Tuesday, January 16, 2007

DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE: A DIFFICULT TEACHING

In Matthew 19, the Jews were looking for confirmation from Jesus on an easy escape from the marriage contract.
Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?" - Mt. 19:3
Instead of satisfying their want, Jesus instead told them of God's design and intent from the beginning was for marriage to be for a lifetime and "let no man separate it" (Mt. 19:6).

Jesus then says that if there is no marital unfaithfulness and still the couple divorces and remarries another, he or she commits adultery.
"And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery."
The disciples were surprised and amazed and said "if it is this way, it is better not to marry." Why would they respond this way if Jesus was not giving a difficult teaching? They wouldn't. The truth is that many people have divorced when there was no marital unfaithfulness. According to Jesus, when and if they marry again, they are living in adultery.

How difficult was the teaching? Jesus implied that to be in the kingdom of God, some people have to be celibate.
"For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother's womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it."
I have encountered a myriad number of arguments against the clear teaching of Matthew 19 and Matthew 5:28-32. The result of them all is to completely nullify the difficulty of Jesus' teaching. The way that His teaching has been twisted, there is no way to understand why Jesus suggested the option of celibacy for the sake of the kingdom. God's "let no man separate" has been made meaningless as every excuse has become a cause for divorce.

Before I close, let me tell you about a phone conversation I had with a preacher of a large congregation in Arizona. My interest in making the call was in finding a congregation where a friend of mine who was relocating might worship. So I put forward to this Arizona preacher the following scenario (what I'm about to describe was part of a rather long phone dialogue). I asked what would the congregation there do if one of its members ran off with a married woman? He said the man and the woman would be disfellowshipped. Obviously it was a sin that they were committing. We both agreed. I continued by saying that the disfellowshipped individuals didn't repent, but instead they divorced their first spouses and married each other. The Arizona preacher and I agreed that there was no repentance and the couple was separated from God. Then I asked for the preacher to imagine that five years elapsed and the new couple came before the congregation, and indicated that they had sinned. Now they wanted to be forgiven and become active members of the local congregation. I then asked the Arizona preacher what would he do; would he accept them into the congregation as a married couple? He said yes. I found that amazing and I told him so. The only thing that changed was the passage of time. Five years earlier, the congregation would have asked for the man and woman to put away the sin, but not five years later. The sinners who were disfellowshipped didn't change, didn't repent, didn't put away the sin. All they did was let time pass by. Then they returned and they were accepted back into the fold. This is surely a contradiction to the words of Christ.

I don't like knowing that otherwise really decent people are living in adulterous marriages that are going to keep them from entering the kingdom of Christ. It's painful to see it and it's painful to teach it. But we must teach the truth for the sake of the young couples, teens, and for children so that they know the importance of working through difficulties. God wants them to stick with it and make it a success. A successful marriage is not always possible, but we couples need to try harder. I believe they will if they know how serious it is to God.

No comments:

Post a Comment

HAVE YOUR SAY, PLEASE COMMENT


To email Dan Mayfield: Click Here