Is Divorce and Re-Marriage Adultery?

One of the most difficult teachings of Jesus has to do with divorce and re-marriage.  Jesus is clear and consistent. Divorce should not occur for any reason other than adultery, and if a person gets divorced for some other reason and then decides to re-marry someone new, that person is committing adultery (See Matthew 19:3-9Matthew 5:32-32).

The reason why this teaching seems extreme to our modern ears is that we do not understand what life was like for women in first-century Palestine.  In that patriarchal culture, women were considered inferior to men and did not have the same rights as men.  A husband could divorce his wife, but a wife could not divorce her husband.  Additionally, there was a growing trend of “easy divorce” where men could divorce their wives for any reason, including such offenses as talking back, not preparing a meal well enough, or even not being attractive.  The lack of economic resources for women combined with trivial grounds for divorce put women in serious danger and threatened to undermine families and communities, so Jesus makes it clear that marriage is intended to be a lifelong covenant of faithfulness and mutual support.

We can and should embrace Jesus’ standard for marriage, but we must also face the reality that divorce happens today for a variety of reasons.  In such cases we should always seek for justice and fairness in the division of economic resources.  We should also demonstrate compassion, kindness and love toward those who are dealing with the pain and brokenness caused by divorce.

But most of all, we should do our best to equip couples with the resources, encouragement and skills they need to build happy, healthy and holy marriages that can go the distance and last a lifetime.  The Church should always embrace the high standards of Jesus, help people work toward that standard, but always offer grace and support when we fall short of that standard. That’s not being “soft on sin,” that’s being “strong in grace.” Listen to the sermon, “If You Divorce and Re-Marry, You Commit Adultery?”

Pastor Mark Miller