This is a short essay I had to write for my Theology 202 class. Enjoy!
Marriage is perhaps one of the most anticipated moments in a person’s life. Most of us have asked ourselves the same questions that Tom and Jane have begun to ask. Questions like, what does the Bible say about marriage? Is divorce biblically acceptable? These, along with several others, are the questions I will attempt to answer in such a way that is Biblically accurate.
Before we jump right into the issue of marriage one must consider that which marriage is often the result of in our society. Love. Love is word with very profound implications that is thrown around rather flippantly in America. Many languages including the Greek and Hebrew languages had multiple words for love, all of which meant something different. For example, the Greek language uses agape, eros, philia, and storge to communicate love in its various forms. The Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance contains definitions for some of these; Agape is “in the NT usually the active love of God for his Son and his people, and the active love his people are to have for God, each other, and even enemies” (Goodrick and Kohlenberger 1999). According to Merriam Webster’s free online dictionary, the Greek word eros simply refers to sexual love (Merriam Webster, Incorporated 2010). Philia is described as friendship love in The Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance (Goodrick and Kohlenberger 1999). Storge, which appears in Romans 12:10 as the Greek word philostorgos, which is a hybrid of philia and storge, means to be devoted or loving dearly (Goodrick and Kohlenberger 1999). Unconditional love is a simple summary of what agape love means. I believe this is the most important kind of love, especially within the context of marriage.
It is clear in God’s word that marriage was definitely part of His plan for mankind. In Genesis 2:24 (ESV) we find the first inkling we see of this when God said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Elwell states, “To be made in the image of God is to be made as a social being capable of relationship. The most significant expression of the image of God in relationship is that between a man and a woman” (Marriage, Theology of 2001). What he has just pointed out is that God intentionally made us to be in marital relationships with the opposite sex. With that a requirement would be, as we read in Genesis 2:24, leaving our parents to be united to our spouse. Also, it should be pointed out since God said “a man” and “his wife,” which, due to their singular form, implies one husband and one wife. Additionally this limitation rules out homosexual relationships.
Elwell points out, “Some, arguing from 1 Corinthians 6:16, maintain that marriage is effected through sexual intercourse” (Marriage, Theology of 2001). Others argue “marriage to be brought about as the result of a declaration of desire to be married, accompanied by the expression of mutual intentions of sole and enduring fidelity and responsibility toward the other” (Marriage, Theology of 2001). Elwell went on to express the flaw of this thinking because marriage has never been only the concern of the couple.
Divorce, which according to Barna Research Group, is much higher in Conservative Christian groups than any other faith or faithless groups (Robinson 2009). Although divorce is permitted in both the Old and New Testaments, it was not encouraged and, according to Jesus, was only permitted in the first place because the people wouldn’t have it any other way. Jesus laid the grounds for divorce when He said, “Whoever divorces his wife, expect for sexual immorality, and remarries another, commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9). Paul gives us further clarification by saying, “The wife should not separate from her husband” and “The husband should not divorce his wife” (1 Corinthians 7:10-11). Therefore, even though divorce is biblically permitted, reconciliation should be sought out earnestly before it is acted upon.
Divorce isn’t simply two people going their separate ways, but the tearing of what has become one flesh and making it two again. That is why divorce tends to get rather nasty. Due to all the emotions that go into a marriage, it is impossible for separation or divorce to take place without a lot of hurt being caused.
Many people who get divorced will remarry. While this isn’t a problem for the secular world, it is for the believer who desires to follow God, even through the pain of separation. So it is natural to wonder if it is biblically acceptable to remarry. The answer is simply, yes, but only under certain circumstances. Paul teaches if one separates or divorces their spouse outside of sexual immorality, they should remain unmarried. Jesus told his audience in Matthew 19:9, “Whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” This implies that the one filing the divorce cannot remarry, but the one against whom the divorce is filed is free to do so.
Goodrick, Edward W., and John R. Kohlenberger. The Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1999.
“Marriage, Theology of.” In Evangical Dictionary of Theology, edited by Walter A. Elwell. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2001.
Merriam Webster, Incorporated. Merriam Webster Free Online Dictionary. 2010. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/eros?show=0&t=1290379106 (accessed November 21st, 2010).
Robinson, B. A. Religious Tolerence. July 20th, 2009. http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_dira.htm (accessed November 21st, 2010).