The pain that many have received from the Church because of the verses we will read today!
“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 v 31-32)
In their failure to keep a marriage together some of the loveliest of people have found themselves in the outer courts of the Church. We must do better with our marriages and with other people’s divorces.
The Talmud says that when a couple get divorced, it is as if the Altar sheds tears.
So what was Jesus saying?
Is he giving the grounds for divorce? If so, he only mentions sexual immorality, what about physical abuse? Also can the wife divorce her husband, it appears it is only one way?
Jesus continues his fulfilment of the law bringing a deeper intended meaning. The Pharisee thought they were fulfilling the Law of Moses by issuing a certificate of divorce. They prided themselves on not just walking away from their wife but making it all legal. The Message helps us: “Remember the Scripture that says, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him do it legally, giving her divorce papers and her legal rights’? Too many of you are using that as a cover for selfishness and whim, pretending to be righteous just because you are ‘legal.’ Please, no more pretending. If you divorce your wife, you’re responsible for making her an adulteress (unless she has already made herself that by sexual promiscuity). And if you marry such a divorced adulteress, you’re automatically an adulterer yourself. You can’t use legal cover to mask a moral failure.”
Jesus was living in a time when the Pharisees and teachers of the law were divorcing their wives for the craziest of reasons but were gloating that they never broke the commandments, like the 7th one, adultery. They were interpreting Deuteronomy 24:1, “If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her …” with the focus on he is displeased and has found something indecent about her. The indecency was anything that displeased him. Surreal that it may sound but that included permission to divorce her for spoiling his dinner!
Jesus is not saying divorce should never happen.
Jesus is not saying that adultery should lead to divorce.
Jesus is not saying remarriage is wrong.
Jesus is not saying divorce without grounds is blasphemy and the unforgivable sin.
But Jesus is saying that people should stop pretending they are carrying out the will of God when they are treating the sanctity of marriage so badly.
If a spouse divorces in order to marry someone else, if that is the reason, no matter if you follow the whole legal process, you are doing what an adulterer does and have broken the 7th commandment.
It is the reason, the motivation, it is pursuing a course of action for your own personal gain. It is a matter of the heart. That is always the secret to the kingdom.
Can I have a divorce? Yes. But your selfishness and self-righteousness may reveal the answer is NO. The condition of your heart is everything.
If you got it wrong, then don’t worry, I know a Saviour who specialises in this kind of thing.