I’ll call this part 1 of my divorce series. Holy matrimony may be familiar terminology, but holy divorce? I may not be able to slip that one in quite so easily.
Holiness by Obedience
We need to come to terms with what might make matrimony holy. I’d like to propose that holiness has nothing to do with what is right or wrong from man’s perspective, or with what is socially acceptable or unacceptable, or with what is considered natural or unnatural, or with what we human beings find exciting or unexciting. If we want YHVH God, the creator of the universe, the one whose image we come face to face with in the mirror each morning, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to see something as holy, then we have only one option: do it his way.
If it’s true that matrimony can be holy because it lines up with what God says, then it should be possible for divorce to be holy if it lines up with what God says.
Where can we agree when there are so many opinions?
People believe all sorts of things. Some people would be reluctant to say that God approves of divorce but nonetheless agree that God allows for it. Some say no divorces are allowed other than for fornication or adultery, though I bet this crowd could be pressed into adding other kinds of abuse. Some allow divorce but then forbid remarrying. Some allow divorces and remarriages without restriction. Can all these opinions reflect the good, acceptable, perfect, will of God? Though it is possible that none of these are accurate descriptions of God’s position, I do think we can get a much more coherent view even if we don’t agree on every jot and tittle under consideration.
All of us can probably agree that divorce is discussed in the Bible, and that according to a simple reading of the text, a biblical divorce has at least these two conditions: the woman gets a writing of divorce and the couple ceases to dwell together physically (Deut. 24:1).
So, we all can look at it and know it’s there, in the Torah. Phew. But it gets sticky after that because there are a lot of things in the Torah that are not necessarily approved of by God, Jephthah torching his daughter, for example. Being in there is obviously not enough. Yet I believe we can know that God instituted divorce or at least sanctified it, strange as that may sound.
In part 2, I’ll show you the best reasons I’ve found so far to discount Deut. 24:1 as a proof text for a godly divorce and then tell why those reasons don’t work for me even though they sound cool and come from a theologian. It’s enough for this post to try to present the idea that lining up an act with the word of God puts it in the realm of what is godly and therefore at least potentially holy.
None of this, I realize, is of any immediate value to someone whose marriage is falling apart. God forbid that would be the case, but if it is, sound the alarm! Call out the warriors! There’s a time to stand back and see the deliverance of the Lord, but there is also a time to declare war, gather as many troops as you can find, loose the sword, and turn the enemy’s stronghold into an ash heap. I’m inclined to think it would be good to take the second course.