Divorce Part 3: Myth, Tradition, and Truth
"1 If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his home, 2 and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, 3 and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, 4 then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of The Lord. Do not bring sin upon the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance." -Deut. 24:1-4 As a new pastor I am learning many incredible lessons. One of which is the fact that there are many myths and traditions that are said to come from God's Word, but do not. For example:
- "God helps those who help themselves."
- "Cleanliness is next to godliness."
- "Hate the sin, love the sinner."
- "Money is the root of all evil."
Although these statements sound good, they are not scriptural truth. In fact, "Hate the sin, love the sinner." was a quote from Mahatma Ghandi in 1929. It is important to know what the Word of God says and what it does not say. When believers rely on emotion and experience rather than The Bible, myths and traditions are born.
Divorce is an issue that is prevalent and has an immense impact on many lives. The church can be a very powerful agent of healing for those hurt by divorce as long as we focus on the scriptures and not myths and tradition. Deuteronomy 24:1-4 is an incredible text regarding divorce. As you read the text you find a scenario where a man gives his wife a certificate of divorce. This certificate of divorce was a document that freed the woman of the responsibility of the divorce. In fact, it was for the purpose of remarriage without being considered an adulteress. It acknowledged that she was a victim of the husband's desire to leave the covenant of marriage for what the NIV calls being "indecent". Indecent acts were not sexual sins. Remember, in the time and culture that this was written, sexual sin was punishable by death. Indecent acts or behavior simply meant that the husband was not pleased with his wife anymore. Further study reveals that the pagan women of the day were incredibly desirable and often enticing enough to cause a man to leave his family for "greener' pastures. Any excuse could allow a man to divorce and pursue his desire. It is clear that the woman in Deuteronomy 4 is a victim. As this chapter unfolds it is interesting to note that the wife, after being abandoned, is allowed to remarry... without penalty and without the tag of adultery. In Matthew 5:32 Jesus deals with bridging Deuteronomy 4 with what He is saying in that moment. Spiros Zodhiates says it this way, "...our Lord contrasted His attitude with the practice manifested in the Old Testament. The Lord agreed with the Old Testament prescription that a bill of divorcement should be given to the wife, unjustly divorced, enabling her to remarry. But Christ did not leave the matter there. He castigated the evil of divorcing one's wife for no valid reason. Giving her a divorce mitigated the evil somewhat only as far as teh innocent woman was concerned because that gave her the possibility of remarriage." (What About Divorce, -Spiros Zodhiates). It is important to remember that the allowance of remarriage for the victim is pretty cut and dry. Remarriage for the perpetrator is quite complicated and will be addressed in a later blog.
Back to myth, tradition, and Truth. Many victims of divorce have been wounded by those who believe the myth that divorce, regardless of the circumstance, cannot be redeemed. That even being a victim of divorce means that you are doomed to a life of loneliness that you didn't ask for. Tradition has even made it so that great men and women of God feel as if they cannot serve in the local church because they were the victim of a divorce. The truth is that God has a heart for the victim and has made a way for remarriage and even service. I am thankful for the truth and clarity of God's Word.
I want to be absolutely clear; God hates divorce. He hates the pain and brokenness that divorce causes. He does not hate you. His plan is for one man and one woman to be in a lifetime covenant. His heart is broken by every divorce, biblical or not. Divorce is never ideal, but God has made provision for those are victims. Rest in His redeeming arms.
Much Jesus Love,