A High View of Marriage Includes Divorce

The following article is a guest post by Rebecca VanDoodewaard, author of Uprooted: A Guide for Homesick Christians and Your Future ‘Other Half’: It Matters Whom You MarryShe is married to William VanDoodewaard, Professor of Church History at Puritan Theological Seminary. They have four children.

During a recent visit, my wife and I discussed these types of issues with Bill & Rebecca. I am thankful for her willingness to express her thoughts so clearly and powerfully in this article.   

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God hates divorce, doesn’t He? Absolutely. Isn’t the gospel about forgiveness and love? Yes, it is. And pastors and elders can use these two truths in isolation from the rest of Scripture and biblical principles to deny people divorce for biblical grounds. “But marriage is a precious thing,” one pastor told a woman whose husband was in prison for pedophilia. “It would be a wonderful picture of God’s grace to move on from this and focus on your marriage,” another one told the husband of an adulteress. “We’re working with him; he’s really struggling, and so you need to forgive him,” a session tells a woman whose husband has been using pornography for years.

Evangelical and confessional churches are striving to maintain a high view of marriage in a culture that is ripping the institution to shreds. So extra-biblical barriers to divorce can be well-meant. They try to protect marriage by doing everything possible to avoid divorce. In doing so, they not only fail to keep a high view of marriage. They also spread lies about the gospel, divorce, the value of people, the character of God, and the nature of sexual sin.

The first lie is that forgiveness means that the offended party is bound to continue living with the guilty party once there’s an apology. Wives in particular are told that God requires that they forgive a repentant spouse, which is true, and that this means that they need to stay in the marriage, which is not true. It’s like saying to parents who discover that the babysitter molested their children: “Oh, but the sitter said sorry. It would be unloving to not ask them to watch the kids again. You need to demonstrate your forgiveness.” The argument is that Jesus forgave you and took you in: why can’t you do the same for a spouse? Because I am not God: I am human, too, and can’t atone for my spouse’s sin in a way that can restore an earthly marriage.

Sacrificing a person to save a relationship is not the gospel. The gospel is that Someone was sacrificed to free us from sin and bring us to God. We cannot always bear the relational punishment for someone else’s sin. We can forgive them, and will if we are a Christian, but that doesn’t mean we have to live with them. You can forgive someone and divorce them. Scripture commands forgiveness where there is repentance, but it never requires that a relationship be continued in the way that it was before covenant was shattered. This lie of “forgiveness” places the burden on the innocent party. The sinner gets counsel, support, help, and prayer, while the sinned-against gets pressure, guilt, and a crushing future. Acceptance is often labelled the “Christian” thing to do. Since Christ gave divorce as an option in some circumstances, divorce can be the Christian thing to do, too. Forgiveness is always the Christian thing to do, and it simply means that the guilty party is forgiven, not absolved from all earthly consequences.

The second lie is implied: God hates divorce more than He hates abuse and sexual sin. To put the lie a different way, God loves marriage more than He loves the women in it. While God created marriage, loves marriage, and says that it is a picture of Christ’s relationship with the church, Jesus didn’t die to save marriage. He died to save people. He sacrificed His life to protect His sons and daughters, and hates when they are abused, violated, and humiliated, particularly in a relationship that is supposed to picture Christ and the church.

This fact is especially true for women, who suffer at the hands of men whose actions mock servant leadership and so blaspheme the name of the Christ whom they are called to represent. Denying a woman legitimate divorce allows an unrepentant man to continue in this abuse and blasphemy. If we want to value and treat marriage rightly, we need to think about Jesus! His care for His Church is not an abstract idea. We see it lived out in the gospels every day in purity, tender care for widows, and intolerance of the Pharisees who thought they could be right with God while checking out beautiful women at the market. Christ’s love for His church found very concrete expression on the cross—willingness to die to save His beloved people. Yes, God hates divorce. And there are some things that He hates even more.

The third lie is that divorce is an unclean thing, often the fault of the innocent party. This is a misunderstanding of divorce. Divorce is not the innocent party ending a marriage. Divorce is the innocent party obtaining legal recognition that the guilty party has destroyed the marriage. So often, we see the divorcing person as the one who ends the marriage—they are not! Where there has been sexual unfaithfulness, abuse, or abandonment, it is the guilty party who ended it by breaking covenant. While legitimate divorce is not mandatory, it is a biblical option, on moral par with maintaining the marriage. The 1992 report by the PCA study committee on divorce and remarriage comments:

It is also interesting to recall in this connection Jeremiah 3:8, where Yahweh is said to divorce Israel for her spiritual adultery (idolatry):―“I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries.” If God himself can properly divorce his bride because of adultery, then, given Christ’s unqualified adherence to the authority of the Old Testament, it seems difficult to conclude that Jesus would not have had similar words on his own lips. (218)

The church needs to be clear about this: legitimate divorce is holy and biblical if God Himself can speak of initiating it. And it is initiated to publicly recognize the destruction already there. Divorce does not end a covenant. It protects the spouse whose covenant has been violated—a picture of covenant protection in the face of human unfaithfulness. Always discouraging divorce, always making it a last, desperate option that really fails to show gospel power, implies that we know more about marriage than God does and value it more highly. If there are legitimate reasons for divorce, then making divorce look like a lesser option is wrong. God allows it: who are we to discourage people from choosing a biblical option?

The fourth lie usually involved in this discussion is about pornography. It is often classified as not technically adultery, so spouses are denied the biblical right to divorce. This is mind boggling. Someone who seeks out sexually explicit material and has a physical response to it is in the same mental, physical, and spiritual condition as someone in bed with a coworker. The difference is that the relationship with the coworker is at least private and limited, while porn use accepts and subsidizes an entire industry of sexual sin that is maintained by abuse and slavery, involves hundreds of people, and is tracked by the producing companies and internet servers. Deliberate and repeated porn use is at least adultery, regardless of whether there is repentance at some point. Denying this makes people ask why some pastors are so committed to denying what porn really is. Our pre-technology definition of adultery allows souls and marriages to be ravaged from the inside out because we fail to admit what a porn habit really is. We look away from the institutionalized rape that it subsidizes. Countenancing sexual sin for any reason reveals a poor understanding of sexual sin as well as the gospel.

Do you see how these lies, sometimes borne out of a desire to protect marriage, actually bring about a low view of marriage? By granting, supporting, and even facilitating a biblical divorce, we take a stand to say that we can forgive without being forced to live with people who have shattered us. This protects marriage by allowing the innocent party to leave a relationship that has been broken. By backing biblical divorce, we protect women whom God loves, showing Christ’s love when spouses have not. This protects marriage by refusing to allow sinners to abuse the institution with impunity. By publicly stating that sexual sin and abuse, not wounded spouses, ends marriages, we hold the marriage bed in honor. This protects marriage by creating a holy fear of violating it. By offering biblical divorce, the church affirms that pornography is depravity, and will not be countenanced by Christ’s church. Naming and disciplining sexual sin as the evil it is and offering divorce to the innocent party makes the value of marriage clear as we refuse to see it damaged, abused, or treated lightly.

Developing and maintaining a high view of marriage does a lot. It protects women and children, often the people most hurt by sexual sin. It keeps us from falling into sin ourselves: the higher our view of marriage, the less likely we will be to dabble in something so devastating. And a high view of marriage honors the One who created it for our good and His glory—the One who promises to judge the adulterer and the sexually immoral.

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101 Comments

  1. Linda M. Au July 20, 2017 at 6:37 pm #

    Thank you. Just… thank you.

  2. Arline July 20, 2017 at 7:18 pm #

    Right on.

  3. Persis July 20, 2017 at 9:36 pm #

    So many women and children have been sacrificed for the lie of the “high view.” Thank you for speaking up, Rebecca.

  4. Jerri July 20, 2017 at 9:39 pm #

    This is really well written and VERY helpful. Thank you!

  5. john Allcott July 21, 2017 at 1:49 am #

    I agree generally with the article that the Church needs to be more accepting of divorce as a biblical option, including for unrepentant pornography use, which almost no one is saying. So I’m thankful for that. There are some problems with what Rebecca has written, though.

    I agree that the woman whose husband has repented of adultery has the right to divorce him, but I would counsel her to stay.
    Comparing this to child molestation is not rooted in reality.

    Yes, God divorced Israel … more than a thousand years after the nation had first committed adultery.

    Also, this sentence cries out for clarification:

    “Divorce is the innocent party obtaining legal recognition that the guilty party has destroyed the marriage.”

    Many times the guilty party files for divorce.
    Again:

    “Divorce does not end a covenant. It protects the spouse whose covenant has been violated—a picture of covenant protection in the face of human unfaithfulness.”

    Sometimes that simply is not what happens.

    BTW, why does the article always assume that men are the adulterers?
    My first wife was unfaithful to me. I could have divorced her, but I didn’t. She divorced me. I’m glad it happened that way. My kids might have held it against me if I had left her.

    I’ve been happily married to my second wife for 11 years, & we have been missionaries in the Philippines for four of those.

    • Barry York July 24, 2017 at 9:10 am #

      As several readers have commented that men can also be sinned against by a wife committing adultery, please note that we are not blind or seeking to be insensitive to this issue.

      However, as the opening paragraph of Rebecca’s article lays out, there is sadly in the church today a heavy-handed, hyper-patriarchal use of authority that often hurts rather than protects women dealing with abuse and sexual sin in their marriages. Her article is seeking to bring some needed correction to this matter.

      • JR in Texas July 26, 2017 at 2:29 pm #

        Yes, thank you! I have endured more abuse from the body of Christ by finally getting out of a broken covanant. I, the innocent party who has freely forgiven, was counseled by my elders that marriage is permanent and therefore I should stay. I took their advice even though my husband hadn’t repented. He said he wanted me and the children over his girlfriend. But the next 4 years his actions showed otherwise. I have been told by more than one friend in the church that I should be a “doormat” and others have told me to consider myself to be like Hosea who was married to a harlot! I have been told if I had just been submissive enough, be a gentle and quiet spirit enough or been sexy enough, my husband wouldn’t have needed to look elsewhere! So in essence they are saying my husbands sin is my fault because I am not perfect. How grievous it has been to have to endure these words from God’s people!
        The way I have been treated by brothers and sisters in Christ has been the most painful part of this whole process!
        Thank you a million times over for this very freeing and truthful article! I will pass it on! May the Lord bless you for shining the light of His precious word on the distorted views many people have had on this subject!
        -JR in Texas

        • David July 27, 2017 at 11:59 am #

          Your experience is appalling. It makes me ashamed to be male, and to be part of ‘the Church’ which provides such wicked counsel.

        • Broken August 11, 2017 at 4:25 pm #

          I too have experienced similar. I even had my husband go to the church to try to seek help and they told him his three month emotional affair with sexually explicit pictures was indeed not an affair and acted as if he had done nothing wrong. It’s degrading and devaluing. I’ve had people ask what I did, as if clearly I must have done something to deserve it. It’s been three years and I have felt trapped. Scared to leave and hurt my children and be the one blamed for the divorce.

    • Lea July 24, 2017 at 9:59 am #

      “I agree that the woman whose husband has repented of adultery has the right to divorce him, but I would counsel her to stay.”

      I think it is up to her to decide. Many pastors seem to think saying ‘sorry’ and truly repenting are the same and act accordingly. She is in the best position to decide.

    • Damian Daigle July 24, 2017 at 12:29 pm #

      Thank you John Alcott. These were some of the same issues I have with the article. It does cause me to rethink my position on divorce, but not for the reasons mentioned in the article.

    • Anne July 25, 2017 at 6:52 pm #

      The covenant ended when he committed adultery. Not when the divorce occurred. God hates divorce is a bad translation. See Malachi 2:16 ESV

    • Margie August 10, 2017 at 9:23 am #

      Thank you, thank you! I wish I had read this 8 years ago!

  6. David July 21, 2017 at 4:43 am #

    Excellent article. I agreed with almost all of it. I did think it may be stretching things to suggest that using pornography is the same as adultery. Surely more accurate to say it is sexual immorality (porniea), which nevertheless makes divorce permissible?

    • T.Ashley July 23, 2017 at 10:46 pm #

      Matthew 5:28

      • David July 24, 2017 at 1:38 pm #

        But he didn’t counsel divorce for the lustful look, but for sexual immorality. Matt5:32…… Which was the point I was making…….

    • Stephanie July 24, 2017 at 8:27 am #

      Christ himself equated lustful gazing with adultery (Matthew 5:28).

      • David July 24, 2017 at 1:44 pm #

        But he didn’t counsel divorce for the lustful look, but did permit divorce for sexual immorality. Matt5:32…… Which was the point I was making……. I am suggesting that it is more accurate to describe the use of pornography as ‘sexual immorality’…….. Which, in my view means that using pornography constitutes legitimate grounds for divorce…….

      • Mike Page August 7, 2017 at 8:37 am #

        Christ didn’t equate it with adultery. He said it was committing adultery already in the heart making the point that repentance was needed just as much. We don’t lock people up for murder for hating their neighbor, we cannot allow divorce for lustful looks. If we did, every husband and wife would be able to divorce.

    • JR in Texas July 26, 2017 at 2:37 pm #

      Hello,
      Your comment seems to make pornography permissible.
      Please read Jesus’ own words in Matthew 5:27-28, which I think settles the case.

      • David July 27, 2017 at 11:24 am #

        Nonsense! Did you actually read what I said? I agree that use of pornography constitutes grounds for divorce, but I’m not certain we can equate it to adultery, but we can be certain it equates to sexual immorality, as referenced by Jesus in Matt 5: 32 (see NIV and ESV). But let me go even further….. I’m not sure people who persistently use pornography give credible evidence that they are really Christians…..

    • Lori Grassman July 26, 2017 at 9:04 pm #

      Men who are porn addicts use pornography with masturbation. They shelter their vice in an elaborate web of lies, and even find sexual and arrogant stimulation from the drama of lying. They lust after people they see in everyday life, including their own children. And because they “love” masturbating to porn, they despise their wives. The “use” of pornography is no small sin. It is a vile world of evil even before you think about sex slavery and the sex industry.

      • David July 27, 2017 at 11:12 am #

        I certainly wasn’t justifying it. I agree, it is vile and a reason for divorce because it constitutes sexual immorality.

        • Kristin September 24, 2017 at 10:44 pm #

          Pornography is lusting after someone other than your wife…. that IS adultery. Just like emotional affairs are adultery as sure as if you’d physically slept with someone. Pornography is a sexual sin and when in a marriage, an act of adultery as well. You seem to be parcing words.

          • David September 25, 2017 at 9:26 am #

            Sorry, I don’t agree. You fail to distinguish between temptation and actual sin.

  7. Candice July 21, 2017 at 7:43 am #

    I love Mrs. VanDoodewaard’s book “Your Future Other Half” and read it with my oldest daughter. I appreciate her thoughts here on divorce.

  8. Margaret Zumbrun July 21, 2017 at 9:29 am #

    What helpful teaching and explanation about a serious and difficult topic. Very edifying.

  9. Kevin July 21, 2017 at 10:35 am #

    Well done. I only object to the overuse of phrases like “protecting the woman,” as men are also victims, albeit less frequently.

  10. Anonymous July 21, 2017 at 10:37 am #

    Thank you so much, Rebecca, for your valuable insights. So many overlook the abhorrent nature of sexual sin, and Satan triumphs. Too many times (to myself even), reformed pastors and elders tell you to “stick with it, things will get better.” “Just think how well it will all turn out.” “God will honor this.” The problem is that they do not see/desire to see the “victim” who is being hurt (physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually). Nor do they account the ramifications of the healing process for the “victim.” Self-harm, suicidal tendencies, depression, anxiety. So pastors, elders—take heed. There may be someone in your congregation today that you need to minister to, to help, and to protect.

  11. Eric July 23, 2017 at 8:16 pm #

    “The second lie is implied: God hates divorce more than He hates abuse and sexual sin.”

    Hmmm… actually, no. God hates divorce just as much as abuse and sexual sin – and for the same reason. The institution of marriage was created to express His image – the Imago Dei. So anything which presents that image in an untrue nature (be it divorce, abuse, or infidelity) is something God hates… passionately. Just as we are incensed when others speak on our behalf and get it wrong (and not just wrong, but 180 degrees from our character and position), He is also incensed when humans take His image and present it to others in a way which does not glorify Him.

    Divorce is not an easy out, and never was intended to be; but, more so, it is a malignment of who God is to others – whether that is intended or not.

    • Anne July 25, 2017 at 7:56 pm #

      How can something that God created (divorce) present His image in an untrue nature? That doesn’t make any sense.

      Is there anything in the scriptures that God designed that, he later said He hated. Proverbs 6 lists 7 things that God hates; they are all sinful human behaviors, most of which pertain to relationships. None of those sinful behaviors were concepts created by God. How is it that God can hate something (divorce) He designed for the protection of relationships?

      He doesn’t. And the reason is made clear in Barbara Robert’s article here: https://cryingoutforjustice.com/2013/10/24/god-hates-divorce-not-always/

      • Anonymous July 27, 2017 at 10:52 am #

        Amen!!!!

      • Mike Page July 27, 2017 at 8:24 pm #

        Remember Jesus’s words about divorce. It was only allowed in the law because of the hardness of hearts. It isn’t something God ‘created’. That’s an odd way to put it.

    • Anonymous July 27, 2017 at 11:41 am #

      Actually, the true malignment is seen when the marriage’s sacredness is marred by an abusive husband, (or wife), destroying and dehumanizing a human being created in God’s image, and within the most holy and intimate of earthly relationships. The Gospel is also tainted. May blind eyes be opened!

  12. Ilene July 23, 2017 at 10:53 pm #

    Thank you for saying this. I should have gotten a divorce 3 times in the past. Now I am getting a divorce finally. I believe it is the godliest, most truly Christian thing I can do in my circumstances and I have the support of a church that takes a truly high view of marriage.

  13. IOANNIS CHARATSIDIS July 24, 2017 at 7:27 am #

    It would be helpful to know your position on remarriage also.

  14. Gordon Johnson July 24, 2017 at 8:45 am #

    Loved the article except for your “fourth Lie”. On that point I think you’re mistaken.

    “Denying this makes people ask why some pastors are so committed to denying what porn really is…” what do you mean by this sentence? It sounds like you are implying some sinister motive on the part of the pastor who does not see pornography as adultery (and I would count myself in that number).

    Calling anything adultery blurs the real definition of adultery (as a legitimate grounds for divorce). It is a stretch and quite arbitrary to say that “deliberate and repeated use of pornography is at least adultery.” What about the unrepeated use of porn? In real life a one night stand is just as much adultery as a three-year affair. So why does the one night porn guy get a pass? Also, who decides what constitutes porn that crosses the adultery threshold? Do we give the guy a pass who watches a Netflix MA-rated show with lots of simulated sex? Or has he given his spouse grounds for divorce? What about a women who has read “Fifty Shades”. Has she given her husband grounds to divorce her? Who decides this? In your scheme the lines are blurred.

    In no way am I excusing the porn user. In my counseling ministry I have seen how destructive it is. It is sexual sin for sure. It is immoral and destrutive to both the user and to the spouse of the user. It supports massive victimization. Agreed on all of that. But calling it adultery blurs the line to what actually constitutes adultery, and seems to be motivated more from a desire to justify the divorce than from careful thinking of what porn really is.

    • Lea July 24, 2017 at 10:02 am #

      “Who decides this?”

      The spouse. There is a difference between seeing a show and a repeated use of porn that intrudes into the marriage. The spouse is in the best position to tell which one we are talking about.

      • Josh S July 24, 2017 at 5:14 pm #

        “‘Who decides this?’ The spouse.”

        Is this really a sustainable view? It seems to be based on the assumption that because the spouse is innocent they have good, wise, godly judgement. What if one person’s spouse thinks that flipping through the bra section of a catalogue constitutes divorceable infidelity? What if another thinks that eliciting oral sex from a prostitute does not?

        More importantly is this a biblical view? Christianity never allows humans to define either their own sin or the sins of others. While acknowledging that there are degrees of heinousness, and that each situation/circumstance demands it’s own evaluation, we can never say that something is “sin for you but not for me” or more specifically “adultery for you but not for me”.

        No, biblically the spouse does not get to define what constitutes divorceable infidelity. So who does? God through His Word of course. But since we don’t have a litany of every possible situation how do we know? The spouse in consultation with their Christian support group (counselors / friends) and leadership (pastor / elder / discipler / god-fearing parent) discern prayerfully the determination of God.

        I agree with Rebecca that too easily we may dismiss the option of divorce… however let’s not let the pendulum swing so that we too easily consider it.

        • Lea July 26, 2017 at 1:15 pm #

          “Christianity never allows humans to define either their own sin or the sins of others.”

          Your list of counselors/friends, pastor/elder/etc are just people too. The difference is, they don’t have to live in a marriage.

          I think people are more rational than you are giving them credit for. Also, I was replying to the initial comment regarding difference in degree.

          You seem to start with the mindset that a spouse is unlikely to be rational about this subject and throw away a marriage based on accidentally seeing a playboy once. How likely is that really? If they are going to do that, it is not going to be some letter of the law thing, but a desire to divorce regardless.

          But there are uses or pornography that never get to adultery that will ruin a marriage. The spouse is in the BEST place to see that. Certainly, she (or he) can listen to counsel and consider it, but no one else should make the ultimate decision.

          • Josh S July 28, 2017 at 8:01 pm #

            Thanks for your reply… just two things:

            1) “/Christianity never allows humans to define either their own sin or the sins of others”… “Your list of counselors/friends, pastor/elder/etc are just people too. The difference is, they don’t have to live in a marriage.”

            Note that I did not say these people get to “define” the sin, but rather “discern prayerfully the determination of God.” I would advocate for the communal discernment of sin and response involving the God-ordained authority structures of the church, as opposed to a hyper-individualistic decision making process which I believe is embodied in the words “Who decides this?’ The spouse”. (BTW The term “hyper-individualistic” is not meant to be derogatory towards you in any way, and I don’t accuse you of subscribing to such a philosophy).

            2) “I think people are more rational than you are giving them credit for… You seem to start with the mindset that a spouse is unlikely to be rational.”

            Not that the spouse is “unlikely to be rational”, but rather that it is possible that the spouse is irrational or has a skewed perspective because of circumstances, beliefs, or personality. If the possibility exists that the victim-spouse could have their perspective skewed (which I think anyone would grant) then the process should not depend entirely on that spouse. Rather, a communal approach that involves (again) God-ordained authorities is prudent.

            Thus, for example, I consider myself a healthy-minded fairly rational person. If I we’re having to ask tough questions about divorcing my spouse, however, I would not trust myself with that decision… I would welcome spiritual guidance from counselors, friends, and pastors. I do have first-hand experience with the skewing that the pain of an abusive relationship and divorce can have. And that skewing can go both ways: Sometimes a spouse too flippantly would throw away a relationship, other times a spouse would not seek divorce even when they should.

            That is why a spouse, in isolation from the church, does not get to define divorceable infidelity.

            Wouldn’t you agree?

          • Lea August 2, 2017 at 2:41 pm #

            ” Wouldn’t you agree?”

            I really don’t agree. I have heard far too many examples in real life of church leaders who were themselves far too flippant with the emotions and yes, lives, of women whose husbands abused them or cheated on them.

            It is up to the spouse, because they are in the best position to judge the truth of what has happened and whether a spouse is truly repentant, as show through not just words but deeds.

            Take counsel, yes. But decide for yourself.

        • Rob E. August 12, 2017 at 2:36 pm #

          Thanks for you balanced and thoughtful responses.

    • JR in Texas July 26, 2017 at 4:51 pm #

      Please read Matthew 5:27-28. I believe Jesus’ own words settle the matter.
      The guilty party needs to bear fruit unto repentance, not just say “I’m sorry.”

  15. Alfred Randall July 24, 2017 at 11:43 am #

    There is a lot good about this article. It is true that we do not have a high enough view of marriage. It is true that pornography is wrong and is no different than sleeping around “for real.” Adultery is adultery. It is correct that wives, or even husbands, in an abusive relationship should not be left unsupported. They should not have to submit to the abuse. However, it is not the case that a high view of marriage includes divorce. A high view of marriage includes Church discipline. I think there are profound issues with this article and that scripture is abused.

    First, where in scripture did we find this: “Since Christ gave divorce as an option in some circumstances, divorce can be the Christian thing to do, too.” Where did he give us permission to divorce? In Matthew 19 Jesus says that we are not to break apart what God has put together. And divorce and remarriage is adding adultery to the relationship, except in the case where it has already happened because of sexual immorality. I don’t see any license here to divorce. I see Jesus saying don’t separate what God has put together. I also don’t see that Paul says anything that allows this in his I Corinthians 7 message either. In fact the general command is to not get a divorce in verses 10-11. The only exception given being if you married an unbeliever and became a Christian, that if the unbelieving partner wants to leave, let him or her do so. And if they want to stay, let them, because you purify them. I would say that the unbelieving spouse could also be committing sexual sins here.

    Second, if God meant us to use Jeremiah 3:8 as an example of what we should do in marriage when there is sin, then why do neither he nor Paul utilize that passage as a grounds for divorce? I think one needs to be very careful to quote scripture and use it in a way that scripture doesn’t use it. Also, one needs to realize that God’s treatment of Israel and Judah at the time was based on the King/Vassal agreement. Not in terms of where they would individually go as far as Heaven or Hell, that is always based on Faith. But God was warning them they were going to get His side of of the Covenant if they continually disobeyed.

    Third, even if Jeremiah 3:8 is a legitimate use of scripture in this case, what about the rest of the passage? God is begging Israel later in the passage, in verse 12, to return to Him. In fact the whole passage is about God yearning for them to repent and to return to Him! He is begging them to take His mercy! That is what we should be doing with our fallen spouses. This covenant of marriage isn’t just about our hurt and how good we feel. It is about showing the other person God, and God will always accept repentance. Yes there are always consequences for sin, but in general they are to bring the unrepentant back to God.

    Fourth, there is a big difference between saying sorry and repenting and asking for forgiveness. The author does’t seem to understand that. And it is not true that scripture doesn’t indicate that we truly forgive people and restore a relationship to the way it was in many, if not most, circumstances. Otherwise it would be meaningless to ask how many times do you have to forgive your brother or sister, especially for the same sin. In Matthew 18 Peter thought it was a big deal to forgive 7 times, but Jesus says 77 times. If we haven’t restored that relationship, where is the possibility that the person is forgiven for the same sin 77 times?

    Fifth, the author makes a non-cogent argument here:

    “The argument is that Jesus forgave you and took you in: why can’t you do the same for a spouse? Because I am not God: I am human, too, and can’t atone for my spouse’s sin in a way that can restore an earthly marriage.”

    What? This doesn’t make any sense. You can’t atone for the breaking of any relationship, human or otherwise. That is obvious. However, Christ did in fact die so that it atones for everyone’s sin who would believe in him, and so that all relationships can be restored. There were three issues in the fall. (At least) One, our relationship with the Creator was broken. We could no longer image forth the Creator. We were separated from Him and could not approach Him. No amount of cleaning ourselves or Law could make up for that. That is why the people couldn’t even touch the mountain when Moses went up to God on the mountain. (Exodus 19:12). But we have a better covenant in Jesus and we have been restored by his blood. (Hebrews 12:20 and on). Two, our relationship with Creation has been broken. That will be healed in the new heavens, new earth, and the New Jerusalem. Bought and paid for by Christ. And last, there was the fact that our relationships with each other, and especially between husband and wife, were broken. And Christ healed that and continues to heal that. He atoned for it. And that leads into the next point.

    Sixth, we have to consider Hosea if we consider Jeremiah. Wasn’t his marriage to Gomer a picture of God pursuing Israel, and through sexual sin?

    Hosea 3:1 And the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” 2 So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. 3 And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.” 4 For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. 5 Afterward fthe children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the LORD and to his goodness in the latter days.

    Isn’t this redemption of Gomer along the lines of our redemption by God through Jesus?

    Seventh, And doesn’t God promise to restore all of the years the locust has eaten? (Joel 2:25). Does he not bind up our wounds and heal the broken-hearted? (Psalm 147:3). God can and will restore the earthly relationship of marriage.
    Eighth, the author seems to think that the only recourse is divorce if there is a abusive and neglectful relationship. That is wrong. The issue isn’t that the Church doesn’t have a high enough view of marriage because divorce isn’t viewed as a way out. The issue is that the Church doesn’t have a high enough view of the dangers of sin in general, and doesn’t bother to carry out Matthew 18 and I Corinthians 5, seeking to hold the spouses accountable for their sins. Divorce is not given as an option anywhere. Taking the sin before the Church, and temporarily (hopefully anyway.) giving the sinful spouse over to Satan so that he might be saved is an option if he ignores the spouse confronting his sin, the 2-3 witnesses, and the Church. (Matthew 18:15-20; I Corinthians 5:1-13). And the wife, if the man is a believer, should have the support of the Church so that she can even carry out not eating with her husband if he is a man who claims God and lives as an adulterer. This isn’t a matter that just affects her; it is a matter for the Church. The wife shouldn’t have to remain with the husband, or if it is the wife abusing the husband, he shouldn’t have to either, but the answer is not divorce. The answer is Matthew 18, I Corinthians 5, and a supportive Church until he or she repents. The fear that drives us should not be the fear of divorce. It should be the fear of being put of out the fellowship and given over to Satan. Jesus didn’t tell us to divorce. He did tell us to discipline. The author is dead wrong to think that not allowing divorce should allow the issue(s) to continue on in a abusive and broken marriage. It shouldn’t. Not if discipline is properly carried out and the Church supports her.

    Ninth, this is also a non-cogent statement:

    “The third lie is that divorce is an unclean thing, often the fault of the innocent party. This is a misunderstanding of divorce. Divorce is not the innocent party ending a marriage. Divorce is the innocent party obtaining legal recognition that the guilty party has destroyed the marriage. So often, we see the divorcing person as the one who ends the marriage—they are not! Where there has been sexual unfaithfulness, abuse, or abandonment, it is the guilty party who ended it by breaking covenant.

    Marriage is not just a covenant. It is a picture, from both sides, of the grace and love of Christ and the Church. It is an imaging forth. And, just as God fixed the imaging forth of himself by Man, and continues to do that in sanctification, etc, he does the same for his Bride the Church, and the image of that between a man and a woman. You don’t abandon the image just because it isn’t shining forth properly.

    Further, the marriage hasn’t been destroyed, and it isn’t just a covenant between the two spouses. It is a real uniting of man and woman in flesh, which is not gotten rid of through sin. Part of the relationship has been damaged, but the basis for it and the base of it are still there in the image and the one flesh.

    I understand the heart of the author to get spouses, and women especially out of damaging situations and danger. That is noble. So is her view that Marriage needs to be held in higher honor. But twisting scripture to suit us is not the answer. There is a clear path given by Scripture, and divorce is not it. Divorce doesn’t lift up the image of Marriage. Matthew 18 and I Corinthians 5 do.

    • Trev Noceurt July 24, 2017 at 4:39 pm #

      Wow! Alfred! YOU NAILED IT!

      Oh, also, thank you, Alfred, for you citing this crazy thing called SCRIPTURE throughout to make and support your points. Weirdly, there’s a DIRTH of it in the original article. Just a lot of faulty logic, erroneous conjecturing, and unbiblical deductions.

      This article will do a lot of damage to those seeking extrabiblical sources for their sinful pursuit of divorce. Just read many of the comments. The damage has begun and will only widen as this unfortunately circulates. The sinful flesh and the wickedly deceitful heart are ALWAYS looking for articles similar to this to justify their sinfulness in the name of God.

      For shame, for shame.

    • Josh S July 24, 2017 at 5:39 pm #

      A lot here, and I agree in general. I’ll add just two things:

      Re 4th “There is a big difference between saying sorry and repenting and asking for forgiveness. The author does’t seem to understand that.”

      Amen. The author also misses the important balance that refusal to forgive and pursue reconciliation when there is *genuine* repentance is itself sin. Infidelity does not grant the spouse a “one free divorce” card. There is a forgiveness that can accompany divorce if the unfaithful spouse is unrepentant. However, forgiveness in response to *genuine* repentance must involve reconciliation (disclaimer: not necessarily full reunion, each situation must be prayerfully weighed).

      Re 9th: “Further, the marriage hasn’t been destroyed, and it isn’t just a covenant between the two spouses. ”

      Amen. A marriage covenant *violation* is not the same as it’s *destruction*. I am of the view that the covenant, even when violated, remains in tact until the death of one of the spouses. This is evident in Christ’s warnings that a remarriage further adds to the violation. The covenant is made between two people, God, and the community. For better or for worse, it is for life (disclaimer: legal divorce may be best option in abusive/unfaithful situations, but an ending of a human legal arrangement does not negate the spiritual covenant).

    • Abutu Joshua July 25, 2017 at 4:34 am #

      Thank you Alfred! This article is no different from Matthew’s use of the scriptures to defend the right of the Homosexuals to a Christianized same sex relationships…The days of reckoning are here indeed for the reformed orthodox evangelicalism…

      • Josh S July 25, 2017 at 4:46 pm #

        “This article is no different from Matthew’s use of the scriptures to defend the right of the Homosexuals to a Christianized same sex relationships”

        Surely you see this is an overstatement? *No* different? I agree that the author has made some pretty serious errors, but not to the same extent that it would take to defend same-sex relationships.

    • Melissa Eimers July 25, 2017 at 7:21 pm #

      Thank you. I scrolled through the comments hoping someone had said even half of what you have stated. Hosea, the “divorce” in Jeremiah that was really just a plea for reconcilliation, and most importantly, the picture of the Gospel that marriage is intended to be—amen to all of it. Thank you for not only presenting all of this, but also for doing so in such a respectful tone.

    • Anne July 25, 2017 at 8:13 pm #

      1. If an abused spouse is to not eat with his/her abuser who is under church discipline (and is not even to eat with them), what is he/she to do or where is he/she to go? For how long? If a person who calls themselves a Christian will not repent and STOP the sinful behavior the abused is not even safe to live with their partner (this kind of abuser is sometimes called a narcissist and my LCSW has never seen one repent), and

      2. Where does the Bible speak of separation? One is only married–or not married.

      • Lea July 26, 2017 at 1:31 pm #

        “2. Where does the Bible speak of separation? One is only married–or not married.”

        Hi Anne. I think separation is a legalistic cop – out answer for the no divorce ever believers, who are at the same time rational enough to understand that you cannot live with someone who is actively trying to kill you.

    • eugene July 26, 2017 at 3:06 pm #

      Thank you for the Biblical reply, we surely need more of that.

    • Kim August 23, 2017 at 8:10 pm #

      Thank you Alfred!
      While probably well meaning, this article was disappointing and not rooted in scripture. It has potential to mislead many people. After all, the statistics report that 64% of Christian men and 15% of Christian women use pornography on at least a monthly basis. Others may consider abuse to include a broad range of emotional and verbal bantering. Add that together and we would all be divorced!
      I do agree that there are situations (sexual immorality) where the Bible permits, but doesn’t require divorce, but let’s keep that as narrow as the Bible does. (Also, I would not advise a victim of physical abuse to live with the perpetrator.) When the church truly does value marriage as God does, it doesn’t look like divorce. It looks like Christian men walking with others for accountability and Bible study. It looks like Christian women directing one another back to our Abba, Father for the source of comfort and joy. It looks like husbands and wives demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit day in and day out even when we don’t feel like it. If marriage is a picture of Christ’s relationship with the church, it does include self sacrifice.

      When we stay grounded in this: 1Cor 7:10-11: “To the married I give this command (not I but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.”
      We can find hope in this: Rom 5:2b-4: “And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
      And live like this: Gal 5: 16, 19, 22-23 “live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature… The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery…. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.”

  16. Mark H. July 24, 2017 at 11:46 am #

    One thing you failed to make clear is that these things apply to divorce for Biblical causes only. There are many people who will read this as permission to divorce “for any reason” (as the Pharisees asked Jesus in Matthew 19, and he repudiated). Given the no-fault divorce-happy culture in most of the western world, the church needs to be careful to determine cause.

    Which raises the issue of how the church should deal with the wife who divorced her husband simply because she was not happy, or because he was not making enough money, or because an old boyfriend suddenly showed interest. I realize men also divorce for these reasons, but current figures show 70% or more of divorces are initiated by women.

    • Trev Noceurt July 24, 2017 at 4:40 pm #

      EXACTLY!!!!

      Right on, Mark!

    • Donna July 25, 2017 at 11:03 pm #

      …”70% or more of divorces are initiated by women…”

      Perhaps, but sheer numbers don’t tell the tale. I have initiated a divorce. My husband was unfaithful for 10-15 years of our 20 year marriage. I separated myself from him and waited 3 three years for him. He remains unrepentant. So yes, I help comprise that 70%.

  17. Patrick Anthony July 24, 2017 at 4:58 pm #

    Hi William & Rebecca,

    Great article. Someone already asked this but it would be helpful to know your views on remarriage. While your piece is a helpful corrective it certainly could have the equal but opposite effect of empowering someone’s sinful desire to leave a marriage where all hope is not lost. Separation may be the best option in many cases too.

  18. Josh S July 24, 2017 at 6:22 pm #

    I think this article follows two cultural trends (at least they are the in my home country of Canada), one good and one bad:

    1) GOOD – real concern for women in abusive situations. That is, a more nuanced and effective concern for the health and freedom of women… taking their situations seriously, not simply glossing over them. We need to consider each situation / circumstance with real pastoral care.

    2) BAD – a culture of victimisation. That is, the idea that the victim is intrinsically innocent and is licensed to pursue justice or healing in any manner they desire. Thus, according to this logic, divorce is only sinful in the absence of a victim; in the presence of a victim it becomes a holy right. According to this logic, one cannot sin while in a state of victimisation/suffering. The victim is morally autonomous, getting to decide the extent of the violation and the terms and extent of forgiveness and reconciliation.

    But let’s remember two things:

    2.1) Biblically we affirm depravity: that along with the violator the victim is also a sinner. Victims can sin in their response to being violated. Being a victim does not absolve certain sins. That is why Job was careful not to sin in his sufferings. He could have cursed God, but he knew his suffering did not give him a “blasphemy freebee” so to speak. In the same way, the victim of infidelity must themselves be careful not to commit infidelity or to violate the covenant of marriage. They do not receive a “one free divorce and remarriage” card.

    2.2) Biblically we affirm the sanctity of marriage and that “God hates divorce”. God loving and caring for victims does not somehow invert that. Even when divorce/separation is the best option, even when God allows for it, He *still* hates it. Divorce is never a sanctified or righteous act; it is never holy or ideal; it is never some noble deed that upholds the sanctity of marriage. It is a only ever a tragedy, a necessary procedure in a broken world “because of the hardness of your hearts”. While it may be right to counsel a victim in certain circumstances to divorce, it is never right to encourage them to think of it as a righteous defense of the sanctity of marriage.

    (An imperfect analogy: a gangreened limb. The body is whole and holy. Ideally we keep it that way. We pursue healing at all costs. But when it becomes apparent that a limb cannot be saved, and that it will kill the whole body, we amputate. But we would never celebrate this amputation a holy right to protect the body! We would never say amputation enforces a high view of the wholeness of the body. It is a real and lamentable loss; a necessary evil).

  19. Adam July 24, 2017 at 6:58 pm #

    This is obviously the writing of someone that has never worked with individuals that suffer from pornography addictions. In fact, it is the hallmark writing of someone that lives in an ivory tower and can continue to theorize about what should constitute divorce, without having to worry about the implications of her words. The rest of us have to live in the real world and deal with real sin issues that people face on a daily basis. To encourage them to call it quits and throw in the towel because their spouse has sin in their lives that by the grace of God they are trying to overcome, is just plain wrong and unbiblical. Shocked that Tim Challies’ blog led me to this disgraceful post. Come down from your high tower and come join us in the Bay Area, where you might actually encounter people that don’t have the luxury of living in closed-knit Christian communities nor the time to smear other Christians that deal with sins that you have no knowledge or experience with.

    • Andy Cook July 27, 2017 at 3:57 am #

      Adam, This is a rather scathing response to an article that is thought provoking and written from a desire to encourage love and tenderness toward victims of broken marriages.

  20. David July 24, 2017 at 8:39 pm #

    It’s the same reason we need excommunication. It is a sign of Gods covenant love, that they will somehow repent.

  21. Barbara Roberts July 24, 2017 at 11:05 pm #

    The article opens with these words— “God hates divorce, doesn’t He?”

    Hang on. Haven’t you noticed that recent translations of Malachi 2:16 don’t say that? Look at the ESV, NIV 2011, HCSB and CSB. None of them say God hates divorce.

    I believe Christendom needs to stop recycling the “God hates divorce” saying. It is not what the Hebrew of Malachi 2:16 says. And the saying does immense harm to Christians who have suffered domestic abuse. I explain this further here: https://cryingoutforjustice.com/2013/10/24/god-hates-divorce-not-always/

    • Josh S July 24, 2017 at 11:31 pm #

      Without necessarily disagreeing it must be noted that “I hate divorce says the Lord God of Israel” is not a *mistranslation*, it is a *possible* translation of a syntactically ambiguous verse. Labeling something a “mistranslation” is misleading. It is not that there is some new information available that has revealed the true meaning of the verse and now all scholars agree it’s previous rendering was wrong… Rather, some translators have simply applied a different analysis. The fact is that Hebrew can be taken either way, which way a translation takes it is a necessary interpretive decision.

      • Barbara Roberts July 26, 2017 at 2:24 am #

        Josh S, did you read the post I linked to. The Hebrew in Malachi 2:16 clearly shows that the verb “hates” is masculine THIRD PERSON singular. In other words, it’s not “I hate” but “he hates”.

        • Josh S July 28, 2017 at 8:27 pm #

          I had read the linked page, and based on that and your comment here I think you may have an insufficient understanding of the complexities of translation… especially between languages that are thousands of years apart and belong to completely different language phyla. It is not as simple as “it is masculine third person singular.”

          Still, the situation here is possible to illustrate even using only English. Lets say the source text said:

          /Bob met Joe at the restaurant. Bob said he didn’t like the spaghetti/

          Given only this text the interpretation is ambiguous. You have to decide whether the third person singular masculine (3sg.m) pronoun in the second clause refers to /Bob/ or /Joe/. This will also determine your interpretation of the time frame of the event as well. If /he/ refers to /Bob/, likely Bob is reporting his dislike to Joe while at the restaurant. If /he/ refers to /Joe/ then likely /Bob/ is reporting this after the fact to a third party. Syntactically it could be either… perfectly ambiguous.

          To clarify your translation one way or the other you could produce:

          /Bob met Joe at the restaurant. Bob said later that Joe did not like the spaghetti/.

          OR

          /Bob met Joe at the restaurant. “I do not like the speghetti” Bob said/.

          The source text in Malachi 2:16 is ambiguous in an analogous way. Translation of the 3sg.m pronoun as “he” is not necessary the most accurate. In fact, in the Hebrew the independent pronoun does not even appear… the verb “hates” /śā·nê/ is merely parsed in 3sg.m, which in many Semitic languages functions as a “default” conjugation used for many different functions. Translation as a direct quote “I hate” enforces the interpretive decision that the referred argument of /śā·nê/ is “The Lord”, which is in fact the closest argument syntactically and thus the least marked when assigning reference.

          Does that help clarify my answer?

  22. Barbara Roberts July 24, 2017 at 11:06 pm #

    I co-lead a website which is trying to awaken the evangelical church to domestic abuse in its midst. We have masses of resources on the site.

    Here is the best place to start if you want to check us out: https://cryingoutforjustice.com/faq/

  23. breakthebondage July 25, 2017 at 3:01 am #

    Thank you, Rebecca, for this excellent article!

  24. Nicki August 1, 2017 at 3:43 pm #

    I read this post to experience a view different from what I have heard, but I couldn’t shake the belief that the advice presented here tickles our ears, interpreting the Scriptures in ways that are more palatable. The resources below demonstrate that a different interpretation of the main Scriptures used to justify divorce were hard to accept even by the original hearers (Matthew 19:10-11), so they will be hard for us today to hear and accept, too.
    http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/how-should-gods-willingness-to-divorce-in-jeremiah-3-8-affect-our-view-of-divorce
    http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/on-divorce-remarriage-in-the-event-of-adultery
    http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/to-a-spouse-considering-divorce
    http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/is-my-husband-s-porn-a-marriage-deal-breaker
    http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/divorce-remarriage-a-position-paper

  25. Sean gartland August 6, 2017 at 12:00 am #

    No, this view is wrong. It perpetuates and fuels hardness of heart for those determined to end their marriages. It is an elaborate but simplistic view which shouldn’t be given a “high view” in print or anywhere else.

    • Linda M. Au August 6, 2017 at 10:15 pm #

      Determined to end their marriages? This happened to me 23 years ago, and my youngest (of 4) was only six months old. The last thing I wanted was to end my marriage. I was petrified, poor, and without many up-to-date job skills. I tried everything (to the point of humiliation at times) to save my marriage. But my husband was adamant that he wanted to be married to someone else. If anyone was determined to end our marriage, it was him. Not me. This is why each case needs to be handled on its own merits… to keep others from abusing what I eventually considered a small mercy to me — divorce.

  26. Rob August 9, 2017 at 8:05 pm #

    I think a more Biblical picture of divorce (that takes into account the whole Bible, as opposed to a single verse) would be this one: https://classicchristianityblog.wordpress.com/2017/08/09/a-biblical-view-of-divorce-a-response-to-rebecca-vandoodewaards-article-on-divorce/

  27. Alison Hill August 9, 2017 at 10:52 pm #

    Pornography is abuse. We are to love people and use things. Pornography abuses, uses for an unintended purpose. It abuses the one being looked at for the lookers use. It abuses the spouse as,a form of infidelity. It abuses the looker for it defiles the temple of the Holy Spirit. It should absolutely be considered abuse, adultery, and sinful

  28. Nia August 9, 2017 at 11:29 pm #

    One cannot know how painful this process in a marriage is until one has gone through this type of immoral deception personally. You never feel liberated after your spouse says sorry/repents because the trust is broken.

  29. Nicole B. August 9, 2017 at 11:40 pm #

    A thought provoking essay indeed, as are the comments, which I really appreciated and took me twice as long to read. I also appreciate the respectful tone from all sides. It was interesting to note the gender of those who took the position that divorce is never an option- even in times of spousal abuse- were mostly male. And that is not to offend any of you, nevertheless I found it uncanny. In our quest to uphold the marriage covenant in the midst of a culture that denegrates it, I find that we Christians have a tendency to turn it into a sort of golden calf. It’s a covenant to protect and uphold. But it’s not designed to be unbreakable for any reason. I once heard a pastor on his radio show condemn women who use Mark as a loophole to escape an adulterous marriage; three years later he had to step down due to his own adultry and porn addiction (and his wife has stuck with him- and I say good for her, she is an example of a faithful and forgiving spouse). I’ll never forget his tone though; it was arrogant and snide and full of ridicule. We really have to watch for that. Of course he brought up Malachi. In this text, Lord was addressing men who were casting aside their wives in a very permissive divorce culture for newer, younger women. The Israelites, and the contemporaries of Jesus, had and frequently used a divorce practice that was a joke. He was explaining to them why He wasn’t listening to their prayers. He wasn’t addressing the battered wife, the husband who has been long suffering in the face of his wife’s drug addiction, or the woman who’s spouse has sexually assaulted her children.

  30. sad August 10, 2017 at 9:22 am #

    This is the second time I try to comment. Don’t know why my first comment wasn’t posted. I’m a porn addict and been for years. I have only confessed at occasions for my wife. She has gotten angry but not done much of it. So I continued altough I want to stop. I just can’t find the help I need to be free. There has been so long time now that I don’t know what to do. If I confess how deep this addiction is she may leave me but it’s more likely she won’t divorce me because we have one kid and another on the way. If she only gets angry I will probably go deeper into this because of the anxiety. I just don’t know to do. What I tried to say in the previous comment is: Should i divorce her? I mean i messed up. I am willing to give her all I have in the divorce I don’t deserve anything.

    All you who hate porn are right. Pornographers is horrible. But understand(not accept) that it is a horrible thing to be caught in this. This has been something that I have struggled with since I was a pre-teen. Got burned out a couple years ago and it all became worse. I hate myself everyday. I see myself become a monster I don’t want to be. I ask God that if I could only ask Him for one thing I wiuld only ask to be free from this and never go back. It’s a horrible place to be to not be able to control yourself. To feel how it calls you and you try to avoid it at the same time as something inside you wants it. I hate myself and my life. Please avoid this if you have started to watch. Run!

    • Amy August 18, 2017 at 3:00 am #

      To Sad:
      The only thing that comes to mind that may help you is
      Neil Anderson’s publications.
      “Victory Over the Darkness”
      “The Bondage Breaker”
      “Freedom from Addiction”
      “Steps to Freedom in Christ”
      and others.
      I would also look for someone in a deliverance ministry to help.
      Christ wants you free.
      Don’t give up. There is help. You cannot do it on your own.

    • Mary August 26, 2017 at 10:50 pm #

      Jesus came to set the captive free. He came to break chains.
      If you really want to be free, you can be.
      But it requires being willing to bring it all out in the open.
      You have to be willing to sacrifice every ounce of your pride, in the process of getting free.
      Don’t count yourself a Christian, if you are addicted to porn.
      Jesus will say to porn addicts, “Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity.”
      Any “conversion” that doesn’t change your heart to hate sin, is no real conversion.
      It’s only head-deep. Not heart-deep.
      This is a matter of heaven or hell.
      Get real. Get help. Repent. Even if it kills you.

      • sad August 27, 2017 at 1:14 pm #

        Oh ok I am not a Christian. I guess then I have to be free from this in my own strength and when I have done that can I call myself a Christian again? Then it is as I have always suspected salvation isn’t about grace it is about deeds. I will give you a little back story. Before I got addicted to porn I lived for God everyday. I spent 6 days a week in church, prayed 3 times a day for at least 30 minutes, I fasted at least two times a week and tried to fast more. I went to church on my lunch brakes to pray instead of eating lunch. But I never felt good enough. People say that we are saved by grace and said I tried to earn my salvation. I didn’t think so I just wanted to live for God and never be separated from Him. I was scared I was going to. Porn has always been an issue but not to that exten and I confessed it to multiple leaders and even my wife before we got married because I wanted to line free and live pure. The stress of my relationship with my wife was one of the reasons iv even started with porn but that’s a story for another time. But what happened? Wasn’t I doing everything right? Well something did go wron because I got into what I call a spiritual depression. After trying to fast for 21 days I suddenly couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t pray or barely read the Bible. I felt spiritually and emotionally empty. I tried to form the words but I couldn’t. I just felt like a heavy burden on me all the time. I felt that my relationship with God was only work. I was tired of trying to be perfect. I got tired of the church, the constant trying to be a good Christian. I couldn’t do it anymore. That’s when my porn addiction really started. Porn became my escape from all of this. I tried to stop but couldn’t. That was three years ago. I still struggle but i am trying to build my relationship with God again. Slowly trying to pray and read the Bible again. Trying to know Him again because that’s the only way I se I can be free but your statement brings all that down because it proves what I have been thinking for a long time. We don’t get saves by grace we get saved by deeds. I can’t pray to God or read His word or try to get a strong relationship with Him because only Christians can do that. And i am apparently not a Christian. I thought I could try to get back to how jungs were three years ago where I only enjoyed Him so that I wouldn’t want to enjoy sin but that’s impossible because if I am saved by grace God should have dont that work in me before but because salvation comes from
        Deeds I need to fix this myself before I can have a relationship with Him. So seeking God doesn’t seem to help. Maybe Buddhism will help with its focus on self-sacrifice. I have always thought that buddhism is a more practical way to become a moral person but then I have always believed that I can be as moral and good as I want but if I don’t believe in Christ I will still go to hell. But maybe I have been wrong? Maybe I should get into Zen Buddhism find inner peace and control over my flesh wish is part of the eight wheels(i teach religion ) and conquer my porn addiction. And using those tactics I can maybe qualify myself to become a Christian. Because from what I hear you say I am not good enough. I am not Christian enough. Even if I spent my whole life trying to do Gods will and sacrificed friends, money and a career for that. All that was a waste because I am still not good enough. Thank you very much for assuring me of that. It will be a lot easier to fight the temptations having the pressure on me that I am not even a Christian if I don’t fix this. I guess I’m bound to hell. Maybe the best is to finally jump from the balcony that I always thought about and end this. Cause if perfection is needed to get to heaven I won’t get there. But you people who never had to struggle with this, have a wonderful eternity.

  31. Redeemed August 10, 2017 at 4:14 pm #

    This article is good but only addresses women being the abused
    Men are so often abused and cheated on….this article could be adjusted to reflect this as the Bible would not show partiality in this area

  32. Linda in Texas August 10, 2017 at 7:10 pm #

    I have come to learn through the destruction of my marriage ( with pornography) that what truly happens is a marriage is a tri cord. Christ the husband and wife. When the sacredness is ripped out by the deprivation of one spouse choosing any form of sexual sin, it leaves a gaping wound in the spouse that had remained faithful. To ignore that is the tragedy the church has perpetrated against the wounded spouse. Christ was ripped out. I lived this nightmare for years. Even before I knew what was happening in my marriage I repeatedly reached out to him wanting counciling to find out what was happening. The Holy Spirit revealed to me a number of times that there was an evil spirit in my house. When I sat down and found it on my computer that had all the scriptures taped around it to send out for the day I went numb. He had not gotten it closed down quick enough before I saw it. I could spend years telling you all that has transpired. No reaching out to my husband, no prayers, no work programs are church payed for, that he would start and not finish changed his choice. The Lord spoke to me clear one day. He told me that I could not change him, That He would not force him he had to make the choice. He chose to stay in the lie. He is not the same man……….God help him. August 21st, 2017 at 8:30 am i will stand in front off a judge and be granted a divorce. In reality I have been divorced for 17 years……he made that ongoing choice every moment of those years he remained in this hideous sin. It was rape for the 11 years when he would lay down by me and have sex……..he was not who I married. I am glad you used the word rape in what you wrote because that is exactly what it is. My heart goes out to all the women who are part of this hideous lie. They are someones daughters sisters nieces. God help them sweet Lord. It is an evil, a cancer that has been given free reign in our homes. God help my family, myself any one that is going through the nightmare. I lift you up in prayer now!

  33. Tammy Roesch August 11, 2017 at 6:40 am #

    EXCELLENT article! Needs to be widely circulated.

    • Neil August 13, 2017 at 4:52 pm #

      I suggest that one reads their Bible with the understanding that the Holy Spirit would never guide us to believe marriage is anything other than one man and one woman for life, and that just because the institutionalized church has failed at defining marriage, failed in making sinners accountable (Mt 18:15-17), and embraced divorce (and remarriage-which is adultery) when the Lord has established the directives of marriage (Mt 19:4-6; Mk 10:6-9) is no reason to write articles in the flesh to appease the flesh of self, and others. One-flesh covenant marriage can only end in death, thus is makes all the matter in the world to trust the Lord and His instructions on what it requires to make marriage a representation of the Gospel(Eph 5:31,32) Standerinfamilycourt has already done so and in particular answers this article in the grace and truth of Christ.
      Wives Adrift: A “High View” of Marriage Includes WHAT??

  34. R August 21, 2017 at 5:14 pm #

    Thank you for writing this article. I do find it comforting in that someone understands the depth of my pain. I’m completely broken by my husbands multiple affairs and including his use of pornography. I feel all alone in my pain when our mutual friends do nothing to hold him accountable be them from the church or outside of the church. I have definitely forgiven my husband who has now divorced me for someone who has a lot of money. In all his past affairs and use of pornography, he would return, in tears begging for forgiveness. Once he even asked me to baptize him which I did. At this time, I’m broken. I’m asking The Lord to please restore my husband to Him and to please have mercy on me that our vows to Him would be honored by us both. I don’t think everyone is called to do this but I don’t feel released from my husband even though we are now divorced. I remember Hosea and Gomer and in her prostitution The Lord called Hosea to go to her and to get her. I have not contacted my husband nor reached out to him because the Bible says to let him go which I have done. What I can’t get past is this… When Jesus’ forgives he restores our relationship to Him. He doesn’t forgive yet cut off our bride-ship from Him. He forgives and restores our relationship to Himself for all eternity beginning here on earth so I feel to be like Jesus I need to do like wise with my husband even though at this time my husband wants nothing to do with The Lord or me. The Lord shows us His love for us through the story of the Prodigal Son where the Father is seeking for His son to return, never giving up and hoping for His lost son to come to himself. So were are given an analogy of our relationship with God as a bride and a child in these two stories, If you have any words to this, I would love to read them in hopes that you can help me to do God’s will for my life regarding whether I’m released from my vows to my husband or not. Thank you!

    • Barry York August 21, 2017 at 7:07 pm #

      Dear R,

      I feel for you in your broken relationship with your husband, the lack of support and accountability in your church, and your ongoing struggle to know how to move forward. Let me briefly give you a few pieces of counsel.

      First, you need to be sure you are in a Biblical church. The true preaching of the Word of God supported by the practice of loving, disciplined holiness is a way that the Lord marks his people as being truly his. Please make sure this is the type of church you are attending.

      Next, you mention the analogy of Hosea and Gomer. Certainly that is a picture of the Lord’s working with us. But note that Gomer did come back and submit herself to Hosea finally. And it is not the only picture of a relationship in this book. In that same book, in Hosea 1:6-11, God promises that those who were known as his people would no longer be his people (the nation of Israel), and those who were not his people would become his people (the Gentiles). As Rebecca’s article refers to, the Lord promised in Jeremiah he would divorce or cut off those who failed to believe in Christ and obey the gospel. So the Lord does reach a point of finality where those who appeared to be his people are revealed as not truly belonging to him. See also Matthew 7:21-23.

      Third, I would say if your description of your husband is accurate, that your relationship has reached a place of finality. His multiple adulteries and the fact he’s divorced you shows an unrepentant state. However, this is why the first piece of counsel is so important. You need godly leadership in a faithful church to help you know if you are free from your vows before the Lord and from your ex-husband’s claims on you.

      I’m praying for you as I write these words.

      Finally,

      • R August 28, 2017 at 12:43 am #

        Thank you Barry for your counsel. I found it comforting that you would spend so much time in giving me thoughtful counsel. I still have many questions but this forum isn’t for that so I will go over and over your words and ask God to please give me wisdom to know and do His will for my life and that He would draw my husband’s heart back to Him. My church is an amazing church, made up of very imperfect people like myself so I will continue to serve and attend there. I did speak to my husband’s once mentor today after church and asked him to please continue to pray for my husband, now ex-husband, that he would return to Jesus. I also spoke to my worship pastor last night and asked him if he had reached out to my husband and he said that he had but it was some time ago. Mostly, I would like to thank you so much for your prayers. The last two days I have cried the least in months. I’m so grateful for God’s mercy that He would give me such a reprieve from my tears. I was able to laugh last night at a gathering of some church members and, again, by God’s mercy and grace, I was able to serve at church this morning without crying and serve others in His name. God bless you and may He give you much assurance that your blog is making a difference that more people would be in the kingdom of heaven.
        Jesus and Joy!
        R 🙂

      • Neil August 28, 2017 at 6:04 pm #

        Barry, I would argue that your third bit of council is inaccurate. (Your second council would be inaccurate as to saying the Lord forsake Israel, rather that Gentiles are grafted to the wife of Israel as the Lord was always Israel’s Husband. (Jer 3:14)) Though her husband is in an unrepentant state, they are still in a one-flesh covenant. His actions do not change this fact, and neither does his adulterous union to another. Divorce does not end a one flesh covenant, and neither does remarriage after divorce.

        The first sad fact is that her husband is unaware or ignorant to the significance of his vow since he is commanded to never divorce his wife. (1 Cor 7:11) If he is commanded not to divorce, then divorce has not power since she is still his wife. (1 Cor 7:10) Anothersad fact is the evangelical church has forsaken the true definition of marriage for traditions of men (via the Westminster Confess of Faith) who inaccurately place “loopholes” in ambiguous verses rather than stand on the unambiguous verses of Mark 10:11,12 and Luke 16:18. The third sad fact is the church that she attends did not enact church discipline(Mt 18:15-17) and this often is very common today. Very few churches are accountable to teaching and preaching the truth of marriage, and even fewer enact church discipline when cases like this occur.

        Mrs. R should indeed find a body of Christ which will do both…and she is commanded to remain unmarried or reconcile to her husband. (1 Cor 7:10,11) Perhaps there needs to be a church that calls out “remarriages” for what they really are…. adulterous unions. John the Baptist was willing to die for this…. Until that happens, there will be sad cases like this where there is neither accountability to the sinner, and even less godly council to tell the other sposue to “move on” simply by an idea that the sinner will never repent….rather than obey the vow one spoke to his or her spouse before the Lord and witnesses…”till death do I part”.

  35. Mel August 27, 2017 at 9:56 pm #

    Sad – while I believe Mary’s response was well intentioned, it probably did not convey the message the right way. The truth is, there is no works/ deeds man can ever do to sanctify himself. We cannot be our own salvation. We are saved by Grace through faith in Christ Jesus. And while a true conversion does consist of a real change in our hearts, this doesn’t mean we instantly become perfect and unable our incapable of sin. We are still human and live in a sinful world. We are still imperfect and will continue to fail. This doesn’t excuse continued sin. As true believers, we cry out to God and the holy spirit to open our eyes to our sin, to help is continue to grow in faith. The more we grow in our relationship with God, the more we recognize and are repulsed by our own sins and recognize how incapable we are of overcoming it without the blood of Christ. There should start to begin a visible change in our lives that starts to reflect our relationship with God. But the spirit is willing and the body weak. Please don’t feel that you have to become perfect before you can come to Christ. That is unattainable regardless of what religion you may try to utilize to achieve perfection. None of us will be perfect until we are given our new and perfect forms in heaven. No amount of working in ministry, attending worship, praying in the church will achieve anything either, unless there is a real and faithful relationship with God. Sadly, many people in the church pews are drained for Hell. They are doing all the outward “right” things, but missing the most important part in a saving relationship with God. Please don’t leap off of any balcony! Do seek a true relationship with the one true God. Find a church that preachers the true Word of God – I’m sad to say there are many that don’t. Confess your sin of pornography first to God, then fully to your spouse so that no lie is between you and ask for her help I overcoming it. Then seek accountability and counsel from elders and men of faith in your church, join men’s groups focused on accountability and overcoming addicting to pornography. There is help. It won’t be easy, like any addiction. Ask for the holy spirit to help you. Prayers for you!

  36. Sally August 30, 2017 at 11:25 am #

    It’s not scathing, it’s the truth. I don’t see a lot of tenderness in this article, but a lack of mercy and grace.

    I know men that are trying really hard with to overcome sin in their lives and to restore their marriage and family. If their wives read this, it’s basically a “get of marriage” free card.

    This article is basically saying you can overcome all sin in marriage except for adultery. While adultery gives grounds for divorce, it should be treated like any other sin. With grace and mercy if the spouse is truly repetitive.

    A woman can be unloving, disrespectful, complaining, negative and deny their husband – yet the husband should forgive and stay married? BUT… if the neglected husband were to go out and make a mistake once with adultery or porn that was caused from the marriage pain, all of sudden this gives the wife ground for immediate divorce? (even though she was a major cause in the marriage pain?)

    Sorry, every marriage and situation is different, including adultery in a marriage. If the husband is repentant, the wife needs to stay and repent of her sin patterns as well.

  37. Allan September 1, 2017 at 5:54 pm #

    Yes, God put Israel away, but he DIDN’T marry another. Jesus said anyone marrying a ‘put away’ person was committing adultery. Before God, the married state is only breakable by death (See Paul Romans 7.)

  38. stephanie September 5, 2017 at 3:12 pm #

    Thank you for the article. My response is that yes, divorce is horrible. Divorce never stops giving. My parents divorced when I was a child. You see the misery in your parents as grandparents. You experience the brokenness through your kids. Divorce is horrendous, but sadly, due to our sinful nature, it happens. Sometimes it is necessary and sometimes it is not. Honestly, I’m not absolutely sure as to when that is.

  39. Marie September 26, 2017 at 10:40 pm #

    What about divorce in my situation??…
    I was 14 when I had a baby with my 19 year old boyfriend.
    A year and a half later, my father and his new wife filed for custody of my baby. During the custody battle, my attorney said that since I was only 16 and 16 year olds can’t support a child, that I would have to marry the baby’s dad if I wanted to keep my baby. I really didn’t want to do that. I didn’t love him. I cried and prayed and cried some more. I even had that voice inside of me saying not to do it. My preacher & his wife also told me not to do it.
    In the end, I married him because I felt there was no other way. I was not willing to allow my baby to go to someone else, just because I was young. They had no other claims in court, as I was a good mom.
    Fast forward 20 years. I am still married. I have stayed in my marriage just because I “made the vow” although I have been very unhappy and don’t love my husband. I have thought about divorce for 20 years. All these years I have felt like I was in a prison. I act the part of a submissive wife, but my heart has never been in it.
    Part of me feels like God wouldn’t “punish me” for divorcing when I was forced to make that decision between losing my baby or marrying someone I did not love. A 16 year old kid who had no other options or guidance. But another part of me feels like I would be a horrible, sinful person for going through with it.

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