When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:10-12)
Yesterday we reminded ourselves that God’s design for marriage involves a man and woman who completely give themselves to one another in the act and process of becoming “one.” This morning’s passage has always been problematic for some who have experienced the sting of divorce and those who wish to encourage them in their life and faith.
All I can do is tell you how I presently view this subject, in full awareness of the fact my thoughts are undoubtedly influenced by my deep love and empathy for those who find themselves in these circumstances.
I should remind us all Jesus gives one clear exception to the principle in our passage (though, not really an exception, as we will see). Elsewhere it is recorded that marriage is not binding on those who have been victimized by an adulterous mate. This doesn’t mean there is no restoration in a marriage damaged by adultery, but rather that it is acceptable to divorce and remarry if this is the case.
I will state up front, while I do not believe divorce is God’s original plan, I think there is grace for those who experience it, including those who are guilty of adultery. I will remarry individuals who can demonstrate an awareness of God’s teaching on the subject, and a personal journey of introspection.
With this said, what do we make of this morning’s passage? I think Jesus’ words make perfect sense if we believe the sexual union of a man and woman in marriage truly makes them “one flesh.” If these are more than poetic words (and I believe they are), then divorce (and adultery) is a violent tearing apart of flesh. When people divorce for petty reasons, or without a concerted effort to rebuild their relationship, and especially when they do so because they have already found someone they believe they love more, they are turning their back on a part of their own flesh. This is why adultery is grounds for divorce, since one member of the marriage union has already torn this “one flesh” in two.
Can God work with this situation, and even bring blessings out of it? Yes, I believe so. But Jesus’ teaching explains why divorce is so painful for a man and woman, and their children, and why marriage should not be quickly dissolved without any thought of its spiritual implications.
So if you are divorced and have remarried, please rest assured God’s grace is sufficient to help you build a strong marriage and use your home for His glory. And if you have committed an adulterous act that has led to a divorce, know that God is a God of forgiveness, and He still wants to walk with you and use you in His kingdom.
It’s just that we must remember marriage is what it is: one flesh. And divorce is what it is: the tearing apart of flesh. These things are not just a matter of the exchanging of vows, but an actual union of soul, spirit and body. If we keep this in mind, we will show care where needed and lean on God’s grace if necessary.
Dear God, thank You for the spiritual union of marriage. In Jesus’ name, Amen.