Does the Bible say that divorce is permitted on the ground of sexual immorality (which includes adultery, infidelity, or unfaithfulness)? Can a woman or man who has been the victim of an adulterous spouse divorce? Is it a sin to divorce a spouse over a case of adultery?
Whenever a spouse is unfaithful, it can literally rip the heart out of the other spouse. Nothing can feel so terrible as the feeling of being betrayed by your spouse–the one person you are supposed to trust more than anyone in the world. In the Bible, God says that once a man and a woman marry, they become one flesh.
Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
It also says what God puts together, let no man tear apart.
Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
A marriage is a beautiful bond, and the husband and wife should rely on each other at all times. As King Solomon wrote,
“When one falls down, the other can pick you back up.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9)
Where In the Bible Does It Say Divorce is Okay for Adultery or Unfaithfulness?
Jesus himself taught that:
But I say to you, any man who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 5:31)
In this statement, Jesus Christ makes it very clear that there is a valid reason before the eyes of God to get a divorce: Adultery or Sexual Immorality. He says that “except for sexual immorality,” meaning that one can divorce in the event of sexual immorality in a marriage.
What does this mean? This means that it would be an acceptable reason to divorce in the eyes of God. So let me give an example: Say that a man (Bob) was married to a woman (Sue). The man cheated on his wife with another woman (Jenny). The woman (Sue) has appropriate grounds to file for a divorce from Bob if she wishes. She is free to go on with her life, and potentially even re-marry, or choose to remain single. By divorcing Bob, Sue is committing no wrong or no sin. The Bible clearly says this in the verse above, and in this situation Sue was wronged by Bob, and is not obligated to remain with him.
Sexual immorality, which includes adultery, fornication, bestiality, homosexuality, or any other wrong or inappropriate sexual activity–is possible grounds for a divorce in the eyes of God.
The act of sexual immorality breaks the bond of the covenant and the vows between the man and woman. Just like in death, a woman or man is free to move on and re-marry in the Bible because the marriage bond is over, so it is also in the case of sexual immorality. The three grounds given in the New Testament for ending a marriage Biblically are: Death, sexual immorality, or the leaving of an unbelieving spouse.
Does This Mean Divorce Is a Requirement in Adultery Cases?
It is important to understand that in the case of adultery, a spouse is not REQUIRED to divorce. They just have that option available, and if they choose divorce in that case, it isn’t a sin. In other words, they can choose to remain with their spouse and forgive the one who cheated on them if they desire to do so, but they also have the option to also divorce them and move on and there is no sin in it.
So let’s say Bob cheated on Sue, and it was a really rare circumstance, and Bob really isn’t the cheating type. Bob feels terrible, and truly is sorry. Bob repents to God, and apologizes to his wife. Sue sees Bob is sorry, and chooses to forgive Bob and remain married to him.
That would be perfectly fine as well. In fact, in some cases this may be the better option. If Sue is happy to forgive Bob, and still feels fine living with him, they are free to do so. Again, Bob really must repent, never do this again, and be truly sorry. We should try to restore relationships and reconcile when possible.
In cases where there are children involved, and the couples (both Sue and Bob) want to remain together, this may be the best option. Again, this is only good if Bob turns away from this sin, and bears fruit in keeping with repentance. It is sad to say that some people who commit adultery are only sorry they got caught, and they aren’t genuinely sorry for what they did.
Again, if Bob is a no-good scum bag who just wants to go around sleeping with any woman he can, obviously Sue may decide to divorce him and move on as soon as possible. It would be unfair for Sue to have to live with someone who does not honor their marriage vows. If Bob is a liar, and pretends to be sorry, yet continues flirting with girls, cheating, looking at pornography, etc, then Sue certainly doesn’t have to put up with that. God would never want a woman (or man) to feel unwanted and disrespected like that. God has called us to peace.
Each marriage is different, so it is hard to analyze one situation, as everyone’s marriage is different and must be looked at individually with prayer and guidance.
It is important to keep in mind that divorce is really a difficult thing for people to go through. Finances get stripped in half, families are torn apart, and there is a significant amount of money, stress, and pain involved with a divorce. When children are involved, it is even worse.
Some children are scarred for life by the divorce of their parents. Spouses usually end up bickering over visitation rights, child support, and more. Sadly, the children are the ones who usually suffer the most during all of this.
So the best thing is for both spouses to have a strong faith in God in the beginning, and hold tightly to this faith throughout their lives.
What is the Easiest Way to Prevent a Divorce?
The easiest way to prevent a divorce is to never commit adultery or any other sin against the other spouse to begin with. God must be the foundation for every marriage. If a marriage isn’t founded on Biblical principles, the chances are that marriage will eventually end in divorce.
If both spouses truly love each other, truly care for each other, and avoid all sins or sexual immorality, then chances are the marriage will last until death.
This is easier said than done, because we are dealing with two individuals in a marriage. One may do good, and the other may choose to sin. But if both follow God’s word, then they have a great chance of having a life-long successful marriage.
Is Christ in the center of your marriage? Are you obedient to the Lord? Have you accepted Christ as your savior? If not, I urge you to place your faith and trust in Christ today, and receive forgiveness for your sins.