In our modern discussion of traditional marriage, gay issues, divorce and polygamy how often have we asked what God’s intent was?
We will look at God’s divorce from adulterous Israel, the meanings of divorce and being set free and God’s original design.
Marriage and the beginning
The Greek word for divorce in Mark 10:2-16 means to leave one’s station. It was also used in the military, meaning to defect. In Deuteronomy 24:1 a man was permitted to divorce his wife if she displeased him, or because he found something wrong with her. It sounds frivolous, like many modern divorces. Jesus calls Christians to a greater level of faithfulness than under the Old Covenant. Divorce ought not to occur unless like ancient Israel, a spouse has been immoral. We could argue that abuse, addiction and a life of crime are all forms of adultery. In our hardheartedness we have perverted God’s original design. On all modern questions of marriage, Jesus brings us back to the basics. In the beginning, God created them male and female, and what God has joined together, let no-one separate.
Midst all the debate over whether or not Jesus was married, did you know that God was divorced? Of course he was not divorced as we know it, but metaphorically so. In Jeremiah 3, God spoke of Israel and Judah as being like unfaithful wives. He divorced Israel and yet pled for her to return to him. In Mark 10:2-16 Jesus gave one legitimate cause for divorce, immorality. Israel’s immorality was her unfaithfulness to God, pictured as her husband. Divorce is one of the most painful of life’s experiences. Nobody hates it more than those who have lived through it. Perhaps that is why Jesus said that God hates divorce, because he has experienced it personally. Divorce ruins our health, finances, families and society. It is so destructively painful. Faithfulness in all relationships is a rare and wonderful treasure.
Divorcing, forsaking and freeing
In Mark 10:2-16 we read of one person forsaking a spouse and setting the other free. That’s how it sounds in Greek. The divorcing spouse has repudiated the sacred marriage vows and so the other is released. That is remarkably similar to how Paul describes it in 1 Corinthians 7:15. If an unbeliever departs the marriage, the believing spouse is no longer bound to the marriage, but is set free. This is the exact opposite of the idea that some teach, of a spouse being held in bondage for life because of the actions of the other marriage partner. Jesus described divorce as permitted by Moses, a convenience, as a wrong action. However, contrary to the teachings of bondage espoused by some segments of the Christian community, there is only one unforgivable sin and divorce is not it.
In our modern discussion of traditional marriage, gay issues, divorce and polygamy let’s ask what God’s intent was. God had an intended purpose for marriage from the beginning, but some have suffered greatly due to divorce. May God heal our marriages and heal those who have suffered through divorce!