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Summary: How are we to understand Jesus’ teaching on divorce?

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Do Us Part?

Matt 5:31-32

June, the month of weddings.

1. Background of Matt.: 2 pharasiacal schools argued about Deut. 24:1-4 (turn there now). Strict Shammaite and liberal Hillelite. Divorce on trivial matters was still rare in Jesus’ day compared to ours.

There is no evidence of Jewish courts permitting death penalty for adultery. Divorce after adultery was likely mandatory.

To understand this passage, all NT passages must be examined. Matt. 19:3 “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?

A. Jesus answers the questions of divorce by going back to what God’s heart is. In contrast to the church’s focus on externals such as legalities, ceremonies and disciplines, the primary biblical focus on marriage is a covenant relationship.

1. Matt 19:5 refers to Gen 2:24.

- leave father and mother (the public, or social dimension)

- Be united (a declaration of covenantal pledges)

-Become on flesh (a complete union of partners in all aspects symbolized and deepened by sexual union)

Eph 5 tells us this is a picture of Christ and His Church.

Jesus shows us that God’s theological context for marriage flows from His created pattern for sexual relationships and family making. In reflecting His design and the covenantal faithfulness He displays toward us, marriage is intended then to be a relationship that is healing and growing and maturing through time. It is to be a harvest of the Spirit which is patterned on and in turn displays something of God’s covenant relationship. It thus requires predictability, continuity, reliability- that is, it requires permanence.

-To see divorce as covenant breaking is thus to see it as a serious and sinful act.

This is a good plan. Think about the following facts.

• Teens from single-parent homes are twice as likely to drop out of high school, become teen parents, and one-and-one-half times more likely to stay at home has young adults.

McLanahan and Sandefur, Growing Up.

• A book by E. Mavis Heatherington indicates that 20 years after divorce, only 20 percent of individuals indicated that their lives had improved, while in 70 percent of cases, the individuals were in the same or worse emotional and social condition. [Gallagher, Maggie. (2002) Third Thoughts on Divorce. National Review v54 i5 p50. Retrieved June 9, 2004 from Expanded Academic ASAP.]

"Divorced adults are more susceptible to severe emotional and psychological problems, plus early death from an assortment of causes, than for married individuals. The suicide rate for divorced white men, for example, is four times higher than for their married counterparts. The situation for divorced adults is such that Harold Morowitz of Yale University contends, ’Being divorced and a non-smoker is slightly less dangerous than smoking a pack or more a day and staying married.’"

Quoted in Bryce J. Christensen, "In Sickness and in Health: The Medical Costs of Family Meltdown," Policy Review, Spring 1992, p. 71. Cited in Brian Willats, Breaking Up is Easy To Do, available from Michigan Family Forum.

So, we have on one hand, God’s divine plan for marriage. It is to be a permanent covenantal relationship of growing love, trust, unity and fruitfulness. But, on the other hand we have a fact of life.

2. “It has been said” Matt 5:31

-Divorce was allowed as in Deut 24. Why? Because of hardness of heart (matt 19:18). Our failure as sinful people.

- The last ditch option of divorce in the OT had been exploited to become an easy out for lusty men.

-God gave the option of divorce as a result of having to prescribe civil laws. His prescription for how to deal with it in the OT was no more a commendation of divorce as were His laws concerning how to deal with murder a commendation for murder.

- The ease of divorce gave rise to divorce. It is no different today.

• One researcher estimated the impact of no-fault divorce legislation may have accelerated state divorce rates upward by twenty to twenty-five percent."

Also, states with higher levels of joint custody awards in 1989 and 1990 "have shown significantly greater declines in divorces in the following years through 1995, compared with other

states." These conclusions are based on 19 states for which appropriate data were available, including Michigan and Pennsylvania, as well as Montana and Nebraska. Overall, divorce rates declined nearly four times faster in high-joint custody states, compared with states where joint custody is relatively rare. One big reason is that joint custody "removes the capacity for one spouse to hurt the other by denying participation in raising the children."

3. Is Jesus giving us a stricter law concerning divorce in Matt 5:31?

- We must understand again the context. In all of these passages from the sermon on the Mount up to this point, Jesus gives us overstatement in order to make his point. (give examples)

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