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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Teen Stresses: Divorce, New Testament Biblical Reflections, continued

     Throughout Jesus’ ministry on earth, the Pharisees were focused on tripping Him up in what Jesus was teaching the people. The matter of divorce was no exception. In fact, the Gospel of Matthew records two, specific, incidents where Jesus was questioned on divorce.

     In Matthew 5:31-32, Jesus answers as follows:

“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.”

     Secondly, in Matthew Chapter 19, Verses 3-12, we find the following discourse between the Pharisees and Jesus, with a crowd listening, of course:

“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 disciples of Jesus were listening to His answers to the Pharisees and found His answers alarming. Perhaps, back then as now, they knew some folks who were in difficult marriages where adultery was not the issue? In any case, Jesus answered them.)

“The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”
Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”

     So, the answer to the Pharisees is “No” it is not permissible, under the law, to divorce his wife for any and all reasons. It is only permitted if adultery is involved.

     It is also interesting to hear the disciples say that it is better not to be married then. I mean, if she has to commit adultery before he can get rid of his nagging wife, it could be a lifetime of torment. Better to just stay single, isn’t it? Jesus answered the way we most often credit the Apostle Paul, Yup, it is better not to marry for a lot of reasons but not everyone can handle the single life. If you can’t handle it with moral integrity, just get married. Either way, there are rules to obey. You can have one wife and don’t go checking on another one if she is not a happy camper as often as you would like. Some people were given the gift of being single and they don’t mind because it gives them more time and focus on the things of the Lord. Others mind it a lot and seriously desire to be married but Mr. or Miss Right is still in the wings somewhere.

     It should be noted that Jesus knew the issue of adultery had more to do with the act of being with someone not under the marriage covenant; it was an attitude problem, too. In fact, it was as unlawful to think of being with another woman, as it was to actually b with her!

     In Matthew 5:27-28 Jesus replied, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

     One huge point I want to bring out here is the fact that adultery is a sin. It is an awful sin, granted; but, dear Reader, it is just a sin. It is no different or weightier than lying, stealing, or not showing your parents honor. The 10 Commandments give you the basic list of what is considered sin. Adultery is on the list but not at the top of the list or not standing all alone, apart from the list. If you have been divorced, there is no place in the Bible that says you are to be set apart because adultery was your sin. As with all sins, repentance and forgiveness are needed to avoid the fires of hell but forgiveness is available to you through the precious blood of Jesus. Divorce is not a death sentence or a ticket that keeps you out of a church service ever again.

     But, what about the place in I. Corinthians that says adultery is worse because it is sinning against your own body? Oh, has someone laid that one on you recently? Here is the actual passage in I. Corinthians 6:18-20.

“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

     Okay, let’s take a look in I. Corinthians 6:9-11. The whole chapter is talking about sexual sins, not just adultery. Take note… adultery is in the list somewhere but, again, does not stand alone like it is the only thing that matters.

“Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

     Dear Reader, do you see the hope in there? Paul is not saying if you commit one of those sins, “Too bad for you; that’s it and you’re on your way to a much warmer climate for all of eternity!” Not at all. He is saying once you were like that but now you are not. You have repented of the sin, been forgiven by Christ (whose blood has washed away the sin that condemns you), and you are now on your way to the right side of eternity. It is finished. Period. Don’t go there ever again. Jesus promises that He won’t remember that you did that. He says your sins are as far as the east is from the west, once you have been forgiven. All you need do is ask His forgiveness and move on with Jesus by your side to help you not reverse direction when tempted.

     Okay, but does that mean I must spend the rest of my life alone? What about getting married again after divorce? Let’s look at Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, again, to answer that question

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