The right to divorce is still a very troublesome subject for many. Very few pastors are willing to approach the subject via the pulpit. Pastor Greg Boyd of Woodland Hills Church in St Paul, MN has been one gracious exception. I have paraphrased one of his sermon below.
He introduces the subject by stating that John the Baptist came bearing the “Good News”, that we are no longer under the “Law of the Prophets” but now are under the “Law of Love”.
The heart of the “law of love” is internal with the Holy Spirit directing the essence of the law. This suggests that true love must be planted on our hearts and not on external rules and practices.
Pastor Boyd enlists 6 Biblical principles suggesting that divorce should be based on the law of love.
- God hates divorce as He designed marriages as sacred and foundational to everything. But, if both people will not honor their marriage commitments, the “law of love” would suggest that one is no less loved by God because of another’s unrighteous actions.
- Sex creates a one flesh reality (with sexual intimacy the symbol of this union) and it should not be broken. Thus, any breach to this union, is adultery. This would mean, under O.T. law that at our very first sexual encounter, a marriage occurred and that many of us are living in adultery or in a second marriage because we are not with our first sexual partner. (What would that say about those who may have been raped?) To request all of these folks to return to their first sexual encounter as their marriage partner, would not show the “essence of the law of love.”
- God accommodates to the lesser evil even though He is saddened by anything less than His ideal. (For example, God hates divorce but He hates abuse even more. The lesser evil may be to leave the marriage rather than allowing one’s children or self to live in an unsafe environment.)
- God honors the disillusionment of covenants of marriages and remarriages. He says in Deuteronomy 24, that after she leaves [divorces], she cannot go back to her first husband [but can take a new one]. This suggests that He expects that one or both partners will remarry. He does not suggest that He has an issue with that. God accepts that the relationship or covenant has been dissolved. Even though it is not His will, He honors it. God does not always get His way as He loves us and gave us free will.
- God hates divorce but He hates “keeping up appearances” even more. He cannot be fooled. He wants marriages to be true, honorable and loving relationships as He designed them to be. A divorce just announces the truth that the marriage has been dissolved within the heart of at least one partner. Another example is in Jeremiah 3 where God actually said He was divorcing Israel because of their behaviors in which they had become dead to Him by their actions. Although metaphorical, it reveals that God is not fooled. He knows the heart and when there is no true relationship, He announced the reality via divorce.
- In Ezra 10, God forbid all of the Jews leaving Babylon for Jerusalem to not intermarry amongst the peoples who were worshipping pagan gods and living evil lives. Yet, many did. God instructed all of these people to divorce these foreign wives and send them back to their countries. This was the lesser of the two evils. Divorce revealed that these were ungodly, pagan worshiping peoples who could not practice Godly marriages. Jesus held up God’s ideal. He recognizes that our thoughts are often unrighteous. (Ex: To think lust is adultery or to wish harm or evil upon another is murder in O.T. scriptures in God’s eyes so all of us have “missed the mark” or sinned.) Jesus is telling the people that social consequences held by the Pharisees may still be important but the law of love should prevail versus offenders be stoned, ostracized, etc.
Finally, in Matt 5 speaks about men [Bible spoke to the men as part of the culture at that time] divorcing their wives without much reason other than their hardened hearts. Jesus wanted it to be understood that the reason for the divorce was the “hardened hearts” and not a bunch of other technicalities that the Pharisees would judge. Although it is not His ideal, God allows it and does not prohibit remarriage as He loves us even in our poor choice in life.
Please take time to listen to Pastor Boyd’s sermon. I cannot do justice to it in this short of space.
Divorce, Remarriage and Law of Love