Marriage and Divorce
It was also said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.” But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery . . . Matthew 5:31-32
It’s not uncommon to hear Christians discussing this passage, speculating on whether a divorced individual was justified in getting divorced or whether he or she can remarry, according to the rules. Whether we follow the rules or not, we like to know exactly what they are. Often, we use these rules to be judgmental about those whom we perceive to be breaking them.
It is unfortunately, usually our nature to pay more attention to the details of the rules, or the letter of the law, than the reason behind those rules or laws. If we obey the letter of the major laws, we can feel pretty good about ourselves.
Jesus, in today’s passage, insisted that we understand the reason behind the rules though. It’s not enough just to avoid murder, we must control our anger. It’s not enough to simply avoid adultery, we must abandon lustful thoughts. In today’s passage, he insisted on the permanence of marriage, teaching that abandoning marriage is equivalent to adultery – which was a big deal to his Jewish audience.
We tend to look at the passage and make rules. You can get divorced only if your spouse is unfaithful. Jesus though, was teaching the profound importance of the marriage commitment to God. Marriage is meant to be a permanent union, and leaving that union is destructive. Jesus demanded that we recognize this.
We should never enter into marriage or leave it lightly. Abandoning marriage is the equivalence of adultery – punishable by death in the Old Testament. This means that we must commit to doing whatever it takes to maintain our marriages. Daily, we must strive to love our spouses. A successful marriage doesn’t just happen. It takes love, effort, and dedication to make marriage work.
Marriage is permanent to God and leaving it causes significant destruction for all involved. Thankfully, just as with any other sin, there is always grace and forgiveness for those who fail at marriage. God works out his plan of redemption, despite our flaws, restoring us to him – even in our failures.