GROWTH AND SUCCESS IN LIFE – Lessons Learned at the Feet of Jesus – Sermon on Mount (Part 16)
The High and True Standard of God and His Kingdom is now developed by Jesus. Rather than listening to the phony teachers of the Law, the guardians of the Law who twisted Truth for their selfish interests, Jesus now lays out what standards are in harmony with a correct understanding of the Old Testament. The greatest sequel to this instruction, is that Jesus, in all he was and was to do, came not to set aside or annual the Law, but to fulfill it. In this following section of six antitheses, Jesus places his own authority over the misinterpretations of the religious norm of His Day…’It is said, but I say…’ (Matthew 5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38 and 43). Separating the counterfeit from the Real – next with the prohibition against Adultery.
So far we have learned that the measure of God looks at the heart and not just outward actions. So apart from the external prohibition against sexual immortality – adultery, now connected to the subject of divorce – Jesus targets issues of the heart. With murder, the issue addressed was anger. With adultery, the issue is looking at a woman with lust. Now with divorce, the standard is married for life, except for the marital breach through infidelity.
Matthew 5:31.32. 31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’[a] 32 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.
1. Divorce is contrary to God’s plan and is always and only a rare exception to the marital commitment. We live in a world of throw-away relationships – spousal, parental, family – to our cultural demise. The rabbis had an easy out – a certificate of divorce, clap your hands, announce three times “I divorce you” and the woman was divorced. Of course, this is contrary to Genesis and the design of Adam and Eve and resulted in wholesale adultery because of the unauthorized divorce of a spouse. This was radical enough to the teachers of the law. This was a loose and careless interpretation of Deuteronomy 24. For the phony legalists, it become ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?’ Matthew 19:3.
2. Divorce was a rare exception with the Design of Man and Woman, and the following Law and with Moses. In Matthew 19 Jesus corrects the libertine interpretation of his day. Therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate…..anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman, commits adultery. Matthew 19:4-9. So the starting point for the issue of divorce is the solemnity and seal of marriage within God’s design. Only sexual unfaithfulness, what is in the Greek porneia, breaks and releases one from that bond. Actually, a second condition is found in 1 Corinthians 7, where a believer finds themselves married to an unbeliever, but that is another whole subject carefully trod on another day.
3. So where to from here, in our 2021 western culture? In a word, slowly. This is one of the major areas of my work in family law. Some of my most careful clients spend months, even years, thinking through, consulting, attempting reconciliation and compromise, all for the purpose of trying to save the marriage. I believe this is wise and commendable. Only as a last resort is divorce an option. It is never perfect, likely bringing new economic hardship and family difficulties. Having experienced this personally, and for 30 years, professionally, the answers are never easy. Jesus is right. God has joined together man and woman. It should not be separately – lightly or easily.
So the exceptions are few. Sexual infidelity, hardness of heart, possible marriage to an unbeliever, all with related following restrictions and cautions. Both in my legal practice, and personally, your and my resolve should be to make our marriages work, which honors God and our design as sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. God’s best to you in this important area.
Next week, we take up the importance of giving and keeping your word and promises to others – with or without legal documents! Will be good.
— John Moore