“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 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.
(Matthew 5:31-32 ESV)
In today’s passage Jesus briefly addresses the issue of divorce. He will have more to say about this topic in Matthew 19.
In this portion of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is clarifying God’s laws on some select topics because over time the Jews had diluted His commands given to Moses thousands of years earlier by making them easier to follow. Man will always seek to lower the bar in order to claim righteousness. But in these verses Jesus raises it up again.
Any confusion about God’s view of divorce (or any topic) is not caused by any deficiency in His word but by the fact that we have chosen to cloud the issue through our own stubborn desire to do things our own way. Sin multiplies as the world ages. As time goes on the world becomes more sinful. As such, man’s approach to life will always become more liberal.
When it came to divorce the Jews had gotten to the point where a man could divorce his wife for any reason, or even no reason, at all. All he had to do was put it in writing (certificate of divorce) and send her on her way. But divorce had always been against God’s plans. God hates divorce and never recognizes it [Malachi 2:16]. As such anyone who gets divorced and remarries commits adultery as God considers them married to their original partner.
The reason for this is simple. Once a man and woman are married they are one. They no longer exist as individuals. This is why people get married on altars. Altars are places where sacrifices are made. When a man and woman stand on an altar they are sacrificing their individual selves and creating a new entity – a family. Therefore, divorce is really never an option in God’s view because the two people who got married no longer exist individually [Matthew 19:6; Ephesians 5:28-31].
Furthermore, a married couple is symbolic of the union between Jesus and believers, as we learned when we studied Ephesians. Jesus will never leave us. He will never quit on us. For this reason, God does not want husbands to quit on their wives (or vice versa). God wants us to treat each other the way He treats us. He wants us to be faithful and forgiving and willing to restore a relationship.
But man always finds it easier to walk away from a relationship than to address problems. That is because addressing problems often means addressing issues with ourselves and changing our behaviors. Human beings don’t like to do that. Virtually all divorces happen due to selfishness and stubbornness of one or both partners.
The only exception God allows is to divorce someone who has committed sexual immorality as that person has already committed adultery. By doing so God is providing for the innocent spouse by relieving them of a partner who does not want to be with them.
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