The Laws of Love
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.”
For context, read Matthew 19:3-10 and Matthew 5:31-32
Ever since the Garden of Eden, mankind has been asking themselves, “Did God really say…?” and then proceeding to rewrite the rules that God set before them for their best interests. For example, even in biblical times, mankind was seeking to change God’s design for marriage and were calling God’s laws regarding marriage into question. Today, we see the institution of marriage floundering and confused in our society. Less people are getting married but many are living together. Same-sex marriage is legal. Divorce is extremely common and is allowed for almost any reason. If the question is, “Did God really say marriage is between one man and one woman for life?” then the answer found in today’s passage is a resounding yes.
The Pharisees wanted to have Jesus arrested but were struggling to find legal grounds. They were hoping to catch him in a controversy between two groups who disagreed about divorce. They had seen John the Baptist imprisoned and beheaded for speaking out against Herod’s immoral marriage to his brother’s wife, Herodias. So, they tried to trap Jesus in His views on divorce and hoped for similar results.
Except, He didn’t answer them with the laws regarding divorce. Instead, He focused on marriage. He reminded them that God created male and female. He reminded them that when a man and a woman marry they become one flesh. He explicitly stated that God unites a man and a woman in marriage and thus, they should not be separated.
In this one answer, Jesus addresses the issue the Pharisees had asked about without falling into their trap. Divorce was not a part of God’s original design for marriage. Period.
The Pharisees pushed back on this answer asking why Moses commanded that men give their wives divorce certificates if divorce is not allowed (See Deuteronomy 24:1). Jesus answered in Matthew 19:8-9: “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.” Moses’s law only permitted divorce on the grounds of sexual immorality, it did not condone it. And he only permitted it because it was an inevitable consequence of sinful human behavior.
Jesus’s stance concerning marriage reveals important truths to us. First, it shows that God takes marriage seriously. Marriage should only be entered into after careful consideration because marriage is ordained by God and intended to be for life. Second, it shows us that God cares when we’ve been wronged. God’s laws regarding divorce serve to protect the innocent party, especially women. During this time in history, it was difficult for women to provide for themselves, especially if their husband had deserted them. God’s laws prevented men from simply abandoning their wives.
The WORD about women in Jesus’s stance on marriage is that God values the union of man and wife. He takes marriage seriously and He intended it as a blessing. Therefore, He regulates divorce to protect us. His laws for divorce protect the innocent party from being guilty of adultery. In addition, by only permitting divorce on the grounds of sexual immorality, He prevented men from being able to desert their wives for any and every reason. Sisters, God shows us His love for us in His laws regarding sex, marriage, and divorce. His laws are perfect and His ways are for our good.
But dear sister, know this. If you have gone through a divorce or have engaged in sexual immorality of any kind, there is grace and there is forgiveness in Jesus Christ. Turn to Him.
In what ways do God’s laws regarding sex, marriage, and divorce protect us?
God, Your ways are good and Your law is perfect. As the Creator of marriage, You have the authority to define the terms and I submit to You. Thank You for leading us in the ways that are best for us. Amen.