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Question 62.

Is divorce considered a sin Father?


Answer to Question 62.


If we go back to our grandparent’s generation we see that divorce was a rare occurrence, it was unthinkable and scandalous for a woman to leave her husband even if the marriage had reached a point where communication between the couple was unbearably painful. With our parents generation, the swinging sixties and seventies, divorces started to increase, especially so in western societies where economical help and social support was available for single and divorced parents. Today divorce amongst couples has become so common that we can liken it to an epidemic spreading and destroying marriages. The reason of course is not marriage which has been around as long as man, but society which has changed the fundamental laws and people’s ideas and expectations of marriage. People in general do not understand the true meaning of marriage thinking that it’s a license for legitimate sexual relations and a way to fulfil their bodily passions. For many it is also a viable way to progress up the social ladder and with two incomes it is easier to be financially stable.

But what then is marriage, what is the Orthodox teaching on marriage? During the joining of man and woman in the Sacrament of marriage, a mystery of the union of two opposite sexes takes place as if they are blended into one living being, one body. And they are one body if we remember that Eve was taken out of Adam. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh. Adam could not be fulfilled in life without his part that was taken out of him. Marriage then is the re-union of Adam, the joining of the two halves into one. Marriage was instituted by God in the Garden of Eden before the fall when Adam and Eve were still innocent and immortal, thus the Lord intended that marriage should be everlasting and indissoluble.

As we know from the Bible, the later disobedience to God and the fall of our first parents brought corruption into human nature: evil and death entered into the world and all aspects of human life went astray from their original form and purpose.  If we take a look at marriage and family life in the Old Testament, we are immediately aware of the fact that great emphasis was placed on the multiplication and continuation of the Hebrew race. But this continuation was not restricted to childbirth in marriage or to one wife. There was the custom of the man coming together with his wife’s concubine and the practice of a man marrying his brother’s widow even though he already had a wife. Polygamy was socially accepted. Marriage in the Old Testament was considered as a temporal contract, which could be dissolved at any time. 

With the coming of Christ, marriage no longer had as its primary goal the reproduction of human beings and the continuation of the family line, although procreation was still regarded as an important part of marriage. But Christ had come to the world and brought with Him the proof and guarantee of the resurrection of the dead, therefore giving to Christian marriage a new primary goal - the attainment of eternal life by husband, wife, and all children. The Lord Jesus Christ, Who came to earth to restore the Divine moral foundation to human society, concerned himself also with restoring the marital union. By His presence at the marriage at Cana in Galilee the Lord blessed and sanctified the marriage and performed his first miracle there. The change of water into wine points to a transfiguration of the old into the new, a passage from death to life. Later, the Lord made clear to the Jews the true significance of marriage. Referring to the Scriptures regarding the union between man and woman, the Lord reinforced the principle of indissoluble marriage in definite terms: “Wherefore they (man and woman) are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”

When the Sadducees questioned Christ saying: “Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He said unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” (Matthew 19:3-9). In other words, a person entering marriage is required to remain in it. The breaking of marital fidelity is disobeying God's will and, therefore, a grievous sin.

 The New Testament and especially the Epistles of St. Paul give the true teaching on what marriage should be and the recipe for a strong and happy marriage. Divorce then according to Christ’s very own words should only be acceptable if infidelity is the cause of the marriage breakdown. But the Church accepts to dissolve a marriage for other reasons as well especially when violence is involved and life is in danger, or when the couple has lost all respect for each other that verbal abuse is the only communication in the household. In cases such as these the church feels that divorce is the better of two evils.