Peninsula Community Church
March 20, 2011
Sermon on the Mount
Committed for Life?
Matthew 5:31-32 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
My goal in this message today is to balance God’s truth with God’s grace and His love. The discussion of divorce has been one that has created controversy in churches around the world. The problem is that we often respond in one of two ways. We can take the legalistic approach to divorce by giving no room for grace to those who have experienced it or who are dealing with the effects of it in their life. Or, we take the extreme liberal approach and say anything goes and deny that there are consequences to our decisions.
This issue of divorce was brought home to me by a debate that I and several other pastors were having several years ago. In the discussion, one pastor made an observation that I will never forget. He said that he could preach in any church in America because he has never been divorced. This is in spite of the fact that before he became a believer he admittedly had more than 250 different partners in his life and that he most likely had children all over America. The reason for this is that he had been a part of a motor cycle gang before he had become a believer and had lived a promiscuous lifestyle. Conversely, a 16 year old kid who got his girlfriend pregnant and was forced to marry her; then found out that that was the worst thing they could have done divorces her he cannot preach in most churches in America. This is in spite of his conversion, confession of faith and true repentance after the divorce.
As we look at this issue this morning we will look at the debate of Jesus’ time, the plan of God for marriage and divorce, the reality of our time, the causes of divorce and finally we will look at the hope for those who have experienced such an event in their lives.
The Debate – As we read this passage today Jesus is responding to the debate of His of day. The religious leaders were debating the grounds by which one would be allowed to divorce. The Pharisees dragged Jesus into the debate in Matthew 19:3 when they asked Jesus if it were lawful to divorce their wives for any reason.
Once again Jesus is put in the position of having to counter the way the old law was being interpreted with the new law that is measured by grace and mercy and not by the hardness of fulfilling some predetermined and pre-described list of rules. As in the issue of anger and lust the Pharisees had hijacked and bent the original intent of the law of God to fit their concepts and ideals on what was acceptable for divorce to take place.
In the days of the New Testament, the man was in total control of his wife. And many religious leaders believed that divorce could occur for any reason and at any time. Rabbi Akibah a respected Rabbi among the Pharisees interpreted the law of divorce to mean that the man could divorce the woman for any reason. If she burned the meal, he could divorce her. If she over salted the food, he could divorce her. He even went so far as to say that the man could divorce the wife if he found another woman that was more attractive or younger. If he were to divorce his wife he was to give her a document that stated she had been released from the marriage and was allowed to marry without moral implications. This was hard on the woman because in most cases she would have no revenue stream, no home and no financial support from her previous spouse.
Jesus counters this belief by establishing the parameters of divorce on moral grounds. And yet he does not forbid divorce absolutely as He provides the morality clause as a way to break the covenant in Matthew 5 and Matthew 19. And in I Corinthians 7 the basis of Paul’s teaching was that if an unbelieving spouse pursues divorce the believing spouse is released.
The Plan – It is important to note that God’s plan is for marriage to be a commitment for life. In God’s eyes marriage is a sacred covenant between a man and a woman. Therefore, divorce was never God’s intent or His will. When two people marry they were to commit themselves to a union of their lives into one flesh and into one being. In Genesis 2:24 God says that Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. The idea expressed in this picture is that of two pieces of paper that are glued together. Each person will have their own personalities, goals and dreams but they come together to see that come to pass in each other. This is why divorce is so painful and creates lasting scars and wounds.
The problem today however is that marriage is often entered into so lightly that many will have one foot out the door before the ink is dried on the paper. I often ask a question when I do marriage counseling that gets a variety of answers. I ask “Why do you want to be married?” I asked one young guy this question and he said that “He had never been married and wanted to give it a shot to see if it would work.” This did not give me great hope that the marriage would last.
The Reality – The reality is that because of human depravity and the fallen nature of mankind divorce is a very real issue for us. The statistics are clear today about the state of marriage in America:
- Fifty percent of those who marry today will divorce.
- On the stress scale, divorce and separation are ranked 2nd and 3rd. Only the death of a spouse is rated higher. And many spouses polled stated that they would have preferred death over divorce because of the ongoing issues and problems faced.
- More than 80 percent of those who are divorced will remarry within three years and 65 percent of those marriages will fail again.
- More than a million children each year are involved in divorce and more than 13 million children under 18 live with one parent so that single parent families are growing at a rate twenty times faster than two parent families.
The Cause – But why does this happen? Let me give you three reasons today:
The sinfulness of man. Man is sinful and therefore reacts to the draw of the sinful nature. Since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden man has been seeking to go his own way and do his own thing. Rather than live out his commitments, it is easier to reject God’s perfect will and his plan.
Self-centeredness – because of the sinfulness of man we have become a self-centered society and nation. To be selfish and self-centered is to be sensitive to your partner, to see things from only your way, to seek your good above all else, and to protect yourself first and foremost. Everything has become disposable today. Everything we buy has a life. For example laptop computers have an active life of approximately two years before it will be obsolete and out-of-date. New Cell Phones are coming out every year. Sometimes nothing has changed but the outside package. The problem is that we desire the latest and greatest thing to satisfy our desires and wants. We even apply this to marriage. I will stay married until a new model comes along or something new happens. Why because I need to be happy.
Hard-heartedness – This is also a sinful attitude and a result of the sinfulness of man. When one becomes self-centered they can also become hard-hearted and they will then begin to refuse to change. Even when confronted with the truth, they will refuse make the course adjustments they need to because they do not want to submit to anyone else.
The Hope – But this is not the whole story, there is more because there is hope.
God loves us regardless of what we have done. “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. … For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:8, 14).
God forgives every sin and wrong we have committed. ” If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9). The Lord made this very clear in His dealing with the woman who “was taken in adultery, in the very act” (John 8:4). He reminded her accusers that they also were sinners and had no warrant to punish her. Then He told the woman: “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (John 8:11).
He in no way condoned her sin, but He did forgive her sin, when she gave evidence of godly sorrow and determination not to sin again in this way. Under such conditions, His followers would do well to follow His example. At least in this particular context, He put no further conditions on her freedom, either to return to her husband if he would have her, or to marry another if she were already divorced.
God restores every person who is willing to commit their life and their way to Him. Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:1-6). We forget as believers that Jesus die for our sin to restore us and to make us whole.