Divorce: What Does Jesus Say About It?

I was reading Matthew 19 today, and it starts off with Jesus teaching and healing people in the region of Judea, when some Pharisees came to test Him (a-gain). They asked Jesus, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason?”

Jesus replied, “Haven’t you read, 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 no one separate.”

The Pharisees ask a question in relation to the Torah, Jesus answers as according to the Torah. But then they pushed a little further by asking, “Why then, did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” So now we’re looking at theology and opinions (remember, they wanted to test Jesus with hopes to catch Him with something they can accuse Him of).

So Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. So I say that anyone who divorces his wife, except for (pornea), and marries another woman commits adultery.”

This is a popular and very much talked about passage on the topic of divorce and remarriage. But I got to thinking something here:

First, notice the issue/focus: The Pharisees asked for a valid reason for divorce. Now we’re not talking about what “pornea” means, nor are we talking about whether or not it’s OK to remarry. In fact, as I look at their question, I’m thinking that what we are talking about is not so much a reason for divorce, but their hopes to justify the reasons for divorce as according to the culture at the time of the writing. “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason?” By that time, Jewish men had gotten to the point where they were divorcing their wives for petty reasons (like burning the toast). They were divorcing their wives for “any” reason.

But marriage is a huge thing because, as Jesus quoted from Genesis, “The 2 become one flesh” – it’s a joining of 2 people into 1 (and it was created by God to be more permanent than tattoos!) But Man had transformed this awesome blessing from God into a “lawful” means of pursuing their lustful desires. It’s like an old man today divorcing his same-aged wife in order to marry a younger woman – he’s divorcing his wife in order to marry another (like Brad Pitt, who divorced Jen to pursue Angelina Jolie). Jesus is saying that this reason for divorce is adultery.

In the beginning, Marriage was a God-thing, for God joined the 2 (male and female), and the 2 became 1. Moses, on the other hand, saw the hardness of the hearts of God’s people, and upon their request, allowed divorce. But it wasn’t as God intended from the beginning, for “…what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

So you see, God created marriage (joining of male and female, the 2 become 1). Man, however, created divorce, due to his sinful desires. But divorce was never meant to be an option (you’d think they would pick that up from the text in Malachi). Notice also that after Jesus quoted this, He brought the focus back onto God’s original order: “So I say.” God created marriage, Man damaged it, God (Jesus) repaired it.

Jesus is saying, ‘Moses allowed divorce, not God. God intended for marriage to be forever’ (in terms of life on earth).

Now, one may say “at least he’s chosen not to have an affair, and so is doing the right thing by divorcing his wife first in order to not cheat.” (I’ve heard this argument before). But then that takes us to where Jesus said that if you even look at a woman lustfully, then you’ve already committed adultery with her (and your wife if you’re married) in your heart.

There’s also the debate on whether or not having emotions for someone else (other than your spouse) is cheating. But Jesus says here that if you’re married and you replace your desire for your spouse with this other person, then you have committed adultery against your spouse with that person in your heart. And also, if you pursue those desires that have already taken over your heart, and divorce your wife in order to marry the other woman, then you’re committing adultery, for “anyone who divorces his wife…and marries another woman commits adultery.”

So to answer the Pharisees’ question: “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason?” No, not any reason…only 1 reason. And how you have been treating God’s intention for marriage is not justified.

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