Encouraging People to Divorce Too Lightly?

If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.

– Deuteronomy 22:22, KJV


“You’re encouraging people to divorce too lightly!”

This or some similar version is a common criticism I have encountered from pastor-types in regards to teaching on this website. They are so worried that the faithful spouse may choose divorce following adultery discovery that they commit the common error of failing to see how severely destructive adultery is. They fail to see how God views adultery as intolerable and a severe enough offense to proscribe the death penalty in the Old Testament (not that I advocate for a return to such times as divorce is a much more appropriate and merciful option for modern times).

Comments to me from pastors who are worried I am issuing “get out of marriage” cards to faithful spouses too quickly tell me something. It tells me these pastors are both Biblically and pastorally clueless as to what God says concerning adultery.

They seem to forget permission is permission (for faithful spouses to divorce).

And they fail to register the horrific devastation adultery causes.


Following adultery, we are not talking about restoring a marriage but orchestrating a miracle of resurrecting it from the death ashes of such severe sin.

Divorce is a mercy granted to faithful spouses by God to deal with such treachery (e.g. Jer 3:8, Mt 1:19, and Mt 19:9). While it is not a good option, it may be the best of bad options left for the faithful spouse. Telling a faithful spouse they are too quickly seeking the way out of their marriage by exercising this permission is like telling the family of an attempted murder victim that they are too quickly pulling the plug on their loved one in the ICU.

It is a subtle blame-shift, I believe. It is cruel and insensitive. And such a response truly says the person saying this as no idea as to the devastation that adultery causes.

God values human life and is forgiving teaching us the way of reconciliation. However, God is also just and holy. When He gave the Law through Moses, God’s holiness required the death of the adulterous parties even if it was only one act.

Does that make God too rash or unforgiving?

I do not think so.

God recognized the devastation that adultery creates. He labels adultery evil (see Deut. 22:22), not divorce. And God being a holy God does not tolerate evil.

Nor should His people!

And yes, sometimes, that might make divorce the righteous option for the faithful spouse to take. I rather support a righteous action taught as permitted by Jesus Himself (see Mt 5:32 and Mt 19:9) than enable evil.

But, I suppose, that’s just me–that pastor who teaches tolerating adultery is worse than counseling for Biblical divorce.

6 thoughts on “Encouraging People to Divorce Too Lightly?”

  1. DM, your critics would rethink their position and consider changing their perspective if their significant others were found to be exchanging bodily fluids with someone other than them. Selah….

    1. Exactly, Deacon. Too many are passing judgment from armchairs. It is almost as if they identify MORE with the adulterous spouse than the faithful one. Very sad.

  2. DM and Deacon, I agree that if this happened to them then they would view it differently! I had to face my ex today while he picked up his rather meager belongings from the house. All I saw was pure evil and I was repulsed by him. The most interesting thing was he acted as if we were going to be “good friends” now! I set him straight and I warned him that for his own good he had better wake up, stop his sinning and try to save his soul. He looked at me as if I had two purple heads! I couldn’t even imagine a priest or any true religious person suggesting I stay with someone as evil and deceitful as my ex! I would, however, suggest they could try living with him if they thought it was such a great idea!!!

    1. I commend you for your evangelism Roberta. I find it very hard if not impossible to be concerned for my ex’s soul or what remains of it, mother of my child and all. She stopped attending church about 8 months ago. I’m afraid I’m indifferent at best, but I consider it an improvement over my prior prayers for her demise, destruction, defeat, etc….

      1. Deacon B, I’m pretty sure his soul is but a shriveled, very rotten thing that Satan has in his grasp. I know his heart is empty. He is a shell of the person he used to be. He says he’s happy, but it’s obvious he is anything but! Really rather pitiful. He and I attended church together regularly but it appears he learned nothing except how to fill a pew!

  3. I know this post was written a while back but I just wanted to make a couple of comments. I don’t at all feel that you’ve encouraged the divorce issue lightly! You’ve given some great scripture and the truth of it to back it up.

    I’ve had a really good marriage for over 30 years with great adult kids now and the youngest now an older teen. Watching my sweet Godly husband going through something for months – I honestly wouldn’t have thought it was an affair. He’s been a really good husband, father and Christian man.

    Bring in some things in the last several months that have thrown him for a loop (I guess you could say).

    Through a series of texts – all work related – and the way he’d been acting, I caught him in a series of lies. He admitted that he lied about them all but insists that is his only crime. Telling the lies to cover another lie to cover another lie. He’s admitted that everything looks as if it could have been affair but has looked me in the face and sworn up and down that it wasn’t.

    In over 30 years of marriage I’ve never questioned him on anything like this and he knows it. He also knows that for months that I’ve been trying to encourage him and help him through whatever the heck he was going through. He and I weren’t going through anything bad or hard in our marriage. There were so many signs of a possible affair with someone he had worked with on some jobs. The lies to go with them. He swears this wasn’t the case.

    So, I’m left with the groveling and the repentance for the lies only. He has begged for forgiveness for all the lies and still insists their was no affair. I honestly still have doubts because I still don’t get the need for continual lies and he knows I feel this way. We talked so much through all of this and we went to counseling once.

    I will seriously consider divorce if it comes out that the affair happened. I will tell you why. I’m at the point now where I’m waiting for the next thing to happen or come out while moving on with my life, taking care of my teen son, running my home and relying on God for wisdom and strength daily!

    How can I honestly trust him again after all the lies? I will also say that in the midst of all of our conversations that he said two things that really told me something was up. One was in the midst of us arguing over the whole thing and I’m thinking he honestly thought I was going to throw him out of the house (which I had not mentioned at all) and he said…”If you’d been smart, you would have waited until I was finished remodeling”….We are remodeling and that came out. The second was absolutely the weirdest – sickest thing I have EVER heard come out of his mouth. You need to understand – he is normally a very level headed – wise – discerning person. All of that flew right out the window in the midst of all of this. Another huge indicator for me.

    The analogy was the story of a man and woman who went to the doctor and the doctor told the man that he had a venereal disease. The wife left him because she realized the husband had to have an affair. The doctors office called back later and said there records were wrong and he didn’t have one.

    My husband was like “See how easily things can get thought of wrong”? I was like…Where the heck did that analogy come from? Do you think I might have a venereal disease? He laughed and said no of course and he didn’t know where that came from. I haven’t been tested yet but am seriously considering it. He didn’t want me to share that analogy with our counselor and I almost did but he was about to have a major panic attic when I started talking about a weird analogy he told me and I left it at that.

    I honestly feel like I’ve lived with an alien and Don’t know how it will end up.I’m still waiting to find out.

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