In case you didn’t know, Jesus was a radical. He was counter-cultural to an extreme. I mean, the authorities of the time killed the guy, even though He was the opposite of a criminal (instead of hurting or killing people, He healed them and brought them back from the dead).
One of the radical things He said that people took issue with was His stance on divorce and remarriage. One day, when some people asked Him when it was OK for a man to divorce his wife, Jesus responded by saying:
“Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” – Mark 10:11-12
What??? Getting married after being divorced counts as adultery? That doesn’t even compute, unless…unless the divorce didn’t count, and you are therefore still married to your ex.
Jesus, here and in other verses, was basically saying that marriage is permanent. A bond meant to only end by death. So to remarry after a divorce (when it was still possible to reconcile) would be committing adultery.
Hard to Accept
After touching on this subject at The Porch recently, there were a number of strong responses from people who disagreed, or who simply found it to be a hard message and wanted clarification.
That’s no surprise, considering how prevalent divorce is today. What’s interesting is that Jesus got the same response 2,000 years ago. Like today, many people in Jesus’ time thought that you should be able to get a divorce for literally any and every reason. So Jesus knew this would be a hard teaching to accept; even His disciples responded with “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry” (Matthew 19:10). But Jesus doesn’t shy away from the truth, no matter how hard, and here He was explaining something important about marriage and divorce.
Why Not Divorce?
Let’s look at why Jesus would have this stance on divorce.
For starters, and to put it very simply: divorce is not a good thing. Pretty much everyone agrees on this. Sure, many people would argue that in some situations it is the best available option, but if you go back to the wedding day, divorce is a hugely negative outcome that no one would ever want. In fact, the bride and groom specifically vow that it will never happen. So if it does happen, that is a huge hurt that some people feel is even worse than having your spouse die (or, for any kids involved, losing one of their parents).
But what Jesus is saying goes beyond all that. He tells us that marriage is something so much bigger than a license and a honeymoon. It is a sacred act where God unites a man and a woman together in such a way that they become one person. As He explains in Matthew 19:4-6:
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and 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.”
The Pharisees are asking if it’s permissible to divorce and Jesus responds that it may not even be possible. From God’s perspective, it is akin to cutting a person in half, or removing flour from a baked loaf of bread.
God’s Marriage to Us
God instituted marriage, and its purpose goes beyond what we usually think of it.
Marriage was created to be a picture of God’s unending love, pursuit, and covenant with His people (Ephesians 5:31-32).
So here’s what that means:
We’ve all cheated on God. When we sin, which for me has been a lot, we are seeking happiness somewhere other than God and what He has lovingly provided for us. Any and every sin could be grounds for God to “divorce” us.
But He doesn’t. No matter what we do or how many times we do it, He always offers full forgiveness. He never stops pursuing us and actively loving us. And when Jesus came to earth and willingly died for our sins, He proved that there was literally nothing He wouldn’t do to make this marriage work.
God’s plan for marriage is that there would be no divorce. Not that there would be no divorce because your spouse and your marriage is perfect; no marriage is perfect. Marriage is supposed to last for life despite those problems, as we actively love and pursue and forgive each other the way that God loves us (1 John 4:19).
Now, some of you are bound to be saying “Wait, what if my spouse does…” or “But what about this particular situation? Surely I could, or even should, get a divorce then?” Don’t worry; we’ll talk about what to do in each of those scenarios in a later post.
If divorce is a part of your story, as it is for millions of people, God doesn't love you any less because of it. Please know that there is grace, and we'd love to walk with you through the next steps.