MATTHEW 5:31-32; 19:1-10
It was said, WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE
But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery (Matthew 5:31-32).
Ida M. Pardue writes: I was issuing a marriage license one day when the bride-to-be exploded. ?You rat! You told me this was your first marriage!? ?It is.?
?Oh yeah? Where it says, ‘number of marriages,’ you wrote ‘two’!?
?Oh . . .I thought that meant how many were getting married.?
Roberta Croteau wrote in Aspire: In the mid-1980’s singer Amy Grant’s life was not as charmed as it appeared. Troubles in her marriage?her husband Gary’s cocaine habit and their subsequent talk of divorce?left Amy in one of her darkest moments. She remembers:
?For a few days, I just stayed in bed and mourned my life. The only hope I could see was just junking it all, moving to Europe, and starting everything all over again. It was then my sister, in a last-ditch visit, marched up right beside my bed and said, ‘Fine, go to Europe, leave it all behind, start your life again. But before you go, tell (my little girl) how can you sing that Jesus can help her through anything in her life, but that He couldn’t help you.’?
The words hit home. Amy and Gary began marriage and personal counseling, slowly rebuilding their relationships with each other and with God.
I. A REFERENCE TO PERMISSION FOR DIVORCE V. 31
Don’t forget that Jesus said, ?Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven?(v. 20). Jesus is calling for a higher commitment to God than the scribes and Pharisees. In verse 27 Jesus has made a reference to the prohibition of adultery in the Mosaic Law. Now He deals with the problem of divorce. The text that Jesus quotes is Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Many of the Jewish men in Jesus’ day were using Deuteronomy as a pretext for divorce. But Jesus was calling basically for a higher commitment to marriage. The ease with which a Jewish man could divorce his wife and the deplorable situation a divorced woman faced in that male-dominated world demanded a call to God’s original purpose in marriage. The rabbis had taken Moses’ requirement for a written certificate of divorce as divine approval of it (the school of Hillel). Rabbi Hillel on one hand permitted a man to put away his wife for ?any good cause.? For example, according to the teachings of this Rabbi, a man could divorce his wife if she burned his food. Rabbi Shammai on the other hand, limited divorce to adultery. These two rabbis were the contemporaries of Jesus. The Jews had misconstrued Moses’ intention. Moses’ intention was to slow down divorce proceedings and force a ?cooling off? period for the husband. It was not divine approval, according to Jesus. God’s intention was that marriage was for life (Matt. 19:4-10). It seems to me that Christians have not taken the biblical teaching on marriage seriously. Divorce is as hurtful and destructive today as in Jesus’ day. God intends marriage to be a lifetime commitment (Genesis 2:24). When entering a marital union, Christians should never consider divorce an option for solving problems or a way out of a relationship that seems dead. Jesus is also attacking those who purposefully abuse the marital covenant, using divorce to satisfy their lustful desire to marry someone else. Let me ask you a question. Are your actions today helping to sustain your marriage and making it stronger, or are you tearing your marriage apart?
II. THE SANCTITY OF THE MARITAL BOND V. 32
Marriage is the first human institution that God established in the Garden of Eden. Therefore, the ending of the highest human relationship is no trivial matter. But many of the rabbis have made it trivial with their rationalized version of Moses’ teaching. These two verses show that Jesus takes marriage seriously as God the Father. In Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees in Matthew 19, He said that under no circumstance is divorce commanded in the Bible. The Bible does not command divorce. However, Jesus says that divorce is permissible only in terms of marital unfaithfulness. There is a whole lot of difference between a command and permission. Jesus therefore does not command divorce but only permits it if all attempts at reconciliation have failed because He recognizes that the adultery has already undermined one of the most fundamental elements of a marriage?sexual exclusivity. The Book of Hebrews says, ?Marriage bed should be undefiled? (Heb. 13:4). This does not mean that divorce should occur automatically when a spouse commits adultery. The word translated, unchastity implies sexually immoral-lifestyle, not a confessed and repented act of adultery. If you discover that your partner has been unfaithful to you, you should first make every effort to forgive, reconcile, and restore the relationship. We are always to look for reasons to restore the marriage relationship rather than for excuses to leave it. The pain of divorce has led some compassionate Christians to reinterpret, ?water down? or even de-emphasize biblical teachings to make divorce and remarriage seem easier and more acceptable theologically. But to ignore or de-emphasize biblical teaching is neither compassionate nor helpful.
Modern marriage is a highly unstable institution. Christian marriage is under assault more than ever. After viewing a large number of television dramas and soap operas, a Cornell University sociologist concluded that these programs portray a world of ?disposable fly-apart marriages,? ?throw-away husbands, throw-away wives? and ?disposable children? (Rose K. Goldsen, in Human Behavior 4 December, 1975). Certainly these television dramas are ?only stories,? but they reflect and influence the thinking of millions of people, including Christians, who may not approve but nevertheless accept infidelity, illegitimacy and divorce as a way of life in our society. Commitment is giving way to an attitude of self-centered ?freedom,? and ?till death do us part? is being replaced by a belief that divorce can always provide an escape hatch if difficulties arise following the wedding.
I like what Dr. J. Allan Petersen writes: ?Partnership must precede parenthood. A man is a husband first, father second, businessman third. A woman is a wife first, mother second, career woman third. A strong marriage precedes a strong family. Marriage is permanent: parenthood is temporary. Marriage is central; parenthood is secondary. Marriage is the hub; children are the spokes. The child-centered home is poor training for the child, poor marriage insurance, [and] poor preparation for the empty nest. Your partner is first, before children, job or career. A man must love his wife as himself, and the wife must honor her husband (Ephesians 5:33).?
According to Zig Zigler, ?divorce rates have risen more than 700 percent over the last fifty years, and the number of single-parent families has mushroomed. For example, in 1948 only one out of fourteen children under the age of six was brought up by a single parent. By 1973, that proportion was one out of seven. Today, that statistic is one out of five. Divorce data tabulated for fifty-eight countries, regions, and cultures between 1947 and 1981 showed the so-called seven-year itch was actually a four-year itch and most marriages that will end in divorce will break up by the fourth year. In the United States, marriages are more likely to end by the second year. That’s tragic.?
Divorce can be painful to a spouse and a disaster to the children. This is a question for dad: If you knew your child’s standard of living would drop 73 percent and you wouldn’t see him for the next year; would you still go through with the divorce (if it is your choice), or would you take every conceivable step to save the marriage?
A question for mom: If you knew that your children and you were going to suffer in an incredible manner mentally and financially and that your chances for happiness in the near and distant future were minimal at best, would you still go through with the divorce (if it is your choice), or would you take every conceivable step to save the marriage?
Unhealthy marriages are born out of unhealthy emotional needs. And these needs must be met and changed individually for a couple to have a happy marriage. Those individuals who feel that the answer is to divorce and look for another mate usually end up marrying a mate with the same emotional needs. The real solution to unhealthy emotional situations is not pursuing a new mate, but pursuing both individual and marriage therapy to learn how to get those personal emotional needs met in appropriate ways. According to psychiatrist Frank Minirth of Minirth-Meier Clinics, ?Divorce is second only to the death of a spouse in terms of emotional impact.? Dr. Minirth observes that the ultimate negative emotional results of divorce are even greater than losing a mate through death. He points out that when you lose a mate in death, you have no choice. However, in most cases, divorce is a choice.
WHO LOSES IN DIVORCE?
The real victims of divorce in many cases are the children. I believe that many parents have no idea or don’t stop to think about what impact the divorce has on their children. Even under ideal circumstances the children of divorce generally suffer. Therefore, the best thing a parent can do for a child is to love his or her spouse.
It has been computed that ten million children in America have watched their parents’ divorce, and that number is growing by one million each year. Those of you who are contemplating divorce have you sat down to reflect on what impact the divorce would have on your children? Almost half of the children from a divorce background will enter adulthood as ?worried, underachieving, self-deprecating, and sometimes angry young men and women.? Two out of three of the female children will show such ?sleeper effects? as fears of failure and betrayal in their relationship with men. In other words, they are at great risk for failed marriages. Their use of alcohol and other drugs will be substantially higher than that of children from intact families.
As the children get older, we discover college students from divorced homes are more sexually active than their classmates from intact homes. And males whose parents were divorced before they were two years old are more sexually aggressive than other men. According to Evangelist Bill Glass, who conducts ?Champions? Weekend Evangelistic meetings in almost all the prisons of the United States about 80 percent to 90 percent of all prison inmates come from a divorced or broken homes. And he adds that almost 100 percent of them are mad at their fathers. He said that if you get some of them to speak about their fathers you can sense the hate that is welling inside them. These inmates are timing bombs waiting to explode. It is just a matter of time. I listened to an African American counselor who said that now African American ladies from 25 years and above are going for inter-racial marriages because many of the young African American males are in jail. If they had to wait they would stay single for the rest of their lives. And many of them are the victims of divorced parents.
Just a few weeks ago, a doctor (dentist) ran her car over her husband and killed him because the husband was having an affair and was threatening the wife with divorce. The woman felt that she could not cope with that separation. She was concerned about their children, the sacrifices she has made, the life and investments they have made together. She was not willing to let go all these things. She made a desperate and wrong decision and now what she was afraid would happen to the children has happened to them. The husband is dead. She is in jail; and grandparents have to raise the children. We hope and pray that the grandparents would live longer to cater for the physical, emotional, and the educational needs of the children. You see what infidelity and the threat of divorce has done to this family?
The nuclear family is not the only one that suffers the impact of divorce and broken homes. The impact of divorce and broken homes are felt by the society at large. Many of the thugs, drug pushers, armed robbers, prostitutes, drug addicts, and gangsters are the products of divorce and broken homes. Not only the society at large but also the church is decimated because of the alarming rate at which Christians divorce. It is no wonder there is no power in our churches today. It is no wonder many of our prayers go unanswered, because God says, ?I hate divorce? (Malachi 2:16).
Let me ask you a question: why do you want to enjoy the forgiveness of sin from God through Jesus Christ, but cannot forgive what your spouse has done to you and you are seeking divorce? Divorce is devastating but it is not the unpardonable sin. If you are a victim of divorce or the initiator of divorce have you asked God for forgiveness? Some of you need to confess and ask God for forgiveness for breaking the marriage bond. Marriage is very important to God because He established it. That is why you are not to rush into marriage, because it is a sacred institution. Therefore, to undermine and dissolve marriage with sexual infidelity or divorce is a sin against the teaching of the Bible and God.
By: Kennedy Adarkwa.