Recently a story broke that showed that there has been an 18% drop in divorces over recent years. Once you actually take away the drop in marriage rate, it still comes to a staggering 8% drop in divorces. Unfortunately however, this isn’t across the board. There is a much lower marriage rate among lower income/educated than upper income couples with higher education. Secular sociologists would argue that getting married and staying married are essential for staying out of poverty. But there is more reason than not being poor to stay married. Marriage, biblically speaking is more than a contract and more than two people “tying the knot.”
Last week on Family Friday, I dealt with when couples can get divorced. You can read that here (If you haven’t already read it, I’d encourage you to do so before going on). This week is giving reason for devotion. Next week, I will explain when there is a time to desist in marriage. For now, let’s pick up where we left off. Because there came a time when the Pharisees confronted Jesus who asked if it was okay to have no-fault divorce.
He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two but one flesh’? What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate,” (Matt 19.4-6, ESV).
Before Jesus answered the Pharisee’s question he gave the reason for devotion to one’s spouse. His answer was the very one we saw last week, i.e. there is no reason whatsoever for divorce once actually married.
But why are we to be devoted? The answer is because God has done the work. God joined the husband together with the wife. When we talk about the two becoming one flesh, we against must read that euphemistically. To become one flesh is to consummate the union of man and woman. Thus, no matter what you think and no matter what you feel or believe, God has joined you with your spouse. It may not be a match made in heaven. It may not be all that you hoped it would be. But it is under God’s sovereign hand.
But it is more than simply consummating the marriage. Jesus at this point (before going to Deuteronomy 24, which was explained last week) goes to Genesis 1 and 2. God makes man and woman in his own image, but how He did it was unique. God first created Adam from the dust of the ground. Afterwards He caused a deep sleep to come over Adam and removed part of him, a rib, with which God made Eve. Upon the marriage of Adam and Eve, Adam was made whole once again. God had torn asunder the flesh of Adam in order to make Eve and then put Adam back together again by giving him his wife. So what God has joined together, let no man separate.
Marriage, having been joined together by God, is to be seen as more than love or bliss or children or consummation. It is a divine act of making two into one, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Thus to divorce is to tear open a wound that God has already healed. It is not right; it is not proper.
Of course, there is one other reason, which is not here in Matthew 19, but seen in Ephesians 5. “‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church,” (Eph 5.31-32, ESV).
People wonder about why we get married at all. It’s just a piece of paper they say. So not true. It is more than that. It is a binding covenant. It is and always has been a covenant between the man, the woman, and God. But wondering why people get married has always been a question for people. It was a mystery. When Christ came the mystery was explained. Marriage represents Christ and the Church. Christ is our Bridegroom and believers are the Bride, in a covenantal relationship that is between us and Him and the Father. All marriage is supposed to represent this relationship faithfully, and since Christ has promised to never leave us or forsake, and that no one can ever snatch us from His hand, we must have the same view in our own personal, earthly marriages.
That being said, the Bible does give us an instance where a couple can divorce, what I would call a reason to desist. As I wrote before, I will deal with this next week, along with separating from one another for a time, with a goal of reconciliation.