Russell Wilson is quarterback of the NFL champion Seattle Seahawks. Before the Super Bowl he was part of a video making public his faith in Christ. He posts daily Bible verses on his Twitter feed. Now he is in the headlines again with the announcement that he and his wife are divorcing. Some claim that he wants out of his marriage before signing a large contract extension in a few years. A critic reacts, “Saint Wilson isn’t so perfect after all huh?” A more positive commenter writes, “Will pray for you brother.” So should we all.
Pope Francis is making news on the same subject. One report states that he called a Catholic woman in Argentina who is divorced and remarried to tell her that she could “safely receive Communion.” This would be a significant departure from established Catholic doctrine. Others claim that he made no such sweeping pronouncement.
What does God say to those who are considering divorce? To those who have been divorced? I’ve written a longer essay on this difficult subject for our website’s Resource Library. Here’s a summary:
When is divorce biblical? Jesus prohibited divorce “except on the ground of sexual immorality” (Matthew 5:32; 19:9). Paul added abandonment by a non-Christian spouse: “if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so” (1 Corinthians 7:15). I believe abuse should be considered as well, as life is sacred and must be protected (Exodus 20:13). Many biblical counselors recommend that an abused person separate from the spouse immediately and seek intensive counseling as a couple. But they urge us to consider divorce only in order to protect the abused and when there are no other options.
What if you’re considering divorce? God wants you to know that he can heal any marriage whose partners are fully yielded to him. He doesn’t want you to have a better marriage, but a new marriage. I have seen couples restored whose marriage was destroyed by adultery, abandoners return, and abuse healed. God is still the Great Physician of bodies, souls, and homes as well.
What if you’re divorced? If you are divorced as the result of adultery, abandonment or abuse on the part of your spouse, know that you are the innocent party. You will need counseling, help and hope, but you can reject guilt and move forward in God’s grace. If your divorce was not biblical, know that God can forgive any sin we confess to him (1 John 1:9). Billy Graham was right: “I am opposed to divorce and regard the increase in divorces today as one of the most alarming problems in society. However, I know that the Lord can forgive and heal.”
God says, “I hate divorce” (Malachi 2:16, NASB), not “I hate divorcees.” He hates divorce because he loves us and knows the pain divorce causes. Let’s not be the army that buries its wounded but the hospital that offers help and grace, to the glory of God.