The 50/50 Divorce Rate and the Christian Example

Note: I spoke about this post (originally at For Christ and Culture) with Dr. Barry Creamer on 90.9 KCBI in Dallas. Listen HERE.

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marriageIt has long been stated that 50% of marriages in America lead to divorce. If you ask most Americans how many marriages they believe end in divorce, they would probably point to this number. I’ve heard it all my life and it shaped my views on marriage early in life. When my parents divorced in my mid-teens, I remember thinking, “If two people don’t get along, divorce is a normal outcome. It makes sense.” In fact, I was pro-divorce in the case of my parents. As I grew older and learned much more about the biblical truths regarding marriage, I still never really doubted the statistic and have even quoted it in sermons and conversations more than once.

Encouraging Statistics?

Recently, Dr. Kalman Heller posited that his studies shed a more accurate light on divorce rates in America. He notes that various demographics apply and using specifically broad numbers is mostly unhelpful, but I do like the generalization that he is willing to make:

Rather than viewing marriage as a 50-50 shot in the dark, it can be viewed as having a 70 percent likelihood of succeeding.

Again, throwing around a 70% success rate does not do justice to the raw numbers, but what if marriage in America is not lost? Dr. Heller interestingly points out that divorce rates in first marriages particularly have overall decreased since the ‘70s. This is encouraging and should spur us on toward resiliency in support of marriage rather than lamenting at the seeming decline of lasting covenants.

(By the way, Kirk Spencer did a fine job addressing this topic last summer with more detailed statistics and Ed Stetzer has some helpful thoughts here.)

Christian: Play Your Part

There has been a significant amount of discussion, and dare I say venom, in evangelicalism regarding laws endorsing homosexual partnership and a diversion from traditional marriage. Indeed, the Bible is entirely clear on God’s one woman/one man design for marriage. However, where Christians often lack proper gumption is promoting the beauty of God’s intention.

In today’s culture, marriage is defined several different ways with many people not possessing a solid stance on what the marriage relationship should objectively be. Christians have the unique advantage and calling to shed light on the truth of marriage. God joyfully placed man and woman together (Gen. 2:20-25) and gave them specific roles that mirror Christ and the Church (Eph. 5:22-32). These two texts alone give us great confidence in our own marriages and counseling others’ marriages.

In a confused culture, here are two very basic ways that we can play our part in an attempt to improve the statistics and to present a commendable view of marriage:

  1. Be a biblical example – Scripture has much to say about man and wife complementing one another, serving one another, praying for one another, and being faithful to one another (Eph. 5:22-32; 1 Pet. 3:1-7; Titus 2:1-6; Col. 3:18-19). We should honor God in word and deed via our marriages so that others (children, family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, church members) might see what marriage is supposed to be.
  2. Refrain from hate speech – There is always a time and place to stand on biblical truth, but Christians have a tendency to let their passion for marriage paint a false picture of grace and mercy. We should certainly spend much more time demonstrating true marriage than railing against homosexuals, teen moms, and others who do not fit the conservative Christian checklist for marriage. It might be more helpful to love others with patience as God does with us (Rom. 2:4) and show them truth in your own marriage and life.