“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell. “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
Ok, today’s talk is on divorce. It is not going to be easy to listen to because some of you may be going through a divorce as I speak. Others may have gone through one. Both those who are divorcing and those who have divorced believe that there are valid reasons for doing so, Unfortunately, God may not be in agreement. Consequently, this isn’t going to be an easy talk to give, because although I am not insensitive to the pain couples go through in their relationships, if I am to speak for God, I have to speak plainly. But don’t shoot the messenger, ok? I am just going to relay what Jesus said.
And what DID he say? One day the Pharisees went to Jesus wanting his opinion on the matter of divorce, because the Mosaic law allowed for it. Jesus was typically blunt. He said, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not like this from the beginning” (Matthew 19:8). God has never approved of divorce, but he recognized it happens, so he gave instructions to regulate it, mostly to protect the woman. She needed to be given a certificate of divorce.
This certificate had to do three things. One, state the reasons for the divorce. Two, ensure the woman was provided for financially. Three, allow her the freedom to remarry. In today’s passage Jesus speaks about this certificate, but he does one of his — “You have heard it said ... but I tell you” — statements, going straight to the heart of the matter, and declaring his final word on the subject. And it isn’t a pleasant final word. He says, “Certificate notwithstanding, I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
So, what’s the deal? Let us understand this from God’s perspective. Jesus said (I paraphrase): “Don’t you know that at the beginning God made man and woman, and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife; 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” (Matthew 19:4-6). Based on this, and what Jesus says in today’s passage, what is the implication? If God has joined a couple, is HE going to separate them, even with a divorce certificate? I’ll leave that for you to think about.
Now, the only reason, I repeat the only reason, which Jesus says is grounds for divorce is adultery. This highlights the seriousness of adultery, but it is a subject for another time. However, divorce is not DEMANDED after adultery; it is only permitted. God’s way is always the way of repentance, of forgiveness, of reconciliation. All those planning to divorce, are you listening? Okay, now I know the question on many a heart is this: what if I have divorced and remarried? What can I do now? Well, take this to be your new marriage, and ensure that it is forever. Because in God’s eyes it is.
And protect it by guarding your heart and your mind.