Summary: In Matthew 5, Jesus is teaching His disciples some leadership principles on the mountain, preparing them for ministry and all of a sudden He comes up with radical new ways of interpreting the topic of DIVORCE. It is so radical that even many Christians to
Matthew 5 - Part 16 - GOD WANTS US TO BE HAPPY, SO WHY DON'T WE GET DIVORCED?
Years ago, Julie and I began to have difficulty in our marriage. I was spending all my time pastoring a small Church and our relationship was being neglected. It suffered to the point where I needed to take time out of ministry and we needed to do some repair work. That was a major decision and we know what it's like to go through the difficult process, the road less travelled, of restoring that which has been lost, and for me, of learning what it means to be a better husband. It's horrible at first, but when we made that choice, at the end of the day we are still married and I have an even better relationship with Julie than I had before. God is so good!
I am always disturbed when Christians take the dreadful step of divorce. If Christians can't make their marriages work, who can? My heart breaks for them because they have usually left it too late before they come for counselling. Christians like to hide the fact that their marriages aren't working, especially at Church. By the time they do come, they simply want to justify their decision. They tell me things like "God would not want me to live the rest of my life with someone I don't love, would He?" or "God wouldn't want me to be so unhappy?" I tell them as best I can that there is more to a marriage than an emotion of self centred well-being, but that doesn't always go down that well!
Now I know it's not simply a matter of, as one person put it, "being married but not engaged". That's worse still! But when a couple divorces, it is heartbreaking to see the aftermath of hurt and devastation which touches the lives of their children for years to come, and the legal and emotional battles that are fought to break that covenant. By the time you are divorced, you have had to violate a number of very binding promises you have made before God and eachother. That alone has devastating and lasting consequences for us emotionally, socially and spiritually - in every way. It is no wonder that God says "For I hate divorce!" says the Lord, ... "To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty,...so guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife." (Malachi 2:16 (NLT))
In Matthew 5, Jesus is teaching His disciples some leadership principles on the mountain, preparing them for ministry and all of a sudden He comes up with radical new ways of interpreting the topic of DIVORCE. It is so radical that even many Christians today ignore it! Jesus makes the outrageous claim that "a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful, causes her to commit adultery. And anyone who marries a divorced woman also commits adultery." (Matthew 5:32).
Are we to take Him literally? YES!!!
Now notice that Jesus has just finished speaking about ADULTERY and now he speaks about DIVORCE. The two things are so often related. He says Adultery is more than the actual sexual act. He is more concerned about the thought life that gives rise to Adultery and says that lust is already an act of adultery. Then He speaks about the real meaning of divorce.
The horrible thing about adultery is that it breaks the connection between husband and wife. The covenant relationship along with faithfulness, hopes for the future, love for eachother, and trust are all broken. If you are Christians, then the physical, emotional, AND SPIRITUAL connections are broken (Matthew 19:5-6).
So what do we get from all this? First of all God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) Divorce is permitted when Adultery has taken place, but the reason it is permitted is for the protection of the innocent party due to the sin of the other party. Sin always gets in the way of enjoying what God wants for us. Divorce is only permitted because of sin and is not a part of God's original plan for our marriages.
Jesus said in Matthew 19:8, "Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended"
Unless there is unfaithfulness in the marriage, as a Christian, God expects that you will have the same attitude toward divorce as He does, and you will see it as a violation of His expressed purpose for your marriage.
Divorce in the case of adultery means that the innocent party no longer has to remain trapped in a hopeless and intolerable situation. Remarriage is permitted for the innocent person, and I use the term "innocent" as referring to the one who has not committed adultery. Jesus may permit divorce in these limited circumstances but never commands divorce. God shows clearly in Hosea 1-3 that a wife who has committed adultery can be forgiven and restored. I presume this applies to a husband as well.