We are, in a devotional way, studying:
Mt 5:31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.”
But … we cannot deal with divorce without dealing with marriage. One commentator said: “Often people come to a Christian counselor to talk about divorce because they are ignorant about marriage!” He goes onto say that “we don’t need a more enlightened approach to divorce … rather we need a stronger presentation of Biblical principles in marriage.” Consider how Mark reports Jesus words:
Mk 10:2 Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3 “What did Moses command you?” he replied. 4 They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” 5 “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. 6 “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ 7 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 8 and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” 10 When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. 11 He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. 12 And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”
There is no conflict between Matthew and Mark … Mark provides a fuller account of Jesus’ views on marriage and divorce whilst Matthew gets straight to the point.
1) Is divorce permitted in Christianity? This question is a hot potato. I want to state emphatically … no it is not. Yes it happens and it happens far too much and for the wrong reasons.
(1) Moses permitted divorce. Why did he permit divorce? Jesus says:
Mt 5:31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’”
Mk 10:2 Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3 “What did Moses command you?” he replied. 4 They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”
Jesus goes to the Law when He says … “It has been said …” and “What did Moses command you?” Jesus is referring to:
Dt 24:1 If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce
(a) Here we find the Old Testament divorce principle. Look at the text … “becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her.” The “something indecent” is sexual unfaithfulness … adultery. If the man could prove this then he had the right to issue the wife with a certificate of divorce.
(b) The problem in Jesus’ day is that the men abused this “principle” and divorced the wife for any reason. They over looked sexual unfaithfulness and targeted any reason to write a divorce certificate.
(c) The real issues was their hearts were hard. It’s the same today! The problem is not incompatibility or irreconcilable differences … the problem is sin … disobedience … a hard and unyielding heart filled with selfishness.
(d) I repeat what I have already written … divorce does not have to happen because of sexual indiscretion. Although it is an option, God would far prefer true confession of sin followed by repentance and forgiveness leading to reconciliation. If you are reading this Daily Note and your marriage is struggling for some reason, please seek Christian counseling. Confession, repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation is possible … unless the heart is filled with sin and self and rock heart … controlled by the devil!
(e) God joins the couple in holy marriage and makes them one. This is the most sacred union … the wife belonging to the husband and the husband belonging to the wife. The real and actual joining together in marriage is the consummation … the sexual act. God’s view is that the husband and wife are cemented together for life. This is why Jesus says … “what God has joined together, let man not separate.” Have you ever read:
Mal 2:16 “I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel
God is totally against the union created by Him in holy marriage being broken.
(f) How can Christians in particular do what God hates? How can they listen to the devil? How can one of them so selfishly think of self when God made them one?
2) Legitimate reason for divorce. Above I have tried to show that God prefers confession, repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation because that is Gospel … that is His method. He invites rebels and sinners to be forgiven through His Blood Sacrifice at Calvary. He wants people to be cemented to Him in Jesus just as He cements a man and a woman together in holy marriage. Having said this … there are times when marital unfaithfulness (adultery) is just too painful, emotional and hurtful for the offended spouse to forgive. Our Lord permits divorce in this situation … though I still believe that after a cooling down period and proper Biblical counseling, healing and reconciliation is possible. Far too many divorce and regret it years later. By this time it is mostly too late.
3) Marriage in God’s eyes is forever. True there is no marriage in heaven … but He sees marriage as forever on earth. Let’s see it like this … Jesus says in Mathew and Mark above “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery” and “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” We need to take our feelings, wants and needs out of the equation when we read these verses. Divorce for any reason other than adultery (and in our age I would add physical, sexual and emotional) is sinful. Even if the divorce occurs, God still sees the couple as married … this is why in most such cases … marriage, divorce and remarriage is seen by God as adultery.
O God, the Giver of the gift of marriage, mercifully help us who are married to prayerfully protect our marriages. Grant those intending to marry, to marry for the right reasons with a serious intention to work hard to honor You and each other by being faithful, loving, forgiving and caring. Amen.