Divorces happen, even if they are called annulments. Now, the formulation of the Westminster confession says that there are but two reasons for divorce:
V. Adultery or fornication, committed after a contract, being detected before marriage, giveth just occasion to the innocent party to dissolve that contract. In the case of adultery after marriage, it is lawful for the innocent party to sue out a divorce, and after the divorce to marry another, as if the offending party were dead.
VI. Although the corruption of man be such as is apt to study arguments, unduly to put asunder those whom God hath joined together in marriage; yet nothing but adultery, or such willful desertion as can no way be remedied by the Church or civil magistrate, is cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage; wherein a public and orderly course of proceeding is to be observed; and the persons concerned in it, not left to their own wills and discretion in their own case
Now Paul was clearly having to teach on this subject. He starts out with some very strong language about not leaving the spouse. Regardless of their spiritual or moral state, if they are in covenant.. Instead to remain, and bear silent witness. There are many who would argue from v.10 that one should never, ever remarry while the husband does live: the reformed divines considered this within context, and considered that it was licit, as if one is abandoned by the unbeliever… then.
But one should remain unless the covenant is broken. By unfaithfulness — or abandonment. But Paul wants us to look beyond the law, to caring for the other person.
10To the married I give this command – not I but the Lord – that the wife should not separate from her husband 11(but if she does separate, let her remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.
12To the rest I say – I and not the Lord – that if any believer has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13And if any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. 15But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. It is to peace that God has called you. 16Wife, for all you know, you might save your husband. Husband, for all you know, you might save your wife.
17However that may be, let each of you lead the life that the Lord has assigned, to which God called you. This is my rule in all the churches.18Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. 19Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing; but obeying the commandments of God is everything. 20Let each of you remain in the condition in which you were called.
21Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. Even if you can gain your freedom, make use of your present condition now more than ever. 22For whoever was called in the Lord as a slave is a freed person belonging to the Lord, just as whoever was free when called is a slave of Christ. 23You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of human masters.24In whatever condition you were called, brothers and sisters, there remain with God.
Lead the life to which we were in. There is a sense that “if only” I was in paid ministry, had more time, less responsibilities, (less money) and I was not a solo Dad but single I could do great things for God. Rubbish. That is not my job. My job is to raise my boys. My job is to care for my grandkids. My job is to do my job. These are my circumstances, and over time, yes, they will change, but we must obey God in all of our circumstances.
As an aside, there is no second class of Christians, There clearly were people teaching that all should be circumcised. Again, this is wrong…
We should be content in our condition. I find this hard — I missed being married. Having someone who knows your secrets and has your back is such a comfort and support. But that is not my situation. It is a lot harder when one develops illnesses early, when you are injured and cannot do what you used to, and when things outside of your control ruin your life or the life of those around you. If you don’t have sleepless nights, and times when you are angry with God about this, you are either a true saint, or you are lying to yourself. I do. We are asked to obey. And yes, I would argue that seeking the next step — is not illicit. But we need to accept this phase in our lives.
We should not be slaves. To our job, our supervisor, our wife or husband, our boyfriend or girlfriend, Glee, the local fashion police, and indeed the local police. We are moral beings. We should not let any person imprison us, make us quiet, or make us disobey the clear teaching of God. In fact, I suggest we should support our brothers and sisters in Christ in these situations, even if we have no moral qualms about the issue.
The current example is that the Catholic church is being coerced into providing funding for birth control. This is clearly not the teaching of that church. Neither, to be fair, is divorce… and on birth control the reformed take various positions. But I consider that no man should have their conscience enslaved, by law, or by some form of show hearings.
What is clearly not accepted is some form of divorce… outside of the covenant breaking. You do not divorce for personal growth, avoiding the next stage of live, or because your spouse does not enjoy Lucinda Williams.
You are in covenant. When that breaks, everyone is damaged. Take it from someone who has had a divorce. Everyone gets hurt. No one comes out unscarred. Something in you breaks, and it does not come back.
To my married friends, be content with something that is good, and do not concentrate on the parts which are awful (for they will exist). You do not know what you have lost until it has gone.
I’m divorced, and I hate divorce