Inscription: Writing God’s Words on Our Hearts & Minds
Part 33: What God Has Joined Together
September 26, 2010
Scripture reading: Matt 19:3-9 (Michel)
Check out the art work.
The good old days?
This week I was reading about how rampant divorce has become. One author observed sarcastically that some women seem to date their past not by which year it by which marriage they were on.
· What makes this example worth mentioning is that he was writing in the 50’s, not 1950’s, but the original 50’s.
We have this idea that divorce is much more common now than back in “olden days,” but it was just as common, and even more acceptable in NT times as it is now.
It was in this context that they Pharisees addressed Jesus:
Matthew 19:3-12 3 ¶ Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”
Some background: There was a debate among the Pharisees. One group said adultery was the only grounds for divorce. But the other said could be anything displeasing, even burning supper.
· As bad as our culture is, I have never heard “poor cooking skills” cited as the reason for divorce!
They were trying to pull Jesus into this fight. They tried to make it a nice safe political debate. They made it hobby of nuancing laws and rulings, like fantasy football.
· They ignored all of the pain and suffering caused by their callous attitude – their debate affected real people.
Remember that Jesus came to “fulfill the Law,” to show its intended purpose, to limit sin, and reduce suffering. Like they always did, the Pharisees looked for workarounds so that they could do what they wanted to do.
· I always thought this passage was about divorce and remarriage – it’s actually about marriage
Jesus is trying to show them God’s heart towards marriage, and in doing so begins a radically different perspective towards marriage that we still hold.
What God has joined together
4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 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’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
(Cut apple) I want to show you something that you may not have noticed: Jesus is quoting straight from Genesis. When it says that “he made them male and female” it means that together, male and female, they reflected God’s image.
Furthermore, it says that he created them male and female before he made Eve. In other words, I think Adam was initially complete within himself, both masculine and feminine.
That’s weird to think about, isn’t it? What kind of movies would he like? Would he argue with himself about getting directions?
· This is why Eve had to be created by taking a part of Adam out of him (Gen. 2:21).
In other words, God tore Adam into two (pull apple apart), so that he find his completion in her. It’s almost as if we are not so much “united” with our spouse and “reunited.”
· Husband and wife are bonded together in a way we can’t even understand – a physical, emotional, and spiritual union.
You complete me
When Jerry McGuire said “You complete me” he was uttering a profound theological truth. The two are stronger together than they could ever be apart.
· I read that dad’s let their children wander further than mothers, which is important because it teaches independence.
· He’s not being irresponsible, he’s training them!
It’s like mixing flour, sugar, butter, eggs, and chocolate chips together – apart they are not that great, but together they find their united purpose.
Let no man separate
And also like cookie batter, once it’s mixed together, they can’t be pulled apart.
· Literally, they cannot be pulled apart – once you are united in marriage, you will never truly be separated from them.
Through marriage, God reconnects a man and woman, they cannot be truly taken apart. Their souls will always be joined. It’s like conjoined twins – separating them is very dangerous because they share vital organs.
When you think of miracle of “the two becoming one flesh” and the tragedy of pulling them apart, you can understand why Jesus was so frustrated by their caviler attitude.
BTW: This does not mean that if you are not married you are not complete – you must find your completion in God. There are things you can learn from God and ways that you can serve God that married people cannot.
· No one can have everything, but everyone can be content.
While I am at it: Even if you are not married, I still want you to pay attention, because you maybe someday and because you may be speaking into the life of married friends.
Not surprisingly, the Pharisees reacted to this. Keep in mind that many of them had probably been divorced – they were trying to justify themselves.
7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” 8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.
In other words, divorce was an accommodation for sin. It wasn’t something God created or wanted, but a necessity because of hard hearts – hearts not submitted to God.
· Divorce is yet another proof that we live in a fallen world.
It’s kind of like keys. I wish that I didn’t need keys, because I keep losing them. I wish it was like out in the country back in the day when you could keep your house unlocked and your keys in the car, but I still lock my house when I leave!
· When Marilyn’s purse was stolen we had to rekey the house, all a reminder of effects of sin on our world.
I remember listening to a missionary to the Middle East share how divorce was illegal in that country. I thought, “Wow, that’s great!” but he went on to tell about one woman whose husband wanted to get remarried, so he kept trying to kill her.
· God permitted commanded divorce because it was the lesser of two evils.
Divorce was a mercy that protected women – else wise a man could leave and she couldn’t remarry and provide for herself.
PERMISSIBLE causes for divorce
9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
This is one of the most studied passages of Scripture, but I am afraid we have warped Jesus’ intent here:
Jesus meant to show us God’s heart for marriage, his deep desire to see a husband and wife struggle and strive to become one, to reflect his image, and demonstrate that love to children.
· Like the Pharisees, we’ve turned it into a new set of laws by which we determine if a divorce is “ok.”
Let’s get back to the purpose: Divorce is never “ok,” it always tears apart of what God has made. It’s like a man made fire destroying your favorite forest.
When you see a beautiful family dog, dead alongside the road, you should feel sad for that family, even though you don’t know them. You should feel that same way even when you read about the latest celebrity divorce.
· That is how God feels about every divorce it is always tearing apart something of his.
Let me state it even stronger – divorce is always a sin. That doesn’t mean a person is always sinning by filing for a divorce. They may need to because of their spouses hardness of heart.
· Sin is what hurts us, other, and damages our relationship with God, and divorce always does two of those, usually all three.
At the same time, I want to say just as strongly that it is not the unforgivable sin. For all intents and purpose, it has become that in many churches.
As I read a studied many church’s statements on divorce, I think they missed the point. If the Pharisees became too cavalier about divorce, some church have become too harsh.
· As with all sin, God is able to forgive, redeem, and restore.
Again, this passage is more about marriage then divorce and remarriage, but divorce and remarriage are things that affects everyone of us – we have all been affected to some degree.
Accordingly, I need to spend a little more time discussing them, to bring conviction and comfort – conviction for those who have taken divorce too lightly, and comfort for the plagued by guilt.
There are some in both groups: Some afraid to even come to church. Some who say “God will forgive me.”
· As I said, divorce is never a good thing, but sometimes it is necessary.
Look at it this way: Jesus’ point is that is that when you are united, you cannot be truly pulled apart; there will always be pieces left behind (just like the cookie batter).
· But there are some things you can do to the marriage that does such damage to it that it ceases to be a marriage.
I will never forget the first (and only) time I told someone to get a divorce. His wife had taken off for a while with some other guy, came back and told him she wanted an “open marriage.”
· She had irrevocably destroyed the marriage, but wasn’t willing to legally end it, and he was stuck with her bills.
Q So the question is: What things do such damage to a marriage that it ceases to be a marriage?
Jesus gives one reason: “marital unfaithfulness.” He uses a different word than adultery (Greek porenia) to make it broader.
Q So if someone has an affair, do they have to get divorced?
No, forgiveness and reconciliation is not only possible, it is to be desired. It follows the example of the OT where Israel is unfaithful time and time again, but God takes them back.
· But if the unfaithful person is not repentant, then the oneness has been torn and the marriage has ceased to exist.
BTW: Repentance means more than “I am sorry,” it is deep, life changing remorse. It means that change demonstrated over time.
Secondly, knowing full well Jesus command here, Paul added another just cause: Abandonment.
1 Corinthians 7:15 But if the unbeliever leaves [i.e. divorced], let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.
Paul is speaking about a non-Christian leaving a Christian, but I thinking he is drawing upon a deeper principle – when one person abandons another, they are “not bound.”
· You can break oneness by an affair, and you can also break it by physically, emotionally, and financially breaking away.
I don’t mean “My husband isn’t there for me,” I mean he’s moved out and moved in with his girlfriend.
Hardness of heart
Q Do you have to stay with a spouse that physically, emotionally, or sexually abuses you or your children?
Q What about an alcoholic?
1) I speak only for myself – this doesn’t represent the doctrine of The Gathering.
2) I have spent many years struggling to understand what the Bible says about divorce and remarriage. I have good Biblical support for all I say, but I could be wrong.
· This is an open-handed issue, we allow for Christians to legitimately disagree – I won’t die for this.
These are all example of what Jesus meant by “Hardness of Heart,” one spouse breaking faith with the other through sin.
I don’t mean “he hit me once so I can get to get divorced,” but that the other spouse has unrepentantly shifted from caring for his or her family to destroying it
· As things get grayer, you will need godly counsel to help you determine what the right thing to do is (emphasis on godly).
· That’s why the Elders are here – to help you walk through painful situations like this and give good cousel.
If I can summarize this whole section about “reasons for divorce,” the question should never be “Is it okay for me to get divorced?” But “Is there any way this thing can be saved?”
· It may be “Yes – and it’s going to be a lot of work.
· It may be “No” because of hardness of heart.
Q Can a person who has been divorced get remarried?
I think many Christians miss a very important point here. Notice how Jesus said it in the Sermon on the Mount:
NIV Matthew 5:31-32 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 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.
Jesus assumes that she is going to get remarried. He doesn’t “if she were to get remarried, but she shouldn’t” he says “when she gets remarried.”
Remember Jesus is not making about point about remarriage, but marriage, so he doesn’t address all the nuances of remarriage – otherwise Paul couldn’t add to it.
· If Jesus was giving the definitive rules on remarriage, Paul couldn’t just rewrite them.
Scripture is unclear, so I don’t claim certainty, but given the big picture of what Bible says, I believe Christians can remarry, providing there’s been complete repentance and healing.
· You are free to disagree with me, and we can discuss it more.
Protecting your marriage
Let’s get back to the main point – honoring and building marriages. It’s one thing to say “Don’t get divorced,” it’s another to say “here’s how to build a healthy marriage.”
One of the most important points in my marriage early on was when I realized that we were capable of getting divorced. Ever since then, I started telling engaged couples:
· “You stay married by knowing divorce is not an option, you avoid divorce by know that you are capable of it.”
The commitment to staying together is vital, it will sustain you through things you don’t think you could handle.
The other day Cecil was telling me how hard it gets after 14 miles. I can really relate, except for me it is how hard it gets after 14 minutes. My legs start hurt, my lungs start burning and I want to start walking, which I usually do.
· This last time when I got to that point, I decide I was going to ignore the pain and run, because I know I can do it.
The commitment to stick it out is huge. I read a study that said after 5 years, most marriages become happier.
CAPABLE of Divorce
But we all have to understand that we’re capable of divorce. I had to realize that through neglect and selfishness (not overt sin) I could cause Marilyn to stop caring divorce was wrong.
· You might not do any of the things “on the list,” you might be might be technically right.
Q But will that really make it any less horrible to separate what God has joined together?
Whenever I cross a one-way street, I look both ways, because it won’t be any comfort to my family that a driver was going the wrong way if I am dead.
In the same way, even if you are “technically right” because you haven’t had an affair, or didn’t abandon your spouse, but that doesn’t make the marriage any less dead.
Q If she were to leave me at that point, would it be all her fault? No, it may even be mostly mine.
My one piece of advice
Q What can we do to save our marriages?
· You may not be in trouble, but the best time to save it is before you are.
There are a hundred things I could say, a long list of books I could have you read. But I only have time to leave you with one practical piece of advice.
· Here is my #1 suggestion: Don’t go it alone.
Do not try to do this on your own. None of us are wise, strong, or virtuous enough to do it without help. We all need help.
Many churches portray this image that everyone has their act together, so couples comes to church, put on a happy face, and pretends, and then everyone is shocked when they get divorced.
If it needed any breaking, let’s dispel that myth right now – none of the elders or deacons have perfect marriages. All of us are bears to live with.
· I am not saying you need to come to church still shouting at each other, but rather find the right venues to get help.
A lot of people, especially guys, avoid getting help because they don’t want anyone to know they are having trouble – we just might figure it out when you get divorced.
· The only thing that would upset me more than one of you getting divorced is if none of us knew you were in trouble.
I remember on once finding out about a friend whose marriage fell apart, and I actually felt betrayed they kept us out.
Here are some ways you can get the help:
1. Personal Relationships – open up.
2. Community Groups – build the relationships based on Christ.
3. Accountability Groups – hear it from your gender’s perspective.
4. Marriage Classes (Brian’s thing) — learn important skills.
5. Weekend to Remember – we have gone three times, and it has been a huge help, has saved us a lot of pain.
6. Marriage Mentoring – have someone walk through it with you (would also like more mentors)
7. Counseling – if there is any stigma about counseling, know Marilyn and I have gotten counseling, and I am glad we did.
There are a lot of different ways to improve your marriage, just don’t wait until you are in big trouble.
I will close by saying that I sincerely hope that you can keep question of “Can Christians get divorced and remarried” purely hypothetical!
Q & A