MATTHEW 5:31-32; 19:1-10

INTRODUCTION

On a television show, Divorce Wars, a thriving divorce lawyer found himself on the brink of divorce, even though he strongly believed in family life. As he began to ponder why his marriage was falling apart, he asked a friend the following question: ?Max, how did you stay married for thirty-five years??

Max, being older, had a rather illuminating answer: ?guess in our generation we didn’t expect as much from each other?and we ended up getting more.?

Why is there such a high rate of divorce in our society today? Why is the Christian divorce rate even higher? The answer lies in the lack of commitment. People are committing to everything else first then committing to marriage second. Many of you are committed to your careers, education and pursuits before your marriage.

Another reason divorce is so prevalent among Christians is that the preaching coming from many pulpits are trying to appease people instead of preaching holiness. People living in sin (shacking), have no second thought of going to church every Sunday singing Amazing Grace! They continue to live together without getting married because they are being told how God wants them to prosper instead of how God wants them to live holy!

I. OPPOSITION TO GOD’S IDEAL OF MARRIAGE (MATT. 19:3-6)

The Pharisees are often found in Matthew’s Gospel testing or opposing Jesus in some way. Chapter nineteen verses 1-9 is a typical instance. They wanted Jesus to say something to damage His reputation or contradict the teachings of Moses regarding the Law. Also, they wanted Jesus to condemn Herod and Herodias’ incestuous relationship, which cost the life of John the Baptist.

As I said in last week’s message, divorce was becoming very rampant in the day in which Jesus lived and ministered. Jesus does not fall into the trap which the Pharisees have set up for Him. Instead, He aligns Himself with the prophet Malachi who quotes The LORD as saying, ?I hate divorce? (Malachi 2:16), and also refers to creation (2:14-15). Jesus cites first Genesis 1:27 and then Genesis 2:24. The Creator made the race male and female (Matt. 19:4). The implication is that the two sexes should be united in marriage. Therefore, God does not endorse or approve homosexual marriages. I like what F. D. Bruner writes: ?If God had supremely intended solitary life, God would have created humans one by one; if God had intended polygamous life, God would have created one man and several women; if God had intended homosexual life, God would have made two men or two women; but that God intended monogamous heterosexual life was shown by God’s creation of one man one woman.?

In order not to lose the implication of God’s order of marriage, the Creator then said, ?For this reason? (v. 5) a man will leave his father and mother, be united to his wife and become one flesh (Eph. 5:28-31). And what God has put together let no man put asunder (v. 6). Let me camp here for a while. In Genesis 2:24, there are three verbs?leaving, cleaving, and becoming one flesh. These three verbs indicate three purposes of marriage.

Leaving involves a departure from parents and implies a legal union of husband and wife into marriage. Couples who ignore this legal element have a ?stolen marriage.? This is something that men and women have to discuss with their parents so that they don’t interfere and ruin the marriage.

Cleaving comes from a Hebrew word which means, “To stick or glue together.” ?A husband and wife are glued together like two pieces of paper. If you try to separate two pieces of paper which are glued together, you tear them both.? Ideally, the couple is dedicated to loving, drawing together, and remaining faithful to each other. When such cleaving is absent, they have an ?empty marriage? which may be legal but devoid of love.

Becoming one flesh involves sex but it goes beyond the physical. It means that you and your spouse share everything you have, not only your bodies, not only your material possessions, but also your thinking and feelings, your joy and suffering, your hopes and fears, your successes and failures. This does not imply that each of you has lost his/her individual identity. The uniqueness remains and it is combined with your mate to make a complete relationship. When the one flesh relationship is lacking you have an ?unfulfilled marriage.?

If God has joined the wife and husband together according to the structure of His own creation, divorce is not only unnatural but rebellion against God. God and humans are so apart on the issue of marriage that what God unites humans divide. That is why our world is in trouble. That is why our homes are unstable. That is why our society is in shambles and Christians are not exempt. Jesus upholds the sanctity of marriage by focusing on the God-ordained unity of husband and wife.

II. IMPLICATORY QUESTION AND TACTFUL ANSWER VV. 7-10
The Pharisees refer to Deuteronomy 24:1-4. In other words, Moses did not command divorce but permitted it on the grounds of indecency. This is what Jesus is saying: the fact that Moses permitted the issuance of certificate of divorce does not nullify or set aside God’s mandate that marriage is a permanent institution. Jesus in effect is saying that Moses’ concession of divorce does not reflect the true creation ordinance but the hardness of men’s heart. In other words, divorce is not part of God’s perfect design. If Moses permitted divorce, he did so because sin can be so vile that divorce is to be preferred to continued ?indecency.? Some have interpreted the ?indecency? to mean homosexuality or lesbianism, or any unnatural sexual acts.

Therefore, according to Jesus, divorce is never to be thought of as a God-ordained, morally neutral option but as evidence of sin, of hardness of heart. The fundamental attitude of the Pharisees to the question of divorce was wrong. So Jesus is saying that Moses’ permission for divorce does not override God’s command for the sanctity of the marriage bond. Now let’s deal with the causes of divorce.

THE CAUSES OF DIVORCE
Obviously there are many reasons or excuses for divorce. These excuses or reasons range from such serious issues as adultery, attempt on the life of the spouse, extreme cruelty, desertion, and the commonly used ?incompatibility.? As we look at some of the reasons spouses divorce, it is my hope that our examination would help prevent this tragedy from occurring in your life or the lives of others. Let me also remind you that it is not my intention to let those of you who have experienced divorce feel worse than you already are. In these days of mail order divorces, group divorces, and how-to books of ?doing your own divorce,? we have to take a serious look at this tragedy that is undermining the stability of our home and society.

The first culprit of divorce is adultery. Oprah Winfrey conducted a survey among her television audience regarding the movie, Indecent Proposal, in which a character played by Robert Redford offers to pay the character played by Demi Moore a million dollars just for sleeping with him for one night. A million bucks would settle her husband’s staggering gambling debt. It would pay off their delinquent mortgage. When Oprah asked her studio audience, ?If you were offered a million dollars to sleep with a man, would you do it?? 55 percent said ?yes.?

You may say, the audience of Oprah Winfrey show is secular, but it is not bad in the church. In a random sampling of a thousand subscribers, Christianity Today learned that 45 percent of the respondents admitted to having committed adultery or acting inappropriately regarding sexual matters.

Dr. Billy Graham has called immorality an epidemic in our churches as well as the secular world at large. He has cited a poll that 40 percent of the young people in Bible-believing evangelical churches are sexually active. The poll also revealed that 60 percent of single adults, including those who attend church regularly and participate in Bible studies, are not only sexually active, but also half report having sex with multiple partners. No wonder the world is in such a state of turmoil. For that matter, it is no wonder the church is not having much of an impact on the world.

Dr. Les Carter, who conducts marriage seminars across America, has concluded that approximately 40 percent of all married men will at some time in their marriage have an extramarital affair. He points to four major reasons for extramarital affairs. The first is unresolved anger. The second is excessive personal neediness; the third, craving for unbridled freedom. And the fourth is a preoccupation with sex.

The second cause of divorce is absence. The busyness of modern society is a primary culprit. We live in a marriage-on-the-run society. We live in a go-go-go world that too often includes a dad who has turned into a workaholic as he pours his life into his career and a mom who has worked herself to exhaustion as she attempts to build a career and marriage and handle motherhood at the same time. Over time husband and wife drift apart and are absent from each other on regular basis. A feeling of isolation and indifference sets in. Gradually, they stop listening and eventually they disengage emotionally. This absence leads to ?me? first mentality: ?I’ll stay married to you as long as it doesn’t interfere with my career.? ?Our marriage is interfering with my personal fulfillment.? ?We would have children but we couldn’t afford to maintain our lifestyle if we did.?

The third cause of divorce is desertion. To the words of Moses and Jesus, Paul adds desertion as a legitimate cause for divorce. When an unbelieving partner leaves or wants to leave, the believer is under no obligation to prevent the departure (1 Cor. 7:10-15). But the believer cannot use his/her newly found faith in Christ to demand divorce from an unbelieving spouse if the spouse wants to stay married.

The fourth cause for divorce is abuse. Abuse is the ugliest of all the causes for divorce whether it is physical or chemical. Statistics for 1988 from the National Coalition against Domestic Violence reveal that their husbands, ex-husbands, or lovers beat three to four million women each year in their homes. Abuse is a definite factor in many divorces, and yet in most cases it is a solvable problem. In most cases abuse begins with verbal intimidation, and then graduates to physical abuse. Sometimes Christians kid ourselves that only monsters and psychopathic husbands or wives abuse their spouses. But that is not always the case. Many of these abusers are well-respected people in the society, but their problem is that battering is a learned behavior. Some of these spouse abusers were themselves abused and battered as children, or they witnessed it in their own family when growing up so they see abuse as the norm. An abusive home is a miserable place to live, but counseling and some creative approaches to solving the problem could be infinitely better than divorce.

PREVENTION OF DIVORCE
The most obvious way to prevent divorce is to build stronger marriages?marriages based on Scriptural principles and characterized by love, commitment, and open communication. There are two steps to prevention in terms of adultery. The first is recognition. How can you recognize an ?affair’ headed your way? Danger signals include spending more time with your coworkers than with your spouse; sharing ?secrets? with friends and coworkers; taking long lunches with the same person of the opposite sex; becoming defensive when questioned about attitude toward a new ?friend?; indulging in fantasy thinking about members of the opposite sex; having a ?wandering eye? (taking special notice of handsome or beautiful others on a too-frequently basis). The second step in preventive medicine is counseling. An objective qualified person not a caring friend can help you deal with this area in a positive manner. Many say, ?I cannot afford a counselor.? Money is not an issue; it is an excuse. Today many Christian counselors do not charge much fee. Besides, there are some churches that offer free counseling and ?work-pay? programs. Couples find a way to get that better car, sofa, bedroom suite, washer, dryer, the latest electronic gadgets, etc. Why can’t you find a way to seek counseling to save your marriage? It is imperative that you get counseling in order to save your marriage and home.

Regarding absence recognize that you have a problem and seek counseling by a professional. Counseling can help you focus on the problem (obsessive-compulsive behavior; preoccupation with minor priorities; or poor listening skills) rather than the symptom of the problem. This focus will lead toward a solution.

The spouse who abuses the partner must also recognize that he/she has a problem. There should be self-examination. You must ask, ?What am I doing or failing to do which contributes to the problems in my marriage? Often there is bitterness, refusal to forgive, unrealistic expectations, constant criticism, sexual infidelity, unwillingness to work at building the marriage, or some equally harmful attitude which is contributing to the marital tension (Matt. 7:7). Of course, it isn’t always easy to see ourselves clearly. However, if we ask God to enlighten our understanding, He surely will, perhaps through the observation of a counselor or through the insight of your mate. Then you are to seek divine and human help to forsake harmful behaviors.

The next preventive measure against divorce is reconciliation. It has been observed that about one couple in eight tries reconciliation after filing for divorce, but such reconciliation are permanent in about half the cases. Reconciliation comes only after hours of discussion and a realistic evaluation of the problems involved. But reconciliation is a desire of the God who hates divorce.

The final preventive medicine for divorce is Divine Guidance. It is true that only God can really mend and bind a broken marriage. Separately and together, you must seek divine wisdom, strength, and guidance as you grow spiritually and work to prevent divorce. Daily Scripture reading and prayer can help to sustain a marriage that is at the verge of ruin. Scripture reading and prayer are powerful forces that can open you and your spouse to the healing power of God. The Church can also intervene in the event of divorce. Believers are encouraged to bear one another’s burdens, care for one another, and pray for each other. You as a Christian must remember that prayer, concern, caring, and support are not options; they are commands from the Lord to us. The fervent prayers of the righteous can bring healing, even the healing of a marriage.

In closing, if you and your spouse surrender your lives to the saving grace of Jesus Christ, commit your lives to each other, put each other ahead of yourself, make sure your marriage is built on the Word of God, make Jesus the bond that holds you together, and make the covenant that divorce is not an option, you can have a lifetime of joy that will be unsurpassed.

However, when marriages do fail, there is hope in Jesus. For Jesus came to love, forgive, and heal. Jesus still loves and so must we. He was and is redemptive and we must be also.

By: Kennedy Adarkwa.

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