Now let’s look at Matthew 5:31, 32 where Jesus says, “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce’. But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
This teaching is part of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew, chapters 5-7). These Mount teachings generally teach the highest moral values. In the verse preceding these, it says if you even think about adultery, you’re guilty of it (verses 27-30). But this doesn’t mean that your spouse can divorce you for just having an adulterous thought.
Jesus is talking about 2 things here;
– the ideal, that divorce should only be for adultery and…
– He is speaking about the abuse of divorce that the Jewish leaders had allowed to happen. Rather than make divorce hard to do, they had made it easy to do. That’s why Jesus said, “It has been said…” Jesus was rejecting this laxity and raising the bar. Several times throughout this Sermon, Jesus says, “It has been said…” or “You have heard it said that…” Each time, He is rejecting the laxity that the Jewish priests had allowed. There are parallel passages in Mark and Luke and other places in Matthew.
The word for ‘sexual immorality’ is ‘fornication’. Remember that fornication can be either sexual or spiritual in nature. The translators are making an interpretation here that it means sexual, but it can be sexual or spiritual.
The bible teaches that divorce is permitted whenever one or more of the following extreme and dangerous conditions apply to your marriage.
1…Your spouse is guilty of any type of fornication.
2…Your spouse is guilty of life-threatening neglect by not providing reasonable and essential necessities such as food, clothing and shelter. Things that you promised in your marriage vows.
3…Your spouse is guilty of long term and malicious denial of reasonable sexual obligations.
4…Your spouse is guilty of physical or mental abuse and violence that is life-threatening.
5…Your non-believing spouse leaves you because of your Christian faith and value system.
6…Your believing spouse makes it quite clear that they are separating from you permanently, despite numerous, honest and sincere attempts on your part to reconcile. This has to happen over a long period of time.
God doesn’t want us divorcing for trivial reasons. While most reasons for a biblical divorce are easy to identify, some are not. God doesn’t want us to look on divorce as a first response but only as a last resort and only then for certain marital problems.
God uses our spouse to mold, shape and change us. And changing us is what we resent the most. Change is hard and painful but necessary in molding us into the image of Christ. The bible says “iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). And that is the goal for our lives…to be transformed to be more like Christ (Romans 12:2 & 2nd Corinthians 3:18).
For individual marital help, we highly recommend Christian counseling thru Christian counselors or pastors. There are also many good Christian books on the particular marriage topic.
For His Kingdom,