Summary: - The painful reality of divorce is something we really don’t want to be reminded of. It’s been called the “hemorrhoids or cancer” of our relational life… but perhaps that is why we do need to hear God’s heart openly… because too many have been left with
Hearts have a way of changing over time… especially marital affections.
Last week we looked at how Jesus restored sanctity to our pursuit of marriage and family… this week I want to address more specifically the questions that may surround divorce and remarriage for those seeking to follow God.
Not an easy subject to address for several reasons:
- The painful reality of divorce is something we really don’t want to be reminded of. It’s been called the “hemorrhoids or cancer” of our relational life… but perhaps that is why we do need to hear God’s heart openly… because too many have been left with silence, shame, and confusion.
- My own calling to ministry grew out of a love for fellow youth and the problems so many faced in their families. This would later lead to completing a Masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy… and becoming licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist. What has shaped my heart most is the calling to pastor a community of lives and marriages… which includes a calling to share in the pain of divorce.
- If you’re here … as one who has experienced the painful process of a divorce… it’s not my intention to pass judgment on your past. While I am straightforward in speaking into the marriages I know, I would never presume to speak fairly about a marriage that ended without being a part of all that was involved.
What I want to do is help us get God’s heart and mind clear. Let’s begin with the very challenging words of Jesus…
It has been said, “Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.” 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. Matthew 5:31-32
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?" 4 "Haven’t you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator ’made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ’For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." 7 "Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?" 8 Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery." Matthew 19:3-9
• Christ’s teaching here has often been poorly misunderstood and painfully misapplied.
• My desire is first to consider UNDERSTANDING the intent of God’s Word, then share briefly several points for APPLYING the intent of God’s Word.
I. Understanding The Intent of God’s Word
The issue is not whether these statements are to be taken seriously, but precisely what Jesus intended to imply. He meant to oppose divorce but did he mean to forbid remarriage to the faithful victims of divorce or even repentant participants of divorce?
A. Who and What Jesus is Addressing ...
The religious leaders Jesus was addressing were those who wanted to trap Jesus by forcing him to choose which concessions were fitting for them to put away their wives. In this time and culture, men held all the prerogatives concerning marriage and divorce, whereas women had little or no social place outside marriage. The concession they refer to is found in Deuteronomy 24. The concession was given to protect women who had been put out by their husbands. It required the husband to provide a bill of divorce which would authenticate her release and her right to remarry.
Jesus is addressing those whose "hardness of heart" led them to seek other wives by legal concession. Against their understanding that such legal concession left them righteous and pleasing to God, Jesus says "you have put her out as a woman married in God’s eyes." The challenge is not against those put out but those who self-righteously are putting another out in order to take another.
As note By Gary M. Burge, professor of New Testament at Wheaton College and Graduate School – “He was also standing against the teaching that a man was required to dispense with his wife when he suspected unfaithfulness. Jesus amends this, finding such behavior intolerable. Moses did not command his people to divorce wives, he permitted it. The springboard for right action should not be hard-heartedness, but charity. Jesus affirms once more that only if the woman has done something herself that irreparably ruptures the marriage can such a divorce be right. But it isn’t a necessary response.”