By Allen White
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
The Bible tells us that “God hates divorce” (Malachi 2:16, NIV 1984). God doesn’t hate divorced people. God loves everyone. God hates divorce because God loves us. God wouldn’t wish divorce on His worst enemy.
I realize that as I’m writing this, more than a few of your lives have been touched by divorce. While divorce is a sin, it’s not the sin that keeps on sinning. You may be willing to reconcile with your spouse, but it’s not entirely up to you. You can’t change the past, and I’m not here to rub your nose in it.
Divorce is never an amiable separation of two people. There are no clean breaks. Divorce is a tearing apart of two who have become one (Matthew 19:4-6). It leaves painful, if not fatal, wounds emotionally.
In Jesus’ day, divorce had become common place even among religious people. God had allowed divorce, because of the hardness of people’s hearts (Mark 10:2-5). This stubbornness went from divorcing an adulterous spouse to divorcing a disliked spouse (Deuteronomy 24:1).
Back then there was no waiting period and no required separation period, the husband would write out the “certificate” and send his wife packing into another’s arms. Back then, women couldn’t make a living for themselves, so they had to find another husband. Jesus referred to this as a form of forced adultery. She had no other choice. The guilt was on the husband.
Every marriage faces conflict and more than its share of friction. Mary Beth Chapman refers to her 25 year marriage to Steven Curtis Chapman as a 25 year tug-a-war. Every marriage is a work in progress. It requires faithfulness, persistence and the grace of God.
Dating couples are overwhelmed by their similarities. Married couples are overwhelmed by their differences. “You say potato. I say potato…Let’s call the whole thing off.” But, differences can become the strengths in a marriage. And, as one speaker put it, “If both of you were identical, then one of you wouldn’t be necessary.”
Marriage is hard work. It is meaningful, significant work, but it is hard. Marriage reveals things about ourselves that we would rather not admit. Gary Thomas, in his book Sacred Marriage, [LINK] sees marriage as a spiritual discipline helping us become like Christ.
The church has gone to extremes on divorce. Not too many years ago divorced people were shunned or treated like second class citizens. Today, the church’s attitude is more like “well, that’s too bad that it didn’t work out.” Neither extreme is doing anyone any favors.
Lazy employees shouldn’t be surprised by a bad evaluation. Lazy parents shouldn’t be surprised by rotten kids. Lazy spouses shouldn’t be surprised by an unhealthy marriage. (That’s not to say that everyone with rotten kids or an unhealthy marriage is lazy. Kids and spouses have a choice.)
How are you investing in your marriage? Here are some great resources for you and your spouse:
Love and War by John and Stasi Eldridge
Love at Last Sight by Kerry and Chris Shook
Boundaries in Marriage by John Townsend and Henry Cloud
The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs
iMarriage by Andy Stanley
If you are separated and feel that your marriage is failing:
Hope for the Separated: Book and Class
Yes, Your Marriage Can by Saved by Joe and Michelle Williams
If you are divorced:
Divorce Recovery: Support Group and Website
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