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Marriage & Divorce

Jesus addresses the issue of marriage and divorce:

“Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them. Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” “What did Moses command you?” he replied. They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘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 flesh. “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”

Women in the first century had very little legal protection. They were often divorced for nothing more than displeasing their husbands. Jesus is reaffirming that God’s standard for marriage is a relationship that is to last a lifetime. God’s original intention was for marriage to be a permanent union which could only be dissolved in the event one of the spouses died (Genesis 2:23-24). Moses permitted divorce (Dt. 24:1-4), but only as a concession due to the hardness of men’s hearts—this was never part of God’s design. God has joined husband and wife in a sacred relationship that is a covenant—and this relationship is not to be tampered with. Marriage is not a contract, but a covenant—and Jesus warns against separating anything that God has joined together.

Are there any circumstances where divorce is permitted? In Matthew 19:9, Jesus says that divorce is an option in the event of adultery. But even then, God’s highest will is for husbands and wives to forgive and to stay together. Paul teaches that there is another potential scenario for divorce—when a believer is deserted by an unbeliever (1 Cor. 7:15). In these cases, the innocent party is free to remarry.

In Malachi 2:16, God says, “I hate divorce.” God’s reason for hating divorce is because it dissolves the covenant bond that a husband and wife enter into when they say “I do.” God himself entered into a covenant with his people in the Old Testament, in which He declared His unfailing commitment to His bride, His people. God is a promise-keeping God. When husbands and wives break apart the covenant of marriage, they are denying the very nature of God. They are violating the commitment they made when they took a vow to love and honor and cherish, “until death do us part.”

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