Our reading for this week comes from Mark 9:30 – 10. This article will focus on what Jesus taught concerning divorce in Mark 10. It’s a topic that we often avoid teaching, and perhaps this avoidance contributes to the pain and embarrassment we all feel surrounding this painful reality of life. Divorce isn’t a new problem, as you’ll find out by reading Mark 10. If you haven’t done so, please stop reading this article and read Mark 10:1-12, then read the rest of this article. Also, feel free to reread the parallel passage in Matthew 19, and also 1 Cor. 7.
The Pharisees during this time argued and debated among themselves about legitimate reasons for divorce. This can be seen in Matthew 19:3 by the question posed to Jesus:
“Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” Matthew 19:3
Here in Mark, the setting and point of the teaching is different. The question is simply about the lawfulness of divorce. Jesus refers them to Moses, who permitted divorce.
“It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” – Mark 10:5-9
We shouldn’t desire to unjoin what God has joined. In marriage, two become one in the eyes of God, and it should be viewed this way by us humans as well. Sadly, we often view marriage as a “joint venture” rather than a covenant. We don’t get this. We still think of them as two individuals, not as a binding covenant in the eyes of God. Jesus says we shouldn’t separate this relationship. We should be so committed that nothing would break our marriage apart.
At this point we usually come up with a list of things that would make a marriage untenable, and there certainly are legitimate issues that lead to divorce. That’s why I would encourage anyone thinking about getting married to take plenty of time to thoroughly know the other person. If there’s anything there that you think might lead to divorce down the line…walk away. Don’t enter the marriage unless divorce is absolutely no option. Yes I know that issues develop later in marriage. Jesus does to. But marriage is a covenant before God, and we should do everything we can before the covenant, and during the covenant to maintain that covenant.
Jesus elaborates for his disciples…
“Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” – Mark 10:11-12
Notice that Jesus clearly indicates divorce is against God’s will. Matt. 19 and 1 Cor. 7 have more to teach on valid reasons for divorce, but the fact remains that God expects us to honor our commitment, our covenant, to our spouse.
God expects marriage not to be broken, and Jesus’ teaching here on adultery reinforces it. Our society may want to throw away marriage for any reason, but God doesn’t view it that way. Those marriages are indissoluble.
The point of Jesus’ teaching here? The marriage covenant is serious and shouldn’t happen unless both parties are fully committed. Then, as far as it depends on you, maintain the covenant. Divorce is not the unforgivable sin. Remember that. Jesus is teaching us to honor our marriage covenant, not condemning those whose marriages have failed.