What did Jesus say in the Sermon about divorce? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Let’s just jump into the verses in question.
31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this comes after talking about lust. That would mean Jesus is saying that it doesn’t matter if your eye catches someone more appealing. You have a covenant that you are already in and you are to honor that covenant.
Let’s state the matter seriously. Divorce is an evil. Period.
“But Nick! You don’t understand! My wife was cheating on me!” “You don’t get it! My husband was abusive!” “The children were in danger from my spouse!”
Yes. All of those can be true and in a number of cases, divorce can even be sadly advisable, but it is still an evil. Why? Because it’s tragic that a case where two people vowed to love and remain faithful to one another until death was shattered because someone decided to break the covenant.
This is not to say then that everyone who has divorced is guilty of an evil. My parents were both divorced before their current marriage because both of their spouses were unfaithful. It’s good today that they’re together, but it’s tragic that both of them married spouses who broke their covenant.
That’s also something important to stress today. Marriage is a covenant. It doesn’t depend on your feelings or emotions at the time. If it did, marriages would shatter constantly. (Maybe that is why they are so much as many people do just that.) Marriage is a promise. How you treat it says less about your spouse really and more about you.
Also, keep in mind that not all of the above scenarios necessitate a divorce. Suppose there is a husband who is cheating on his wife. Some marriages can bounce back and be strong even after an affair. It does require therapy and repentance, but it is doable.
If you have children in a marriage, they will be the ones who suffer the most from divorce. Not too long ago I read a book called Primal Loss. It’s from a Catholic perspective and all the participants are Catholic, but all of them were still deeply hurt by what happened with their parents and it doesn’t matter what age they’re at.
Marriage is a covenant that requires work. In Jesus’s day, one school of thought said a husband could divorce his wife for anything displeasing, such as hypothetically if she burnt his toast in the morning. Jesus ups the ante tremendously and says marriage is for life entirely. Paul ups the ante and says that even if a believer is married to an unbeliever, if they are not being in danger, they should stay with the marriage. They may convert their spouse after all.
Fortunately, Shaunti Feldhahn has done some great research showing the idea that divorce is as common among Christians as non-Christians is a great myth. However, it is still way too common. All of us need to do what we can to honor marriage. That includes singles as well, such as saying if you’re not marrying that you’re going to remain celibate.
The rest of us, remember we made a vow before God and man. Let’s keep it. God will hold us all accountable after all for how we treated our spouses.