God on Divorce

 

Matthew 19:1-12

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

Today’s sermon will attempt to bring light to something that has confused churches for many centuries, divorce. What is it in God’s eyes? When is it permissible? How should we as a church family handle it? This is always a very difficult subject because it’s one of the greatest trials some people will ever undertake during their lives. It’s difficult because there is so much pain associated with it.

The purpose of this sermon is not to make any of you who have suffered divorce to feel guilty. It is a forgivable sin like any other sin and there are certain instances when it’s necessary. In instances of adultery, physical or emotional abuse, or even unbelief, for example, there could be a case made for it Biblically.

The purpose of this sermon, however, is to bring to light how God sees something that has become epidemic in our society. Today, in too many cases, marriage is seen as temporary. I’ll stay with my spouse until something better comes along. I’ve become bored with my spouse so I’ll try to find my excitement elsewhere. This wasn’t the spouse I thought I was getting so I’ll just divorce them and try again. We live in a society of disposable marriage.

For years we’ve been told that the divorce rate in the United States hovers around 50%. Fortunately, this is not true. Currently, the divorce rate is around 30.1% according to the last census bureau. Good news you say? Maybe if you compare it to 50%. Yet almost 1 in 3 marriages end in divorce. To me this number is astounding. 1 in 10 would be upsetting. What is happening in our society that a third of the people who get married end up divorced?

I believe some of the blame can be placed on how society sees marriage. Anymore its more of a secular thing. Anyone can marry anyone. If Bill wants to marry Tom that’s fine. And all you need to do to officiate a wedding is spend 15 minutes getting yourself ordained to some fake church on the internet. In our disposable society, we have often taken the sacredness of marriage out of the picture. God is no longer invited in anymore in many cases. Too often its all based on a piece of paper from the state, not on the words and commands of our Creator. And we wonder why nearly 1 in 3 marriages end in divorce.

Like I mentioned, I’m not here to make anyone feel guilty, but neither am I going to gloss over something that has become such a troubling statistic in a sick society. Divorce is wrong and there is far too much of it. Together, as Christians, we must take a stand against the destruction of such a sacred institution as marriage.

This sacredness is why God has some very strict teachings on marriage.  Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”  Genesis 2:22-24, Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”  Proverbs 18:22, “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD.”  And from our Gospel lesson for this morning in Matthew 19, “(Jesus) answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate. 

God instituted Marriage to be the most intimate of relationships we have on earth, even more intimate then the relationships we are blessed to have with our parents. Therefore, we need to make every effort in our marriages to make them strong and fruitful. We need to   see again, marriage as the sacred institution it was ordained to be.

So far, we have begun to build a case as to why God forbids divorce except in the most extreme of cases. But there is more to say.

First, God forbids divorce because it results in a broken covenant between Him and the married couple. In a Christian ceremony, certain promises are made to God Himself. Til’ death do us part being foremost among them. If you were given a proper ceremony then it was done in the name of the Father, the Son and of the Holy Spirit. It was counted as sacred because it was our triune God who blessed it. Each person took a sacred oath to love, honor and obey their spouse as long as they lived. This was no agreement with the state that is easily dismissed. This was an agreement with God to uphold a very sacred union. And any union with God is not able to be voided by man.

Malachi 2:10, 13-16, “Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers?  You cover the LORD’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring.

So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”

Rather stern words to be sure. Now, again, they are not repeated to make anyone feel bad. They are repeated because the truth has to be told. The people whom God is addressing in this section of scripture were breaking a sacred covenant and God was very upset about it. God detests divorce, he detests any covenant of His that has been broken. These people’s prayers and sacrifices were hindered because they cared little about the sacred oath they had made. Eventually, God stopped listening to their shallow words. God was disciplining them because the agreements between they and God had been broken by their cavalier response to His sacred promise.

If you look up no-fault divorce states on Google, the first heading you will see is this, “Washington state uncontested divorce – $149 online divorces in minutes.” That is what marriage has been relegated to. Unfortunately, this is nothing new. The Jews themselves had such a law. In fact, it was possible to get a divorce in Biblical times if a wife did anything to displease her husband. Burning breakfast was cause enough.

In Deuteronomy 24 we read this:

“When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the LORD. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.”

To liberal Jews this meant that a man could divorce his wife for any reason, no matter how shallow. But Jesus stated this was only done because of their hardness of heart but that God always intended to make marriage permanent. So, he gave them the words to change their thinking, “Whoever divorces His wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 

God also forbids divorce because of what it does to the family. Unfortunately, in any divorce with children involved, they more often suffer the most.

In a Nicholas Zill study, he reported that children of divorced parents are, regardless of their economic circumstances, more likely to have poor relationships with their parents, drop out of high school (13% for two parent homes, 31% for single parent homes) Become pregnant as teens (The teen pregnancy rate for two parent homes is 11% whereas the teen pregnancy rate among divorced families is 33%), and receive psychological help.

You see, this broken covenant is not just between you and God our you and your spouse, it is a sacred covenant that carries on to your children, and they know when a covenant has been broken.

Zill said, “Many people were saying single-parent families are just different, not necessarily worse or better, and the factors that link kids to problems have to do with poverty, but my research didn’t support that explanation.”

Author Maggie Gallagher summed up this problem in her book, The Abolition of Marriage.” She writes, “The evidence is now overwhelming that the collapse of marriage is creating a whole generation of children less happy, less physically and mentally healthy, less equipped to deal with life or produce at work, and more dangerous to themselves and others.” In divorce everyone suffers, especially our children, largely because they are never given a choice.

Divorce is a painful thing. It was never instituted by God and is caused by the sin that was ushered into their world. So how can we avoid it?

Jesus reminds us of a hint to this problem that was first said at the dawn of time, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” We must remember that this union is not just superficial, it’s a union of souls, a union of flesh itself. We are no longer two but one in marriage.

This thought is so alien in our world today. Our culture tells us over and over again that happiness is the ultimate goal, it tells us that we should be a person of the world following worldly values and if you don’t you will be chastised.

Love, in our culture, is really not about sacrifice anymore. It’s about what’s in it for me. “She’s beautiful and she looks good on my arm, I think I’ll marry her.” He makes me laugh and I like hanging out with him, I think I’ll marry him.” He or she is loaded, think of the nice things I can have, I think I’ll get hitched to that gravy train.”

But from the beginning, God has taught us that love is about the willingness to give of ourselves, not about what we can get from the other person. Marriage is about building that love over a lifetime through good times and bad.

We all want happiness and my wish for you is that you all remain happy in your marriage. But marriage isn’t about happiness especially when our desire for happiness is displaced as the goal. Looking for our ultimate happiness in marriage is usually a vain thing because nothing we could ever do could measure up to the happiness we seek. Happiness is much more than instant gratification, it comes as a result of two people working together over time. It’s not thrill seeking through materialism and sex that the world portrays it to be. True happiness can only come when God is a part of the union. The more I see marriage fail, the more I am convinced of this.

God instituted marriage as one of His greatest gifts to mankind. He knew this world would bring with it a myriad of problems that would be hard to face alone. He knew that children would need both a father and a mother to have the ultimate benefits from life. He knew that a loving relationship was the foundation of humanness and He wanted us to have it in its greatest degree.

Marriage means so much to God because relationship means so much to God. And any marriage rooted in Him will stand a much better chance of surviving because he is part of that relationship. Through Him two become one, each sacrificing for the benefit of the whole. Through God a beautiful and sacred union is given to last a lifetime.

So, let us all who are married, re-dedicate our lives to our spouses. Let us all be willing to go the extra mile to make the union God instituted work. Let us find our happiness in pleasing those whom God has given us, because they are truly gifts from God Himself intended for the benefit of a whole society.

For those who are not married, support those who are. Speak well of the institution, even if you yourself had a marriage that didn’t work.

God always wants what is best for you, so, those contemplating marriage, choose wisely and see the institution of marriage as the sacred union it is. Be prepared to give all of yourself to your spouse and don’t come into marriage for what you can get out of it.

And finally, as a church family, we are to handle everything in love. If two of our members are going through the process, we need to be there for them. If someone who is divorced visits our church, we are to welcome them.

And for those of you who have gone through divorce or are going through it. Know that God loves you with a God sized love. He wants you to make every effort but understands that sometimes things are beyond your control. Through repentance His forgiveness is assured. Make the rest of your life a blessing in His eyes.

Marriage is an amazing gift from a loving God, but it has its peaks and valleys like anything else. It’s hard enough to overcome the valleys alone. Lean on each other and on a loving God to see you through the tough times.  May God continue to bless this sacred gift and may we honor it by our actions. Amen.

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