JESUS’ YOKE ON DIVORCE
“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.” Matthew 5:31-32.
In yesterday’s study, we talked about adultery being more than sleeping with another persons’ spouse. It begins in the heart by bringing another person into the union between husband and wife and breaking that union; it destroys the purpose of marriage, unity; and it disrupts God’s plan for the whole universe functioning together as one, as an expression of who He is – God is one.
Jesus did not say that divorce is an unforgivable sin. He said, firstly, that men should not divorce their wives for any old reason and, secondly, it should be done in the proper way. A man had no right to send his wife away if she displeased him over some minor thing she had done. He had no right to treat her like a bit pf property which he could throw away when he got tired of it.
On another occasion (Matthew 19:1-9), when the Pharisees asked Jesus if was alright for a man to divorce his wife for any reason, Jesus replied that it was not God’s plan from the beginning. Marriage is much more than two people coming together in a legally binding agreement which can be dissolved by a court of law if the husband decides he doesn’t want her any more. Marriage is of God. When two people marry, God joins them together and they must not be separated.
However, there are things that break a marriage long before spouses are divorced. Jesus called it “marital unfaithfulness.” Adultery is not the only form of marital unfaithfulness. There are also other things that break the unity between a husband and wife, for example, abuse, failure to provide, even secretive or deceptive behaviour, can disrupt the unity between husband and wife.
Before a Jewish couple were married, they drew up an agreement between them, witnessed by two witnesses, called a ‘ketubah’. The ketubah was especially designed to protect the wife.
A husband could not simply send his wife away. In the ketubah, he agreed to provide his wife with food, clothing and marital rights. He also agreed to pay a certain amount of money if he divorced her and inheritance rights if he died before her. It was not a mutual agreement. The wife only agreed to accept the husband’s proposal of marriage. The witnesses were there to attest to the husband’s actions, promises and statements and the wife’s agreement to his proposal of marriage.
Because of the husband’s agreement to pay money if he divorced his wife, it forced him to think carefully before he contemplated divorce. The fact that a divorce required a scribe and a specially convened court and witnesses also protected the wife from a husband’s hasty decision. http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/465168/jewish/The-Marriage-Contract-Ketubah.htm
In accordance with Rabbi Hillel’s teaching, some of the rabbis in Jesus’ day had become lenient about divorce. Others followed the teaching of Rabbi Shammai who was much stricter about the reasons for divorce. The Pharisees came to Jesus because they wanted to know who was right.
Jesus said it was wrong for a husband to look for an excuse to divorce his wife so that he could marry someone else. That was the worst form of marital unfaithfulness. By getting rid of her so that he could marry someone else, he put the blame for the breaking of unity on her and made her the guilty party.
People get divorced because of selfishness and sin. When we are followers of Jesus, we have been given new hearts, a new nature and the Holy Spirit who helps us to live with our husband or wife in unity and harmony instead of in conflict. True Christian marriages are to be a reflection of the unity that exists between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.