Today we join Jesus somewhere beyond the Jordan in the region of Judea. As expected He has drawn another crowd. And also as expected, He is ministering to them through teaching. I wonder if teaching was one of Jesus’ favorite things to offer the people.
We are not told what Jesus was teaching on during this interaction. I’m wondering if it is what prompted the question the Pharisees’ question or if they came with a line of attack already prepared. Whichever avenue led to the interaction between the Pharisees, the people got to benefit from another lesson.
The Pharisees were out to test Jesus with their question. They asked for Jesus’ interpretation on a matter of law; is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife? Jesus turned the question of law right back on them. Jesus asked what Moses said they could do, as he was the one who had given them God’s law to begin with.
The Pharisees confirmed what Jesus already knew. Maybe He was testing them. Were they going to espouse one of their “traditions” or were they going to stick to the law given through Moses? “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away” (verse 4).
Jesus then talks about WHY God allowed Moses to allow this. Jesus says it was because of men’s harness of heart. God knew man’s heart. God knew how easily we get off track. How we are unfaithful in so many areas. How we treat one another.
You could probably say that divorce has saved a lot of lives. When forced to remain in a relationship with another that has decayed to the point of toxicity, both parties are going to suffer. Anger, hatred, deceit, sabotage, and even violence can and probably will ensue. This is NOT what God wanted to happen!
God’s design was for the man and woman to continue loving and caring for one another for the rest of their lives. He wanted them to become one. This oneness would then ensure that the other was treated as if it were the first him/her self. Would you mistreat yourself the way you mistreat your spouse? Would you lie to yourself? Would you degrade yourself? Would you speak harshly to yourself?
Because of man’s heart condition, we actually do these things to ourselves. We do it to others even more. This was NOT God’s plan, but He knew it did and would continue to happen. So He made a way to decrease the abuse.
This was man’s condition under the law and without God. Jesus is talking to the new man. The man who, through Jesus’ sacrifice, will have the Holy Spirit living inside of him. The person who has a personal relationship with Jesus. The one who is sensitive to His leading. The one who desires to live with the same love Jesus exhibited. The one who chooses to love, even when love is not returned in kind.
Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees focuses on God’s original intent in creating man. He gives them God’s ideal. He saves the consequences of following man’s desires for a private conversation with His disciples. Those listening in the crowd heard God’s ideal too. They were shown God’s heart at creation as well as His understanding of sinful man. A loving God who knew of our frailties and actually made provisions for us anyway. His biggest provision was in sending Jesus to take our place.
Once Jesus was alone with His disciples He tells them the real reason God doesn’t like divorce. Divorce doesn’t end with the paperwork, certificate of divorcement. Because the two have become one, when the knife divides the two halves and one half unites with another, the first is injured again. Jesus says that the spouse who remarries commits adultery against the other. It injures just the same as it would if done while still in the marriage covenant. That piece of paper doesn’t shield the pain.
I don’t often do this, but I want to bring my personal story into today’s lesson. I also want to apply what Jesus is teaching to our walk with Him in our society today. If you don’t want to hear these parts, feel free to skip on by or even log out. But I feel like I’m supposed to share these points.
I am divorced and remarried. My divorce was NOT my idea or desire. I took Jesus’ words regarding not separating what God joined, personally. To me this meant a lifelong commitment and covenant, regardless of how hard it sometimes became. And as with any relationship, there were hard times. I was not physically abused but I was emotionally and mentally beaten. I will admit that I didn’t remain passive or return unconditional love during this time. I don’t know what outcome would have resulted if I had. I was hurt. I started using his words against me as excuses to not do whatever it was he wanted me to do, when I didn’t want to do it. An example of this would be when I was busy doing something with the kids and didn’t want to go pick up something from the store for him, I would say “I forgot”, because he was always berating my memory. I had and still have a very good memory, but I would use his characterization of me as an excuse for my willful “disobedience.” NOT a loving thing to do or the truth.
When he left the military we both needed to find jobs to support our family. The jobs we acquired were not in the same geographic region, so we separated our physical household for financial reasons. We were NOT divorcing, just living apart until we could find jobs together in the same area. He was supposed to come see us (me and our four children) on a regular basis. He visited occasionally and we were all happy to see him when he came. In the winter his job did their regular winter layoffs and he began living with us in our home. He was distant, but I attributed it to me being at work a lot. We had some serious arguments during this time over behaviors he had picked up while we were apart, and I will admit to NOT being loving during those arguments.
When spring arrived, my car needed serious repair. My dad came and hauled my car to his home to repair it. I hadn’t seen my family in months, and as it was spring break, I wanted to go for a visit as well. He didn’t want to go but finally agreed to do it anyway. When it was time to return home, with my repaired car, we headed out in two vehicles. My car broke down on the way. I had to get back to my job but he was still on layoff. I returned to our home in his car and he went back to my parent’s home with mine to address its issues again. The repairs took several weeks to finally get them perfect.
The day before he was to bring my car to me, my mother called me to warn me that he was going to ask for a divorce. I was floored to say the least. I knew we had problems but was not expecting something like this. She also told me about the book he had been writing that she was typing for him at his request. I knew he was writing but he said he didn’t want me to read it until it was finished. I respected that request and therefore had NO knowledge of its content. The book was a thinly vailed confession of how he had secretly “been in love” with my little sister throughout our whole marriage. I had dealt with this “infatuation” much earlier in our marriage and thought the issue had been resolved.
When he arrived with my car he asked for a divorce stating, “I don’t love you like I used to. There’s nothing you can do about it and I want a divorce.” He refused any idea of counseling or any other intervention. He said he had felt this way since our second child was born but had made his final decision when I insisted we visit my family during spring break. He said he had wanted to avoid seeing my sister so he wouldn’t be tempted to continue “loving her.”
Beyond the infatuation issue that happened during the early years of our marriage, my sister (to my knowledge) never reciprocated any of his feelings or advances. Another reason for his decaying love towards me was because I was no longer skinny I was physically undesirable to him. And finally, because of my harsh words during one of our bigger arguments, he was understandably hurt. Add these up and he was determined to end our marriage. I told him that he would have to file the papers because I didn’t want the divorce. After a year, which he spent living with other women, I finally filed the papers legally ending our marriage.
I struggled very hard with my decision. I ached that he had committed heart adultery for ten years and physical adultery ever since leaving our home that dreadful day. I remember the pain of learning he had chosen to move on to another mate. It still hurts today, but thanks to Jesus, not like it did then. Through his actions, he had freed me to seek a legal divorce. In Matthew 19 Jesus allows divorce on the grounds of adultery.
I do not claim to know the exact thoughts of God or the full interpretation of Paul’s writings on divorce and remarriage, but I remained unmarried for 12 years. My ex-husband didn’t die during that time, but I met and married my current husband. I believe God brought my husband into my life. We married and I believe that God honors our marriage. I KNOW that God forgives my sins when I confess them to Him, so whether right or wrong I am God’s child and I will honor this marriage as long as we both shall live. I admit that there are times I wish I hadn’t married, because life is no picnic and we have our struggles, but I will honor what He has given me as best as I can.
Ok, let’s talk about our society. The biggest thing that bothers me is “falling in” and “falling out” of “love.” We use those two conditions to excuse all kinds of relationship issues. My marriage suffered and ended from that same disease. Love is not simply a feeling. Love is a commitment. Love is eternal. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:13 that love is even greater that faith and hope. 1 Corinthians 13 has a LOT to say about love. I am no expert on the subject, but want to point you to a couple of good blogs from those who are. I found three posts on Bible.org that I want to direct your attention to. The first looks at 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. The second looks at 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 a little deeper, and the final one looks at Romans 12:9-13. These look at real love.
The “falling in” and “falling out” feelings that we reference have to do with romantic love. Romance does ebb and flow with the actions of others. It is easy to fall into and fall out of that kind of relationship. But once the relationship crosses the boundaries of marriage, REAL love is the glue that holds it together. That commitment is what God says will make the two become one. When both partners commit themselves to living out God’s kind of love, the marriage will endure. There will still be times of struggle, as we live in sinful world. And we will fail to live God’s kind of love on more than one occasion. Jesus is who enables us to live up to this standard. This is the kind of love I need to exhibit in my marriage.
Father God, I KNOW I fall short of Your standard of love. I want to practice Your kind of love towards my husband specifically and my family in general. I know that love also confronts wrong in a productive ways. It doesn’t lay down like a doormat to be trampled. Show me how to address issues with love so they can be resolved how You want them to be.
Thank You for bringing my husband into my life. Thank You that You gave me the peace to marry him. Thank You also for giving me four beautiful children from my first marriage. I repent to You for my part in destroying what You gave me. Thank You too that You knew and know the hearts of men and made provision for my needs too. Thank You for Your forgiveness, in case I’m wrong. I guess we will figure that out when I get there. Until then, I’ll continue to love my husband as best as I can to meet Your standards, through Jesus’ help. I definitely can’t do it on my own! Not because he is so hard to love, because he isn’t any tougher to love than I am, but because I fail VERY often when I try to do it under my own power. I place both of us in Your care.