When Marriages Go Bad

When Marriages Go Bad

Topics – Controversial Issues, Divorce, Marriage

Divorce happens. In this sermon, Greg speaks on when marriages go wrong. With divorce rates nearly the same inside as outside of the church, it is important to have a Kingdom understanding of divorce and remarriage, and how to answer the question: "When is it ok to divorce?"

Focus Scripture – Matthew 19:9HIDESHOW

9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

Extended SummaryHIDESHOW

Marriage can be difficult, and Greg is no exception to this rule. 16 years ago, Greg and Shelley were very close to divorce. While they had been married for a long time, they had a void that they had simply washed over and filled with other things. When this void came to a head, they faced the possibility of divorce. Many people are facing or have faced the same situation in their marriages.

Divorce happens in our world, and it happens at roughly the same rate inside and outside the church. It becomes very important to understand divorce and remarriage from a Kingdom framework.  The purpose of marriage is not to make people happy. There is happiness in marriages, but marriages should not be abandoned simply because a person is unhappy. At the same time, a marriage should not be endured because of some rule. A successful marriage requires work.

Divorce is not a new hot-button issue. In 1st century Judaism, Jesus was posed with the same question that many of us face today—when is it ok to divorce? There were two main schools of thought back then. The first said that it was ok to divorce a wife for any reason. The second said that it was only ok to divorce a wife if she committed adultery. Note that only men could divorce women in this context. Jesus, however, responds by showing these two schools that they are asking the wrong question.

Jesus begins by quoting Genesis and saying that the ideal for marriage is that two become one. He goes on to say that God gave humanity divorce because of the hardness of their hearts. Effectively, the Pharisees were asking Jesus to name the best path for hardening their hearts, which is always the wrong question. He responds by giving them the path filled with grace and God’s ideal, for both those that are married and those that are divorced.

God honors the breaking of covenants as much as the making of covenants. When humans get divorced, he honors that, but it is certainly not his ideal. He wants marriages to last. Yet, he allows divorce because people are fallen and their hearts are hard. There are no grounds for feeling righteous about a divorce.

The right way to view divorce is through the eyes of grace, not legalism. If we view it through the eyes of legalism, we would all be adulterers. Jesus said that even thinking about having sex with someone else is committing adultery. We all fall short of the legalistic view of marriage—none of us has it right, even the single people! Therefore, we must view divorce through the eyes of grace because we condemn ourselves if we don’t. The same grace that allows us to marry in spite of our adultery by thought or deed is the same grace that allows remarriage for a divorced person. We can’t feel righteous about divorce and remarriage, but we can accept the grace that allows it.

God is not a cosmic judge who is out to make sure we’re all following some list of rules. He is not a legalist. Instead of tiptoeing around the landmines of the law, we should be dancing with God through his grace. We should also allow this same grace to others so they may feel free to dance with God. Jesus could have been legalistic when it came to divorce, yet, he simply points out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. He takes them back to God’s ideal, shows how both views of righteous divorce are fallen, and he proceeds to show them the right path of grace in a fallen world. It’s all about God’s grace, and we should never get caught up in technicality disputes. That would be asking the wrong question.

Reflection QuestionsHIDESHOW

  1. Divorce is a deeply emotional topic. Please remember that people have different experiences with divorce when you discuss these group questions.
  2. How does our culture’s obsession with happiness contribute to divorce?
  3. Share some stories about people you know that got divorced in a non-judgmental way. Why did they get divorced? How did the divorce affect their lives?
  4. Greg’s marriage required a lot of work to be successful. What can be done to help salvage a marriage? What would you tell a friend who was looking for help with their marriage and was considering divorce?
  5. If God isn’t obsessed with technicalities and rules, how does that change the conversation about divorce?