Divorce and reconciliation : an ethical-pastoral study
De Oliveira, Marilda Aparecida
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Since biblical times the stability of marriage has been challenged in numerous ways. As an institution ordained by God it was meant to be a permanent union. However, human beings have found numerous reasons for violating this most sacred union. In modern times divorce has become the norm rather than the exception. Reconciliation is rarely contemplated even by devout Christians. The objective of this study is to research a practice-directed biblical concept of marriage, divorce and reconciliation, which could serve as preventative and curative measures for ill and broken marriages. The point of departure in this study is that marriage is part of God's creation order and that the Bible contains important principles that regulate the conduct of husbands and wives within this context. In it can be found the meaning, the purpose of marriage and the roles and responsibilities of each of the spouses. According to the Scripture marriage is an indissoluble bond which cannot be broken at will by people. The Bible explicitly condemns divorce, as it is a violation of God's perfect plan for mankind. Regarding the grounds for divorce there has been an intense debate on the exact meaning of Christ's words on this matter. The ensuing polemic, as revealed in the literature, aims at finding solutions for this ever-growing problem in society today. Nevertheless, the Bible is clear with regard to divorce, as guidance in form of commands is given. When Christians, in their rebellion against and disobedience to God's words divorce their spouses, reconciliation is God's way to rectify the situation. Reconciliation originated in the heart of God and is a theme that runs throughout the Scripture. People are often commanded and encouraged to reconcile with God and with one another. Although reconciliation is accomplished and offered by Christ to all mankind, for it to become a reality in one's life certain requirements need to be met. In order for spouses and estranged people to reconcile it is imperative that a believer first be reconciled with God. The horizontal reconciliation process can be facilitated, inter alia, by Christian counselling which forms the main thrust of the present investigation. The methodology employed in this research rests on three pillars, namely, an extensive survey of the relevant literature, exegeses of crucial Bible texts and terms, and an empirical study done by means of questionnaires. The literature survey revealed that among scholars there is a wide divergence of interpretations on how and when Christians may divorce without breaking God's commandments and how reconciliation can be established. Careful exegesis brought insight into the meaning of important terms and texts. The results of the empirical research indicated striking deficiencies in the counselling ministries of the churches. This led to the conclusion that biblically based counselling can help to restore ruptured relationships and prevent divorces. With this in mind, programmed counselling guidelines were developed.
- Theology