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Monday, January 27, 2014

Does God Ever Condone Divorce?

In the last article, I referred to Malachi 2:16 which states God’s attitude toward divorce. It says: “For the Lord God of Israel says the He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garment with violence.” God hates divorce because marriage was His idea. He intended it to be “till death do us part.” And He hates what divorce does to a family – shredding and tearing it apart, leaving broken hearts and devastated people in its wake.

But, yet, when Jesus was talking to the Pharisees (Actually, they had come to try and trap Him again with a loaded question), they tried to make the argument that God actually condones divorce. As a matter of fact, they asserted, Moses went so far as to command getting one. This conversation is recorded in Matthew 19:7-9:

7 They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?”
8 He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”
“But, see,” they accused. “Moses commanded that the husband give his wife a certificate of divorce.” They could only be referring to Deuteronomy 24:1-4. No other passage written by Moses even gets near divorce. But in this passage, Moses addressed the issue of a woman who was given a divorce and married someone else, saying that she could not be taken again as the first man’s wife. Try as you might in reading those verses, there is no way you can find a command to divorce. It simply acknowledges that divorce exists, and it commands that the man could not remarry his ex-wife once she had defiled herself. Jesus, of course, answered correctly that Moses made no command to divorce, Moses merely a concession.

Divorce wasn’t God’s intention. Divorce is the result of sinful men with hardened hearts who refuse to repent. Divorce, therefore, is merely allowed as a gracious concession allowing an out to the offended party. The one sinned against is not required to stay in an impossible situation. This is why divorce is never labeled sin in the Bible. Some divorces are allowed in limited situations.

Scripture is clear that divorce is always caused by sin, at least one of the marriage partners, but it isn’t always sin. Divorce is caused when one party persists in unrepentant sin and hardens their heart, and the other simply needs an out. So, no! Divorce is never God’s best and never God’s plan, but it is only God’s concession to protect the innocent victim of a spouse’s unrepentant continuing sin.

You can see this from the very next thing Jesus says in Matthew 19:9,

“And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”
First, why does God consider it adultery if a man divorces his wife without cause and marries another? It is because God considers the first marriage to be still in effect. You cannot simply get rid of a spouse you don’t want any more. God does not recognize no-fault divorce, even though the human judge may.

The only exception Jesus gave in Matthew 19:9 is “except for sexual immorality.” The word is often translated as adultery, but it means much more than only adultery. The word in Greek is porneia, which gives us our English word, pornography. It refers to all kinds of illicit sexual sins including fornication, adultery, prostitution, and homosexuality. Granted this is a controversial passage, and there are many views as to what Jesus actually meant. Some commentators seek obscure meanings, while others take it at face value. We won’t take time now to examine all the various views, but usually you should take the plain meaning if it makes sense as the best.

There is a gracious exception if your spouse is involved in unrelenting sexual sin. This is the only exception given by Jesus – a one flesh bonding outside the covenant of marriage. The emphasis of Jesus seems to be to restrict divorce, not allow it for any reason. Paul seems to give a couple of other exceptions (The abandonment by an unsaved spouse, and possibly a divorce having taken place prior to salvation), but we won’t take time now to cover them.

What I do want to do before I close, however, is say this: My purpose has not been to hammer on divorcees adding guilt to the pain they have already experienced. If you were one of the innocent victims in a divorce who did everything in your power to keep the marriage together, there is no sin on your part. You need feel no guilt. You were the one who was sinned against by a hard-hearted spouse. The church needs to support and love you.

But either way, God forgives, and God comforts. He is in the business of strengthening His children and of putting lives back together. Our purpose is not dump on you, but rather to encourage those of you who are now in a troubled marriage to stick with it. Don’t throw in the towel. Keep fighting for your marriage.

You see what God says about marriage and divorce. Will you submit to the Bible’s teaching? The late Francis Schaeffer said, “If we believe the Bible is totally true, we cannot dodge its claim on our lives in sensitive areas such as divorce.” We don’t follow the lead of the world, we follow the teaching of Scripture.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Tragedy of Easy Divorce

Another way Satan attacks the institution of marriage is through easy divorce laws. Some of you can probably remember the way it was in the “good old days” of our parent’s generation. If you can’t remember it, you probably have watched it on “Ozzie and Harriet” reruns. Back then, divorce was rare. Divorce left a stigma on a person’s life. It carried a certain amount of shame to be divorced.

You couldn’t even get a divorce unless you proved adultery by your spouse. That’s why they hired private detectives to snap pictures through cracks between the bedroom curtains. There was enormous social and economic pressure for couples to stay together. There was a lot if incentive to “work it out,” to “hang in there” for the sake of the kids.

Sure, marriages weren’t all good, but they stuck. And the benefit was that kids were raised by both parents. But today, we live in the age of “No-Fault Divorce.” People can dissolve a marriage in our society for any reason, or for no reason at all.

Currently, the most common reason given for divorce is communication problems. Couples feel incompatible because they don’t communicate, so they divorce. But is our society better for it? Are people happier? Hardly! And, for sure, the kids aren’t better off.

Maybe God was right. Jesus gives us God’s opinion on divorce and marriage in Matthew 19:3-6:

3 The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?”
4 And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
Jesus was asked a point blank question by the Pharisees. In effect, it was, “Is no-fault divorce acceptable?” To answer, Jesus pointed the Pharisees back to creation and quoted from Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:24. He wants them to understand God’s original intent for marriage. What was God’s intent? Marriage is to last “till death do us part.” God designed marriage to be one man with one woman for life. God created marriage as a one-flesh relationship – a loving, intimate union of two persons into one flesh that lasts until one of them dies. They are no longer two, but “one flesh,” acting as visual flesh and blood pictures of the relationship between Christ and the Church.

Can a marriage be dissolved? Well, can flesh be torn asunder? Obviously! The answer is yes. We see it happen all the time. But what is involved in tearing flesh asunder, of ripping a body apart?
In marriage, it involves the destruction of a family. From God’s use of the terms, it is obvious that divorce is like a person being ripped in two, and the pain and agony that is involved in doing it is intense. And the death that follows is the death of the family - the union God Himself had blessed. Therefore, Jesus stated, “What God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Why do people divorce? It is because people refuse to deal with the problems that inevitably arise between them. They prefer to destroy the union because they refuse to yield their own desires or refuse to yield their own way. They refuse to obey God.

God says that divorce is not a satisfactory solution. He glued you together with permanent glue, the best available so you couldn’t come apart. Only with great difficulty can two things glued together be separated. Try to separate two pieces of wood glued together with good wood glue. The pieces don’t separate at the joint, but the wood tears along its own grain. That means you can’t separate the two pieces without doing great damage. The same principle applies to marriage. You can’t separate the partners in a marriage without great damage. But it is not supposed to be that way. You glue things together so they won’t come apart.

The symbol is to be as permanent as the reality. Since the marriage represents Christ’s relationship to His bride the church, we can glean principles. We can’t lose our salvation once we have been born-again through repentant faith in Jesus Christ. If we could, it would be like ripping off Christ’s arm or leg because we are part of His body. Can you see why God has such a bad attitude against divorce?

Malachi 2:16 declares:

“For the LORD God of Israel says
That He hates divorce,
For it covers one’s garment with violence,”
Says the LORD of hosts.
Therefore take heed to your spirit,
That you do not deal treacherously.”
When God says, “For it covers one’s garment with violence,” He is talking about torn flesh, about victims. Since in that day only the man could file for divorce, divorce left the wife broken hearted and destitute. It left children fatherless. It left homes shattered. And God hates it! He hates that kind of violence.

Do you think God has changed his mind? Malachi 3:6 says, “For I am the LORD, I do not change.” God has always hated divorce, and He still hates it. “But my divorce was justified,” you might say. God still hates it. He forgives it, but He hates the consequences. We need to fight to preserve our marriages, not give up and divorce.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Widespread Acceptance of Adultery – a Death Knell to Marriage

Satan is attacking marriage in three ways in our day: He attacks through rampant hedonism, through widespread acceptance of adultery, and through easy divorce laws. I want to look now at our culture’s destructive acceptance of adultery as simply human nature and to be expected.

We previously made the case that sex (oxytocin as the chemical carrier) acts as a glue to cement our marriages together. But with adultery, that glue isn’t sticky any more. Like tape that is used over and over, it loses its stickiness. Likewise, we lose the ability to cleave to our wives the more often we fall in and out of love. Now in our society, one third of married men and women claim to have had at least one affair. Two thirds of men and half of the women wish they could spend more time making love (bad term for having casual sex), but not with their current lover. So the stickiness of marriage is certainly diminished.

But, the world encourages that kind of immorality. It actually expects that kind of behavior. They claim it adds a little spice to life. Read the columns that the worldly “experts” write, and you can see their encouragement of adultery. Dagmar O’Connor, Director of Sexual Therapy at St. Luke’s- Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City, gave these “helpful suggestions” to improve your sex life in marriage:

“When you pass a bedroom window with the blinds drawn, try to picture the sexual scene a couple might be playing.” “Try mentally undressing people you see around you.” “Imagine other couples making love.” “Some couples enjoy flirting at parties.”
How can adding someone else into the midst of your marital intimacy, even if in fantasy, help strengthen the bond of cleaving? How does any of this fit with what Jesus said in Matthew 5:27-28, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” How can adultery in any way fit into a God-designed and God-honoring marriage?

Now here is another question: If a little adultery is good for marriage, why are there so many broken hearts and divorces caused by adultery? It is because even though our glands can convince our minds that an open marriage is good, we can’t convince our hearts. They still get broken.

How much better to listen to God. God takes sexual sin seriously, and God condemns all sexual intercourse outside of marriage. More than that, in the Old Testament, any illicit sexual activity involving married persons demanded the death penalty. Read Leviticus 20:1-14 to see this. That’s serious. And God’s law demanded that fornicators marry. Plus, two of the Ten Commandments relate to the sanctity of marriage. The Seventh Commandment found in Exodus 20:14 states: “You shall not commit adultery.” Plus, the tenth Command found in Exodus 20:17 states: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.” Not only is the act of adultery condemned, but even the intent is forbidden. For a married person even to want another, to desire another, was terrible. And it is a death knell to marriage.

Adultery is a great destroyer of marriage. Any married person who even flirts around the edges of adultery is creating great damage to his marriage. A man is commanded to leave his mother and father and cle