Jesus Talks about Divorce

David Bast

Read: Matthew 5:31-32

Whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (v. 32)

It’s one thing to listen to Jesus’ teaching about marriage and divorce. It’s quite another to apply it to the lives of frail, struggling, imperfect sinners like ourselves. I agree with one commentator who said that explaining Jesus’ teaching on divorce is unpleasant work because it often hurts and puts down people who perhaps have been hurt and put down enough already.

Nevertheless, there it is. Jesus was strongly for marriage and against divorce, except in the case of unfaithfulness (v. 32). It helps to know that Jesus spoke these words to a culture of male dominance, where women had few rights and a man could divorce his wife for even trivial offenses. Rejected wives often had no recourse but to turn to prostitution for survival. So Jesus’ strong teaching served to protect defenseless women.

Still it’s hard for us today, in an age where people drift apart and marriages crumble. But remember this: the Lord who hates divorce still loves divorced people. The same Jesus who says “no” to sin also says “yes” to sinners. Remember the woman who was brought to Jesus having been taken in the act of adultery (see John 8:1-11)? “Let whoever is without sin cast the first stone at her,” he said. When he looked up a few moments later, the crowd had melted away and only the woman was left. “Where are your accusers?” he asked her. “They’ve all gone,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.” —David Bast

Prayer: Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.