take a closer look at this teaching of when we should quit a marriage.  This is sound teaching about breaking up a marriage.  I consider this to be the BEST time to break-up a marriage, even better than unfaithfulness.  The BEST time to break-up a marriage is BEFORE YOU SAY, “I DO”!  Yes, I am shouting with all caps. This is after-all what the disciples said, ” . . . If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” (Mat 19:10).

My point? Make sure you are ready to stay together – for life before you complete the ceremony.  I tell couples, that if she is on the way up the aisle and one of them decides they are not ready for this, then tell me then.  I would rather see those gathered disappointed then than broken-hearted at a later day.

What do you think?

– Scott

6 thoughts on “Marriage: When to Call it Quits

  1. I agree with all you’ve said. It’s one of the more heart-wrenching aspects of ministry, in my opinion. It feels like God’s word is on one level, and people just operate on a completely different level when it comes to this. Our culture has undermined the permanency of marriage, if for no other reason than, THEY CAN.

    • Quick answer, Yes. Just like I would baptize someone who is struggling with any other sin. We are not asked to be perfect when we obey the gospel, but are called to allow Christ to rule our life and to begin changing us to be like Him. In nearly 30 years of ministry, I have not faced this situation personally. I know of others who have. One person explained MDR to them and asked them what they wanted to do, the couple decided to separate and made a unique arrangement to raise their children. Another baptized the couple and as they continued to grow in faith, they made a decision to separate, but remained in the same house to raise their children. I know couples who say that God forgave them of their past divorces and are committed to staying together. I am not intelligent enough to know the best answers for those that have previous marriages. This may sound like a “cop-out” but I will point couples (individuals) to scripture, give them my best understanding and let them make a choice based on the information and wisdom they have, then let God sort out the details.

  2. Too often divorce has been labeled an unforgivable sin. Murder is forgivable but divorce is not. Adultery is forgivable but divorce is not. Spousal abuse is forgivable but divorce is not.

    There is the ideal situation of “one man, one women, for life” and then there is the reality of sin. Thankfully we have a Savior who covers over all our sins.

    If there is no grace for divorced people then there is no grace for me. If God gives love and grace and forgiveness, then who are we to withhold.

    On the flip side, Paul’s words in Romans 6:1 apply as well. “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may abound?” We should not use God’s grace as an excuse to cheapen the marriage bond. That grace came at a great cost to Him.

    • I nor you can withhold God’s Grace. To attempt to do so makes either of us the judge, and Christ alone is Judge. I can however and am obligated to teach what I see in God’s Word and allow individuals to choose their path. Did not God tell the prophet Ezekiel that his job was to inform people God’s word. If he did not he was accountable, if he did and people refused to follow God, then those who refused were accountable.

      Thanks for reading and for the comment.

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