What does Jesus actually have to say about divorce?
Good morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
Let’s start with something fun!
Under your chair, on your Bible, you’ll find a Renovation Car sticker.
That’s for you…if you don’t have one already.
If you want two…grab the one next to you…or you can always stop by the hallway later.
We don’t do this, so we can all look at each other when we’re driving and give the secret wink.
We do it because it’s another way to get the word out to a hurting world.
So that when someone’s in that place that they’re thinking of finally trying church…
Based on all the signs, the postcards, the billboards, and the car stickers…
Our goal is that Renovation Church is the first thing that pops into their minds
Plus, every sticker comes with instructions, and a guarantee that it’ll help you be a nicer driver J
We are continuing in “The Kingdom” series this morning where we’ve been going through the book of Matthew.
One of 4 stories (or Gospels) about the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
We’ve been working our way through Matthew, and today, we come to one of its most challenging passages.
Jesus’ teachings on divorce.
This is a tough issue.
It’s an issue, that quite frankly, touches almost everyone of us in some capacity.
Whether personally, or your parents, grandparents, best friends, whatever
And the Bible talks about it…multiple times.
Jesus himself talks about it…multiple times.
So, we’re going to study what he said today.
There’s a bit more I want to explain about the tension of this passage, but before we go any further, let’s read the passage first.
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(Matthew 19:3-12) – NIV
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?” 4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied,“ that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 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 flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” 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. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” 10 The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.” 11 Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”
So before we dive into the intensity of the words of Jesus…let me explain some more of the background of the passage.
Hopefully this will help shed some light on it.
The Pharisees (the overly-religious leaders), and many of the Jews of the time, we’re getting divorced all the time.
And for whatever reason (maybe they’re nervous about it), they ask Jesus for his thoughts on it.
When Jesus gives his thoughts on it, they reply by saying, “Why did Moses say it was okay then?”
And when they say that, they’re referring to a passage written by Moses in the Old Testament in the Bible. Here it is:
(Deuteronomy 24:1) – NIV
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,
It goes on to explain a few more things that aren’t quite as helpful to this particular discussion, but we see that Moses said that divorce (under certain circumstances) was permissible
But here’s where things got sticky over time…
Many Jews started saying, “Well, Moses said if she became displeasing to us, we could get a divorce.”
But others said, “No, it says you “can” only get a divorce if a person is ‘indecent’” (which in Hebrew typically implies a naked shameful exposure)…so probably being unfaithful.
But what happened over time was the majority of people started to agree with the first interpretation saying that if a wife became displeasing in anyway (even if you didn’t like her cooking), you could get a divorce
So THAT is the context into which Jesus is speaking…
And He’s going to set the record straight on what God thinks of divorce in the midst of a culture where divorce isn’t a big deal at all (sound familiar??)
And what Jesus does is he brings them back to original intention of marriage.
God’s intention for marriage from the beginning…in the Book of Genesis
Jesus quotes Genesis 2:24 when he says that God will unite them together as one flesh.
And therefore, nothing should separate what God has joined together.
We have no right to take apart what God Himself joined together as one.
And we hear that…and the temperature goes up in the room a little bit.
But before we go any further, let me submit a concept to you.
I’ve said this before, that we as modern-day people, are not very good at grasping tensions.
We tend to just gravitate to one side of the teeter totter or the other.
We’re not so skilled at balancing in the middle.
And the Bible presents divorce as a tension issue…not an extreme issue.
Let me explain.
(Walk to the right side of the stage) Many people hear Jesus say that Divorce is a sin…that it’s not what God intended…that if you remarry…it’s adultery…
And we say, “Wow. That’s pretty harsh. You know what, it’s not that big of deal. So many are doing it nowadays. Sometimes it’s necessary. Sometimes you’re just not in love anymore. Let’s not make a big deal out of it…we’re all sinners anyway”
(Walk to the left side of the stage) While others, take a completely opposite approach. They say, “Hey. Read the Bible. It’s a sin. A huge one. You blew up God’s design for marriage. Probably ruined your family. You’re a second class citizen. Out of all the sins, we need to take this one the most serious. Sin is serious!”
See, and here’s the tension: We can’t just tilt to one side because it’s easier (because…it is WAY easier to just pick one of those sides), but we can’t.
The Bible is SUPER serious about sin. More than you realize.
But the Bible is ALSO SUPER serious about grace. More than you realize.
So we have to attempt to hold both in tension with each other. Even if it’s hard
And if you’ve gone through a divorce, I think at some level, you can agree with that.
It’s an incredibly painful experience for people.
And in those times, you need love. Support. Forgiveness.
At the same time, I’m going to guess that on the day you were first married, divorce was probably the last thing you ever wanted to happen.
And when your own children get married, the last thing you probably want for them in their new marriage…is divorce.
Because it IS serious.
But if we just slide over to the idea that it’s not a big deal...if we just say, “It’s a sin, but so is gossip, so why is divorce any different??”
If we just minimize it, the next generation is destined to repeat it.
We will not reshape our world by the downplaying of sin…nor the downplaying of grace.
Both are needed.
WHY GOD IS SO SERIOUS ON DIVORCE
So let’s cover the more difficult side first. Sin.
Why would Jesus, with the exception of when sexual immorality takes place in a marriage, say that divorce is SIN?
Why would he say that?
Why wouldn’t he?
Listen, God loves you so much…that He HATES the things that tear you apart.
He hates the things that cause you pain.
He hates the things that damage families.
Now, not every child that experiences the divorce of their parents is destined for doom, but the impact on how they feel about their parents, on their stress levels, on their trust levels, etc. is statistically shown to be quite damaging.
Divorce…rips apart families…and for that reason alone…why wouldn’t God hate the act of it?
Not the people of it…but the act of it.
God loves the divorcees…but he hates divorce.
And I know that’s hard to hear if you’ve gone through it…so for a moment, let me just speak to those of you who are still married…or haven’t been married yet.
If you’ve been divorced…let me come back to you.
Here’s the other reason why God is so serious about divorce.
Much of the Bible describes your relationship with God as a marriage.
I mentioned this on Friday when I had the awesome opportunity to officiate at the awesome wedding of our Director of Ministries/YouthPastor/Children’sPastor/DoItAll person, Rachel Puro & Michael Cheney.
It was a great wedding… It was like a Renovation Church service. I spoke and Zach did the music….Ryan Speck did set-up/tear-down.
But I mentioned to the guests of the wedding that the Bible reiterates multiple times that “Jesus is groom, and his followers are the bride”
And when you become a Christ-follower, you enter into a relationship with Him. (you get married)
And God says, that HE will never break that covenant.
He will never leave you. Never forsake you.
No matter what you do…He will forgive you…and love you…and always be there.
And marriage among Christians, is meant to display the truth of the Gospel to the world.
That Jesus died for us (his bride), and he NEVER breaks his covenant with us.
One of the very purposes of our marriages is to display that kind of love to the watching world.
And THIS is why it’s so serious.
And yet, it’s easier now to get a divorce than it is to get out of a contract with your cell-phone carrier.
We don’t display this love of God for each other anymore.
When times are tough…we walk away.
But the Bible tells me that I can’t walk away from my wife because God should have walked out on my 100 times by now, but he hasn’t.
That’s what I need to display to the watching world.
But, do you know what I think happens?
We let our quest to be happy come before our vows to be committed
I read this this week, and I wanted to share it with you because I thought it was helpful.
It was advice given by an elderly married couple to a young couple getting married
Here’s what they said:
“Many people live with the false assumption that love enables a marriage to survive. But that is not the case. Your love will not ensure your marriage will survive; it is your marriage, which will ensure your love will survive. This is the very reason God ordained marriage. Marriage keeps love alive, not love keeps marriage alive.”
For those of you that are married, thinking of getting married again someday, or never have been married… it is CRITICAL that you understand this point.
I came across a fascinating study in Shaunti Feldhahn’s great new book “The Good News about Marriage”
It said “Among those who rate their marriages as very unhappy in current surveys, when the exact same people are surveyed again 5 years later…of those that avoided divorce…8/10 now say they’re happy”
80% are actually happy…five years later…because they stuck through it.
And that’s because marriage is a rollercoaster of ups and downs.
But I know what you’re thinking.
You’re thinking, “David, I’ve been on the down swing for YEARS though”
But this isn’t as crazy of a stat as you think.
So, I’ve been married for 10 years now…and I have a number of close friends who have been married that long as well.
And I know some of them…that at year 3…or year 6… (if they weren’t committed for life)…would have thrown in the towel that year.
AND YET…AND YET…now at year 10…they’re actually quite happy.
It’s marriage that keeps love alive, not love that keeps marriage alive.
That’s why we can’t say, “I don’t feel like I’m in love anymore.”
You might not be…
But that’s why we say, “For richer or for poorer…in sickness…and in health…to death to us part”
And if you work at it…I mean REALLY work at…I mean, counseling, I mean tough conversations…I mean everything…five years from now…can look really different.
There is of course no guarantee, but that’s the route we’re to pursue as Christians.
If you ever got pre-marital counseling, maybe you heard this adage…and I think it’s a good one.
When you enter into marriage, simply tell yourselves, “Divorce is not an option”
Promise yourself, “I’ll never bring it up”
Promise yourself, “I won’t even go there in my mind.”
Don’t allow your mind to say, “I wonder what it would be like if we got divorced”
Because as soon as you start prying open the door…you’re in trouble.
As Warren Barfield writes in his song, “Love is not Fight…it’s something worth fighting for.”
He says, “Lock the door behind you…throw away the key”
And God can help you!
The same God who established marriage between the two of you, can give you the strength and help to hold your marriage together.
Let the people of God help you.
This is why being in something like a house group is SO important.
You weren’t made to do this alone. To just sit in a group of hundreds of people and do it alone.
You need the church. And the church is its people.
If you’re not in a community of 30 people…one of house groups…get in one this fall.
Now…we would be remiss to pass over the fact that Jesus, in Matthew 19, does give an exception for divorce.
A case, where for Christians, it is permissible.
Let’s look at that again:
(Matthew 19:9) – NIV
9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
So it appears that you can Biblically get divorced if sexual immorality has occurred.
But what is that?
It essentially means all kinds of sexual sin.
The greek word (The NT was written in greek ) is actually porneia…where we of course get pornography from
But it means any form of sexual immorality: Fornication, prostitution, adultery, incest, sexual abuse.
So if your spouse has been sexually unfaithful, you could Biblically, still uphold the sanctity of marriage…and honor God…by getting a divorce.
However, let me point out, just because you can, doesn’t mean you have to.
It’s about one of the most difficult things a person can do…but many couples have stayed together through this.
It is possible.
And it’s an incredible testimony of God’s faithfulness if you can do it
The Bible also lists one other exception clause for divorce that is worth very briefly mentioning
It says that if you are married to an unbeliever (which we shouldn’t be…but let’s say you came to faith after you were married)….there is another exception for divorce. Here it is:
(1 Corinthians 7:15) – NIV
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.
If you’re married to an unbeliever, and that person wants a divorce, you are not biblically bound to stay in marriage in those circumstances.
And if you have been divorced…
Remember the Biblical tension here.
On the one hand, yes, we aren’t getting anywhere when we start to deny Biblical truth.
The answer isn’t to change the Bible and say it’s okay.
The answer is to look to the cross.
Jesus came and died on the cross because of our sin.
And He’s willing to forgive our sin. ANY of it. Know that!
See, even if the marriage covenant was broken in your life, your ultimate marriage covenant (with God) is still firmly intact.
No matter what’s happened…no matter how painful it’s been…no matter how alone you’ve felt…even if you were the instigator in at all…
God has never left your side.
If you believe Jesus died on the cross for you, you are completely forgiven.
That doesn’t mean there are still consequences and pain here on earth from it (that’s part of why God is serious about it), but in His eyes…you are forgiven.
Let that sink in.
His grace is that big.
You are forgiven.
THERE IS HOPE FOR MARRIAGE
The one verse that just really sticks out to me from Matthew 19 is after Jesus answers the Pharisees, the disciples say, “If this is the situation…it’s better to not even get married!”
And isn’t that our culture today?
Our culture, as a whole, has never been more pessimistic on marriage.
This is why you see people getting married later and later and later.
In some European countries in fact now, the average age of first marriage is actually into the 30’s!
We think, “Why risk it?! If 50% of the time, I’m going to get divorced, I might as well just move in with the person, enjoy the “benefits” of marriage, but without the commitment!”
But that’s not God’s path.
If I can, let me address the pessimism around marriage that our culture has perpetuated.
Because…you’re surrounded by that pessimism everyday.
And honestly, for us, in our culture, today, I think the pessimism is large contributing factor to why people are getting divorced.
Because you can get in a really tough spot in your marriage, and start thinking, “I knew it…I’m just one of the 50%...we’re never going make it. Marriage is terrible…just like they said it was going to be.”
But that’s not actually true.
I referenced Shaunti Feldhahn’s book, “The Good News about marriage” earlier. And it’s a wonderful book if you’re looking for actual good stats on marriage in America.
The reality is, divorce rate is nowhere near 50%
(you might want to take notes in this section)
That’s based off of bad math, bad science, and a number that the media fell in love with.
Here’s the facts about divorce:
Divorce was booming in the 1970’s…and people began to speculate (based off some bad research) that one day it was going to hit 50%.
Since then, we’ve been obsessed with that number, even though we’ve never even hit it
And on top of that, the actual divorce rate has been steadily DESCREASING since 1980 (for 34 years!)
Here’s the other thing they never tell you (and take this from a stats guru)
The divorce rate you usually hear…is factoring in multiple marriages.
And unfortunately (this is hard to hear if you’re divorced and want to get remarried), but unfortunately, the divorce rate for 2nd and 3rd marriages is significantly higher.
But here’s a number you need to know….and it’s consistent over the last few decades
72% of those who have ever been married in America, are still married to their first spouse.
The first-marriage divorce rate (the chances of you getting a divorce from your first spouse), is actually closer to 20-25%.
Maybe you’ve heard before that Christians have the same divorce rate as the world.
But even that 2001 study by George Barna was just based on what people said they believed…not on what they did.
Studies since, show that if you’re a Christian, and you pray…and you attend church…and you’re active in your faith…THAT group only has a 10-15% divorce rate.
I know there are a LOT of people in this church…that have maybe been divorced but since then come to Christ.
If you’re thinking about getting remarried someday….You have to know what a difference it DOES make when Jesus is at the center.
Let me share one more fascinating statistic
They did this study where they simply asked people, “What percent of couples do you think are happy in their marriage today?”
The average American guessed that the answer was 35% (do you see why we’re so doom and gloom about getting married and our marriages???)
Want to know the answer??
80% (some researchers even think that’s low)
80% of people are generally happy for the most part…or very happy in their marriage!)
There is hope.
This IS possible.
With God all things are possible!
There is light at the end of the tunnel.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Marriage keeps love alive, not love keeps marriage alive.
And when Jesus is at the center of it…as the model of love and commitment…it can thrive.
This morning…we’re going to take communion.
And I want you to know…it’s very purposeful.
In some Christian communities of faith…if you’ve been divorced, you’re unable to take communion.
But that’s not Biblical teaching.
Yes, sin has happened. Most assuredly. A covenant…a relationship…with another person was severed.
BUT…you’re relationship with God was NOT severed.
You aren’t a second-class Christian.
You aren’t somehow barred from still having fellowship with God…from being a part of enjoying communion together with Him and his followers.
I mean, isn’t that the point of it all?
That, he shed his blood and his body was broken….
Because we weren’t good enough…and we needed a Savior?
And, the truth is, we still do.
ALL OF US!
In the NT, here’s what Paul writes about communion:
(1 Corinthians 11:23-26) – NIV
23For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." 25In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
And that is what we will do. But Paul also writes in this passage that we ought to examine ourselves before taking communion.
To 1) not do it in vain. To only do it if we truly believe it. And if you’re still just seeking, that’s ok. You’re on a journey. 2) Communion is an opportunity for believers to examine themselves (ask yourself some tough questions)
In the back, there are 2 tables….with pieces of bread and a bowl of juice. When you’re ready, you can get up take an individual piece of bread and dip it in the juice.
However, take some time to examine yourself before you go back.
Sometime to remember what He’s done and what He will do
And when you’re ready, at any time during the next few songs (if you need to wait, wait), you can go back and take communion.
If you would like to pray while you’re back there, we encourage you to do so. With each other, by yourself, or our prayer team will be in the back to pray for you as well (POINT THEM OUT)
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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