Question:

From the husband:

It has been almost 6 months since the time I first disclosed to you my intention of filing for a divorce from my wife of almost 5 years.  Since then we have been through more drama, as well as her even sending you a question of her own. After much prayer and consideration I am planning to file for a divorce.  My wife thought it would be good if we sent you questions together since we both know that we use this web site and that you will give an answer that is not bias.

I am planning to divorce my wife on the grounds of our differences.  We got married within a year of meeting each other ... first mistake.  And of course many mistakes to follow.  I have committed not to disclose the negative details of our actions towards each other during our marriage.  Although I will tell you that neither of us have committed adultery. 

I am currently serving as the minister of a congregation.  I realize that if I go ahead with this divorce because of a reason that is not adultery that I must remain unmarried.  Which leads to my first question, Is it a sin for me to divorce my wife?  Or does it become a sin if I remarry? 

My next question is this, could I remain the minister of a congregation if I chose to divorce and stayed unmarried?  Or do you feel that divorced men should not be ministers?

If me divorcing my wife is a sin, when did I commit the sin...In other words, is it a sin when I made up in my mind to divorce her or is it a sin when the decree is finalized?

Of course after me getting to this point and sharing with my wife that I am planning on a divorce she is insisting that I have not forgiven her because I am not willing to continue in this marriage, but I differ with that opinion.  Just because I am not willing to stay married doesn't mean that I have not forgiven her.  I used this example: If a person I know tells me that they wanted to kill me and two days later came and apologized, I would forgive them, but it wouldn't be wise for me to go out to the lake with them for fishing if nobody else is around!

Well, These are my questions for you and now my wife would like to ask questions.

From the wife:

Hello,

I, unlike my husband, do not want to divorce.  I want to change what I need to change to keep our family together (although my husband doesn't see it as splitting up a family).  Wherever I went wrong (many areas according to several books I've recently read about being a good Christian wife).  I want to correct, and have begun that process.  I don't know whether my husband has forgiven me for things I've done wrong (mainly out of ignorance, frustration, or anger (really resentment)).  But I had to forgive him, to even step out on faith, to make the changes that I have. He may have forgiven me, but he has let me know he doesn't trust that I can change. I can say the same about me.  I believe that where he needs to change, he can.  But God gives us free will.  With that will he has chosen divorce.

My husband doesn't believe we can make each other happy enough to be in a marriage.  I don't believe that, what I believe is that for the past few years, we have either been too resentful (myself) or too selfish (him) to really even try to make each other happy.  We have not submitted ourselves one to another in the fear of the Lord. I want us to do that.  

If we let go of the resentfulness, anger, frustration, disappointment, and selfishness, we will seek to please each other. Finding ways to please each other used to be what we did, we had fun at it. I believe that with Christ all things are possible and that we can put off the fleshly characteristics that I've described above so that our marriage can be what God wants it to be.  It is very difficult to fight for a marriage when your husband says "I love you, but I'm not in love with you anymore". But I truly believe that love never fails and if I can control and crucify my flesh to the point that I can show my husband love, he is a good man, with a good heart, and he will ultimately embrace love too.  In the past we have prayed for God to change our hearts toward one another, since that hasn't happened for my husband yet, he interprets that as God letting him know that we are better off living separate lives, divorced, both continuing to serve the Lord.  I disagree.  I believe God gives three answers: Yes, no, and wait.  I believe we are in "wait", and if we faint not, and don't give up we can trust God to say "yes" to our being together.

Thanks for your time.


Answer:

While I recall discussing the situation, I would like both of you to know that I be hard pressed to figure out which questions and answers were yours. I don't record who sends in questions. The original emails are deleted after I answer a question. So my apologies if I repeat something I said before or miss a point because I don't recall the details.

Paul tells us that one aspect of the nature of God is that He cannot lie (Titus 1:2). Great importance is placed through out the Old and New Testament on keeping one's word. "Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who deal truthfully are His delight" (Proverbs 12:22). Solemn vows, covenants are especially important to God. "Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; therefore let your words be few" (Ecclesiastes 5:2). The reason God hates divorce is that a man and woman entered into a covenant before Him, yet are now breaking their word.

"And this is the second thing you do: you cover the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping and crying; so He does not regard the offering anymore, nor receive it with goodwill from your hands. Yet you say, "For what reason?" Because the LORD has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant. But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. "For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one's garment with violence," says the LORD of hosts. "Therefore take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously."" (Malachi 2:14-16).

It really saddens me that you are excusing this breakage of your covenant by saying you got married too quickly, even though you took almost a year to arrive at your marriage. A bit latter in Solomon's discussion of the importance of vows made before the Lord, he says, "Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin, nor say before the messenger of God that it was an error. Why should God be angry at your excuse and destroy the work of your hands?" (Ecclesiastes 5:6).

You ask if your plans are sinful. It seems evident that they are. You are leaving because you are unhappy -- not because she had broken her marriage vows by adultery, not because she is a danger to you or your children, but because you don't like the way she is behaving and you are convinced that she will not change.

Your excuse for forgiving but not modifying your behavior toward your wife is puzzling. First, it is evident that you offer forgiveness without repentance. God doesn't offer forgiveness in this manner. Such a forgiveness is shallow and empty -- it is merely words to be uttered. "Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, 'I repent,' you shall forgive him" (Luke 17:3-4). There is no harm asking your wife to show some sign of changing. Then you could sincerely offer forgiveness. Second, you seem to think that ending your marriage is independent of forgiveness. It is true that sins carry consequences. A drunk might fall and break his arm. He can gain forgiveness of his drunkenness, but his arm still must heal on its own. But in this case whether the marriage continues or ends is solely in your hands. It is not imposed by an outside force, nor is it something the must be done. It is completely your choice. What you are doing is equivalent to God saying that he forgives someone of their sins, but they are going to go to Hell anyway. Such is objectionable because it is the same person who is claiming to give forgiveness and enforcing a punishment at the same time.

What really saddens me is that continues to be no consideration of the children and the impact of their father abandoning them and their mother on their lives. You cannot pretend that your leaving will not change your relationship with them.

Whether you remain a preacher will be up to the congregation where you are located. They ought to investigate, question the wisdom of what you doing, and weigh the biblical soundness of your choice. Divorce, itself, does not necessarily mean a man is unfit for teaching God's Word. There are times when a man is abandoned by his wife or is dealing with issues that make divorce an viable option, but for all that you have told me, I cannot see this being the case.

Now turning to the wife, I vaguely recall that the problem was in the area of not caring for the family, house, and yourself. You tell me that your motivation was resentment, but resentment is just another way of seeking revenge. "Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. Therefore "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:19-21). You failed to live up to God's teaching and, predictably, your resentment did not resolve any issue but made things worse.

Obviously change is possible and even likely when you are both working for change. The people in Corinth overcame greater issues than the ones you are facing. "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God" (I Corinthians 6:9-11). The argument that a person cannot change is a false one. Nor is it proper for anyone to tell another that they will not change. Change is solely up to the individual.

But trust comes because it is earned, not because it is given blindly. God asks us to trust Him, but He does so on the basis of all the great promises He has kept in the past. Both of you have failed in upholding trust in your marriage. That is something you both need to work upon. Trust will come when you prove yourselves to be trustworthy.

The truth is that divorce is not going to solve this problem. Instead, it is going add more problems on top of the ones currently existing. It is a shame that it took the threat of divorce to cause you to begin making changes. I don't by the idea that you didn't know what you should have done until recently. But I'm glad you realize that change is necessary and are making changes in your life. I strongly side against the divorce in this case, but some people are too stubborn to listen. But even if it goes through, you both should work at reconciling at a future point. I'm positive that it is possible if you both starting living as Christ wants you to live.