“Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”
Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
The Pharisees were at it again and as always, they were totally outgunned. Their first test was to ask if it was OK to get a divorce for just about any reason, which had become the custom of the day (as well as our own). Jesus’ reply was as simple as it was profound: God had already said, “…What God has joined together, let man not separate.” That was and still is the bar when it comes to divorce. It is not God’s will that any married couple should divorce.
In that answer the Pharisees sensed an opportunity to throw another curve ball, or so they thought. Jesus appealed to the Scripture to make His point and so they did as well, pointing out that the Law of Moses allowed for a certificate of divorce. Is this a Catch-22? Is it a biblical contradiction? Is it one we can exploit in order to get out of our own marriages in a way that God condones?
This aspect of the Law of Moses was an allowance, not an endorsement. The Israelite men were not exactly “Husband of the Year” material. If they were forced to keep a wife they no longer enjoyed they might turn to abuse or perhaps even murder. To put it bluntly, better to divorce them than to do worse, and so this aspect of the Law was meant to protect the wives from the harshness of their husbands’ hearts, which Christ pointed out as the reason for the allowance.
It seems that there is always plenty of blaming going on when couple’s divorce, Christian or otherwise. The sins of the one become the license for the other, but we must ALL remember, “there is none righteous, no not one” (Rom. 3:10). Justifications for divorce range from “falling out of love” to “irreconcilable differences” to “marital infidelity” to “mental and/or emotional abuse.” All of them are tragic, but none of them are beyond the healing grace of a loving God.
Is divorce unavoidable? For two believers it should be, if they are walking in the Spirit and loving God and others more than themselves. Does God ever give His “approval” of divorce? Nowhere in Scripture is that true, and that is my main point today. Divorce is a violation of the image of God as seen in the Trinity and in the union of Christ and His Church. That is why marriage should never be entered into lightly (like marrying an unbeliever) nor should it be exited casually (I just don’t love them anymore).
“Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”