5.3.7.3 Divorce

In the New Testament, divorce is assessed as sin: "Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate" (Mark 10: 9). The only exception in which divorce was permissible was in the case of adultery committed by one's spouse (Matthew 19: 9).

The gospel of Mark describes the remarriage of a divorced person as adultery (Mark 10: 11-12). According to further statements in the New Testament, divorce and remarriage during the lifetime of the divorced spouse are violations of the Sixth Commandment. Remarriage after divorce was apparently–though with certain exceptions–not accepted in the early Christian congregations (1 Corinthians 7: 10-11, 39; Romans 7: 2-3).

The New Testament's statements concerning divorce need to be seen in the historical and social context of the ancient world: they served, above all, to improve the situation of women, who only had very limited rights. The woman was to be protected from being arbitrarily cast aside by her husband.

The abovementioned quotations from the Bible notwithstanding, the church still faces the question of how to deal with divorced persons. Here the overall personal circumstances are to be taken into account. It can be difficult to make decisions that correspond to the spirit of the gospel. It should always be kept in mind that Jesus did not deal with mankind in the spirit of the legalities of the old covenant, but in the spirit of love and grace (John 8: 2-11).

Like any other sin, adultery and divorce require forgiveness. When a marriage ends in divorce, it is usually the case that both partners have contributed to it. The degree of individual guilt may vary. For example, there are cases in which one partner may use violence or may not wish to maintain the marriage. It is therefore good for both partners to earnestly examine themselves and take stock of the personal idiosyncrasies and modes of conduct that have contributed to the situation.

Separated and divorced persons are not excluded from receiving the sacraments. They have their place in the congregation and are cared for by their ministers in unbiased fashion.

Divorced persons who wish to remarry and who request a wedding blessing will receive it. This is to provide them with an opportunity for a new start.

See also