Ethos Education

What We Did on our Holiday: What do Christians believe about divorce?

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Learning Objectives:

  • Understanding of different Christian views on divorce and remarriage.
  • Consideration of why some marriages succeed and others fail.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Reflect on choosing between less-than-ideal alternatives.
  • Analyse a film clip to identify some causes and consequences of marital problems.
  • Analyse Bible passages to discover Jesus’ teaching on the subject of divorce.
  • Reflect upon the positions of different Christian denominations concerning divorce.
  • Analyse Bible passages to determine a Christian understanding of love.
  • Analyse Bible passages to determine possible advice for couples, and to understand the marks of a distinctly Christian approach to marriage.
  • Reflect upon the significance of the marriage vows when a relationship is in difficulty.
  • Synthesise learning by writing a letter of advice to someone considering a divorce.

STARTER:

Ask the students to choose between a selection of unpleasant options. Would they prefer:

  • To lose an arm or to lose a leg.
  • To have an ordinary detention every day for a week, or to only have one detention but have to spend it unblocking clogged toilets.
  • To have to listen to their least favourite music for an hour, or to wrestle a wild dog.
  • To have bad body odour or to have bad facial acne (if either of these actually apply to any of your students, you might want to omit this choice).
  • To have someone steal your mobile phone, or to be beaten up.

Explain that sometimes in life we are forced to make choices where none of our options are good. In this lesson you are going to be thinking about Christian attitudes towards marriage and divorce and asking whether couples considering divorce are in the position of choosing between less-than-ideal options.

MAIN ACTIVITIES:

Introduce the first clip from the film What We Did on our Holiday (Lionsgate, 2014, certificate 12). Click here to buy the DVD online.

Explain that Doug (David Tennant) and Abi (Rosamund Pike) are a married couple who are separated, but are pretending to still be together while at a family celebration for Doug’s father’s birthday. In this scene they are getting ready for the long car journey up to Scotland. Ask the students to pay particular attention to the explanations that they give to their children concerning their marriage.

  • Start time:        0.02.49 (in chapter 1 of the DVD)
  • End time:         0.07.57
  • Clip length:      5 minutes and 8 seconds

The clip starts with Doug saying, ‘I’m sorry darling, we can’t take Norman to Scotland.’ The clip ends with Doug doing up Mickey’s (Bobby Smalldridge) shoes in a service station toilet, and Mickey saying, ‘These are a bit tight.

Ask the students why Doug and Abi are pretending that everything is fine in their relationship? For whose benefit is the pretence? What reasons do they each give to explain their separation?

Point out that in the clip the only reason for hiding the fact that they are divorcing is to avoid upsetting Doug’s father on his birthday. However, there was once a time when divorce was considered to be a source of great shame and scandal. Today, divorces are more common and are generally accepted as a fact of life. Ask the students what they think a Christian perspective on divorce might be.

Ask the students, in pairs or small groups, to look up the following Bible passages which show Jesus’ teaching on the subject of divorce. The students should summarise Jesus’ teaching, and then discuss in their small groups the extent to which the comments in the two passages agree with each other, or seem to contradict each other.

  • Matthew 5:31-32 (parallel passage which could be used as an alternative: Luke 16:18).
  • Matthew 19:1-12 (parallel passage which could be used as an alternative: Mark 10:1-12).

Take feedback from the students, and draw out that while Jesus seems to recognise that sometimes marriages come to an end and divorce is necessary, he also seems to regard this as a serious matter, and something not to be entered into lightly. Ask if any of the students were surprised by Jesus’ views on divorce.

You might also like to refer students to the following summary of the different positions on the subject of divorce taken by different denominations. If you have Internet access during the lesson, refer students to www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/ritesrituals/divorce_1.shtml.

Read 1 John 4:7-21 with the students. Explain that John is not writing specifically about married love, or even romantic love. Nevertheless, his observations about the nature of love are still applicable to this discussion. Ask the students to identify what John regards as the prime example of love (v10). Ask them what implications his instruction for people to follow that example might have if applied to a marriage (draw out that John instructs people to love sacrificially, putting others ahead of themselves: a good quality to bring to a marriage relationship).

You could also refer students to Ephesians 5:21-33 which is more specifically about marriage. Emphasise that this letter includes the same emphasis on sacrificial love which is modelled on the example of Jesus’ love.

Now ask the students to consider the advice the Bible gives to couples. Explain that whilst there are some specific passages about marriage in the Bible, Christians also seek to apply biblical principles on relationships in general to their marriages.

Hand out the Bible Quotes About Relationships worksheet.

Ask students to read the Bible passages and to complete the following tasks:

  • Highlight verses that contain advice that you think might be helpful to Doug and Abi.
  • Select one Bible passage for reading at a wedding. Be prepared to explain your choice.

Elicit feedback reflecting on the impact these verses would have on a marriage relationship if applied by both partners.

If you have Internet access during the lesson, direct the students to the text of the Church of England wedding service which is available online at www.cofe.anglican.org/worship/liturgy/commonworship/texts/marriage/marriage.html. If Internet access is not possible, you could print out the wedding service from the site in advance of the lesson and distribute copies to the students.

How would having made vows like this provide someone with additional reasons for working to avoid a break up? What difference might a Christian faith make in the attitude that someone took to keeping these vows?

Explain that whilst words are often considered cheap in our society, Christians believe that their words matter, especially promises made in the presence of God.

SUMMARY AND ASSESSMENT OF LEARNING:

Ask the students to write letters to Doug and/or Abi from a close friend who is a Christian. The letter should respond to a request for advice on what to do about their marriage, and should reflect a Christian perspective on marriage and divorce.

YOU WILL NEED:

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