Is Divorce the Unpardonable Sin?

Divorce has long been a difficult topic in the church. In our culture today, nearly everyone has been affected by it one way or another. We all know someone, whether it be a family member or close friend, who has experienced the pain of a broken marriage. Or maybe you have experienced divorce first-hand. If so, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how messy and hurtful it can be.

 

Is Divorce the Unpardonable Sin? | alyssajhoward.com

 

Divorce and the church have a long and complicated history. The Bible is pretty clear that in most cases, divorce is a sin, but it does offer a couple of exceptions. The first is unfaithfulness, (Matthew 5:31-32) and the second is in the case of an unbelieving spouse who wants to leave (1 Corinthians 7:10-15).

 

Marriage is a covenant designed by God. His purpose from the very beginning was for it to be permanent and life-long. Jesus taught this truth in the gospel of Matthew:

 

Some Pharisees came and tried to trap him with this question: “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife for just any reason?” “Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” Jesus replied. “They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.’” And he said, “‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.” “Then why did Moses say in the law that a man could give his wife a written notice of divorce and send her away?” they asked. Jesus replied, “Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended. And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery—unless his wife has been unfaithful.”Matthew 19:3-9 (NLT)

 

Jesus’ teaching is clear. Divorce was never part of God’s plan. It was allowed because of sinful man. We find the same teaching in the book of Malachi:

 

Didn’t the Lord make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are his. And what does he want? Godly children from your union. So guard your heart; remain loyal to the wife of your youth. “For I hate divorce!” says the Lord, the God of Israel. “To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “So guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife.”Malachi 2:15-16 (NLT)

 

These verses (along with many others) have made the church quite legalistic when it comes to marriage and divorce. Yes, there are many today who just throw away their marriages – many who leave for all the wrong reasons. The Bible is clear that this type of divorce is a sin. But does that give us the right as believers to condemn divorced individuals for life? What about repentance and forgiveness?

 

I have a close friend – let’s call him John. John had a wife who was unfaithful…more than once during their time together. Finally, he had to make the difficult decision to walk away. After multiple chances and broken promises, his heart simply couldn’t take any more. Biblically speaking, he had every right to leave. Unfortunately, John received a great deal of judgement from the church and some of his Christian friends. They treated divorce like the unpardonable sin. They made him feel condemned – like he would never be able to move forward.

John’s story is not that uncommon. Divorce is often treated this way in the church. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to make light of divorce. But is it really unforgivable? In John’s case, he had biblical grounds to divorce, yet many in the church still condemned him as damaged goods.

And what about the person who didn’t have biblical grounds? Can they repent and move forward? Or will they forever be living in adultery if they remarry?

 

So is divorce the unpardonable sin?

 

God’s hates divorce, just like He hates all sin. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be forgiven if we repent and change our ways. God’s grace covers all sin – even divorce.

 

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.1 John 1:9 (ESV)

 

There is hope after divorce. God can and will restore us if we let Him. In the meantime, we need to be careful as the church not to judge those who have been divorced. Only God knows the hearts and motivations of those involved.

 


 

John 8:1-11 tells the story of a woman who was caught in adultery. She was literally caught in the act, and a crowd gathered around her to stone her to death. Jesus intervened. When her life was spared, He told her to go and sin no more. Her past no longer mattered. He was only concerned about her future.

I believe that God extends this grace and mercy to all who repent – even to those who are divorced.

 

Is Divorce the Unpardonable Sin? | alyssajhoward.com

 

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5 Replies to “Is Divorce the Unpardonable Sin?”

  1. A good true word! No divorce is not the unpardonable sin, for there is only one unpardonable sin. Rejecting the Holy Spirit is the only unpardonable sin Jesus said in Matthew 12;31 “Every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”

    1. Thank you, Gloria for your comment. 🙂 I think most people would agree that divorce isn’t the “unpardonable sin.” Unfortunately, our actions don’t always match our words, and I’ve witnessed many divorced individuals treated as if it were. Once we repent and surrender to Christ, He no longer sees our sin. We should view people in the same way – loved, forgiven, and slate wiped clean. Thank you again for stopping by!

  2. I totally understand what you are saying but what about the alcoholic that won’t change along with drug use and not to mention physical mental and emotional abuse ( men get abused ) so much and they hide it because society will think they are weak for allowing women to physically attack and you don’t hit back because you were brought up never to lay a hand on a women?

    1. Margaret, I completely understand where you are coming from. The Bible is fairly silent when it comes to abuse in marriage. (I try to address this very topic in another blog post I wrote in my Truth About Marriage series.) No one is forced to stay in a marriage. Paul addresses this fact in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11. Remarriage is the real issue here. It’s a touchy and controversial topic in the church to say the least, but I do know one thing. We serve a gracious and forgiving God. He died on the cross to remove condemnation from our lives… so the idea of someone being “condemned” as an adulterer forever based on their past divorce/remarriage seems to contradict this truth. The atonement covered all our sin… even adultery. Like I said, abuse is an entirely different situation than simply leaving a spouse for “something better.” Prayer and guidance from the Holy Spirit are key.

  3. If you are in a marriage that is abusive it is a game changer for sure the abusive spouse is the one breaking covenant and you are not under bondage. Unfortunately most people will not understand if they haven’t been through it or if they have not been empathetic and close with a situation where there was abuse, emotional abuse is just as harmful as physical abuse, please educate yourselves and understand that scripture has been misaligned and misapplied to situations that are dangerous and not normal marriage problems. Because of the profound damage that staying in close contact with an abuser can do to a women or man even if it’s not physically abusive, yet, I believe that a Christian can biblically divorce a spouse who is abusing them. And by abuse, I mean an ongoing, characteristic, pattern for force to obtain and enforce power and control over the victim, fueled by a mentality of profound entitlement and a full confidence in being justified to use what means are needed to posses that power and control. This abuse is most often emotional and psychological, leaving no mark or bruise. Believe me when I say anxiety, fear, depression, PTSD, prone to an addiction in order to cope, less ability to do life in a manner that is needful such as work and raising children, plus the pain of a broken heart because you have loved and it is not returned and you still love, the confusion of why did God allow this when marriage is supposed to represent Jesus and His bride, the church. Not only is it not the unpardonable sin when you divorce in such a case it is not sin at all. Jesus has you, he loves you, you are His.

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