Summary: Jesus gives us insight into the heart of God, revealing how to save relationships that are faltering and how to avoid the trap of divorce. Learn how God truly envisioned marriage and learn about keeping commitments. Also learn how to avoid legalism.
A very recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau states that today in the United States, more people than ever are deciding against the idea of getting married. 4.3 million couples are instead living together without the commitment of a marriage vow. The most often cited reasons? Because failed prior relationships have made them wary of marriage – and likely to keep their finances separate.
Another recent study, this one by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 70 percent of those who live together end up getting married – but those marriages are also more likely to end in divorce. After 10 years, 40% of those who lived together and got married ended up divorced, compared with 31% of those who did not live together first.
This study went on to list the risk factors associated with staying married. In addition to not living together, the study cited age – over 20 you are less likely to divorce, Education – college education made couples more likely to stay together, income – higher income means fewer divorces, and being religious.
Half of U.S. women will have lived with a partner outside of marriage by the time they turn 30.
What’s the real reason that living together leads to more divorce? Catherine Cohan, assistant professor of human development and family studies at Penn State University is this: "Many people enter a cohabiting relationship where the deal is, ‘If this doesn’t work out, we can split up and it’s no big loss because we don’t have a legal commitment. The commitment is tenuous, and that tenuous commitment might carry over into marriage."
In reality – no matter what "factors" you study – it is the tenuousness of the commitment that finally does a marriage in. Now, if you haven’t guessed by now the subject of today’s study is on marriage and divorce. It won’t be an exhaustive study – there simply isn’t time for that this morning. But what I want to look at is the attitude of some who came to Jesus wanting Him to in a sense "bless" the idea of the tenuous commitment of marriage. As usual, Jesus will turn things around as He gives His opinion on the subject of divorce – and what that says to us about marriage and relationships in general.
1 When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. 2 Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.
Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem – to the cross. The three years of ministry is almost over. No more traveling back and forth across the country – Jesus is now making His way for the last time to Jerusalem. As He goes south He crosses the Jordan River into what is modern day Jordan to an area near the town of Madaba – which dates back some 5,000 years so it’s likely it was occupied in some way when Jesus was there.
Jesus had been here before in the area of Perea. John the Baptist performed his ministry here as well – so it’s no wonder that large crowds followed Him. Wherever He goes, though, Jesus always does the same thing – He heals.
I want you to keep that in mind as we go through this next section because it is key to understanding God’s point of view when it comes to relationships and commitment.
3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?"
Just as today – divorce was also a hot topic. Just as today there were two competing schools of thought. Now – they didn’t have people living together then – the culture just wouldn’t allow it, but the idea of a tenuous commitment made it just about as easy – in fact easier – it gave men the ability to appear to be righteous by being married – yet divorce whenever they wanted. Here’s a little background.
The whole debate about divorce comes from Moses’ statement in Deuteronomy 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, gives it to her and sends her from his house
The debate about divorce centered on two words "something indecent." The two opposing views came from two rabbis: Rabbi Hillel and Rabbi Shammai. Rabbi Hillel said a man could give his wife a "certificate of divorce" for almost any reason, even finding another woman more attractive than his wife; "something indecent" could refer to anything that "displeased" him. Rabbi Shammai believed that a man could divorce his wife only if she had been unfaithful to him; that is, "something indecent" referred to adultery.