How Should We Think About Divorce?

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Just like every one of our messages in this series, I recognize that this topic and the questions submitted were likely born out of specific circumstance.
We won’t be able to address every scenario that may lead a couple to the brink of divorce or through divorce, but I plan to walk through several biblical principles that will guide us as we approach each specific case that may be before us or around us.
The questions that surround the topic of divorce and remarriage are about as numerous as the situations that lead to them.
Is divorce ever allowed or is it always a sin? If so, under what circumstances?
If someone is divorced are they free to remarry?
If someone is divorced, remarries, and shouldn’t have, should they then get a divorce?
What if someone is verbally or physically abusive in a marriage? Is divorce permissible then?
Is a divorced person allowed to serve in leadership in the local church?
How does one deal with the pain, shame, and loneliness that divorce can bring?
Also not an easy or popular topic.
There is so much pain, hurt, anger, shame, and depression that surrounds this topic that it is often simply passed over.
Who should listen:
Those struggling in marriage and thinking about divorce
Those who have been through difficult situation of divorce
Those who have strong marriages or are not yet even married - that we might walk together in holiness and grace.
I want to approach this the same way we have approached all of the questions - with truth and love.
Commitment to follow the truth of God’s Word wherever it leads us.
Tempered by the love and grace of Jesus.
There may be some hard truths in this message but being fully devoted to Christ means at times radically altering our view of the world to align it to God’s view.

Four Principles on Divorce and Remarriage:

(Grateful to Kevin DeYoung for his enumeration of these principles that helped to form my own understanding)
Matthew 19:1–6 (ESV)
1 Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. 2 And large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. 3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?”
The Pharisees are testing Jesus - they aren’t really concerned with what Jesus thinks, they are simply trying to trap Jesus.
Pretty much all of the teachers of Judaism understood divorce to be permissible. In fact, there were times it was thought to be required.
The Pharisees, as well as Jesus, understood what the OT taught on divorce:
Deuteronomy 24:1–4 (ESV) — 1 “When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, 2 and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, 3 and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, 4 then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the Lord. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.
The rationale for divorce in this passage is because the husband has “found some indecency” in his wife.
What that indecency is is the real question.
other places means excrement
“The school of Shammai say: A man may not divorce his wife unless he has found unchastity in her. . . And the school of Hillel say . . . [he may divorce her] even if she spoiled a dish for him. . . Rabbi Akiba says, [he may divorce her] even if he found another fairer than she.”
— Mishnah, Gittin 9:10
Both Hillel and Shammai lived before Jesus.
Both understood the Law to require divorce in the case of sexual immorality.
4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
Jesus shows:

1.God designed marriage to be a covenant union between one man and one woman for a lifetime.

God designed marriage.
Not a cultural convention.
Importance of Marriage:
Pictures the image of God
Mirrors the covenant of God with his people
Telescopes to Christ and His Bride
This is a gospel issue
Divorce is not God’s design so any deviation from God’s design is destined to bring problems.

2. Divorce is permitted in certain extreme cases.

This means there are cases in which divorce is not a sin. Divorce is always the result of sin, but it is not always sinful.
Remember, God himself is divorced.
Jeremiah 3:6–8 (ESV) — 6 The Lord said to me in the days of King Josiah: “Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and there played the whore? 7 And I thought, ‘After she has done all this she will return to me,’ but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it. 8 She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce.
Which means God understands the pain of divorce - the betrayal, the hurt.
Matthew 19:7–9 (ESV) — 7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” 8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

a. Divorce is permitted, though not commanded, in the case of sexual immorality.

Matthew 5:31–32 (ESV) — 31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
Jesus doesn’t negate Moses’ teaching, he redirects it, right to the heart.
Pharisees asked if divorce was permitted in ANY cause - They were looking for loopholes.
Too often I find with discussions in churches around the topic of divorce that, just like the Pharisees, we are quick to look for loopholes and legalities instead of first lamenting the sin that led to this place and looking to Jesus and asking him to change the heart.
They are approaching Jesus to ask when marriages can be broken and Jesus wants to talk about why they never should be.
“It’s like learning to fly by practicing your crash landings or training for battle by practicing your retreats.”
— Kevin DeYoung
ILLUST - Christine and I committed - we need to figure things out because divorce is not an option. Go to bed, we’ll try again tomorrow.
Mark 10:4–9 (ESV) — 4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” 5 And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
Mark does not offer this exception. Some say that Matthew adds this statement where Mark and Luke leave it out. Why? Because Mark and Luke did not see it as an exception - in Judaism it was the rule. They had a different focus than Matthew - Who states the exception to show how Jesus narrowed the understanding.

b. Divorce is permitted, though not commanded, in the case of desertion by an unbelieving spouse.

1 Corinthians 7:8–15 (ESV) — 8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am. 9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion. 10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife. 12 To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. 15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.
Paul is dealing with something new to the church - previously the majority of Jews married other Jews - they were from the same religious community, so the rules of marriage were the same.
But now the church is growing, there are Gentiles and some are believers while others are not.
Living in peace with unbelieving spouse is good - even missional
Reconciliation best
What if a professing believer abandons the spouse?
The question of whether or not the person was actually a believer is raised and the remaining spouse could seek counsel with the church community.

What about abuse?

Usually this is cited as a third permissible reason for divorce. However, we don’t find any specific references to abuse as being biblical grounds for divorce.
Hear me:
God loves you more than he loves your marriage.
We must remember to safeguard people before we safeguard our understandings of our religion.
The church must stand with abused wives and children and safeguard them FIRST before the institution of the church or any other aspect of our religion.
Jesus came to die for people not the institution of the church. (there should be no need to differentiate but there sadly is)
In the case of abuse:
Call authorities if necessary
Separate the victim from the abuser
Abused should work with the leaders of the church during the separation to determine if reconciliation is possible.
Church should work with / discipline the abuser.
Ideal is true repentance and transformation
If there is no repentance and continued abuse - question is raised if person is believer. If not, 1 Cor 7 may apply.

3. In cases where the divorce was permitted, remarriage is permitted.

In cases where the divorce was not permitted by Scripture, remarriage is not permitted.

a. With a biblical divorce a person may remarry.

Not must but may
Matthew 19:9 (ESV) — 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”
1 Corinthians 7:15 (ESV) — 15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.

b. With an unbiblical divorce remarriage results in adultery.

(ESV) — 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”
Because the divorce is not valid in the eyes of God, the next relationship starts with adultery.
The new marriage is a real marriage (“marries another” not lives with another)
(Also, Samaritan woman)
It would also seem as though the new marriage is not understood to be in a constant state of adultery
What should I do if my divorce was unbiblical and I’m NOT remarried?
Confess, Repent, and Stay as you are.
What should I do if my divorce was unbiblical and I’m remarried?
Confess, Repent, and Stay as you are.
Make amends where needed. Ask forgiveness of God and your ex-spouse.
Recommit your new marriage to Christ and live for his glory.

4. In every case, marriage and spouses are redeemable.

Living Out the Principles:

If you are married, guard your marriage.

Fight for your marriage.
Pray together. Date each other. Laugh together. Commit to figure it out no matter the cost.
If you are divorced, you have no need to walk in shame or guilt. Take it to the cross. leave it there. To pick it up and carry it again is to state the cross is not enough - Jesus’ blood was not enough to cleanse you.
“Though your sins are as scarlet. . .”

If you are divorced and single, seek Jesus first.

Really, marrieds need to listen in here as well.
Your spouse is not your savior, Jesus is.
Until you’re right with Jesus, you’re not ready for anyone else. Why? Because you’ll look for your boyfriend or girlfriend to complete you - only Jesus completes you.
That is an unfair weight for another human to bear.

If you are divorced wrongly, repent and receive grace.

Take it seriously, repent humbly, receive grace.

As the church we must stand for marriage, sit with the hurting, and walk with the divorced.

We must stand for (and model) strong, healthy marriages.
We must be willing to be real with each other when we struggle in our marriages - stop propping up stupid idols.
We must create a place for those who are divorced to find a community of relationships they are missing as they without a spouse.
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