Is Porn Use Grounds for Divorce: Part 2

This post is a continuation from last week's excellent article by Moana Leenders.

Porneia

Jesus says, in Matthew 5:32, and 19:9, “I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality [porneia], makes her commit adultery [moicheia].” Matthew's, recording of Jesus’ teaching uses the Greek word porneia, a broad term for sexual sin, then the more specific moicheia, showing distinction between the two. In the earlier verses Jesus includes the sin of lust [epithumeō]  as breaking the seventh commandment. Persistent pornography use is an indulgence in lust. Porneia is any violation of God's intentions for lasting, faithful ‘one flesh’ union. “When a spouse breaks the marriage covenant through sexual sin—porneia—there are biblical grounds for divorce. Divorce is not, of course, required in such cases, but it is permissible.”

Is marriage an unbreakable covenant?

Covenants can be broken. We don’t protect marriage by avoiding divorce at all costs. Esteeming marriage highly means we will act when one spouse has broken the marriage vows. A pattern of viewing pornography shatters the sacred union of the marriage covenant.    

Throughout the Old Testament God describes his relationship with his people in terms of a marriage, especially its dissolution when Israel rejected him and turned to other gods. God freely gives his love, but he wants us to return his love; God promises his unfailing faithfulness, but he seeks faithfulness in return (Deut 6:5).  “Because of your transgressions you were put away”(Isaiah 50:1). God broke the relationship as a consequence of Israel’s sin; “I abandoned you, I hid my face from you”  (Isaiah 54:7-8). God is faithful and maintains covenant with those who love him, but punishes those who reject him (Deut 7:9-11, 19).

God does not ignore unfaithfulness, neglect and rebellion. God divorced Israel when the nation audaciously violated the loyalty and trust given by God, “For all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce” (Jer 3:8).  In Jeremiah 3:13 God describes Israel’s rebellion as a “scattering of your favours among strangers under every green tree,” eerily describing the pornography user lusting whenever, wherever, after whomever.  

God grieves over marital unfaithfulness. When a husband is addicted to pornography both the marriage covenant and his wife are being violated and dishonoured by his sin. God is witness to unfaithfulness and disregards the worship of an unfaithful husband (Mal 2:13, 16). God hates unfaithfulness, and divorce or separation is the consequence of that sin, (Ps 78).

Unfaithfulness—through repeated, constant pornography—use demands consequences.

The husband has ‘divorced’ his wife in his unfaithfulness. God sees this injustice and violence against one of his beloved daughters (Mal 2:16). God sees through ‘lip service’ and looks at the heart; God acts on behalf of the needy and cuts off those ‘alert to do evil’ (Isaiah 29:13-21). God does not value the external appearance of marriage above purity and truth.

If a wife needs to leave her husband as a consequence for his unfaithfulness she is not breaking the covenant: the marriage covenant has been broken through his actions. Ignoring or minimising sin, giving hasty forgiveness, will not restore a marriage. God demands faithfulness, and wives can do the same. God wants purity of the heart not the appearance of purity. Keeping up appearances, or ignoring the effects, can not bring repentance or restitution.  

God divorces unfaithful Israel

God divorced unfaithful Israel for the sake of his name, for the honour of his covenant (Jer 3:8). God could not ignore their sin; his character demands that he maintain truth, justice and righteousness. God rejected Israel for the sake of his holiness. Divorce, likewise, is an aggressive action to maintain the honour of the marriage covenant when it has been abused. Heed the words of Jeremiah 7:4, “Do not trust in these deceptive words, This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.” Unfaithful spouse—do not come home and say, “You are my wife. You are my wife. You are my wife” (Jer 7:4). Do not deceive yourself, your unfaithfulness has made a lie of your marriage. Your sin has forfeited you the right to call her your wife. “What right has my beloved in my house when he has done vile deeds?” (Jer 11:15). There are serious, life-changing consequences for unfaithfulness (Jer 11: 11,14). Accepting separation and/or divorce recognizes that the marriage is not as God intended.  

Let us strive to be a Christian community that treats marriage with respect and honours it as a lifelong commitment, but may we also reach out to protect the vulnerable and mistreated.

The existence of a spouse’s secret life—one they go to great lengths to hide—is an indicator that their marriage is not a reflection of Christ’s relationship with his bride, the church (Eph 5:25). When a husband is a persistant, long term user, or addicted to pornography, his attitude to his spouse is more likely typified by degradation, arrogance, and insistence she meet his selfish demands, rather than kindness, humility, compassion and sacrificial love (1 Cor 13).

Churches need to be able to have robust theological conversations about sexual immorality. Pornography users cannot abuse marriage, or their wife, with impunity. Unrepentant, persistent pornography use breaks the seventh commandment, as it is sexual unfaithfulness to the marriage. When a husband is going elsewhere to satisfy his desire and feed his lust he has effectively abandoned the marriage. Supporting separation and divorce when the marriage has been broken from pornography use, protects the institution of marriage by allowing the innocent party to leave. Separation and divorce are a justified response and consequence to pornography addiction. It is protecting the vulnerable and wounded, and formally acknowledging the sin that ended that marriage.  


Moana Leenders desires to be a friend to sufferers and to share trauma-informed pastoral care.


This article was written by:
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Lisa Taylor

Lisa is a PSA trauma survivor, counselor and award-winning author living with her kids & recovering husband in New Zealand. She runs groups and sees international clients via Naked Truth Recovery.
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