Marriage and Divorce: Healing and Relational Crisis
James T. Myers III
John Brown University
Marriage and Divorce: Healing and Relational Crisis
The societal views on marriage and divorce have become so relaxed that it is no wonder “…50% of marriages that begin this year will end in divorce (Clinton, Archibald, & Ohlschlager, 2005, p. 4).” The institution of marriage has been tainted by the self-serving mindset to the point of losing its initial significance. Moreover, it could be debated that divorce, while unfortunate, is not necessarily a trauma, nor do the ensuing events constitute a crisis. In order to truly understand the concepts of marriage and divorce within the context of their, one must seek out the Biblical teaching on these subjects, as well as, the objections to the various Biblical interpretations concerning divorce, the acceptability of re-wedding, as a place of healing, and the impact of divorce, with its trauma, on both the church and the universal community.
Concerning marriage, the Bible teaches that it is an institution created by God for the good of man (Gen. 2:18; Perkin, 2001). According to Granberg and Root, “Biblical teaching on marriage is epitomized in the statement, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh’ (Gen. 2:24; 2001).” Following this paradigm, one will find that marriage is exclusive between husband and wife, explicitly between man and woman, and a lifelong commitment, as suggested by the phrase one flesh (Granberg & Root, 2001). Since the termination of matrimony has been discussed, one may naturally enquire as to when a couple is considered married.
Biblically, it is at the time of consummation, the act of intercourse, that a couple is said to be married (1Cor. 6:16), this may also be inferred from the passage that speaks on the deferral of this act between Mary and Joseph until after the birth of Jesus (Matt. 1:25; Granberg & Root, 2001; and Perkin, 2001). This differs from current tradition, at least in America, where a couple is considered married upon the completion of the wedding ceremony, which consists of vows and kissing the bride. After considering what the Bible says about marriage, one must turn his or her attention to the dreaded opposing side of the coin—divorce.
Divorce & Trauma
Divorce is never simple, easy, or pleasant; however, the Bible does give a provision for divorce. From the previously mentioned image of marriage as the two becoming ‘one flesh’ two things can be concluded; first, marriage is intended to be a lifelong commitment, and secondly, the dissolution of such a bond goes beyond the realm of the natural and harms both parties, no matter the circumstance. Jesus explains that divorce is only acceptable on the grounds of adultery (Matt. 19:9; Atkinson, Divorce, 2001). However, modern society has strayed from this truth, and resigned to divorce for lesser reasons, while not all result from trivial causes; most do not fall under this category. Furthermore, this is not the only interpretation of Matthew, and other views should be considered.
An opposing view to the interpretation stated above is that Jesus is not referring to divorce, but separation (Matt. 19:9; Atkinson, Divorce, 2001) However, such practices were not common in Jesus’ day; therefore, without extend justification, one can safely accept that He is speaking of divorce (Atkinson, Divorce, 2001). Moreover, the backdrop of the New Testament consideration for divorce, Deuteronomy 24:1-4, implies the same indecency as grounds for divorce not separation (Atkinson, Divorce, 2001).
While both give Biblical example and grounds for a divorce, neither truly describe the trauma that can be concluded from this matter. As mentioned, the two in union become one flesh, and this is a wonderful illustration for the type of trauma resulting from its dissolution. To severe a limb even if necessary to save the life of, or improve the quality of life of an individual, is a massive endeavor, causes pain, leaves the survivor with a tremendous sense of loss, and leave behind scaring—all of which is true of divorce CITATION Cav06 l 1033 (Cavaiola ; Colford, 2006). Levine (1997) insists, “Trauma occurs when an event creates an unresolved impact on an organism (pp. 198-99), which is illustrative of the effects of divorce even on willing participants. Though one may feel that this is necessary to live out a quality of life with true happiness, there is always the lingering questions, “am I good enough…could I have done more…why couldn’t she just love me…?” There are statistics that prove divorce as a source of things such as anxiety, depression and even suicidal ideations—if not attempts and successes CITATION Cav06 l 1033 (Cavaiola & Colford, 2006). In any case, one can safely identify divorce as a traumatic event, a crisis. Considering the two interpretations, it follows that the idea of remarriage is now in question.
Remarriage & Healing
The question of remarriage is more difficult to answer; however, just as divorce is considered a “lesser evil” in some circumstance, remarriage could be considered a greater good (Atkinson, Divorce, 2001, p. 347). If the justification for divorce is accepted under reference to the passage in Deuteronomy then remarriage is tolerable (Atkinson, Remarriage, 2001). Moreover, remarriage may be an environment conducive of forgiveness and self-giving love, an environment in which God can grow (Atkinson, Remarriage, 2001). With all of this under consideration, one must evaluate the impact of divorce on the church and the community. Divorce is a messy and complicated affair, which always affects not only the individuals involved, but also the local church and the community. Although divorce is a tragic event, it gives the Church an opportunity to extend the love and forgiveness of Christ thus benefiting both the divorced and the Church—this is not to say that divorce is good (Atkinson, Divorce, 2001). Moreover, this allows the community to undermine further the institution of marriage and the Christian faith, if said divorce is between believers.
Marriage is an institution created by God and as such should be treated as a serious lifelong commitment; however, when divorce is the only option remaining, the Bible does allow this concession. In addition, if it is accepted that the Bible allows divorce then one must also accept remarriage as an option. Regardless of one’s views on this subject, the outcome is a chance for the Church to emulate Christ, while society will be adversely affected in numerous ways.
Biblically, marriage is a holy union that transcends the mere act of ceremony and a certificate, but actually brings two individuals into a union that is so intimate that the two are, after marriage, considered one flesh—one person living one life together. It is unfortunate when this bond is broken for any reason, and while modern culture gives almost any provision for its dissolution, the Bible gives very narrow means as reason for its separation—with adultery as its primary example. No matter what the reason for divorce, it is a traumatic event that constitutes a crisis, and causes harm to all parties involved. There is, however, a place for love, healing, and even remarriage as a means and place for healing. This is a crisis, but there is a place for healing.
BIBLIOGRAPHY l 1033 Atkinson, D. J. (2001). Divorce. In W. A. Elwell (Ed.), Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (2nd ed., pp. 345-348). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.
Atkinson, D. J. (2001). Remarriage. In W. A. Elwell (Ed.), Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (2nd ed., pp. 1007-1008). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.
Cavaiola, A. A., ; Colford, J. E. (2006). A Practical Guide to Crisis Intervention. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.
Clinton, T., Archibald, H., ; Ohlschlager, G. (2005). Caring For People God’s Way: Personal and Emotional issues, Addictions, Grief, and Trauma. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Granberg, L. I., & Root, J. R. (2001). Marriage, Theology of. In W. A. Elwell (Ed.), Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (2nd ed., pp. 743-745). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.
Levine, P. A. (1997). Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
Perkin, H. W. (2001). Marriage, Marriage Customs in Bible Times. In W. A. Elwell (Ed.), Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (p. 740). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.