The New Testament world was not ‘the good old days’ of clean living. Every society has had its rules about love, trust and those things that contradict the nature of love. 

Today’s debates and debacles only illustrate humanity’s lifelong struggle between love found and love lost.

Jesus remained single and celibate. This was not a handicap to love. He did not have to be in a sexual relationship to understand transforming love. He recognized and understood the heart conditions around him.

Matthew 19:
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?”
“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’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”
Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

The Pharisees were aware of their own polarized discussion on divorce. It was a question of interpreting the Law found in Deuteronomy 24. Rabbi Hillel taught that you could divorce your wife for the slightest reason. A more conservative view came from the School of Shammai that reserved divorce for cases of sexual immorality.

Jesus does not engage in the debate at their level. Nor should we expect Jesus to settle for our position or reasoning on a matter.

We ask similar questions to the Pharisees. ‘Is it lawful’ is a common cry. No one wants to be told they are wrong, so we look for an argument that says we are in the clear. We want to hold a position that says we are being prudent.

Jesus circumvents their whole argument based on Deuteronomy 24. The ultimate issue should not be the right to divorce, but God's original desire for husbands and wives to be one flesh; "one flesh" is the language of family ties and alliances (as in 2 Sam 5:1). The Genesis principle from which Jesus draws this application goes beyond opposing divorce; it opposes marital disharmony altogether. Although his opponents claim Scripture for their purposes, Jesus challenges their actual knowledge of Scripture by showing that they are proof texting rather than reading it in light of God's whole plan: Haven't you read? [i]

It’s our generation’s turn to ask what the rules are about sexuality and reasonable expectations. Perhaps you feel that we are more enlightened than previous times and capable of a purer understanding. Every generation feels this way and yet, we stumble on similar ground.

We know all about the demands of human desire. The jarring question is what is God’s desire? This is where Jesus takes their questions. God created the union of a man and woman and desires that no one dissolve that which He has blessed. This question of divorce was not here at the beginning. Haven’t you read?

[i] The IVP New Testament Commentary


Jamie said…
Having been in the situation before, and knowing others who have been there, I have to comment on an unfortunate reality that I see: that is the unfortunate reality that the one who leaves (walks away) is often branded as the "hard-hearted" one, when this is not always the case. (I know there is always room for a mix of some hard-heartedness in both partners, but follow along here....)

What is to be said of the man who is dying in the relationship because the wife doesn't trust him, simply because she cannot trust ANYONE? He is being destroyed because he is always guilty until proven innocent. She unconsciously but systematically isolates him from every friend or relative he has, because she has a secret fear that they might agree with him that she is also part of the problem in the relationship. He walks away, not for bitterness or unforgiveness, but merely for survival; yet he is branded as "hard-hearted" because she "wants the marriage," though she never even agrees on the need for counseling? In her mind, she has already worked through her issues, it is all his fault, and he needs counseling. He is all the one to blame.

What of the wife who is dying in the relationship because the husband blames everybody but himself for the difficulties in the relationship? He, the one who "wants the marriage" says everything is fine; she (the one who wants to leave) is feeling like she is dying in the relationship but the husband refuses to go for counseling or to even listen to what the hurting wife says she needs. The husband says he is doing nothing wrong, there is nothing they need to work on. When she says she can't do it anymore, he says feel free to leave, but expect nothing from me in the way of support. You came with nothing, you leave with nothing. If you want to come back, I will take you back, but with everything exactly as it was, because nothing is wrong. It is all simply wrong in your head. I am fine.

It is not always the one who leaves who is the hard-hearted one. Divorces do not ALWAYS take place because of hard-heartedness. The marriage covenant is designed by God for the benefit of the people who enter into it; not the other way around. It is not simply that people are to enter into marriage covenants simply for the sake of demonstrating a working covenant. That might be part of the picture, but to see this as the end is to leave the tail wagging the dog. If a person is being destroyed in the process of trying to uphold a marriage covenant, then it might be time to consider the possibility that God does hate divorce, but there might be other things He hates worse.

Just a thought.
Kevin Rogers said…
I hear your heart Jamie. Thanks for these good thoughts.

On the matter of hard-heartedness, that will always be a temptation for anyone in any form of relationship. This dangerous condition manifests in bitterness, unforgiveness and learned helplessness.

To go through divorce and keep a tender-heart is a great testimony to grace.