In Lent 23 by Bruce LogueLeave a Comment

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.’

Matthew 5:31-32

It’s hard to use this text as a preaching text. I’ve done it, and I’ve also seen the visible pain in the faces of people, listening to my sermon, who had been through a divorce. At that moment, all of my certainty and bravado go marching out the door. “What have I done?” was my thought.

Yet, all one has to do is look at the divorce rate in the U.S. and it becomes clear that we need to revisit what Jesus said and ask some hard questions: Did Jesus really think this is possible? What is Jesus going to do when we come face-to-face with an insurmountable problem with no solution but divorce?

And such times do occur!

First of all, it is clear that Jesus was dead-serious about the commitment intended for marriage. In fact, at the beginning of time, this was said about the new creation of the first couple. “Therefore a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24. This was the ideal of the Creator.

Second, it is not for us to water this down or remove its difficult adherence. It stands without any exception clause. “But, but, but…..” We want to excuse ourselves from the limitations of the command. Nevertheless, the whole point of the Sermon on the Mount is for us to see what God intends rather than the low point to which we’ve rationalized it.

Jesus’ divorce clause is meant to be high and exacting, or else we humans will take it to the lowest possible demand. And we all know where that leads: to people being treated like objects, to the shredding of the fabric of human connection, and the erosion of human character. God never ever intended for human beings to be harmed by our relationships. That is a human adaptation.

Third, there is no accounting for human self-centeredness. Sometimes, try as we may, it becomes impossible to reach Jesus’ high water mark for us; circumstances make that impossible. Only then should anything less than Jesus wanted, be considered.

A couple should not enter into a marriage unless they are willing to make a promise to each other to stay together. The excitement, difficulty, and growth of marriage are found in negotiating that promise throughout life, with all its ups and downs.

Making that promise changes the way you think about the other and the relationship. It also protects the relationship until one or both of the partners decide to break the covenant in some way. But let us remember that breaking the covenant is not what Jesus envisaged.

Prayer: O God – Father, Son, and Spirit. From forever you have lived in perfect unity, working together to first create and then redeem this world. And you created us to live in the same commitment to one another. Sometimes, no, often, our humanity destroys the work of relationships, including building committed marriages. Lord, help us to be more patient with one another. Help us to be able to see what you intended for us and strive for it with all our effort. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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