What the Bible Says about
Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage

John Coblentz

Is it proper to initiate a divorce
from an unscriptural relationship
or should there simply be a separation?

Pages 63 - 64

We should note first that relationships may be unscriptural in several ways. The Mosaic Law forbids incestuous marriages -- brother to sister, son to mother or stepmother, uncle to niece, etc. Modern law likewise forbids some of these -- brother to sister and son to mother, for example; but modern law permits some relationships which the Law of Moses forbade -- marriage of in-laws, for example. And modern law is teetering on the brink of permitting homosexual marriages (they are recognized in some Scandinavian countries). Modern law likewise permits the relationship Jesus forbade -- marriage of divorced individuals.

Is it then proper to file for divorce for any or all such relationships which God considers wrong?

Viewing divorce as a legal suit filed against an offender would seem to go against the teachings of both Jesus and Paul. "And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also" (Matthew 5:40). "Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another" (I Corinthians 6:1, 7).

We would note that while the above Scriptures certainly have application to any legal proceedings, they are speaking primarily about economic affairs, not about sinful marriage relationships. Furthermore, most states now provide for "no-fault divorce," which is not suit filed against another as an offender, but is a process which severs the legal marriage relation and makes arrangements for division of property, rights, and responsibilities.

It would seem that if legal proceedings are right for severing any unscriptural relationships, they are right for severing all such relationships. If it is right, in other words, for a Christian to take legal proceedings to separate an incestuous relationship or a homosexual relationship, it is right to take legal proceedings to separate an adulterous relationship. It would be wrong, however, in any such situation for a Christian to sue for personal rights, to fight legal battles to protect personal property. "Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?" (I Corinthians 6:7).

What is proper legal action for severing unlawful or adulterous relationships, however, should not be assumed for the marriage relationship, even with a promiscuous partner. As Paul wrote in I Corinthians 7:10, 11, lawful partners should not even separate (though if separation occurs, one should remain unmarried or be reconciled), but divorce is forbidden.

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