Some people have found it hard to find any grace in Jesus’ words about divorce and remarriage. But if you understand the context of what Jesus was saying, you will see more grace than you might first think.
I’ve been teaching my way through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount at Cedarbrook. In my younger years I’d often get hung up on each sentence. But by seeing the Sermon as a whole, the individual sentences make so much more sense to me now.
In regard to divorce and remarriage, it seems that the range of interpretation is to either take Jesus so literally that you must divorce your second spouse to return to your first, or hyper-spiritualize the text to an unattainable ideal that Jesus never meant for us to tackle.
But I think there is a reasonable third way that views the issue through a grid of grace. I’ll give you a snapshot of my thinking here and let you read or listen to my message if you want to hear more on this.
Religious Loophole for Divorce?
In approaching divorce and remarriage it’s important to remember the thrust of Jesus’ teaching. He wasn’t out to shame sinners. He was out to teach his disciples that an acceptable religion practice of the day was unacceptable to Jesus. Namely, using religious loopholes to hide their sin.
In that day, a man could essentially “annul” his wedding without cause with a certificate of divorce. So, in theory, you could get married many times and never have to admit to a divorce if you gave your wife a certificate. Sweet deal. (Meanwhile subjecting your ex-wife to shame and poverty).
But Jesus said: not so fast. God’s not fooled by your religious “work-around.” Call it what it is: adultery.You’ve broken the unity bond of marriage. This bond represents who God is. To break this bond undermines one of the ways we reflect God in this world. Don’t think your “certificate” gives you a free pass on sin.God knows the truth even if you fool others.
There is Grace for You
Jesus was speaking against hypocrites who wanted to hide their sin, not people who regretfully failed in marriage. To them he would say: Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Jesus was warning his disciples of what NOT to do when they follow him.
Jesus wants to help you start over. He is the God of second chances. He’s not out to shame broken people. He just doesn’t want us to play religious games. Call your sin what it is (in this case:adultery) find forgiveness, and then move on. God will work with you to make your second marriage a success if you let him.
Too often people elevate divorce and remarriage to be worse than other sins and let it taint their second marriage, always doubting its validity before God. It’s good to admit and own your failure. Make the amends you can. But then move forward. Life is too short to let regrets rob from you every day.