1 Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them.
2 Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”
3 “What did Moses command you?” he replied.
4 They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”
5 “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. 6 “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ 7 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 8 and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
10 When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. 11 He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. 12 And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”
Man, the passages aren’t getting any easier, are they? But let’s persevere through this together! Because divorce is controversial and for some, extremely personal, I will try to tread as carefully and wisely as I can.
First of all, is Jesus saying that divorce is never, ever permissible for a Christian? No. It doesn’t include it in this account, but if you read Matthew 19, the same narrative is given and Jesus says this: “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.” In the case of adultery, a spouse is permitted to divorce – but still does not have to! There are a lot of incredible people out there who, even after their spouse has cheated on them, stay with that person because that marriage is that important.
Another situation in which divorce seems to be permitted is given in 1 Corinthians 7, in a situation which is often called abandonment. This is the situation in which a Christian is married to a non-Christian, and the non-Christian viritually abandons the relationship, either emotionally or physically. Paul says in that case that the Christian spouse is not bound in that situation, strongly implying that divorce is permitted…
So, what can we take away from this? Jesus is definitely NOT trying to make a set of rules of do’s and do-not’s when it comes to divorce. In fact, he’s actually trying to do the opposite, revealing that the do’s and do-not’s that were present in the law previously were only necessary because we are so fallen. He’s trying to point to the heart of the issue, which is this:
You shouldn’t get divorced once you’re married.
Yes, there are a few exceptions to this, but they are rare and extreme. The fact is that once you are married, you are basically one person, bound in a relationship that cannot, nor should not, be easily broken. So for those of you who are not married (most of you!), always remember that. You do not get married for the wedding. You do not get married for the sex. You get married for life.
If you are married (which I think leaves just me and one other person!), this means that you must be absolutely committed to doing whatever it takes to making it work – listening, compromising, apologizing, waiting, serving, forgiving, and being forgiven. Unlike what the rest of the world believes, divorce should not be your second or third option, but your absolutely LAST option.
1. Why do you think Jesus so strongly prescribes us against divorce?
2. Has your life or anyone close to you been affected by divorce? What have the effects been?
3. How does this passage change how you look at relationships, past, current, or future?