Monday, April 4, 2011

The Sermon on th Mount - Divorce

Welcome to a new week where we will be continuing an old series.  We will pick up right where we left off in the Sermon on the Mount. 
Furthermore it has been said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery. Matthew 5:31-32 NKJV
Jesus takes a very hard stand on divorce.  Lest you think Jesus did not say what He really said here, let us look later in Matthew where Jesus expands on this teaching.
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?" And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' 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'?So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate." They said to Him, "Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?" 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. 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."  Matthew 19:3-9 NKJV
I imagine the Pharisees had Jesus' message of divorce in mind when they questioned him.  Jesus went completely against their perception of the law where any man can divorce his wife so long as he filled out the right paperwork.  Jesus changed all that saying it was not at all about God accepting divorce, but that He tolerated it due to the hardness of their hearts.  Divorce was never intended by God and the Bible teaches us that God hates divorce.  Not only that, we see here that God does not even recognize divorce if not done under very specific circumstances (sexual immorality).  Jesus gives us God's views on divorce and its sinful consequences in chapter 5 and goes on to explain what the means in chapter 19.  Let us take a look at what exactly Jesus is saying. 

So why does God hate divorce so much?  The reason is because of what marriage represents.  Marriage represents several things.  First and foremost it is a picture of our relationship to the Lord.  Just as our marriage to our Lord will never end, so should our earthly marriages here on earth.  To call our marriages a metaphor for our relationship to the Lord and allow divorce calls into question the security of our salvation and our relationship to the Lord.  Think about it, if a husband or wife can "fall out of love" (whatever that means) with each other, then why can't the Lord "fall out of love" with us whenever we do not make Him happy?  Can you imagine if we had to worry about the Lord leaving us every time we fell into sin or every time we did not live in a way that was pleasing to Him?  We would live in constant fear of losing our salvation and we would create for ourselves a system of works to ensure our salvation.  Praise God we have the promise that the Lord will never leave us or forsake us.  Just as our relationship to the Lord is eternally secure, so should our marriages be secure for our lifetime.  To be anything less while using marriage as a metaphor for our relationship with the Lord calls into question the nature and character of Jesus.

Secondly, marriage represents God's original plan for mankind.  Remember that God created woman out of man.  Coming together as husband and wife represents the coming together of what was separated.  Man and wife become, in a sense, one flesh once again.  Furthermore, that union is created by God and under God's authority.  We have no place to tear apart what God has put together.  What arrogance do we have when we think we can usurp the authority of God in creating the separation via divorce.  The fact is that we have no authority to do so and in that God does not recognize that divorce.  It is as a result of that where we get Jesus's hard statement regarding the consequences of divorce. 

And what are those consequences?  Jesus tells us "But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery."  The consequences are that in God's eyes you are still married and so any new relationship is an adulterous one.  Not only that, but it is adulterous for the person you are in a relationship with as well.  Being that you had no right to be divorced, you are not divorced. You may think you are divorced, but God says differently.  You may think you can get divorced, confess it to God, and then live free to do what you choose.  Jesus tells us differently.  You see, divorce is a perpetual sin.  It is not like when you tell a lie when you can confess it to God and move on.  The sin is in the past.  Divorce is different.  Divorce is ongoing and the only way to truly repent of divorce is to get back with your spouse.  The reason for that is because divorce itself is not the only sin involved, but leads to a state of perpetual sin.  First of all, in God's eyes, it never even happened.  Secondly, everything you do not acting as a husband or wife after the divorce is a sin.  It is a sin that you are not being the spouse you were called to be.  It is a sin that you are not taking as active a role in your children's lives.  It is a sin in that you are not being faithful to your spouse.  The only way to truly repent of all that is to actually go back to your husband or wife and be that spouse you still are called to be in God's eyes.  Living as though divorced may not lose you your salvation, but it will destroy any chance at peace or joy in the Lord and you will have to give an account for all you did in rebellion to God when you stand before Jesus at the judgment for believers. 

Jesus does give us one valid reason for divorce and that is sexual immorality.  Sexual immorality of any kind not involving your spouse, as we learned last week, is adultery.  Keep in mind that God allows divorce in this case, but that does not mean God desires it.  God allows it as a consequence for the offending party who broke the marriage bond by committing adultery.  In cases of adultery, it is the adulterer who breaks the marriage bond not the offended who initiates the divorce.  The offended is just formalizing what was already done by the adulterer.  I do believe, though, that with God's overwhelming desire for restoration, even in cases of adultery, God hates divorce.  God, I believe, would much rather a restoration of that relationship then allowing it to dissolve.  I realize that it may be difficult.  On both sides, there must be a denial of self and the swallowing of a lot of pride, but the end will be worth it.  I have seen many marriages restored to better than they ever were when God was allowed to repair that damage. 

Divorce is the epitome of selfishness.  There is no noble or selfless reason to divorce your spouse.  It is wicked, evil, and destructive and God hates it.  It leaves children damaged for life, embitters wronged spouses, squanders a tremendous amount of money, and God hates it.  I have heard the arguments about how God would not give you desires for a person if you weren't supposed to be with them.  You know what, you are right. God would not and did not give you those feelings and if you are leaving your spouse for someone else, God hates what you are doing.  I also heard it argued about God wanting one to be happy and that this other person will make you happy.  Happiness is never found in sin and God is certainly not going to bless you with any kind of genuine joy by doing something that He hates.  Divorce is never the right thing to do, even if you were at the wrong end of an adulterous spouse and it is an acceptable thing to do. 

So being that our relationship to the Lord is likened to a marriage and that divorce is allowed in a very limited circumstance in earthly marriage, it begs the question as to if there are any circumstances where Jesus would divorce us.  While I do not believe one can lose their salvation, the idea of being able to forfeit your salvation is not as cut and dry.  For example, if you are a Christian who converts to Islam and never returns to Jesus are you still saved?  Did you forfeit your salvation when you forsook Jesus?  The two schools of thought are where you can either give up your salvation or whether you ever really had it to begin with.  I tend to lean towards the latter, but getting caught up in the semantics of the issue is counterproductive.  Whether you can divorce yourself from Jesus or whether you were never truly betrothed to Him to begin with does not matter in the end.  What matters is that there are many who walk away from the true and living faith to where their eternal destination is in question.  The fact is that I do not believe that anyone truly in Christ would commit spiritual adultery on Christ.  Spiritual adultery is, of course, worshiping or following another god (even if that god is your self as in the case of atheism).  But yet there are people who at one time at the very least appeared to walk with the Lord who completely and totally walked away from having any kind of belief in Jesus at all.  I am not talking about the backslidden Christian, I am talking about the one who completely walked away from the faith and maybe even follows a new one.  I am not the one to judge their eternal destination, but there is ample evidence in Scripture to call into question their eternal destination.  The Bible tells us to press on, to overcome until the day of Christ Jesus, to continually abide in Him, etc and so in that example, we must cherish that relationship with the Lord each and every day.  Just as our earthly marriages are ordained by God to last the entirety of our lives on earth, our marriage to our Lord is ordained to last for eternity.  Just as we are not to live in fear of divorce ending our earthly marriages, so should we live in the security of knowing that our marriage to our Lord will never end.  Jesus will never forsake us, why would we ever even let it enter our minds for forsake Him? 
Judah has dealt treacherously, And an abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem, For Judah has profaned The LORD's holy institution which He loves: He has married the daughter of a foreign god. May the LORD cut off from the tents of Jacob The man who does this, being awake and aware,Yet who brings an offering to the LORD of hosts! And this is the second thing you do: You cover the altar of the LORD with tears, With weeping and crying; So He does not regard the offering anymore, Nor receive it with goodwill from your hands. Yet you say, "For what reason?" Because the LORD has been witness Between you and the wife of your youth, With whom you have dealt treacherously; Yet she is your companion And your wife by covenant. But did He not make them one, Having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. 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."  Malachi 2:11-16 NKJV

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