“It was said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a divorce certificate.’ But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife except for sexual unfaithfulness forces her to commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. “Again you have heard that it was said to those who lived long ago: Don’t make a false solemn pledge, but you should follow through on what you have pledged to the Lord. But I say to you that you must not pledge at all. You must not pledge by heaven, because it’s God’s throne. You must not pledge by the earth, because it’s God’s footstool. You must not pledge by Jerusalem, because it’s the city of the great king. And you must not pledge by your head, because you can’t turn one hair white or black. Let your yes mean yes, and your no mean no. Anything more than this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:31-37, Common English Bible).
I am blessed. I have a wonderful wife who supports me in everything I do. Even when she may not agree with a particular decision I make, she still supports me. She is quick to tell people that she did not marry a preacher, she married a sailor. What she says is very true. We got married and less than two weeks later I was in boot camp.
When I first started talking about entering the ministry, I am sure she was questioning things in her mind. To me, Cindy said, “If it is what you think you are supposed to do” and she has never looked back or questioned my call to ministry. At times when I have questioned my call and investigated other possibilities, Cindy has supported me in what I look at not only for my future, but for our future. Forty years later (this June), I do not regret the decision we made and the life we have together.
I realize how blessed I am. I also realize what I have is not what everyone in the world has. It is not what everyone I know has. Many people, people I know and people I don’t, do not have the support from their spouse I have from mine. Many people I know have had to deal with spouses who have been unfaithful. People I know have had spouses who are physically, emotionally, sexually and even spiritually abusive. There are people who have had to live with and endue with spouses dealing with addiction. If we pay attention we can see that many people have to deal with spouses who are less than honest.
The idea of divorce is not something cut and dry. It is not something easy. In the verses above Jesus is addressing ideas from the Pharisees where there was allowances for men to divorce their wives if they failed to please them in some way. Notice Jesus’ words here are specific of husbands divorcing their wives. Instructions are not given the other way around. The reason is actually pretty simple. Wives were commonly treated as chattel, as property. A wife couldn’t divorce a husband very easily.
I am part of a denomination that includes reason into how we do the theological task. We ask, what is reasonable in light of Scripture (always first and primary), tradition and experience. Scripture and my experience say “God is love.” Love does not abuse. Love does not stray from the truth. Love is always faithful. I have difficulty with this because I know what the text says. At the same time, however, I cannot accept that God would want a spouse to remain in such situations. I have difficulty with our example teaching children what the role of husbands and wives should look like when that example is completely wrong.
Without question, marriage is a sacred vow and it should not be entered upon lightly and once the sacred vow, the covenant is made, it should be taken seriously by both parties. But, if a covenant is broken and cannot be repaired… Now we are entering into a more difficult ground. If the terms of a contract were broken to the point it could not be salvaged, would we not move on?
Our yes should mean yes and our no should mean no. Jesus is clear about that. But, we also have to recognize that just because we mean what we say, not everyone else feels or responds in the same way. Sometimes we are left with the difficult but best choice of moving on. Is that a sin? Quite possibly. But, I also know there is more grace in God than there is sin in us. For that, we should all be thankful.
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Joy and Peace,
Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved