Views on divorce and dating for christians
Divorce is a difficult subject for Christians. It’s unlikely that any Christian would want to promote divorce per se and it’s obvious that it’s a difficult issue for the church. Furthermore, remarriage of divorcees is also hotly debated with strong feelings and emotions pertaining to all sides of the discussion. It’s easy to take a view on this subject if you haven’t been affected by it. But as soon as we meet someone who is, or we are ourselves, we see the issues are complex and not as clear cut for Christians as perhaps a few well known verses of Scripture would imply. Whether we like it or not it’s a very real issue in our society today and one we should give some thought and prayer to.
A number of people responded to our request for their views on the subject and here are some of them. (The names have been changed.)
‘As a Christian myself I tried for years to avoid divorce. My Catholic upbringing meant that I was categorically against divorce, and also I have known, in a very personal way, of the lasting damage to children, when parents divorce. However, in my marriage I suffered verbal abuse intermittently over many years, from the husband I loved; as time went by, the ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ mood swings became apparent. I stayed in the marriage for over 20 years, praying constantly, hoping we could work things out, and trying to support our 3 children through the stormy rides.
After 24 years I broke; deep down my emotions could take no more of ‘living on a volcano’ as I describe it. His rages interacted with my depressions.
In Christian terms – though I can’t quote chapter and verse – ‘A man should not divorce his wife except in the case of adultery’. If one re-words this, to read ‘a married person should not divorce their partner, except in the case of adultery’ then this applies, in my case. Adultery came on top of the years enduring rages. If, as Jesus said, He came to bring Life in all its fullness, then I believe that I, as a child of God, I should reclaim my individuality, my talents, all that makes me the person I was born to be. And this, in the service of God and truth.’
‘Are we frightened of confronting the reality of divorce’ asks Joan?
‘I am going through the divorce process unwillingly and struggle with feelings of guilt and shame both for myself, my Christian faith, my family and the church community. (We were married for over 20 years and worked in many churches during that time) There seems to be so much prejudice around amongst Christians. Perhaps it is just that people don’t know what to say or do. I am a good mother to 3 lovely children and do my utmost to give them a stable, happy Christian home. It seems too that some married Christians view you as an oddity or threat, perhaps marriage breakdown is catching? I also think that marriage breakdown/divorce is a worse bereavement than death because the person who died DIDN’T CHOOSE TO LEAVE YOU. The partner who is living down the road with his new partner and child DID (He by the way is a practicing Christian).’
And a very different perspective from Lynne who comes from an Orthodox church background.
‘I am in the process of being divorced myself – sadly after 40 years of marriage! My 65-year-old husband has, over the last 8 years or so, had a succession of Latvian girlfriends, where he goes on business. I have tried to put up with this, but it has finally come to the crunch and he has demanded an end to our marriage, which is devastating for me and our children.
I belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church, which accepts divorce for the cause of adultery (see Matt. 5:32). This is not a modern concession but has been part of our teaching and church life since the early centuries. This is useful for Western Christians to know, since many seem to think divorce is a purely modern innovation for Christians.
Our Church grants a church divorce, and allows remarriage in church – with certain penitential prayers replacing the joyful ones. This should be after a period of 3 years’ spiritual retraining. I should point out that our wedding ceremony is very different from the familiar Western one. We do not make vows (no ’till death us do part’). We are crowned a king and queen of a new colony of the Kingdom, and the life-long commitment of marriage is expressed in a circular procession. But we do acknowledge that our human endeavours may fall short of what they should be.
In the Early Church adultery, together with murder and apostasy, was one of the three sins punishable by automatic excommunication until the person repented and was reconciled with the Church. This is still the principle behind our thinking, and the fact that we allow divorce is, we understand, God’s concession to our fallen life. My church has been very supportive throughout my last unhappy years, and will continue to support me fully during and after my divorce.’
Quiet a bit to ponder on there! We hope these persepctives give you food for thought – or help you realise you are not alone if you are in a similar situation. We’d love to hear your views on this subject too or the views of your friends! Email them to us at editors@HeavenlyPartners.ie
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