‘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.’ – Matthew 5:32
Weighing up What’s Best
Today’s section is the shortest of all of the laws this week, made up of only two sentences. This ironically makes it the hardest to write about as there is so little to work with.
It leads on perfectly from yesterday’s topic of adultery, but this time in the context of failing marriages. We discovered in yesterday’s law that it is God’s intention for you to have sex within your marriage, but out of marriage it is not okay. Today focuses on when your marriage, the perfect scenario God has created for you to fulfil your sexual desires, goes wrong. What then are we supposed to do?
It says that if you divorce your wife you make her the victim of adultery, and anyone who then marries her also commits adultery. I despaired when I read this initially. What way is there to make this sound at all less brutal than it actually is?
And then I read the clause inserted in the middle of the second verse, ‘except for sexual immortality’ (Matthew 5:32). This means that if your marital partner has cheated on you, then you have the right to divorce them and therefore have not sinned. This answers for a large percentage of divorces and so is a relief to read.
More importantly though, I think it shows that Jesus realises there are exceptions.
If you take this law as it appears and stick with a marriage that is falling apart, it may be causing you to think and behave in an unchristian way in other areas. You may start blaming God for your misfortune and saying things that the bible also says are wrong. If this is the case, isn’t it better to divorce and live a happy, Christian life, rather than behave unchristianly and remain unhappy.
It is a case of weighing up which laws are more important, and the effect it has on being able to apply the others by sticking to one.
Of all the laws, I think this is the hardest to work with in the modern world. Nobody’s reason for divorce is the same, and I pray for all those who have to go through it. We must remember that God didn’t intend us to be unhappy, far from it, so if you do find yourself in this situation pray to God and ask Him what you should do about it.
He will help you with your decision. I hope it is one that few people will be forced to make.
I promise I will be back tomorrow to write about the next law on… promises.