So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.
Throughout the New Testament, the Pharisees and Sadducees spent significant time and energy seeking to entrap and put Jesus to the test with their insincere and deceptive questioning.
In these parallel passages, the Pharisees approach Christ with yet another “inquiry,” this time concerning the legality of the first century predecessor to No-Fault Divorce.
Again, aware of their pretense, Christ responds, not with an answer to their question, but by giving them a quick refresher on some relevant passages from Genesis 1 and 2. It reminded them that before the Law there was God’s unspoiled order for creation.
While our intent today may not be specifically that of the Pharisees, the questions we ask God and ourselves are often no more sincere. They reveal the common hypocrisy we share with those ancient religious leaders. Our questions betray our culture’s disingenuous preference for plausibility over truth, our search for legal loopholes and our childish longing to explore the borderlands of our protective limits.
Unfortunately, Christians dwelling in today’s hyper-modern setting are complicit in allowing the world to ask the questions that are defining and/or redefining what’s good, true, and beautiful. We’re allowing the world to decree that what produces happiness is more important than what’s God’s designed best.
And while we may not always be guilty of asking the wrong questions, we seem to passively agree with the world when it asks, “Why not divorce?”
In his 1929 essay, The Drift from Domesticity, G.K. Chesterton responded to such questions with his semi-famous “Paradox of the Wall.” It states, concerning an existing wall or institution:
“The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, ‘I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.’ To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away.”
Let’s reframe the conversation in true Christ-like fashion. If you can’t explain the plan and purpose for marriage, or more precisely God’s plan and purpose for the welding together of a man and woman, then the question of divorce has no grounding.
The modern man in us, like all amateur handy men, is very good about taking something apart. But rarely are we as adept at putting it back together or understanding why it was put together in the first place.
As followers of Christ, we must carefully consider and proclaim God’s intention for uniting a man and a woman. It’s controversial if not wildly unpopular. The world and its ruler desire transient things. It’s a culture that finds it perfectly sensible to become a husband or wife by way of physical attraction, financial considerations, or other socially defective reasons—and just as reasonable to become an ex-husband or ex-wife for the same reasons.
The only way to combat the spirit of the age, as a community of faith, separate and distinct from the world, is to encourage and even occasionally reprove each other in our marriage relationships. Most importantly, we must reclaim God as the central figure and bonding agent in our marriage relationships. He’s the designer of permanent things.
Let our love for God and each other shame the world. Let our flourishing bewilder it. The world doesn’t know the true meaning and significance of marriage so we shouldn’t be surprised or outraged that they want to redefine it or seek to sever it.
We demonize the Pharisees, this political party or that one. But this wasn’t a battle being fought in the Sanhedrin and it isn’t being fought nor will it be settled in today’s courtrooms or government chambers. As Christ indicates in Matthew 19:8, it’s being fought on the spiritual battlefield of the human heart.
A Godly mentor once told me: “Marriage doesn’t change who you are. Marriage reveals who you are.”
Divorce isn’t a social disease. It’s a symptom. And you can’t talk about divorce until you understand the value of marriage. And you can’t understand the value of marriage until you can discern the reality of human nature and the bent of the human heart.
Though we never fully arrive in this life, Christ-centered marriage is the vehicle through which we might understand holiness, not achieve happiness. For its glory is most often the result of ferocity and profound loss.
God, help us to understand the purpose and the primacy of marriage and the family.
- Why do you think so many marriages today end in divorce, even among Christians?
- Reflect on your own married or single life. Who are your role models?
- How is God at work in their lives?