Summary: Divorce is one of the most devastating things a person may have to endure in this life. It's destruction is rampant, and it is growing. Jesus has a message of hope and healing, but are we as a church delivering that message?
Handling the Subject
I’m not sure how to approach this subject. It is something that is very personal to me and may be to many of you. Yet, it is something that is rarely dealt with properly, if at all.
It’s a nasty little word, isn’t it. We don’t talk about it much anymore. Yet, when we do, what do we usually say? The first question that comes to many is, “What was the cause?” We look for a reason for the divorce to make sure that it is “scriptural”.
Matthew 19:9 says, “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” That’s pretty black and white, right? It’s clear!
So, if adultery is the cause, we look to the adulterer with a scowl on our face, shaking our heads, and declare the need for the person to repent. Then we turn to the innocent party, almost with a smile on our face, and virtually say to them, “It’s no big deal. You can remarry!”
Really? No big deal?
Forget the fact that they vowed in sickness and health till death. Forget that they’ve invested years of labor into a now defunct marriage. Forget that every dream and hope they’ve had has been vanquished. Forget that they’ve been violated in the most intimate way a person can be!
“You can remarry!” Ask me how consoling that would have been while going through my divorce.
And, heaven forbid, someone come to us who has divorced for a different cause than adultery. We stand ready to “contend for the faith”, and shun and shame that person whose life is already shaken to the core.
Now I can’t debate the fact that there is one proper cause for divorce. That is clear in the scripture. But, if you truly believe that pornography and adultery does not exist in an abusive home, you are sadly mistaken.
The Approach of Christ
That aside, there is a difference between the administration of law and the application of grace.
In John 8, the scribes and Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman who was “caught in the very act” of adultery. They reminded Jesus of the administration of the law that demanded both she and the man be put to death. “If there is a man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, one who commits adultery with his friend’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death” (Leviticus 20:10). “If a man is found lying with a married woman, then both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman; thus you shall purge evil from Israel” (Deuteronomy 22:22).
That was the administration of law.
But, what did Jesus say? “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to cast a stone at her…I do not condemn you. Go and sin no more” (John 8:7,11).
That is the application of grace.
We stand ready to proclaim one scriptural reason for divorce. We shout almost gleefully “God hates divorce” (Malachi 2:16). But, we forget it is the act of divorce God hates, not the people. We rarely define the reasons God hates divorce.