Summary: Today we deal with another sensitive subject-divorce. Jesus needed to clarify some things about this topic. Let's see what we can learn about it.
THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT (part ten)
I don't follow country music but there was a singer back in the 70's-Tammy Wynette. Interestingly, two of her best known songs were, Stand By Your Man and D-I-V-O-R-C-E! What does that tell you?
Based on a 2008 survey, one of every three (33%) marriages ends in divorce. The percentage among evangelicals is not much better. One in every four (26%). George Barna, who directed the study, noted that Americans have grown comfortable with divorce as a natural part of life.
He said, “There no longer seems to be much of a stigma attached to divorce; it's now seen as an unavoidable rite of passage. Interviews with young adults suggest they want their initial marriage to last, but are not particularly optimistic about that possibility. There is also evidence that many young people are moving toward embracing the idea of serial marriage, in which a person gets married two or three times, seeking a different partner for each phase of their adult life.”
Barna, who has written more than three dozen books on the intersection between faith and culture, also stated that information about marriage, healthy relationships and divorce does not seem to have as much influence on people’s choices.
“Government statistics and a wealth of other research data have shown that co-habitation [living together] increases the likelihood of divorce, yet it is growing in popularity. Studies showing the importance and value of preparing for marriage seem to fall on deaf ears.
America has become an experimental, experience-driven culture. Rather than learn from objective information and teaching based on that information, people prefer to follow their instincts and let the chips fall where they may. Given that tendency, we can expect America to retain the highest divorce rate among all developed nations of the world.”
This is sad; especially when you consider that Christian marriages don't fare much better than non-Christian ones. What does that say? Jesus had to deal with people about marriage and divorce. Let's see what we can learn from it.
1) The 'D' word.
Matt. 5:31-32, “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."
As he had before, Jesus brings clarification to something that was misunderstood. In this case, it was about divorce. The idea of divorce being no big deal and the reasons for it could be whatever one decided was commonplace. In this, the sanctity of marriage became watered down and Jesus set things to right.
"Certificate of divorce". Jesus is referring to Deut. 24:1-4, "If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the LORD. Do not bring sin upon the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance."
"Who becomes displeasing to him". The reason given is because he finds something indecent about her. The word used for indecent was defined as something shameful. The Jews took much liberty with this to mean anything displeasing. Rabbi Akiba said, "If any man saw a woman handsomer than his own wife, he might put his wife away". Times haven't changed much. People are still divorcing their spouse because they found a newer model with less miles.
In writing about his life, Josephus, the celebrated Jewish historian wrote, "About this time I put away my wife, who had borne me three children, not being pleased with her manners." isn't that something? "I'm divorcing you because I don't like your attitude." If all married couples did this there wouldn't be any married couples.
So, in Deut. 24 Moses states the protocol for divorced people. But Moses wasn't saying God was okay with divorce as long as there were some ground rules. Jesus addressed this issue in
Matt. 19:3-9, "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?” “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 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’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”