When Aron Ralston fell into a deep crevice on the mountain, a boulder tumbled after him, pinning his arm. After days, Aron realized he had to choose between his arm and his life, and so he severed his arm with his knife.
Divorce is an amputation. It cuts into each of you, into the “one” that God has joined together. So why, Jesus was asked, was divorce permitted at all? Jesus said it was because of the hardness of men’s hearts, meaning that when a hard heart breaks the marriage covenant, it may be merciful to allow the victim a divorce.
Malachi is often quoted where we read “God hates divorce,” but you must read that phrase in context, for so often this phrase has been used as a bludgeon to hammer the victims of divorce. God’s heart breaks for you! In Malachi He was THUNDERING against the men who tossed aside their wives for pagan women. He wept for those women and he wept for the men who were professing faith yet treating the “wives of their youth” treacherously. Eugene Peterson paraphrases it like this:
I hate divorce,” says the God of Israel. God-of-the-Angel-Armies says, “I hate the violent dismembering of the ‘one flesh’ of marriage.”
This was not how things were meant to be.
InThe Meaning of Marriage, Tim and Kathy Keller say that 2/3’s of couples who consider divorce, if they hang on, are happy in their marriages five years later. So often it is stubborn pride, rather than a broken covenant, that leads to divorce, and the couple will regret it for the rest of their lives.
But never will you hear me say again, the way I did when I was a know-it-all young Christian, “divorce is not in my vocabulary.” It’s in God’s vocabulary, so we must not be holier than God. God knows sometimes an amputation is necessary for life and gives exceptions, which we will study.
Our own gentle Nanci, whom I was privileged to meet and love, shares this testimony:
My first marriage was an emotionally destructive relationship…I was pelted with hurtful words and actions, disinterest, deceit; we attended counseling three different times in the 10 year relationship. I have said before, I view the end of that marriage as a blessing; had that marriage not ended, I would not be enjoying the emotionally uplifting relationship with my husband of 14+ years…my daughters would have not witnessed the loving, kind, respectful relationship they witnessed…they would not have the “family” relationship “our family” provided that they now hold and value… I reiterate…the steps are difficult and require calm, strength, and fortitude, but they will either benefit the marriage or benefit the individual.
May we have compassion, may we study these challenging and controversial passages with hearts open to what God might teach us for ourselves, our children, and our sisters and brothers in Christ.
On a personal note, I believe we must honor marriage and fight for it. Our hearts are deceitful and proud and usually divorce is regretted. Having said that, I also think that when there is unrepented and continual abuse, that it is abandonment (The Christianity Today article we will read this week takes that controversial stance) and that it takes courage and faith to separate and demand the spouse get help. Why? He or she may opt for divorce instead and you will need to trust God to be your husband. But abuse, physical or emotional, is so devastating to both the spouse and the children, and so likely to be passed to subsequent generations, that, in my opinion, separation in these situations takes the same kind of courage that Aron Ralston had in severing his arm.
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
Monday-Wednesday Bible Study:
The prevailing teaching on marriage, beginning in Genesis, is that the two shall be one. The other commands about marriage, including divorce, flow from that central teaching.
God thunders at the men who have disregarded their holy union and instead of covering their wives with protection, have covered them with treachery. He is holding them accountable — as he did the husbands in 1 Peter 3:7.
2. Read Malachi 2:13-16
A. How are the men giving an appearance of godliness?
B. Why isn’t the Lord answering their prayers?
C. The Hebrew of verse 16 is difficult, but I do think Eugene Peterson caught it above. What is God saying?
D. If you are a victim of divorce or have a friend who is, how might this passage bring comfort?
3. In Mark 10 and Matthew 19, Jesus addresses divorce and adultery. Many Jewish men were divorcing their wives for “any cause,” even burning the toast.
A. What question in Matthew 19:3 is asked of Jesus?
B. How does Jesus go back to God’s plan for marriage in Matthew 19:4-6? What is He communicating about marriage and divorce?
C. What is the next question and answer from Jesus in Matthew 19: 7-9?
D. Challenge question: why does adultery break the marriage covenant?
E. What is the response of the disciples to this? Why, do you think?
F. What does Jesus say in Matthew 19:10-12? What does this mean and how might this be applied?
Next week, when we look at the mystery of sex (and how it parallels our relationship with Christ) we will see it is a gift and it is wrong for groups to forbid it, as the Catholic church has for priests. (1 Timothy 4:3)
4. Read 1 Corinthians 7:12-16
A. Why, according to 1 Corin. 7:12-14 should a believer stay with an unbeliever and not file for divorce?
B. What exception is made in verse 15 and why? What do you think the phrase, “not enslaved,” or “not bound” means?
C. Why is abandonment the breaking of a covenant?
5. Now here is the controversial part. I agree with the following article from Christianity Today. He defines abandonment according to the Old Testament. This article drew heat however. Please read it, summarize it, and comment on it. (Please copy and paste) http://www.agathosministries.org/Sermons111107b.pdf
Thursday-Friday Sermon by Tim Keller
6. Please listen, summarize, and comment.
7. What is your take-a-way and why?