“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.” (Matthew 5:17)
In this series, we are looking at how Jesus redefined different laws, ideas, and notions by expanding their meanings and, thus, our understanding of the Scriptures. The next topic that Jesus addressed in His sermon was divorce. In fact, He addressed divorce many times during his ministry.
“You have heard the law that says, ‘A man can divorce his wife by merely giving her a written notice of divorce.’ But I say that a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful, causes her to commit adultery. And anyone who marries a divorced woman also commits adultery.” (Matthew 5:31-32)
Old Testament law permitted a man to divorce his wife for any reason, even something so broad as if the wife displeased the husband. From myjewishlearning.com: “According to biblical law, a man is permitted to divorce his wife at will and send her away from his home. The second aspect highlights biblical women’s vulnerability: economic, physical, and psychological uprooting faced the woman who displeased her husband sufficiently to cause him to divorce her. She had no leverage to prevent or refuse the divorce. Neither could she divorce him.” But we know that God hates divorce.
“‘For I hate divorce!’ says the Lord, the God of Israel. ‘To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. ‘So guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife.’” (Malachi 2:16)
One day, Jesus was asked about this very thing: if we know God hates divorce, why did Moses say that a man could divorce his wife?
“Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.”
“‘Then why did Moses say in the law that a man could give his wife a written notice of divorce and send her away?’ they asked.”
Jesus replied, “Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended. And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery—unless his wife has been unfaithful.” (Matthew 19:6-9)
Man added a concession to the law. Man added divorce and God allowed it because men’s hearts are so hard. As Jesus put it, it’s not what God had originally intended. God hates divorce. What God has joined together, no man should be allowed to separate. Jesus raised the bar. But the statistics tend to indicate that we are still divorcing for any reason we choose. We give up on or forget about the power of God in our marriage.
“For the believing wife brings holiness to her marriage, and the believing husband brings holiness to his marriage.” (1 Corinthians 7:14a)
“Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)
What if Christ’s followers stopped giving up on their marriages? What if they worked to meet the standard that Jesus set? What if we returned to what God originally intended, that once He has joined two people, no person should be allowed to separate them? Divorce has been redefined and it turns out, it was never part of God’s plan for His people. If you are in a dangerous situation, you need to seek help and get yourself safe. Pray for your spouse, love them, forgive them, and do not let anyone separate what God has joined together. Hold to Jesus’ elevated standard for His followers.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.