Summary: We divorce-proof our marriages when we stop looking for loopholes (or reasons to separate). Instead, we must look to the Lord, committing our selves first to Him then to our mates.
Gary Thomas, in his book, Sacred Marriage, tells the story of a businessman who moved over slightly as a young man crowded into the airplane seat next to him. They both fastened their seat belts, and the businessman good-naturedly asked as to whether the young man was traveling on business or pleasure.
“Pleasure,” the young man replied. “I’m on my honeymoon.”
“Your honeymoon?” the businessman asked, mystified. “Where’s your wife?”
“Oh, she’s a few rows back. The plane was full, so we couldn’t get seats together.”
The plane hadn’t started rolling yet, so the businessman said, “I’d be happy to change seats with her so that the two of you can be together.”
“That’s okay,” the young man replied. “I’ve been talking to her all week.” (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, Zondervan, 2000, p. 154; www.PreachingToday.com)
Wow! That man is already tired of his wife. I doubt that his marriage lasted very long, but the sad fact is most marriages don’t last.
A 2007 survey by the U. S. Census Bureau suggests that a couple’s odds of reaching their 25th anniversary are below fifty percent. Divorce rates are up, and the percentage of Americans who marry only once is down. In 1996, 69 percent of men and 76 percent of women had married only once; in 2007, those figures had dropped to 54 percent and 58 percent respectively. (“If You’ve Been Married 25 Years, You’re in the Minority,” Houston Chronicle, 09-19-07; www.PreachingToday.com)
Now, I’m not here to pile on the guilt if you’ve gone through the pain of a divorce. I just want to acknowledge that there are a lot of pressures on couples today to spit up.
Even so, there is a way to divorce proof your marriage, whether it’s your first or second marriage. Despite the increased pressures in today’s culture, your marriage can last a lifetime, and the Bible shows us how.
You see, Mark wrote his Gospel to an audience much like our own today. He was writing to a Roman audience, who faced the same kind of increased pressures on their marriages that we face.
Now, for the first 520 years of the Roman Republic, there had not been a single recorded divorce. But under the Empire, the time of Christ and beyond, divorce was a matter of impulse. Seneca wrote: “Women were married to be divorced and divorced to be married.” In Rome, the years were identified by the names of the counsels, but it was said that fashionable ladies identified the years by the names of their husbands. Juvenal describes an instance of a woman who had eight husbands in five years. (William Barclay, Commentary on 1 Thessalonians, p.199)
Now, how can any marriage last in a society like that? Well, the Gospel of Mark shows us how where it records Jesus’ comments on divorce.
Mark 10:1 Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them. (NIV)
Jesus is teaching in Herod Antipas’ territory. According to Mark 6, he was the one who had married his brother, Philip’s, wife. She had divorced Philip to marry Antipas, and John the Baptist told Herod that what he had done was unlawful. Next we hear that John the Baptist is arrested and Herodias asks for his head on a platter.
Let me tell you, preachers learned real quick not to talk about divorce around Herod and Herodias, i.e., if they wanted to keep their heads. The Pharisees knew this, so guess what subject they ask Jesus about before crowds of people in Herod Antipas’ territory. You got it – divorce.
Mark 10:2 Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” (NIV)
They’re not really interested in an answer. They just want Jesus to say something that will get Him killed like John the Baptist. So Jesus has to be very careful with His answer.
Mark 10:3 “What did Moses command you?” he replied. (NIV)
Jesus answers their question with a question.
Mark 10:4 They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” (NIV)
The Pharisees thought they had found a loophole in the law. Actually, the passage in Deuteronomy prohibits a man to remarry his first wife after he has written her a “certificate of divorce” and she marries again. If her second husband would die, the first husband can’t have her back (Deuteronomy 24:1-4).
The Law didn’t permit divorce. It just acknowledged that divorce was taking place and set some boundaries around it. It was actually designed to protect the wife from unscrupulous and abusive husbands.