The Sermon on the Mount: Day 9

Divorce Practices Censured

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Today's Text: Matthew 5:31-32, Genesis 2:20-25, Malachi 2:10-16, Matthew 19:1-12, 1 Corinthians 7:10-16

Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:31-32, Genesis 2:20-25, Malachi 2:10-16, Matthew 19:1-12, 1 Corinthians 7:10-16

Last night, my husband and I held hands as guests at a wedding. Outdoor summer weddings in the South are the epitome of idealistic thinking. As I enthusiastically fanned us both with a pink fan glued to a wooden stick, I thought about how ridiculous it was for us to be casually, affectionately holding hands at a time like this. Watching the fresh, glorious young bride and her awestruck groom make their vows in earnest to one another, I couldn’t help but think how the whole thing is just completely impossible.

We fall in love, and that love leads us to make wildly extravagant promises to each other. We promise, in our best clothes and in front of all our aunts and uncles, to “love, honor, and obey as long as we both shall live.” It is the bravest, most ridiculous promise I’ve ever made.

Have I kept my wedding vows? Have you? Truly? Even before we drove off into the sunset I had broken my vows. My heart was full of love, but my soul was still inclined to offer my new husband selfishness and dishonor. We make extravagant promises we cannot keep, but that’s why marriage is a covenant we make first with God, and then with each other. God keeps His promises. He created marriage and designed it to last.

I love marriage. I want to go even further than the Pharisees and say that “what God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matthew 19:6). I want no one to ever get divorced. But this is exactly what the Sermon on the Mount is all about. It’s rubber-meets-the road Christianity. And when the rubber meets the road, sometimes people have to get divorced. When the Pharisees ask about the conditions for divorce, they are, as per usual, trying to see how high they can draw the water line to measure who was right and who was wrong. And Jesus gives them “sexual immorality” as the only possible grounds.

But the grounds for marriage and the grounds for divorce aren’t to be our chief focus here. Christ Himself is the center of our covenant vows. When the Apostle Paul speaks of marriage, he says, “I am speaking of Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32). This means that marriage doesn’t exist apart from Christ. To ignore Christ in any consideration, either of marriage or divorce, is peril and destruction. Whether sin bears its ugly fruit in divorce, or grace intervenes to reconcile, these things must all be laid at the feet of Christ the faithful.

Whether it’s our parents, our siblings, our friends, or our own marriage—divorce has touched all of us in some way. The truth is, marriage doesn’t always work out. Even Moses made provision for divorce (Matthew 19:8). But when the Pharisees asked Jesus about divorce, they were thinking of marriage in strictly human terms; therefore, they also thought of divorce in merely pragmatic, human terms.

The things we think about at a wedding are exactly the things we should think about at a divorce. Yes, the world is a broken place, and we are broken people. But our brokenness is not the final standard for marriage or divorce. The extravagant promises of a wedding day are secured for us, not in our own strength, but in Christ. Both the making and the keeping of vows are only possible by His sustaining grace. And, knowing His faithfulness, we can have confidence, despite our folly.

And that’s why we keep engaging in this impossible mystery of marriage. God made us for love. He gave us marriage to make us holy, and to teach us about Himself. And that’s why we keep doing crazy things like getting married outdoors in the south in the summer.

Marriage isn’t about us. It’s about Him. He is the one who keeps vows.

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  • First I want to acknowledge the difficulty of reading about subjects, like divorce and marriage, that are deeply personal and that have touched all of us in some way — positively and negatively. However, I also want to provide a word of caution. Jesus’ teaching on divorce is straightforward. He certainly doesn’t mince words. And yet we want to read something else into it. Which is understandable, considering that a large majority of us were raised in churches that didn’t openly speak against divorce from the pulpit. But we need to take these words at face value. Period. We cannot agree to give another interpretation, or say that it is okay to “personalize” it. I’m not saying it’s easy, but neither are many of Jesus’teachings. Let us spur one another on. Let’s be voices of TRUTH.

  • Courtnie

    Wow, this is so great. This was so beautiful and intriguing. Such a fresh way to look at marriage that I haven’t heard in a very long time. I really enjoyed this one. Thank you!

  • As I read this study yesterday, it brought up a lot to learn about marriage in general. Such as: following God together, when the gospel is really embraced we become kind relatives and faithful friends which teaches us to bear burdens and to consider those we are connected with to observe their happiness and peace firstly, marriage is a divine institution as a lifelong engagement to God’s appointment. The big message I received was: married state should be entered upon with great seriousness and earnest prayer.

    With that said.. eye opening but I also cannot imagine a divorce, let alone feeling like a failure to God even if I didn’t want it or needed to get out. The only thing to remember is that you cannot make someone love you, that goes the same about “you can bring an animal to water to drink but you cannot make them drink.” I pray for those women whom are being casted aside or feel as if their safety is at jeopardy or that they have become a doormat and is under appreciated. I have been in abusive relationships and it becomes mind numbing and you feel worthless pretty much all of the time until someone comes along and calls you out of the closet and brings your pain to light where God instills a since of Holy Love where you need to make a move and a change. Regardless of your situation the scripture “God hates divorce” deflates you, makes you feel belittled… but that is not what he wants you to feel. Yes, his plan isn’t for divorce to happen but sadly people change and sometimes they grow alone versus growing with their companion in the marriage. Pray hard, in private on your knees, journal, seek counseling (church professional), try to sit down with your companion and figure out what you can work on. I recommend the book “Love and Respect” by Emerson Eggerichs and the “5 Languages of Love” by Gary Chapman. Worst case scenario, maybe file for separation to try to mend both roads individually with the Holy Spirit to try to reengage together after self reconstruction is complete.

    I love you all and am praying for you and your hearts! <3

  • This year I have started praying for a peaceful divorce. But the scripture “God hates divorce” leaves me feeling like I’m just wasting my time, that God doesn’t even listen to such prayers. But things are really bad, just beyond bad and I need God’s help to break free from this marriage. I am from a third world country where women hardly petition for divorces successfully. Even worse, I’m married to someone very famous in our country, our divorce will be front page news nationwide, it could ruin my life for good. I need God.

    • Cecilia

      S – I prayed for you. Gods listens and hears you no matter what!! Take refuge in Him!!! He goes before you and fights your battles. When people’s lives please the LORD, even their enemies are at peace with them. Proverbs 16:7. It encourages me by reminding me that reading his word and doing what God is telling me do, everything will be okay. S, everything will be ok. Declare the victory of God over your life and over your crisis…take some of the scripture from David’s battle w Goliath and pray it over your situation. God speaks to us in specifics, He will guide you through every decision…every word you speak. My heart goes out to you. You are not alone. ❤️

    • PeggyR

      God listens no matter what! I pray that God will join your heart with his when you cry out to Him. He loves you no matter what. You may not know how things will turn out, peaceful or not, exposed or not, but He knows and He always knows. yet he loves you just the same.

    • Karilyn

      God listens to all prayers. Sweet sister, you are in my prayers to Him.

    • marci

      Jesus please be with S – your peace that we do not understand , in your precious name , Amen

    • Julie

      S- I have said a prayer for you. You are truly not alone. I have a scripture verse that has comforted me and that I have memorized and that I pray on often- Isaiah 41:10 Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand. Blessings to you.

    • Kay

      S-I am lifting your cries for help up to our God of hope. May He grant you peace in the waiting. I am praying Psalm 121 over you S. You are precious to Him dear sister.

    • Beth Meagher

      Dear S, He is a good, good Father. You are loved, his beloved. Pray you know this in the deepest part of yourself. Listen for his voice.

    • Karen From Virginia

      The Lord is near the broken-hearted and saves those crushed in Spirit. Psalm 34. Jesus is near. He can comfort and lead you.

  • Hailey T

    I love that none of this says that through strife or separation that we’re are divorced from our Creator. We are forever one. Love to all who are hurting in this study today.

  • Caroline

    Sometimes I think we don’t realize the power of the covenant and what God intends for marriage. I am so thankful it’s all about glorifying him and has nothing to do with us (me or my spouse).

    http://www.in-due-time.com

  • Sarah Buchanan

    The outdoor wedding in the south. I was the bride just a month ago. Being a new wife can be gloriously joyful and discouraging all at the same time. I’m exhausted trying to earn a gold badge for keeping each vow I made to my sweet husband. For the first time, I realize I don’t have to that I can’t. Today I let go of the gold badge and ask Christ to steady this heart.

  • What word was originally used for adultery? I feel like this is one of those passages where Jesus is saying something even deeper than we suspect, but the meaning has literally gotten lost in translation. When I read these passages, I think the overall meaning is that adultery/divorce are very painful experiences. It’s an experience that marks everyone involved (the divorced, the second spouse, etc) because we often carry this experience with us. God does not intend for us to suffer. He especially doesn’t like when WE CAUSE our own suffering. We take this message seriously by entering into a partnership that has God at its center (instead of ego at its center). We lose our peace when we don’t. But the good news is that God will never divorce us. He will never abandon us. His love is steady.

  • This is such a lovely community.

  • Some really encouraging comments sisters, thank you!!! Ugh, today’s reading is so hard but full of H O P E . Encouragement is needed. For someone like me whose husband wants a divorce, it’s so painful. He just can’t cope with the stress of family and work – he’s says it’s not personal, he loves us but he suffers. The moment I take my eyes off Jesus, I feel so many things…sad, mad, trapped, duped….I could go on…but I complain to God, He is my refuge & I know divorce isn’t the end of the world. I am being taught so many things …the only way I would learn… to have faith in the pain, to humble myself, to know the comfort of Jesus through the valleys… When I was first saved I used to sing a song ‘But I know they’ll be days where this life brings me pain & if that’s what it takes to praise you, Jesus, Bring the Rain’ Gah! The rains have come and it’s a downpour! But I will praise him in this storm & pray my heart out for restoration!

    • Laura Hoover

      Oh goodness! My heart hurts with you. Divorce is so so heartbreaking and selfish! Is your husband a believer? I will be praying for you! God can and does redeem every day! This may not be the case for you, but it could be! I’ve seen God do it often! Praying for your husband to realize living for himself and only himself is a very broken & empty road. Praying for strength when you feel weak, comfort when you feel lonely, & mercy when you feel righteous anger in this situation. Have you read the Love dare?

      • Cecilia

        Hi Laura, He has fallen away from God but I have hope yet whatever the outcome, I obey God and trust him …either way God’s got me. I am so thankful for your prayers. I’ve read Love Dare and since you mention maybe I should start a new round. I will pray about it. Really appreciate your suggestion, thank you ❤️

        • J Lea

          Check out Rejoice Marriage Ministries. I have been standing for the restoration of my marriage for more than a year. This ministry has been such an encouragement. Saying a prayer for you tonight.

    • Lynne

      Cecilia, I am praying for you and your husband.

    • Rebekah DeLibro

      Prayed for you Cecilia. Prayed for clarity, forgiveness, that The Lord works within your husband’s heart to show him what needs to be shown. That you are protected, given hope, and strength during this time. That your children feel love, stability, and closeness to God and you both. Really praying this works out for the good of your family.

    • Bea

      I’ve been there Cecilia, It’s an awfully hard road to walk through, but Jesus will lift you up, HE is your husband. Take courage in Isaiah 54, in the story of an abandoned wife. HE will rebuild you with precious stones and that you will forget the pain you endure now. When it gets too hard to praise God with your own words or life, just join David and read a Psalm of praise. It is true that even in our darkest hours He is worthy to be praised, and it is also true that He is enough for you forever. Much love! – Bea.

      • Cecilia

        Bea!! Thank you. You have encouraged me all along the way. You’ve posted your journey before and the way you share your heart has helped mine so much. ❤️

    • Lori Wat

      Praying for healing and wholeness- whatever the outcome Sister.

  • I am so grateful for marriage. I have prayed since our sons were babies for their wives but 30 is just months away for one and 2 years for the other and neither have found a wife. Finding a godly wife is difficult in our culture. I will keep praying but I feel sad if God’s answer is that neither of them will find a godly wife.

    • Laura

      I completely understand! I have so many friends who are in the same boat! Can you send me an email to [email protected]?

    • churchmouse

      I hear your heart’s desire and I so admire you and your sons for faithfully waiting for a Godly wife, to not settle for being unequally yoked – which could bring far more heartache than being single. Give yourself and your sons credit for being wise in the waiting.

  • churchmouse

    These are hard Scriptures. Probably like most of you, I was taught that the only acceptable reason a person could divorce was in the case of adultery. But there is adultery of the heart and not just the flesh, as we read yesterday. Jesus raised the bar and equated adultery with lust. Yet many of us would not consider the act of lusting as permission to divorce. A pastor once spoke on the four A’s as consideration for separation between spouses: adultery, abandonment, addiction and abuse. He taught that these four were so detrimental to covenant union that they were valid reasons to separate, to allow space for counseling, repentance and hopefully reconciliation and restoration. He taught that divorce in each circumstance was optional, not inevitable. The separation would provide time to assess each person’s heart and motivation to realign with the Holy Spirit… or not. The safety of the soul (as well as physical safety in the case of abuse) was a valid reason for separation. The goal was always to be reunification and renewal. The decision should be made over time, with counseling and much prayer and thoughtfulness. But if repentance and recommittment could not occur, then divorce could regretfully be the result. BUT GOD does not abandon those He loves, no matter the sin or circumstance. As mentioned, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Divorce does not make you a pariah. It, like all sin, makes you, like me, in need of a Savior. And He is right there,arms open wide to embrace you in His love.

  • Again, Jesus raises the bar for morality and outright says that “some people should just be eunuchs” because marriage is hard. To be honest I have met a lot of women that would have loved to reconcile with their husband or work through their problems but instead were abandoned. I think the passage in Malachi really speaks to God’s heart for marriage and for the one who has been abandoned. It speaks to why divorce leaves such a whole in our lives, a literal tear. I never knew that “God puts a portion of his Spirit” into the Union of marriage. I definitely see this in our marriage, as the Lord’s faithfulness has drawn us time and time again to himself and each other. But each of us has to be open to the Spirit to receive both his love and admonition- to be able to repent to each other, to forgive each other. This is the beauty of marriage; not the perfection, but the continual reconciliation, God sustaining two very different people, whom he has brought together for his glory.

  • Mr and Mrs C, used to come into the restaurant holding hands.. always… I loved to watch them walk in , imagining that one day that would be me and mine..

    One day in conversation with them they told me they had been together since she was 16 and he 18.. they had been married 65 years and He loved her as much that day as he had when they were teenagers..
    My reply… “I hope when I grow up, I can have as many years of what you two have..” ( I was in my 40s then).. I smile..
    They were that together, when He suffered a mild stroke and was hospitalised for a few weeks, she was absolutely lost.. her world had been rocked and she couldn’t function as she used to when they were two acting as one..
    Oh to have a love like that for a day…! Let alone 65 years!!!! Whoop!. Whoop!
    That is Faith. Hope. Love right there!!!!
    Here’s the thing.. . Through hours of conversations with Mr and Mrs C.. their life was not all plain sailing.. he was away at sea a lot..a naval man, in their early years of marriage.. 4 children..ups and downs of any marriage, but they weathered the storms by entrusting themselves to each other, by holding true in their hearts the words they had promised before God and man. They believed and hoped in them. They absolutely believed in ‘What God had joined together.. ‘ They were dedicated to each other and their family…

    Their Marriage wasn’t about them. It was about Him. He was the one who keeps vows…
    As a divorcee, and one still trusting God to bring Mr right (in God’s eyes) to me, I know marriage is not always perfect…
    But God..
    But God in it, surely has got to be as perfect as is going to be this side of heaven… Right?
    I love you Lord God.. thank you for everything.. thank you for Life. Love. Hope in your Son. Grace…oh so much grace.. thank you Lord. Thank you.
    Love wrapped hugs being sent your way.. x

    • Lana

      “Their marriage wasn’t about them. It was about Him.” Nailed it. So good, Tina. This can be applied to ALL relationships.

  • Having gone through a divorce after my ex-husbands adultery, this study was a painful one for me, triggering lingering pain, longing, regret and tears. I find I regularly need to be reminded and reassured of God’s faithfulness and love for me in that moment of pain and brokenness.

    • Tina

      Gemma. Sending you love wrapped hugs and prayers for your heart to be stilled and know that You are His and He is yours and He absolutely and to the cost of death on a wooden cross, loves you…and holds you close in those times of sadness and brokenness…
      With Him alongside… It will be well… God is faithful.. always..
      Hugs …xx

    • Lana

      Gemma, have you read SRT’s Mourning and Dancing study? I read it as my relationship was ending. It felt like a warm hug. Maybe it will bring you comfort as well? Praying for you.

  • Alison MacFarland

    Am I a bad Christian for believing divorce is ok? In the sense that people just don’t get along. Shouting and yelling and misery (especially when there’s a child in the picture) does not bring happiness to anybody. I would rather get out of a loveless marriage then be miserable for my entire life. What are your thoughts sisters?

    • Alison, I’m with you. I still have to remind myself and hubby that every day we choose to be together or I feel trapped I don’t know if it’s past experience. But we had a jerk of a marriage for 3 years and God healed it. It sure isn’t perfect. I still struggle letting things go but the healing God gave to us was mesmerizing. I still don’t think everyone should stay together. Some days I don’t think we should stay together but if I had just given up I would have missed out on something truly miraculous.

      I think because God is personal we can’t just decide to think one way about really any situation. The devil works hard but God shows love just how we need it!

    • Nancy

      Alison, in my heart I know divorce is wrong, but I’ve always felt that raising a child in a loveless, angry marriage is sinful too. One of the reasons I divorced years ago was because I didn’t want my daughter to think that my marriage was an example of the way every marriage should be. We did try counseling, but our relationship was too far gone and I was not a Christian at the time. Have you and your husband tried counseling? Will be praying for you my sweet sister.

    • Lana

      SB nailed it on the head. I too believe God is personal. I also believe divorce laws were written according to the culture at the time. Women had no options. Remember when Tamar preferred to marry her rapist? Yeah – no options. In that time period, those laws were created to protect women. But now that women are more protected under the law, things are a bit different. I too believe in a God of miracles. But I also believe in a personal God. If God says stay, stay. If God says leave, leave. We know God by his peace, even amidst heartbreak.

    • Beth S

      I definitely can see where you are coming from, but having been the child (along with my 3 younger sisters), I can say that the divorce itself caused more pain and misery than the fighting that my parents did in the home. Praise the Lord that there has since been forgiveness and reconciliation between us and my parents, but those are scars that will always be there. I am not saying you are wrong. I just hope this helps add another perspective.

      • Nancy

        Thank you for this perspective. I appreciate your view from a different angle.

  • aprilinsydney

    THIS is what I’ve been dreading most about this study. I know what the Bible says about forgiveness, but I feel so disgustingly dirty, unforgivable and like I’ve messed up too many times for God to forgive me. Like I knew better/should have known better, so there’s no excuse for my mistakes. I don’t know how to receive His forgiveness. I’m too ashamed to go into details about what I’ve done/what’s happened, but would you please pray for me? This weighs on me daily like a millstone on my neck.

    • Sarah K

      I will pray for you! Bless you, may God give you the grace to see and feel that you truly are forgiven and to really be able to accept this and let it in.

    • Tina

      Aprilinsydney, will absolutely pray for you to 1) learn to forgive yourself..thats the hard part…2) As a children of God, yet sinners, our sin, sometimes in the most spectacular of ways, to the point, we can see no way back home to God,
      But God..
      But God, He is bigger than any ‘spectacular ‘ sin… and there is NOTHING He won’t forgive us for when we repent and bring it to Him.. His grace is made great in our weakness. His love for us… for always, no matter what we have done..
      April, pray in faith.. hope… James 5:13-16 is a good place to start.. .
      The message says it this way..
      Believing- prayers will heal me, and Jesus will put me on my feet. And if I have sinner. I will be forgiven- healed inside and out.
      Trust Him. Give all to Him.. know how much He loves you.. you are His and God will do anything to make you right..
      Will do my part by praying for you … sending you love wrapped hugs and prayers April.. xxx

    • Alexis

      I will pray for you! The most beautiful thing about God is that when he sees us, he sees his son.Jesus stood in the place for us, our sin. He loves you so much, much more than you can imagine.
      Whatever guilt you are feeling please know it is not from God. It is from the enemy of our souls who wants to weigh ya down by your past sin. Satan doesn’t want you to be free. You are forgiven by Christ. You are a child of God, and the devil has no authority to speak guilt and condemnation in your life. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. “Romans 8:1. Remember this when guilt and condemnation comes knocking at your door.

    • kimberly

      I feel exactly similar to you. Maybe we can be prayer partners. We probably unfortunately have been on the same (wrong) road at some point. I used to say it never would be me, but that pride and sin inside of me showed its true colors and proved me very wrong. But what matters now is that even though we can’t change our past mistakes, we can recommit to living for the Lord. We can surrender to Him fully, finally 100%. And pray that His Holy Spirit will fill us with the comfort and peace that we have longed for. Pray Psalm 51, that God will create a clean heart inside of you and a renewed spirit. We can be thankful God is still filling up our lungs with His breath every morning and that there’s still time to serve Him while we are here on earth. Our lives probably look a lot different from where we thought we would be right now. But even so, we have testimonies to tell and proof that Jesus can bring healing and restoration to brokenness. It’s hard, so hard to come into His presence with so much guilt and shame. But do it. He wants to wipe it all away. Pray that He takes all your burdens and sins. He will take care of you if you let Him. Be a sheep and trust Him to be your shepherd. Let Him lead and guide you. Like psalm 23 says. He will take full care of you, feed you, give you water, and most of all give you rest. Lean into Him. Jesus is all we need. Nothing else. Pray that the Holy Spirit ministers to you. I will pray the same for you. And we can pray that from this moment on, that He leads us on the narrow right and only road to Him through the door of Jesus.

    • Rebecca

      Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
      John 8:10‭-‬11 ESV

      Jesus walks with us always, even in our shame. Especially in our shame. I pray that in His love, you find rest from these burdens you are carrying.

    • Pam

      April, get a copy of Matt Chandler’s book Recovering Redemption. It will speak to the things you are experiencing. I struggled for years with thoughts similar to yours but have finally grasped God does love us….everyone of us. We are ALL broken. He made you uniquely you and He knows what you have been through and He loves YOU!

    • Anne

      We are never too bad or ugly/dirty for God. He just wants us to come to him and give it over to him and ask for his help. I have to remind myself this everyday too.

    • ashley

      I feel the same way! Maybe it would help us to talk things out together as Christians! I need a friend who has experienced similar situations.

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