Divorce for Any Reason

July 31, 2021

Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these sayings, that He departed from Galilee and came to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them there. The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?" (Matthew 19:1-3).

What’s the big deal about divorce? When I was being interviewed for the pastoral position of a church, the committee questioned my views on divorce. I thought it an odd issue to be brought up in the interview, but answered the question based on my understanding of Scripture and my moral and ethical upbringing.

And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning “Made them male and female.” and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (Matthew 19:4-9).

At the close of the interview, I was asked to reevaluate my stance on divorce before the next meeting. The next week I received a letter from a member of the church asking me to ‘lighten up’ my ‘narrow’ position on divorce. When I investigated further, I found that 6 of the 8 members of the committee had been divorced. I understood the issue, for them, was not a biblical one, but a practical one.

There were 2 schools of thought regarding divorce in Israel in the days of Jesus. The school of Shammai took the strict and unpopular view of divorce for unfaithfulness alone while the school of Hillel took the liberal and popular view of easy divorce for any passing whim, i.e. if the husband saw a prettier woman or his wife burnt the biscuits for breakfast. It appears the interpretation of Hillel has become the popular and accepted position of not only our culture, but of the Christian community as well. Bradley R.E. Wright reports findings from ‘The General Social Survey’ (from 2000 to 2006): “The percentage of divorced or separated Evangelicals almost doubled from the 1970s to the 2000s (25% to 46%).”

Divorce is volatile issue in the church not only because of its Scriptural mandate, but because of social, cultural, emotional, and financial ramifications. It was a question posed to Jesus 2,000 years ago, and it is an issue that we have to continue to deal with today.

“Lord Jesus, give me the wisdom of Solomon to help people discover for themselves the truth of Your word regarding this and other moral and ethical issues of our day. To the honor and glory of Jesus Christ I ask, Amen.” 


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