Matthew 5:31-32. “It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement; But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery; and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.”
Talk about a hot-button issue! I’ve been dreading having to write about this. I want to assure you that I do NOT have all the answers; I do NOT look with judgment/condemnation on people who have divorced and remarried. I am extremely thankful to have been married to the same godly man for nearly 44 years. I do not take it for granted, especially in this age of the first marriage often being the “trial” marriage. Way too many couples spend thousands of dollars on the wedding, all the while agreeing that if it doesn’t work out they can just get divorced. What a travesty that is compared to God’s plan for one man, one woman, for life.
I’m not even going to bring in all the other scriptures pertaining to this topic. That’s for another time, another discussion. Instead, I’m going to do my best to go through these verses in their context, with the history made clear.
There had been great laxity about divorce and remarriage among the Jews for a very long time. Talmudic law allowed for marriages to be dissolved on almost any pretext. Here is an interesting website to get you started reading about this subject:
Remember, Jesus’ audience was primarily Jewish at this point. They understood that divorce was relatively easy to obtain, In these two verses, Jesus raises the bar quite high. He is teaching that a man who divorces his wife for anything less than fornication (sexual impurity) is causing her to commit adultery. Furthermore, any man who marries her is also committing adultery.
Please don’t shoot the messenger! Before you click off this blog in hurt or anger, I’m asking you to stay with me a little longer. There are some things we need to take away from this passage.
First, God’s view of marriage is sacred, holy, and pure. It is pictured in Ephesians 5 as the relationship between Christ, the Bridegroom; and the Church, the bride. It is to last forever. The godly bridegroom loves his wife sacrificially, as Christ loved the Church. He loves and cares for her in the same way he loves and cares for himself. The wife then responds to him by arranging herself under his authority, and she respects him as the godly head of the home.
Divorce destroys that symbolism.
Second, let’s talk about what we often refer to as “the exception clause,” saving for the cause of fornication. It is of great interest to me that the gospel of Matthew is the only place this exception is mentioned; and it is mentioned by Jesus as the King, the ultimate lawgiver. We will see it again in Matthew 19. Still, the meaning has been debated left, right, up, down and sideways ever since Jesus uttered the words. Clearly, I’m not going to resolve the issue. As with my previous post, I believe that God’s Word is its own best defense. We need to seek the peace of the Holy Spirit in these matters. Here is an article that I felt was well-balanced:
Now to finish this post, I’m going to do a little op ed writing. It seems to me that in at least some arms of Christianity, we have demonized divorce to the point of being THE WORST SIN anyone could ever commit. Please understand that I’m not downplaying the seriousness of divorce. It’s one of my least favorite issues to deal with in my work. Everyone loses, no one wins, and if there are children, they are permanently scarred.
Some women endure horrendous abuse, physical and every other kind of abuse, for years before finally finding the courage to leave. The Bible doesn’t mention how these types of situations are to be handled, but there are some principles that can guide our thinking. Again, this topic is for another time. Maybe I’ll address it at some point in my “Counseling Issues” category.
Finally, divorce/remarriage is not the unforgivable sin. That dire act is described in Mark 3:28-29. “Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme; But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.”
To blaspheme against the Holy Spirit is to attribute the works of Jesus to Satan (Mark 3:22). In other words, it is to deny Who Jesus is; that He is the Son of God, Messiah, King of Kings. It is to claim that His power was from Beelzebub, the ruler of demons. Such blasphemy is not to be forgiven.
So. While we guard our own marriages, get help if things are coming apart, do our best to keep our relationship strong and centered on God, let us not be quick to judge and condemn others who have experienced the excruciating heartbreak of divorce. They need our compassion, not our condemnation.