Since the home is basic to society and marriage is basic to the home, it is clear that the accepted view of marriage affects the well-being of society as a whole. Where marriage is basically unstable, the whole structure of society must of necessity be to some extent unstable. It is widely assumed that marriage is merely a matter of social convenience and the proper ordering of society. It has therefore tended to be accepted that, since marriage is entered by mutual agreement according to the laws of the state, it should also be broken quite simply by mutual agreement within the regulating principles of the state.
This loose concept of marriage is no novelty, but may be paralleled, not only throughout the world, but across the centuries. However, the Christian teaching is that marriage is a divine ordinance and not merely a social convenience to be regulated by the state. This teaching has always stood in marked contrast to the common view.
Yet within Christian teaching there have been areas where the issues have not been clear-cut. Thus, while it has been quite clear that marriage is to be seen as in principle indissoluble, it has not been clear whether "indissoluble" should be taken as meaning "cannot be dissolved" or "ought not be dissolved" – whether the marriage bond may in fact be considered to have been broken in certain circumstances.
Obviously, the teaching of our Lord and of the New Testament as a whole on this subject is of considerable importance. The pattern here must follow that which motivated our Lord's teaching on this subject – viz. divorce is to be seen in the light of the true nature of marriage. Only in this way can divorce be kept in perspective.
© Peter J. Blackburn 1965, 1999