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?” 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.” 5 “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. 6 “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ 7 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 8 and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” 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.”
This is a multilayered and potentially contentious passage, so I’ll start with the basics: • divorce was never desired by God. He knows the pain it causes. • it was permitted because of hardheartedness. Conversely, we can assume that a soft heart, willing to forgive, confess, repent, do better, is a great antidote against divorce • Jesus affirms the creation mandate of marriage as male and female joining together • marriage is a holy covenant before God, not to be entered into lightly Regarding verses 10-12, most churches and pastors do allow divorced persons to remarry, if the divorce was because of “legitimate grounds.” What these may be varies from interpreter to interpreter, but my most trusted person on this is David Instone-Brewer who I believe has done more study on the biblical grounds for divorce than anyone else. His website is here: http://www.instonebrewer.com/divorceremarriage/ and these are his conclusions:
- The Bible’s message for those suffering within marriage is both realistic and loving
- Marriage should be lifelong, but broken marriage vows can be grounds for divorce
- Biblical grounds for divorce include adultery, abuse and abandonment
- Jesus urged forgiveness but allowed divorce for repeated unrepentant breaking of marriage vows
- Only the victim, not the perpetrator of such sins, should decide when or whether to divorce
- Anyone who divorces on biblical grounds or who is divorced against their will can remarry.
I strongly recommend, if you have time, to spend some more time going through his material. He has a Playmobile “comic-type” slideshow presentation on the four biblical causes of divorce here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=418618&id=533841022&l=ffbf6a880e As a child of divorce, I know the tragedy it is. And I know many friends who have been deeply wounded as a result of their parents’ divorce. In other cases, divorce was the least bad option, as remaining in the marriage would have been extremely harmful or even dangerous for the spouse and children. Even though the Bible allows grounds for when we MAY divorce, we are not mandated to divorce if these things occur. A soft-heart towards God, towards our spouse can head off a lot of trouble. Not that I am mandating someone being a doormat or continuing to suffer abuse – but just to say, that when things are going badly in a marriage, divorce is not the only option. May grace, reconciliation and forgiveness flow wherever possible.