The subject of divorce and remarriage is very controversial in our time, but the controversy is by no means a new one. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus picked up the hot potato subject of divorce and addressed it with direct and simple but very sobering words — “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). Space won’t allow an in-depth analysis of this text, but Jesus’ teaching here is augmented by His further teaching later in Matthew 19:1ff. There Pharisees attempted to put Him on the defensive by asking in verse 3, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” As a part of His answer Jesus declared in Matthew 19: 8-9 – “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.” Those are strong words about divorce and remarriage! Combined, the two passages emphatically declare only one reason God allows divorce — sexual infidelity by the marriage partner. If a divorce takes place for any other reason and then remarriage follows, all the parties involved commit adultery: the divorce-er, the divorcee, and the one the divorce-er or divorcee remarries. That’s tough marriage-medicine in a me-first world where people want a quick, easy way out of any difficulty and inconvenience that arises, including in marriage.
Jesus’ words, though not difficult to understand, have proven difficult for many in our divorce-prone, no-fault divorce world to accept, including some in the church. I have read that a friend of W. C. Fields once entered the old comedian’s room to find him reading the Bible. Fields, a self-avowed atheist, was asked what he was doing. Fields quickly shut the Book, and, apparently embarrassed, replied, “Looking for loopholes, just looking for loopholes.” Many people look, and with first one argument and then another, insist they have found a loophole that releases them from the authority of God’s law concerning marriage and divorce. The mental twists and turns people go through bring to mind something I learned from fellow-preacher and friend David Sain. In a sermon I heard David preach, he mentioned a quote people often use regarding different Bible teachings — “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it.” But Brother Sain pointed out that saying is incorrect, and went on to proclaim the truth of the matter this way: “God said it….and that settles it!” Whether or not we believe a Bible truth has zero to do with its veracity! A majority of men and women once believed the earth was flat, but that did not make it so. Some in Jesus’ day had relaxed God’s law on marriage and divorce — but Jesus never did. Marriage is sick and getting sicker in our society, and even in the church. The hope for a cure is not in diluting Jesus’ teaching. Let us, at least in the church, take and trust the strong marriage-medicine the Great Physician prescribes.
Dan Gulley – Smithville Church of Christ