For comparison purposes, I have also transcribed the audio clip from Saddleback Church’s website regarding the question, #30. Is divorce ever right?
To read and compare, you may also want to see Transcript of Saddleback Church Teaching on Abuse and Transcript of Saddleback Church Teaching on “Miserable Marriage.”
Again, the speaker is teaching pastor Tom Holladay.
Somebody asked here — and then I’ll go out there for another question — a question about divorce. “If my husband is having an affair and still lives in our home, is it OK for me to file for a divorce if he won’t?” The Bible says, “yes.” Jesus said, when He talked about divorce, that, obviously, divorce hurts the heart of God, deeply hurts the heart of God, God says He hates divorce because He knows how much it hurts His children. You hate anything that hurts your children don’t you? God hates divorce because He knows how much it hurts His children.
When Jesus talked about divorce He said, don’t do it, He said, except for the cause of unfaithfulness. It’s almost as if He’s saying, well if the person is not married to you anymore, if they’re deciding to live with somebody else, to have sex with somebody else, they’ve already made their decision. You can’t force another person to unmake that decision.
And this idea that somehow the husband has to file for divorce if he’s having an affair, there’s nothing in the Bible about that. If your husband is having an affair, and I would say, refuses to talk about it, to go to counseling, to try to work through the marriage, then the Bible says that you have the Biblical right to file for a divorce.
Now a Biblical right doesn’t always need to be taken. I don’t know the situation and I don’t know the circumstance, and I hope that you’ve been to our lay counseling if this is about your life or that you’ve encouraged your friend to go to lay counseling if this is about their life, so they can sit down and talk about the specific situation.
Because the truth of the matter is, I know many, many people who have survived an affair. It was a great hurt to their marriage, but they realized through that what their marriage had become; just two people living in the same house. They also realized what their faith in Christ had become; empty, because obviously there’s a selfishness there, that’s apart from faith in Christ. And so they came back together and recommitted to Christ and recommitted to one another. That can happen. It’s not easy. It’s not easy, but that can happen.
And obviously, God is a God of grace. That would be, I believe, His preference for that to happen but you can’t force another person to change their mind. And if they’ve decided “I’m going to be with this other person and yet I’m still going to be married to you,” – First of all, I wouldn’t be in the same house. I’d ask for a separation immediately in that situation because they are in essence using you in that situation. And you need to say immediately, “I’m standing up because I want this marriage to work.” But then I would also say to you that you need to work towards what is going to happen next.
Now if you asked a lot of other questions the answer wouldn’t be so easy. If you said, for instance, if my husband never paid me any attention, the Bible talks about sacrificial love, he’s a Christian, but he’s – and you’re not saying this with bitterness, you’re just saying this honestly – he hasn’t done a sacrificial thing for me in the past 20 years that I can think of. He wants me to serve him, he wants me to respect him, but he never sacrifices for me. Are you able to get divorced in that case? No. Not Biblically. You can; I mean, you can make that choice. But there’s no Biblical reason for divorce in that case.
I’ve learned to be real careful with my words when I talk about this. Even when somebody writes, “My husband’s having an affair.” I don’t know what that means. That’s why I said you have to get together… Sometimes somebody… When you’re giving somebody advice, and they say, “My husband’s having an affair,” ask “What does that mean?” Because sometimes they mean, “Well, he goes out to lunch with his secretary.” I’ve seen that happen. “He’s having an affair of the heart.” That’s what they mean. But they couch it in terms so that they’ll get the answer they want from you as a spiritual leader. And then they’ll say, “Well, my small group leader said it was an OK thing.” They didn’t tell you really what was going on. They couched it in different terms.
And so if you’re talking about someone being involved physically with someone else, Jesus said, “They’ve sinned in such a way that they don’t want to be married to you anymore.” And you can’t force another person to change their mind.
That’s one of the Biblical reasons for divorce. The other is in I Cor. 7 where Paul says if they abandon you, if they leave – not emotionally abandon you – but if they pick up and leave and they’re not living in the house anymore and they won’t file for divorce and they say, “I don’t want to be married to you but I’m not doing anything about a divorce,” Jesus says, “They’ve abandoned you.” You can’t force another person to change their mind.
This is a painful subject. It really is a painful subject. I don’t know all the ins and outs of that question which is why I encourage you to get with somebody individually, because I’ve found that when it comes to this issue of marriage and divorce the only way to really get to good advice is to get with the person who’s going through it, look them in the eye and give them some answers. I can give you the Biblical reasons but I can’t give you Biblical wisdom without sitting down and talking about it. So find somebody or help your friend to find somebody to sit down and talk with.