Matthew 19:1-12; Mark 10:1-12 — When our spouse is hardened against us

I’ve mentioned before our need as a husband or wife to search our hearts.  To see if there is any way in which we have hardened our hearts to God, or to our spouse.  This is important for any marriage, whether we think it’s healthy or not.

Because if your heart is starting to harden to God or to your spouse, your marriage is in trouble, or very soon will be.

But what happens if our spouse’s heart has hardened against us?  What do we do?

It’s a hard issue to deal with.  And there are only two such cases that are specifically dealt with in scripture.  One is in the case where our partner is involved in adultery.  And not only involved in adultery, but is completely unrepentant.  Jesus specifically says in the Matthew passage, that divorcing that person and marrying another would not be considered adultery in the eyes of God.  Probably, because in the eyes of God, the other person has hardened their heart to the point that the bond has been completely broken.  Your partner has become “one” with another.  The same can be said if you have been divorced, and your ex-partner has since remarried.  In these cases, you are no longer bound to that person.

How about a one-time affair that your partner has repented of?  That is less clear.  Trust broken at that level is difficult to restore.  Not impossible, but very difficult.  That said, if your partner has repented, I do believe that it is God’s will that you stay with your spouse.  It won’t be easy.  And you’ll definitely need the support of others on top of the grace of God.  It will take time, probably much time to restore the trust.  But it can be done.  And if your heart and the heart of your spouse is softened to Him, He can bring healing to your heart and to your marriage.

The apostle Paul brings up another situation in I Corinthian 7.  Namely, abandonment.  He says if your spouse is a non-believer, and they choose to walk away from you, you are not bound to stay married to that person.

These are the only reasons that Jesus and the apostles give for permitting divorce.

Many people today, however, wonder about domestic violence. Is divorce permissible in that situation? The Jesus and the apostles were silent on the issue.

I don’t know why. It was a problem even in those days. Wives couldn’t divorce their husbands, but they could plead with the judges to force their husband to divorce them in cases of domestic abuse.

Because the Bible doesn’t address domestic violence, there are many pastors that think domestic violence is not a reason for divorce.

Here’s what I can say for sure: If you are in danger from your spouse, if they are abusing you and they refuse to get help, you are not bound in that situation to keep living with that person. Protect yourself and your children. I think Jesus’ words to the Pharisees in Matthew 12:7 are very apropos here:

If you had known what this means, I desire mercy and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the innocent. (Matthew 12:7)

I don’t think God requires the beating of and even killing of wives on the altar of preserving a marriage.

So does that mean divorce is okay in cases of domestic violence? I don’t know if that’s the right question.

So what is the right question?

Jesus said that in the days of Moses, God allowed for divorce because of the hardness of people’s hearts.

Question: Should those words ever describe the heart of a Christian?


So in my opinion, God permits divorce only if your spouse’s heart is so hard, that to continue the marriage is no longer possible.

What does that mean for you if you’re contemplating divorce? Whatever situation you may be facing, adultery, abandonment, domestic violence, or whatever else it may be, before you make any decision, search your heart.  And again, ask, “Is there any way in which I have hardened my heart to my spouse or to God?”

That is the most important question.

As long as the answer to that question is yes, I think you should put off ideas of divorce.  Divorce should never be because of the hardness of your heart. But in cases where you have totally opened your heart to God and to your spouse, and yet your spouse has completely hardened their heart to you and demands a divorce, or your life is at risk because of that person’s hardness of heart, I think divorce is permissible. God doesn’t command it, but he understands, and it is permissible.

About bkshiroma

I'm from Hawaii, but have been in Japan as a missionary/English teacher since 1995. I'm currently going to a church called Crossroad Nishinomiya, an international church in Nishinomiya, a city right between Kobe and Osaka. Check out their website: 私がハワイから来ましたけど1995年に宣教師と英会話の教師として日本に引っ越しました。 今西宮にあるクロスロード西宮という国際の教会に行っています。どうぞ、そのホムページを見てください:
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