Beware of Bias


Since we cannot hold a perspective from nowhere and thereby be completely objective, we need to become aware of potential biases and perspectives in discerning counsel from various individuals. We all have a world view, which has been shaped by our experiences and cultures.

Biases born from our worldview are neither good nor bad in and of themselves. They just are. However, they can become damaging if not acknowledged and assumed in interactions. Such is something I learned in my professional training as a chaplain.

Awareness is important.

One of the Christian marriage counselors we visited stated his bias up front to me. He said something to the effect: “I am for the marriage. God hates divorce, and so do I.” This seems fair considering that he is both a Christian and a marriage counselor. If I wanted individual support, I ought to go to an individual therapist.

This made me think:

Does God always have a bias towards keeping the marriage intact?

If you ask most evangelical pastors, I bet you will get a “yes” and the accompanying pressure “to keep it together.” I sensed this pressure even in the excellent materials in DivorceCare.

However, I am not sure this is totally Biblical.

If the marriage is so inviolable, I would expect consistent teaching to that effect no matter circumstances throughout Scripture. However, this is not the case. Situations exist where God allows or instructs the marriage to be ended:

  1. God instructs His people to end marriages where one partner is caught in adultery. He tells them to kill the adulterer and adulteress (Deut. 22:22 and Lev. 20:10). This is a clear teaching that the evil of adultery needs addressing more than keeping the marriage together. While I am glad we do not kill adulterous spouses today, the idea still stands that the adultery needs addressing primarily over retaining the marriage, and divorce is okay in such circumstances (as it would have been unnecessary if adultery was still punishable by death).
  2. Another example is the Apostle Paul’s teaching in I Corinthians 7:15, which allows for divorce when an non-Christian leaves a Christian spouse. I can’t imagine Scripture allowing for sin. So, it cannot be sin to divorce a non-Christian who has abandoned you.

Divorce is not a pleasant experience. It is the rending of the oneness found in marriage. So, I agree that we ought to seek to keep marriages together. However, Scripture is clear that God does not see this goal as always appropriate under every circumstance.

God is not naive. He is a realist who understands the sad reality of sin and brokenness in the world respecting even our (former) spouses’ decisions to end the marriage by leaving or cheating.

So, I end with a modest suggestion:

Since God does not see keeping the marriage intact as primary under every circumstance, then I suggest as pastors and fellow Christians that we should adjust our advice accordingly.