When Jesus finished saying these things, he left Galilee and came to the area of Judea on the east side of the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them. Some Pharisees came to him. In order to test him, they said, “Does the Law allow a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” Jesus answered, “Haven’t you read that at the beginning the creator made them male and female? And God said, ‘Because of this a man should leave his father and mother and be joined together with his wife, and the two will be one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, humans must not pull apart what God has put together.” The Pharisees said to him, “Then why did Moses command us to give a divorce certificate and divorce her?” Jesus replied, “Moses allowed you to divorce your wives because your hearts are unyielding. But it wasn’t that way from the beginning. I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.” His disciples said to him, “If that’s the way things are between a man and his wife, then it’s better not to marry.” He replied, “Not everybody can accept this teaching, but only those who have received the ability to accept it. For there are eunuchs who have been eunuchs from birth. And there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by other people. And there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs because of the kingdom of heaven. Those who can accept it should accept it” (Matthew 19:1-12, Common English Bible).
I was sitting in the senior pastor’s study. It was during my second year in seminary. We were talking about divorce. I honestly don’t remember why we were on that particular subject, I just know we were. What I do remember is the senior pastor saying, “Divorce is a tragedy.”
In the 20 years (wow, I can’t believe it has been that long ago) since this conversation I have had plenty of opportunity to think on what my senior pastor said that day. I have come to understand that my senior pastor was right.
The truth is, divorce happens. And, there are times when divorce is absolutely the best way to move forward. I truly do not believe that, despite what this text says, God expects a person to stay in an abusive relationship. I cannot accept, based on other Scripture, that Jesus wouldn’t praise a parent for leaving a relationship where a child was being abused and there was no other way to prevent the abuse from continuing. I might be wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time.
I have known it would be necessary for me to address this particular text since I started working on Matthew back at the beginning. I was not looking forward to it. I wan’t looking forward to it because I know I don’t have the answers for this. Further, being one who has never been divorced, I can’t say I know what it is like to live in any of the situations where people find themselves in our society.
What I do know is, we live in a throw-away society. All too often, we see a crack in the exterior, we see something as ruined, and we throw it away. There is a scratch in the paint on our car. Rather than living with the imperfection or going to a professional and having the scratch fixed, we trade the car in for a new perfect model. But, it isn’t long before we see that the new model isn’t really perfect either and the cycle continues.
What holds true for cars and other things I think is often present in marriage. When we find out our spouse isn’t what we first thought, when there is an imperfection present, we come to the conclusion we can’t live with the imperfection and we also refuse to see a professional to address the problem.
Further, even if I am wrong, I also know there is more grace in God than there is sin in us. If we accept the teaching in this lesson at face value, and that divorce is a sin, I know that God does forgive. Without question we are not perfect, but God does love us and will forgive.
Finally, there is one other consideration on this topic and that is forgiveness. All too often I encounter divorced Christians who have nothing good to say about their ex-spouse. Regardless of how true that might be, we must be able to forgive, not for their sake but for our own. During the course of this series, forgiveness has been the topic more than once. One of the key teachings in this is, if we want forgiveness from God, we have to be willing to forgive others who have been part of our lives. That would include ex-spouses. Forgiveness is the key to grace, grace we all need in our lives. God will forgive us, but we need to be willing to forgive as well.
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Joy and Thanksgiving,
Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved