John Piper and Divorce

March 1, 2010 § 4 Comments

A little over a month ago I was reading the Desiring God Blog and I came across some articles on John Piper’s beliefs on divorce and remarriage (here’s one of them). I hadn’t ever heard him speak on it before, and his beliefs were unlike any others I was familiar with.

Generally, Christians I know tend to believe that the only acceptable ground for divorce is sexual immorality (adultery), as is mentioned in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9. However, Piper’s beliefs about it are not like most others that I know of. My understanding of them is this:

Marriage is intended to reflect and represent the covenant between Christ and His bride (the church). This covenant is eternal. No matter how the church is unfaithful, and no matter how we turn from God or betray Him, it never ends. He never ceases to love us, to woo us, and to change us into His likeness so that we can fully enjoy Him in eternity. Jesus Christ remains faithful to the church, even in spite of our spiritual adultery.

Thus, it would be ideal if a man and a woman did the same thing. How does it reflect what Christ does for us if a man says to his wife, “You’ve been unfaithful to me, so now I end my covenant with you”? How does that fulfill the command for husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25)? After all, Jesus never leaves His bride.

As far as the two “exceptions” to this go, Piper believes that the Greek word “porneia,” translated as “immorality” in most translations, is actually most commonly understood to mean “fornication,” implying sexual immorality before marriage. An example of this would be Mary and Joesph: they were betrothed (legally pledged to be married), but had not consummated the marriage. Yet when Joesph believed she had been with another man, he was going to “divorce” her. Thus, Piper believes the divorce Jesus is speaking about in Matthew occurs before two people are officially joined in marriage.

Furthermore, Jesus says in regard to marriage that no man should separate what God has joined together (Matthew 19:6). And in 1 Corinthians, Paul says that the Lord commands that no woman should leave her husband (1 Corinthians 7:10). Moreover, if a man and a woman vow that only death will separate them, why is sexual immorality an exception to that vow? Why not say, “Until death or adultery do us part”?

Now, I understand the implications this has if it is true. I’ve lived in a divorced home for four years now, and I understand the pain of it all too well. I’ve witnessed the pain that abuse and unfaithfulness can bring about in a marriage, and I understand that there comes a point when things can get so hard, so painful, and so difficult that you just want out.

In spite of everything, though, John Piper’s views make more sense to me than anything I’ve ever come across before. If two people vow before the Lord to be committed to one another until death, why is adultery an exception?

As Christians, the purpose of everything we experience in life (including marriage) is sanctification–conformity to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). If Christ loves unconditionally, then we are to love unconditionally as well. In fact, following the command to love God, the second greatest commandment we’ve received is to love one another. And God even goes so far as to define true, unconditional love for us in 1 Corinthians 13 (love is kind, patient, does not seek its own interest, is not resentful, bears all things, etc.).

Is it truly reflecting the unconditional love of Christ to leave your spouse for any reason?

Do you believe there is ever Biblical grounds for divorce?

What do you guys think? I’d love some other input!

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§ 4 Responses to John Piper and Divorce

  • rachelnickels says:

    There were six comments by others on this blog, and they’ve suddenly disappeared! My apologies to those who left them!

  • Yeah, what’s up with that, right? I don’t know what’s up with it.

    -Marshall Jones Jr.

  • Ralph says:

    Touchy subject especially nowadays. I still stand by the fact that a man and woman should not be separated. But then again, I think if the marriage is maintained correctly, a couple can avoid the things that cause marriages to fall apart.

    I’ve never been married so I know that its easier said than done but with God all things are possible. Chuck Swindol also had a good sermon on this subject.

    Thought provoking post. Thanks for posting

  • Timothy Zila says:

    If Piper’s understanding is correct wouldn’t that also mean that we should never, under any circumstances, marry someone who’s had sex (whether they were married or not)?

    The usage of the word in question does seem to refer to sexual immorality before marriage, but I’m not sure that the term isn’t meant to be much broader than that. Just because we can accurately, in every instance, take it to refer to before marriage doesn’t it mean it can’t also refer, at least in some cases, to adultery.

    What do you think about this verse?

    Mark 10:11–12 (NAS) — 11 And He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; 12 and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery.”

    The implication seems to be that if a man divorces the women she’s probably going to have to get married again, if only for survival reasons, and he is thus effectively the cause of her adultery. I would think the Bible does permit divorce when adultery occurs once the couple is already married.

    You do, however, make excellent points about how couple’s should stay together. And Paul is adamant about couples staying together, even if the other is not a believer. I think it’s important to note, however, that he does allow for a unbelieving spouse to leave. If you’re married to someone else, and they are set on leaving, Paul effectively says “Let them go.”

    I also think there’s important questions to be answered in terms of abuse. I certainly don’t think a woman should stand by and be abused by her husband. The man should go to jail and they should, perhaps, get divorced. She certainly should not stand by and continue to be abused.

    What do you think?

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