Monday, August 14, 2023

Jesus addresses the topic of Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage

Have you heard the dreaded stat that 50% of marriages today end in divorce? Yeah, that isn’t actually true. It was a myth. It came from a projection that if the divorce rate continued to raise by 2% each year, that it could reach that level. But it never actually did.

It’s probably closer to 30 to 35%, maybe lower. It’s a hard thing to measure. In fact divorce has been on the decline, thanks to younger generations which are either staying married or not getting married at all. In fact, in 2019, the divorce rate reached the lowest it had been in 50 years, with only 7.6 per 1000 marriages in 2019 ending in divorce.

I had also often heard from well meaning pastors that the divorce rate of 50% of the world was the same within the walls of the church. That was according to a now debunked 2001 Barna study. The study didn’t take into account church attendance or spiritual activities, just what people said they believed. But if you factor in church attendance and other factors that should someone who is really an active Christian, the rate drops massively. From what I can tell only about 12-16%.

So all of that to say, it isn’t all bad news, it’s not great, but it’s not all bad news. Too many times we’re told it’s hopeless, might as well give up, but don’t always believe the press and what you hear, it may not actually be backed up by the data.

So today we’re talking about marriage and divorce, and what messiah Jesus had to say about these important topics. We’ll also see gender, and sexuality included in this discussion today. And along with that, children, as marriage, divorce, gender and sexuality is of course linked with children, the birth of children, and the raising of children. It all fits together.

In Mark chapter 10 today, we see in verses 1-2:

Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them.

2 Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

The first thing to notice is that the Pharisees question is not genuine. They aren’t coming to Jesus because they just long to know what he thinks about the issue. This is a tactic to try to trip up Jesus, so they can find a reason to accuse him of teaching falsely.

The Lord Jesus wisely responds to this question with another question. Keep that in mind when dealing with someone questioning you. Sometimes the best answer is to ask a question back to them.

Here is what Jesus says:

3 “What did Moses command you?” he replied.

4 They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”

The Pharisees are most likely thinking of the book of Deuteronomy.

Jesus responds and says, “5 “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied.

Jesus indicates that this Old Testament command was given by Moses because of the hard heartedness of the people of Israel over their past history. He gave them option of divorce as a concession to their weaknesses.

This is what it originally said in Deuteronomy:

“If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house...” -Deuteronomy 24:1

But Jesus has a new command for them. A new challenge. A new way. That divorce is not simply a note to be written, and but marriage is something greater.

And here we see Jesus defining numerous terms for us, and he makes so many things very clear to us, that many have become confused about in our society. God’s restrictions are holy and good and true. Jesus quotes all the way back to the Old Testament, the first book, Genesis, for his definition of gender, marriage, and family union.

6 “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’[a] 7 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,[b] 8 and the two will become one flesh.’[c] So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Definitions of Gender and Marriage

Jesus Christ defines gender: male and female only

Jesus Christ defines marriage: between man and woman only

Jesus Christ defines the marriage union: two become one only

Jesus Christ defines divorce, they must never separate (with exceptions for special circumstances)

Now, when Jesus gathers with his disciples privately, he goes into a bit more detail. He would always do this, give a general command or parable to the public, then go alone with his disciples to explain in greater detail what he meant.

It says this, verses 10-11:

10 When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. 11 He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. 12 And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”

Jesus tells them that marriage is so sacred between a man and woman, that they should never be separated in this life. They have become one person. They are united. They should remain together.

And if they don’t, say a Christian man, divorces his Christian wife, gets bored with her, and marries another woman. He has now committed adultery against the woman he divorced. Same for a woman who divorces her believing husband and marries another. She has committed adultery. The solution in that situation is that the person should be reconciled to their partner.

But, we’ll see that Jesus also gives two circumstances which would allow a couple to divorce, and then remarry another person.

Two Biblical Grounds for Divorce and Remarriage

1. Adultery/Sexual Immorality – “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” –Matthew 19:9

2. Abandonment (by an unbeliever) – “But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.” -1 Corinthians 7:15

So if the divorce occurred because of infidelity, an affair, the person who was cheated on, would be free to divorce, and then get married to another person.

Secondly, we also see in 1st Cor 7:15, that if a believer is married to an unbeliever, and that unbeliever abandons them, leaves the marriage, they are also free to remarry, apparently. Though remarriage is not specifically mentioned in 1 Cor 7:15, it does say that the believer would then “not be bound” in such circumstances, which sounds a lot like they’d be free to remarry.

And some would then speculate, could “abandonment” include physical abuse, or severe mental abuse, or other forms of abuse? I think that could be the case. But one would need to examine these scriptures very carefully to make sure they are in line with God’s word.

Many face this reality of either being divorced, or having come from a divorced family. We all know how destructive it can be. The best possible result is always reconciliation. But, if it’s possible, based on these two criteria, divorce, and remarriage is possible.

If someone marries a believer and then later divorces the believer for unbiblical reasons, they should remain unmarried for the rest of their lives, or reconcile with their husband or wife.

“we fell out of love” is by the way not an acceptable reason for divorce.

Or “he wasn’t fulfilling my emotional needs” or “she wasn’t as attractive anymore” or “we argued too much” Marriage is serious stuff. We can’t just take a catch phrase and use that to justify breaking up something God has brought together.

Even if much fighting and arguing and disagreements are happening and financial problems and disagreements about how to raise the children, and even if bitterness has taken hold, and walls are going up, it’s not too late. There is still hope.

Those walls can come down, even if they’ve gone up.

A poem, from an unknown writer, was penned on just this very topic, of the walls that go up in marriages.

It says this:

"They say a wife and husband,
Bit by bit,
Can rear between themselves a mighty wall,
So thick they cannot speak with ease through it,
Nor can they see across it, it stands so tall.
Its nearness frightens them, but each alone
Is powerless to tear its bulk away; and each
Dejected wishes he had known
For such a wall, some magic thing to say.
So let us build with master art, my dear,
A bridge of love between your life and mine,
A bridge of tenderness, and very near,
A bridge of understanding, strong and fine,
Till we have formed so many lovely ties,
There never will be room for walls to rise.”
-Source Unknown.

Divorce is so very destructive, so if there is hope, look everywhere to find it. The attitude should be “divorce is not an option.” But, there are exceptions listed in the Bible. So remarriage is possible, in those specific situations listed in the word. Otherwise one should remain unmarried, or reconcile. Always be very prayerful about these things, and seek God’s will, but also follow His word. His word is truth.

This incident doesn’t seem to be directly connected with the incident with the Pharisees and Jesus talking about divorce.

But what is most directly connected to the concept of marriage as husband and wife? Children of course. The natural course of marriage leads to children. Children are born and raised under the care of the mother and father.

So it seems logical to include this incident today.

From Mark 10:13-15:13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

Children are a beautiful gift from God. They are precious to Him. Don’t hinder children from coming to Jesus. Notice who brings the children though. Do the children bring themselves? No. They are brought by the people. They’re brought by the parents. They must be brought to the Lord. If we don’t, we’ll lose our children to the world system.

Next, Jesus uses the children as an example, for the kingdom of God. He says:

15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.”

A child trusts completely. A child loves completely. And Jesus reminds the people, you must receive the kingdom of God system like a little child, accept it joyously and completely. Trust God and receive Him, his way of doing things, and put it into practice in your life.

Then Jesus blesses the children. We can bless our children too, by preserving and building up our marriages in the Lord, always seeking Him first. Then our children and grandchildren will be blessed.