The God of Love Hates a Divorcing
“You people must guard yourselves respecting your spirit, and with the wife of your youth may no one deal treacherously. For he [Jehovah] has hated a divorcing.”—Mal. 2:15, 16.
1, 2. (a) What reprehensible course was recently taken by one who had been an elder? (b) What follows is presented to counteract what trend?
A MAN who for many years had served as an elder in a Christian congregation began experiencing problems in his marriage. He committed adultery with a worldly woman, thinking that his wife would then divorce him and he would be free to marry a fellow believer. To his surprise, his wife was willing to forgive him and be reconciled. But, determined to be free, he obtained a legal divorce and then married another woman when the divorce became final. Upon doing so, however, he was disfellowshiped from the Christian congregation.
2 How we wish that it could be reported that such a shocking course of action was a unique one among those who claim to be dedicated to Jehovah! But, sad to say, such is not the case. In fact, more and more it seems that some opt for selfish pleasure or the easy way out of an unhappy marital situation instead of sticking to Bible principles and looking to Jehovah God in prayer, consulting his Word and seeking help from the overseers in the congregation. It is hoped that what is here presented will cause all dedicated Christians to fortify their minds in this matter and will cause any who are considering taking such a selfish course to reconsider matters.
3. As to divorce, what is the attitude of the world in general?
3 Much as this trend is to be regretted and deplored, it actually should not surprise us in view of all that we see in the world today. There is no question about the fact that more couples are getting divorces. In lands such as the United States and Russia, one marriage in three ends in a divorce, and in some countries the ratio is almost one out of every two. Some states have “no-fault” divorce, which doubtless plays its part in increasing divorces. Indeed, the number of divorces would be far greater were it not for the fact that more and more men and women live together without the benefit of marriage. For instance, reports reveal that in Brazil alone more than four million couples are living that way.
HOW JEHOVAH VIEWS DIVORCING
4, 5. (a) How does Jehovah God regard treacherous divorcing? (b) How did Jesus express himself on the subject of divorce?
4 How does Jehovah God view divorcing? Does he wink at it the way so many clergymen of Christendom do? Far from it! We read at Malachi 2:15, 16: “‘You people must guard yourselves respecting your spirit, and with the wife of your youth may no one deal treacherously. For he has hated a divorcing,’ Jehovah the God of Israel has said; . . . ‘And you must guard yourselves respecting your spirit, and you must not deal treacherously.’” Jesus Christ expressed a similar view. When the religious leaders of his day asked him about the lawfulness of divorce, Jesus replied: “Did you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and will stick to his wife, and the two will be one flesh’? So that they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has yoked together let no man put apart.”—Matt. 19:4-6.
5 Upon receiving this answer, those Pharisees asked: “Why, then, did Moses prescribe giving a certificate of dismissal and divorcing her?” Jesus replied: “Moses, out of regard for your hardheartedness, made the concession to you of divorcing your wives, but such has not been the case from the beginning. I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except on the ground of fornication, and marries another commits adultery.” (Matt. 19:7-9) What do these scriptures tell us? That neither Jehovah God nor his Son Jesus Christ takes lightly the violation of God’s laws on marriage and divorce. Divorce tears apart what Jehovah God has joined together. He views marriage as a lifetime bond.
6. What did the law of Moses have to say about adultery?
6 That is why the seventh of the Ten Commandments stated: “You must not commit adultery.” (Ex. 20:14) More than that, the law of Moses required the Israelites to stone to death any man that committed adultery with another man’s wife, as well as the adulteress. (Lev. 20:10) Most fittingly, at Hebrews 13:4 the apostle Paul warns that Jehovah God will judge adulterers and fornicators.
7. Why is adultery more reprehensible than fornication?
7 Strictly speaking, adultery is far more serious than fornication, which English lexicographers define as sex relations between persons not married. But adultery has the added factor of violating, or breaking, or adulterating, the marital bond. Thus the German word for adultery is ehebruch, which, literally translated, means a breaking of the marital tie.
WHY DOES JEHOVAH HATE A DIVORCING?
8, 9. (a) What is one reason why God hates treacherous divorcing? (b) What is another reason for his doing so?
8 Jehovah God hates a divorcing on unscriptural grounds because, first of all, it is sinning against him. He has a vested interest in the institution of marriage and so any who go contrary to his will in regard to it are actually sinning against God. That adultery is sinning against God can be seen from what Joseph told Potiphar’s wife when she tried to seduce him to become party to adultery: “How could I commit this great badness and actually sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9) And what did King David say to Jehovah in expressing repentance for his sin of adultery with Uriah’s wife? “Against you, you alone, I have sinned, and what is bad in your eyes I have done.”—Ps. 51:4.*
9 Another reason why Jehovah God hates divorcing is that he is interested in justice, in fair play. For example, at James 5:1-6 his Word strongly condemns those rich men who oppress their employees. Divorcing (not based on Scriptural grounds) almost invariably means dealing treacherously with one’s mate, even as God stated by his prophet Malachi. It works an injury on the innocent mate. Just as in the Mosaic law Jehovah God repeatedly stated that he espoused the cause of the oppressed fatherless and widows, and would punish those who took advantage of these, so Jehovah God will judge adversely those who take advantage of legal loopholes to get rid of their mates so that they can marry others.—Deut. 10:17, 18; 27:19.
10. Why can an adulterer be said to be a hedonist?
10 Actually, the adulterer might be said to become a hedonist. A hedonist? Yes, a hedonist is one who lives primarily for pleasure and selfish gratification. One who smokes tobacco, although knowing full well how harmful it is, can be said to be a hedonist. (Luke 8:14; Titus 3:3, Kingdom Interlinear Translation) Thus those who put the pleasures that a divorce and remarriage to another can bring ahead of their obligation to be pleasing to Jehovah God can be said to be hedonists. They truly are lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.—2 Tim. 3:1, 2, 4.
11. Besides sinning against God and one’s mate, against whom does the adulterous divorcer sin?
11 In addition to sinning against Jehovah God and against one’s mate, the divorcing adulterer also sins against the congregation with which he is associated, for his course besmirches its good name. He also sins against the individuals in the congregation by his bad example. Thus in one New York City congregation a rather prominent woman took this wrongful course and shortly thereafter two other younger women were emboldened to follow her example. With good reason the apostle Paul warns against stumbling others.—Phil. 1:9, 10.
12. What soul-searching questions should each married Christian ask himself?
12 The Bible makes clear how Jehovah God and Jesus Christ feel about divorcing. They hate it! But how do you feel about it? What is your view of the sacred institution of marriage? Do you have God’s view of it, or have you allowed yourself to be influenced, as the world in general has, by that malicious marriage wrecker, Satan the Devil? Do you tend to condone the behavior of those who have violated God’s laws regarding marriage, adultery and divorce? Are you among those who, by flirting with persons of the opposite sex, are toying with sexual immorality? (Matt. 5:28; 15:19) Are you guarding your heart in these matters, or are you prone to indulge in pleasurable illicit fantasies?—Prov. 4:23.
13. What shows that deceit and adultery nearly always go hand in hand?
13 Divorcing and adultery nearly always go hand in hand. Especially where a legal divorce is obtained without adultery on the part of either mate, the temptation is strong for the innocent one to become “a subject for adultery.” (Matt. 5:32) And there is no doubt that adultery by either mate would not leave that one with a clean conscience before Jehovah God. How can it when it is spawned in deceit, even as we read: “As for the eye of the adulterer, it has watched for evening darkness, saying, ‘No eye will behold me!’ And over his face he puts a covering.” (Job 24:15) How deceitful adultery makes one can be seen from the experience given at the beginning of this article.
14. How do the words at Psalm 36:1-4 well fit the adulterous divorcer?
14 Helping us to view adulterous divorcing in the right light are the words of David at Psalm 36:1-4: “The utterance of transgression to the wicked one is in the midst of his heart; there is no dread of God in front of his eyes. For he has acted too smoothly to himself in his own eyes to find out his error so as to hate it. The words of his mouth are hurtfulness and deception; he has ceased to have insight for doing good. Hurtfulness is what he keeps scheming upon his bed. He stations himself on a way that is not good. What is bad he does not reject.” How well that description fits the adulterous divorcer!
15. Those who adulterously divorce and remarry should seriously consider what Scriptural principles?
15 Time and again those who have committed adultery have divorced their mates and, having remarried, have been disfellowshiped, only to be reinstated after a year or so. Evidently the elders handling such cases based their decision on what God’s Word has to say about showing mercy. True, Jehovah God is merciful and so must elders be. However, to any man and woman who have cunningly planned such actions in order to marry each other it can only be said that even though the elders reinstated them that is by no means the end of the matter. Elders can base their decision only on the apparent repentance, but they are unable to read the heart fully. Not being able to judge the motive, they may reinstate the now married couple. But let that couple never forget Paul’s words that “God will judge fornicators and adulterers.” (Heb. 13:4) The final judgment in all such cases rests in the hands of Jehovah God, who knows all the circumstances. He does read hearts, even as Jeremiah 17:9, 10 states. He knows the motive and is aware of any deceit or malicious scheming on the part of persons who violate his law on marriage. Yes, “all things are naked and openly exposed to the eyes of him with whom we have an accounting.” Surely such scriptures should make us pause and think.—Heb. 4:13.
16. Why might an innocent mate choose not to divorce the guilty one?
16 However, in this regard it must be observed that God’s law does not require an innocent mate to obtain a divorce. Circumstances may make it a fine thing for the innocent one to forgive the guilty one, especially if that one is humbly and sincerely repentant. True, unfaithfulness on the part of one’s mate might be quite a humiliating experience—that one’s mate has looked elsewhere for pleasure and satisfaction. But many a loving wife and mother has put up with a selfish or even an unfaithful husband for the sake of her children.
REASONS AND REMEDIES
17. What may well be one reason why some have presumed adulterously to divorce and remarry?
17 Why do some fail in the test of keeping integrity by remaining faithful to their marriage covenant? No doubt there are a number of reasons. Could one reason be that Christian witnesses of Jehovah have no fear of eternal torment, knowing that there is no such place as a burning hell? A Lutheran pastor once told a young Witness that if he did not believe in a burning hell he would commit all sorts of badness. No doubt many in Christendom feel the same way about it. As genuine Christians, we have freedom from the fear of eternal torment, but we do not want to “use this freedom as an inducement for the flesh,” do we?—Gal. 5:13.
18. What conditions make it necessary to be on guard continually in the matter of one’s thoughts and actions in regard to sex?
18 Today the world has gone sex mad. Promiscuity is the order of the day. There is no doubt about there being an increasing of lawlessness. (Matt. 24:12) A Christian is thrown in the way of temptation at his or her place of employment, being surrounded by persons who are not governed by Bible principles and who may appear physically attractive. So one must continually be on guard, exercising self-control and keeping contacts with those of the opposite sex, other than one’s marriage mate, on a businesslike basis. Also to be guarded against is the media—newspapers, magazines, television and motion pictures. Do not, by means of TV, in effect invite into your home fornicators, adulterers and suchlike individuals. Nor should we overlook the fact that overindulgence in rich food and liquor may cause a Christian, and especially a brother, to become more easily aroused. Practice self-control in all aspects of life! “Hate what is bad.” “Abhor what is wicked.”—Ps. 97:10; Rom. 12:9.
19. How should matters be viewed by those whose marriage leaves something to be desired?
19 Then again, it may well be that some marriage mates did not use the best judgment in choosing each other. They may find that they are not as compatible as they would like to be, or they may be disappointed in the more intimate aspects of marriage. In that case, it is a matter of making the best of the situation, thus honoring and vindicating Jehovah’s arrangement. The Bible speaks approvingly of the one ‘who has sworn to what is bad for himself and yet does not change.’ (Ps. 15:4) Simply stated, it is a matter of taking the bitter with the sweet. This calls to mind an elder who was widely known and very well liked by many of his brothers and sisters. He had married before he became a Witness and his unbelieving wife did all she could to make life miserable for him. Once asked about it, he replied, “She made a man out of me.” To keep putting up with her, he had to learn to be long-suffering and exercise great self-control. And he had the satisfaction of knowing that he was heeding the apostle Paul’s advice.—1 Cor. 7:12-16.
20. What are some circumstances that might contribute toward one’s adulterously divorcing one’s mate?
20 However, it does appear that at times a divorce on the ground of adultery could have been avoided had the “innocent” mate shown more empathy, wisdom, affection, understanding. A wife may gradually give less and less thought to pleasing her husband physically, mentally, emotionally, aesthetically and spiritually, thus causing him to look elsewhere for satisfaction in one or more of these areas. Thus reluctance on the part of his wife to give him the marital due caused one full-time minister to turn to her sister for gratification. Of course, regardless of how a wife may have failed in this respect, there is absolutely no justification for adultery on the part of the husband.
21. (a) Why is it wrong to divorce one’s mate treacherously? (b) But, as to treacherous divorcing, what can be said about Jehovah’s Witnesses in general?
21 Truly it is with good reason that the God of love hates a divorcing. Treacherous divorcing is sinning against God, against one’s mate, against the Christian congregation with which one is associated and against the individuals within it, as this action may well cause some to be stumbled. But how fine it is that Jehovah’s Witnesses in general are not persons inclined toward divorcing! They are known as a people who earnestly strive to apply God’s counsel regarding marriage. This makes them happier persons. And their strong, happy marriages are often noticed by others, drawing some to the truth.
David also sinned against Uriah, but his sin against God was so great that his sin against Uriah seemed negligible by comparison.
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Unscriptural Divorce is sin against others