Hope for Divorce (Matthew 19:1-10)

According to the American Psychological Association, “40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce.” In our day we encounter “No-Fault” divorces and companies that advertise so-called “fast, easy, and affordable” divorce procedures.  One couple decided to drop “Till death do you part” from their vows because they felt, with the current statistics, divorce may be inevitable. Today, we bring our series on marriage to a close by learning more about the serious nature of divorce from our Lord Jesus Christ.  Our text is Matthew 19:1-10 in it we shall learn: 1) All divorces are the result of sin, 2) Some divorces are permissible, and 3) All divorces are forgivable.

All Divorces are the Result of Sin

God defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman and designed marriage to be a blessing to all involved and a blessing to the world.  In Matthew 19, Jesus told us that God “created them from the beginning male and female” (4).  Therefore “a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (5).  Jesus reiterates this truth in verse 6 when He said, “So they are no longer two but one flesh” (6).

Tragically “because of the hardness of your heart” (8), divorce is an ever-present reality.  The presence of sin has, from the Garden of Eden, caused heartache and pain in our relationship with God and with one another.  Whatever the reason given for divorce it ultimately comes back to sin because all divorces are the result of sin.  Contrary to what you may have been told there is no such thing as a “No-Fault” Divorce. Let this truth sink in deeply into our heart: sin is the problem.

Some Divorces are Permissible

We must pause here and understand that, while Jesus makes it clear that God does not like divorce; there are two specific instances in which divorce is permissible.  The first is found in Matthew 19:9.  Jesus says, “Whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”  If a spouse commits sexual immorality, the sinned against spouse has the permission to seek divorce.  However, it is important to remember that even if divorce is permitted, it is not required.  The prayer would be that the sexually immoral spouse would repent and ask for forgiveness.  If he/she does so, Jesus said to forgive them…even “seventy times seven” (Matt 18:22).

The second is found in 1 Corinthians 7:15-16.  Paul writes, as one speaking under the authority of God, “if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so.  In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved (bound to the marriage)” (1 Cor. 7:15).  In this instance, if the unbelieving spouse wants to separate, then the believing spouse is freed from the marriage vows.  It is important to note that this only pertains to a Christian who is married to a non-believer.  Also, in these instances, while divorce is permissible; peace and restoration is ideal.

All Divorces are Forgivable.

This is the best part of the sermon so please pay close attention.  We said earlier that divorce is the result of sin.  While that is bad news, it is also good news.  It is good news because if sin is the problem, Jesus is the answer.  Jesus died to take away our sins.  He did not die to take away some of our sins but all of our sins.  This is very important because there are at least two very common responses to a divorce.  One response is to be burdened by guilt and shame.  This will lead you to withdraw from others and avoid any discussion of it.  This may be a common response but it is a bad response.  Consider, if you had an open wound in your arm, would it help to ignore it and refuse treatment?  No, it would get worse and worse until it killed you.  If you are divorced and burdened by guilt and shame, confess your sins to God and find the liberating power of forgiveness.  Remember, divorce is not the “Unpardonable Sin” (Matthew 12:22-32).  1 John 4:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  Be forgiven and be cleansed by God. Then you can break free from your bondage of sin and guilt.

Another response is to be consumed by anger and resentment.  You may hate your spouse and even seek ways to get revenge on them.  This is not a good response.  Nelson Mandela once said, “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”  Take your anger and hatred to God and be forgiven and cleansed.  Only then can you find the help you need.  If you have been divorced, have you confessed your sin that contributed to it and have you received forgiveness and spiritual cleansing from God?  If not, do it today.  You may have been sinned against and the divorce is the result of the other person’s sin.  If so, have you forgiven them? The Bible says to “love your enemies” (Matt 5:44).

There is also a message for those who are currently married or will one day be married.  Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  To all who are married or one day will be married, commit to making Jesus the center of your marriage.  You will find that as your love for Him increases, your love for one another increases as well.