Anthropology: Marriage and Divorce

A theme of marriage appears as one of the key themes in the Bible. From the very first chapter, when giving us a picture of God’s creation, it says: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth…” (Gen. 1:27-28). In this way, when God created a man and a woman, He created them with a purpose of living together.

The Bible gives a very simple and straight teaching on marriage: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:23). Was that meant to be a simple cohabitation? No, it wasn’t. It is repeatedly explained later that the process of “cleaving” implied a certain procedure with consecutive requirements and limitations. One of the first responsibilities of a wife was to give birth to children and be her husband’s assistant, while a husband’s first responsibility was to love his wife, protect her and take care of her (Eph. 5:28-29). Then God gave a very direct and explicit commandment: “Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as hiself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband” (Eph. 5:33).

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The act of marriage represented a special event when a man and a woman were united in matrimony. The Bible especially stresses all cases when an act was considered a marriage that took place and when it was a mere cohabitation or an illicit affair. Weddings were held in front of witnesses and included an active participation of fathers or third persons who arranged wedding ceremonies (Gen. 24:50-67, 29:18-23, 41:45). It means they were performed according to the traditions of contemporary societies. The main condition was that marriage implied absolute faithfulness to a spouse and any type of promiscuity was ruled out.

The Bible also gives a very clear teaching on divorce: “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mark 10:9). Marriage was initially considered as a life-long union between a man and a woman, and God did not intend for married couples to divorce. Lord Jesus, when speaking of divorces, said: “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so” (Matt. 19:8). It is “the hardness of hearts” that leads to divorce, whether mutual or one-sided. God doesn’t make misstakes when He unites believers in marriage. He provides everything for a husband and a wife to change their negative tendencies in life and improve their marriage. The Bible gives two circumstances for marriage to be dissolved: one – when a spouse dies and the other – in case of infidelity. However, it is also said there that “mercy rejoyceth against judgment” (Jas. 2:13), meaning that even in case of infidelity, the spouse should still try his or her best in order to save a marriage.

Current society regards divorce as a way out if a marriage does not work. Remarriage is always considered as an option. Unfortunately, that view has been adopted by many Christians who do not try to make any attempts to revive their marriage. “Remarriage always falls under the cloud of the broken covenant of the first marriage.” Once again, if a Christian marriage does not work, it means that one of the spouses or both do not put enough effort into building their relationship.

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As it is seen from the biblical teachings, a marriage was intended as a life-long union between a man and a woman. Remarriage is allowed only when one of the spouses deceases or breaks the marriage covenant. Only under such circumstances, the other spouse is free to remarry.

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