Divorce to be Reckoned With (Sanctity of Marriage, #4)

So it’s time to dive a little further into the discussion of that dirty, seven-letter word.  That’s right, DIVORCE.  Part 4 is going to examine the Gospels to see what was taught about marriage during the time that Christ Himself walked the earth, and will address the age-old question, “Is it ever okay to get a divorce?”  Read on to look at a Biblical perspective, and remember that this is only Part 4 in a series on Biblical marriage.  You can read the rest of the series by clicking the “Sanctity of Marriage”  category on the right.

Matthew 5:27-28, 31-32:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart…Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.”  (NKJV)
Matthew 19:3-9
“The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?”  And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?  So then they are no longer two but one flesh.  Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”  They said to Him, “why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?”  He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.  And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.
 Mark 10:2-12
“The Pharisees came and asked Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”  Testing Him.  And He answered and said to them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to dismiss her.”  And Jesus answered and said to them, “Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.  But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’  ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they’re no longer two, but one flesh.  Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”  In the house His disciples also asked Him again about the same matter.  So He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her.  And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.
Luke 16:18
“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.”
 

Directly from these verses, we see that:
15. Lust is just as big of a deal as adultery itself.  “…Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart…”  I’ve heard it said that the first look isn’t the problem, that it’s the second look that gets you.  And partially I agree, but I have to admit that the first look sure does make a second look a little more tempting.  We must guard against this in our day to day lives.  If you see someone dressed in an alluring manner, avert your eyes as quickly as possible.  Guard against pornography in your homes, but also against anything
outside of your home that is sexually explicit or may cause temptation to lust.  This may mean completely cutting out R-Rated movies (or in some cases even PG movies).  Let’s not allow ourselves to even look upon the smallest amount of nudity, or to admire the sex-appeal of someone other than our spouse .  And while we’re at it, why don’t we help out our Christian brothers and sisters?  Ladies, dressing in a sexy or sensual manner is for your husband’s eyes only, so let’s keep it covered!  And while ladies may tend to be a little less prone to lust after the bodies of the men around us, we definitely aren’t immune to a man who has a nice build.  So men, help us out too!  Something my husband and I do, which I must credit to our pre-marital counseling, is watch out for each other.  If we’re watching a movie and a sexy woman is on screen, I’ll keep an eye out to let him know when he can resume watching.  He does the same for me.  And out in public when you run into that friend with a super-cute (but super-short!) skirt, stand in such a way that you just ‘happen’ to be blocking his view.  It’s all about avoiding temptation, and no matter how strong we think we are–we are still human, and we are all prone to mess up.  So protect yourself, and protect your spouse!  Trust me; it’s worth the effort!

16.  Man should not separate what God has joined together.  “…What God has joined together, let not man separate..”  Because it is God Himself who joins us together in marriage, we are not to separate.  This is in strong relationship to the “one-flesh union” that we saw in Genesis.  (Remember Part 1?)  We see this statement made in two different Gospel accounts (Matthew & Mark), and see that it was a direct statement from Jesus Himself as He responded to the Pharisees’ questions about divorce.

17.  It is only because of the hardness of our hearts that divorce has ever been permitted.  “Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.  But from the beginning of the creation, God made them…one flesh.  Therefore…let not man separate.”  Again, because God has joined us together in marriage, we ARE NOT to separate that union.  Though it has been allowed legally, it is not God’s design.  Though God Himself allowed Moses to write laws concerning divorce, these laws were only given as a result of the hard hearts of His people.

18.  It is adultery to divorce and marry another.  “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.”  I know this is a touchy subject in today’s day and time, but at the beginning of this series I vowed that we’d be looking into what the Bible has to say about marriage.  So please know that anything I am saying is not from me but from God’s Word.  If you don’t value God’s Word and want to dismiss these things, then this blog is probably not what you’re looking for, as the Bible is the ultimate authority for all I write and believe.  If, however, you value God’s Word and find yourself in conflict with these things, I encourage you to keep reading.  I can assure you I will later address the concepts of forgiveness and redemption that are also seen in God’s Word.  But for now, we’re looking at the Gospels.  We see twice in Matthew, and again in Mark and Luke, that Jesus called it adultery to divorce and remarry another.  Today we define adultery as sex outside the bounds of marriage.  So what if you divorce, and then wait to have sexual relations until you have married another?   As we see in 3 of the 4 Gospels, Jesus called it adultery.
I was born in West Virginia, a beautiful state that almost makes you feel as if you’ve gone back in time.  And yes, there are many divorced and remarried people in West Virginia, but the views on divorce tend to be a little more “old-fashioned” than those that we see in the rest of the country.  Some there have a belief that allows a divorced man to continue pastoring, UNLESS he begins dating or seeking a new wife.  Why?  Because what we would call an “ex-wife”, they call a “living wife”.  Regardless of the divorce, and as long as they are both living, she is still considered his wife.  To move on would be to cheat.  Today we almost expect people to move on; we allow our sympathy to rationalize sin away.  Yes, it’s unfortunate for someone to be alone for the rest of their life, but sad circumstances don’t justify sin.  If you’ve married someone, you’ve made a life-time commitment to that person, and “moving on” to a relationship with someone else is sin.

19.  Though not God’s ideal plan, it is permissible to divorce your spouse if they have committed sexual immorality against you.  I’m sure many of you noticed that Matthew’s Gospel reads, “whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery.”  We see here that Jesus does not deny that it is permissible to divorce for this specific reason.  Though we were looking only at the Gospels in this post, I did some more searching when I came to this passage.  I’ve been raised to believe that though divorce is Biblically permissible in this situation, reconciliation is still the better option and is more pleasing to God.  So I wanted to search the rest of Scripture for something that may more specifically address this issue.  Here’s what I found:

  • I Corinthians 7:10-11. “Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband.  But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband.  And a husband is not to divorce his wife.”
  • I Corinthians 7:12-17.  “If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her.  And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him.  For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.  But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases.  But God has called us to peace.  For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband?  Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?”
  • Hosea 3:1a.  “Then the LORD said to me, “go again, love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery, just like the love of the LORD for the children of Israel…”

We see in these verses that as a Christian, we are not to depart from our spouse.  If we are married to someone who is willing to remain with us despite differences, then we are called to remain with them in hopes that God will use you in their life.  I’ve known many woman married to unbelieving men, who eventually won their husbands to Christ, some even after 25 years of marriage!  While I know this post doesn’t necessarily refer to unbelieving spouses, but to adulterous spouses, this passage does show that remaining together is affirmed in Scripture despite differences.

Looking at the story of Hosea, we see God call a prophet to marry a prostitute.  This marriage to an unfaithful bride is a clear picture of God’s covenant with Israel.  God remained faithful despite Israel’s rebellion, and in the same way Hosea remained faithful to his adulterous bride.  Why?  Because as a prophet who was entirely committed to living life God’s way, he chose the path of forgiveness and restoration.  And by the way, even though she cheated many times, Hosea continued going after her and bringing her back home.  Just as Hosea’s marriage was a picture of God’s covenant with Israel, our marriage is a picture of Christ’s love for the church.  In marriage we are called to love each other as Christ.  Christ keeps his end of the bargain even when we don’t.  So following his example, regardless of what is permissible, will always lead us to seek the complete restoration of our beloved partner.  While we cannot make them remain with us, we can forgive, and we can seek reconciliation.

Keep Reading in Part 5, which looks at sexual purity, as described in I Corinthians 6.  Also, don’t forget to leave feedback by “liking” the post, rating it, or leaving your comments below.