Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Bible on Divorce & Remarriage - Two

A discussion of divorce and remarriage must begin with the biblical significance of marriage. If marriage is highly valued, then divorce will be rare. If marriage is devalued, then divorce will be common.

A quick scan of internet sites reveals the following: In any given year there are about 50 divorces for every 100 marriages in America. The divorce rate is between 40% and 50% for first marriages, between 60%-67% for second marriages and 73%-74% for third marriages. Meanwhile, many couples choose not to marry at all, creating a vast tangle of relationships and legal interventions over child custody and support. For one reason or another, in America about 26% of children under 21 live in single parent homes.

So what does the Bible say about marriage?

1) Marriage was established by God by creation (Genesis 1:27-28). God made man. God made woman from man. God brought them together as husband and wife (Genesis 2:21-22). The Bible's commentary on these events says, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24 NKJV).

2) Marriage in God's design involved perfect unity between the man and woman. Adam identified the woman as "bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh" (Genesis 2:23). This statement of solidarity is echoed in (Ephesians 5:28–29 NKJV) "So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church." 


In this design there was no idea of the possibility of divorce. As Jesus said, "So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate”(Matthew 19:6 NKJV). Regarding divorce, Jesus said, “...from the beginning it was not so."(Matthew 19:8 NKJV)


3) The gender conflict that is evident in every culture involves a struggle for domination or control. This was not part of the design, but became a reality when the original man and woman chose to rebel against God. They were immediately alienated from each other and blaming each other (Genesis 3:12). While their original relationship was cooperative unity, the curse on the earth after sin brought friction, sorrow and competition. (Genesis 3:16 NKJV) To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.” 


4) The sinful hearts of man led to all kinds of selfishness and conflict. God included legal provisions for divorce in the Old Testament Law - not as a prescription of something good, but as a provision to deal with the wickedness of man. (Matthew 19:7–8 NKJV) 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.

This is true of much of the law. There are laws about property disputes, inheritance rights, injuries from fights, seduction, rape, murder and manslaughter. None of these suggests that the circumstances are good. They only provide a way to resolve the conflicts that result from sin.

5) God consistently and unequivocally says that He hates divorce. (Malachi 2:16 NIV)  “I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,” says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith. (Matthew 19:6 NKJV) So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Marriage is designed by God to last a lifetime. But we sinful humans fall far short of God's ideal - even if we are never divorced.

For the next post: What is the proper basis for marriage?

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