When it comes to the topic of divorce, there is no shortage of confusion, frustration, misunderstanding and judgment. Both believers and non-believers have learned explicitly and implicitly that divorce is a sin, and anyone who gets remarried is committing adultery. But what does the Bible actually say? Let’s find out together.
Some churches teach that divorced people who remarry are “living in sin” and committing “perpetual adultery.” This is based on the assumption that the Bible condemns divorce under any circumstances, and that there are no exceptions, even in cases of abuse, neglect, or infidelity. Sometimes this faulty viewpoint comes from a simple misreading or misinterpretation of Scripture. Or, it might come from cultural and church tradition passed down from one generation to the next. The ramifications of such assumptions can leave people wounded spiritually, emotionally, and sometimes even physically.
We believe there is biblical support for a handful of situations in which the victim of the divorce is 100 percent free of the marriage. However, we always advise seeking pastoral or biblical counseling when dealing with any of these issues. These caring professionals can help you navigate the issues before divorcing. Here are four situations which, biblically speaking, are grounds for divorce:
- Adultery (Matthew 19:9). Jesus stated that, “whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9). In first-century Jewish culture, the husband could divorce his wife for any reason, which is why His comments were directed at men. Regardless, this passage tells us that adultery is a situation in which divorce is permitted.
- Abandonment (Matthew 18:15–17; 1 Corinthians 7:15–16) When Paul wrote his first letter to the church in Corinth, many marriages consisted of one believer and one non-believer. Today, the instructions in 1 Corinthians 7:15-16 can apply to the same situation. When this passage is combined with Jesus’ teaching on treating an unrepentant person as an unbeliever (Matthew 18:15-17), abandonment is biblical grounds for divorce.
- Abuse (1 Corinthians 7:15–16). Based on the biblical teaching on abandonment and unbelief, abuse and neglect can be considered biblical grounds for divorce. We do not advocate remaining in an abusive relationship of any kind–physical, sexual, emotional (verbal), financial, or spiritual. If this describes your relationship and you are in an abusive situation, please seek assistance and protection for you and your children.
- Addiction (1 Corinthians 7:15–16). Along the same lines as abuse and abandonment, a person can divorce a spouse who has an ongoing, untreated addiction. The most common example is alcohol or substance abuse, but addiction can come in other forms. Because each person’s addiction is unique, we encourage you to seek pastoral counseling before moving forward.
If you’ve been through a divorce from a spouse who was guilty of any of those things or if you have experienced the death of a spouse, you may, biblically speaking, remarry. As Pastor Jimmy Evans stressed on our Blended Kingdom Families podcast, “If you’re the victim of a bad circumstance, you are not a second-class citizen….[The divorce] was done to you. Of course, God can bless your remarriage. Don’t ever let anybody tell you the opposite.”
Can God Bless My Remarriage?
The short answer is YES!
We would encourage you to seek pastoral counseling and counsel from godly mentors before you move toward remarriage, but we firmly believe God can bless your remarriage when You seek Him and follow His path of repentance and restoration.
First John 1:9 declares, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” While divorce is the result of someone’s sin, God can, will, and does forgive us when we repent, and that forgiveness is absolute. The sin is gone “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12). Romans 8:1 tells us, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (emphasis added). No condemnation! None. Nada. Zilch. Zero.
Of course, that doesn’t mean a divorce borne of sin is no big deal. It is a huge deal, both to God and to the heartbroken people involved. But where there is repentance, there is also forgiveness and the unending grace of our Father.
There’s a big difference between regret and repentance. Repentance isn’t easy. It is a total acknowledgement of your sin. It is living and acting in a way that cultivates godly fruit in our lives, and it usually includes taking a step of obedience to repent and apologize to those we have hurt. But, praise God, there is forgiveness even when we are that prodigal son, daughter, parent, spouse, or friend.
There is forgiveness even if you cheated on your spouse, even if you abandoned them, even if you walked out on your children, and even if you did any of the other horrible things often associated with the nastiest divorces. God forgives us when we come to Him in genuine repentance. If He forgives you for your actions in the divorce, He can certainly bless your new marriage.
What about the victims of divorce? That’s something many people never consider from a biblical standpoint. Often, one party doesn’t want the divorce. It may even come as a complete shock. We’ve talked to dozens, if not hundreds, of men and women who said something along the lines of: “It was a totally normal day. We had breakfast together, I went to work, and she was gone when I got home that night,” or “He met me at the door. His bags were already packed and loaded into his car. All he said was, ‘I’m not happy. I don’t want to be married to you anymore. I’m leaving,’”or “I caught him in bed with another woman,” or “She chose alcohol over me and the kids.” In these situations, the divorce has two people on completely different sides of the equation. Are we to assume the victims in these situations can never remarry because of what we think the Bible says about divorce? No!
As we’ve already said, even if you were the adulterer, abuser, abandoner, or addict, God can and will still forgive you of that sin when you come to Him in repentance. This shouldn’t be that surprising, because the church loves to celebrate a sinner’s repentance and God’s forgiveness—and rightly so.
For example, many churches have active, thriving prison ministries. We’ve seen entire congregations rise to their feet to give a standing ovation and shouts of praise to God over a former drug dealer, armed robber, or even murderer who has come to know Christ and turned their life around. That is absolutely something to celebrate, because that is the Redeemer we serve.
People who are divorced can experience and celebrate the redemption and restoration of the divorced person. And they can remarry with God’s blessing!
For more information about this topic as well as many others related to divorce and remarriage, see our book Blended and Redeemed: The Go-To Field Guide for the Modern Stepfamily.
 “Divorce, Remarriage, and Blended Families with Pastor Jimmy Evans” on Blended Kingdom Family Podcast, Episode 74, June 28, 2021.
Scott and Vanessa Martindale
Founders of Blended Kingdom Families