1. As we continue through the Sermon on the Mount, we’re in Matthew 5:31, 32, and Jesus teaches on the topic of divorce. Tough passage, lots of questions. Lots of confusion. And I hope to clear some of that up today, but there’s probably a lot I won’t clear up. B/c here’s the thing – Sin complicates things. Anytime we get off track from God’s design, in any area of life, it gets messy. I wish everybody would just stick to the plan. Life makes a lot more sense when we do it God’s way. Of course, if everybody stuck to the plan, I’d be out of work, so on behalf of my family I’d like personally to thank you all for being dysfunctional.
2. But today everybody’s talking about how bad it is. Life today is so bad. The country is so evil. People are so wicked. We need to get back to the way things were in the Bible. Well, guess what, no thanks. If you really knew what life was like in Jesus’ day, you wouldn’t want to go back there.
3. Jesus came into a world that was bloodthirsty and violent. Filled with death and disease, full of prostitution and sexual sin, paganism. The Roman leaders had orgies and homosexual sex in the palaces. And unlike Bill Clinton, they didn’t even have to deny it. It was the way it was. And in the area of marriage, things couldn’t have been worse. Marriage in Jesus’ day had disintegrated to the point where it was no longer honored, valued, cherished. It wasn’t until death do us part, it was until I (the man) want out.
4. A big part of the problem was that women weren’t valued. They had no rights. They were treated as a piece of property or as slaves. One Rabbi is quoted as saying, “I would rather be a Gentile or a dog than to be a woman.” One of the things that’s so amazing about Jesus’ ministry is how much value he places on women. He has women disciples – didn’t happen. He interacts personally with them – didn’t happen. He stands up for women; didn’t happen. Christianity sometimes gets a bad rap for being chauvinistic, but Jesus and the Gospel have been liberating women for 2,000 years. In the places where the Gospel hasn’t liberated women, especially Islamic countries, women still are treated as property.
5. But b/c of the low view of women, there was a low view of marriage. It stands to reason that if a woman is my property, I should be able to treat her however I want. She’s mine. And if I don’t want her anymore, I can get rid of her. Throw her out. That was actually a common practice – it was known as putting her out / putting away. If a man was no longer interested, for whatever reason, he could just put her out – kick her out. She’d be left defenseless – had no rights, no job, no place to live – often forced to prostitution or into another, possibly illegal relationship. And this caused a lot of problems. Keep this in mind as we read Matthew 5:31, 32.
6. In Jesus’ day people didn’t read the law for themselves. They were largely illiterate and relied on the teachers of the law to interpret the law for them. Two particular Rabbis had a lot of influence in Jesus’ day. Their names were Hillel and Shammai. They were like the original Republican and Democrat. Hillel was a very liberal interpreter of the law and thus, very popular. Shammai was a conservative scholar (Talmud) and particularly in the area of divorce, took a very narrow view of what the law allowed. (Dt 24; displease b/c of some uncleanness) While Hillel argued that divorce was allowable for any and every reason, including burning the bagels, Shammai insisted that adultery, sex outside of marriage, was the only out.
7. (Essentially, Jesus says Shammai is right. God’s law only gives one exception to divorce – adultery. That’s it. Not bad cooking, not bad spending, not a big mouth, not too much ESPN, too many tools, too little attention. The only get out of marriage free card that God accepts is sexual immorality with someone other than your spouse. That act so violates the covenant of marriage and violates the other person so deeply, that in that instance, you are permitted to leave. Even then, God doesn’t say he recommends or endorses it, just that he allows it.)
8. And there are still so many questions that arise out of a passage like this. What if someone leaves you? What if you suspect unfaithfulness but aren’t sure? What if you’re already remarried, are you an adulterer? What if I got divorced before I became a Christian? So many shades of gray and personal questions that really need answered on a personal level. If you’re confused or convicted about something, I would get some solid Christian counseling and advice and pray a lot before you do anything. Apoluo v. Apostasio.