Divorce and the Exceptions
A devotional thought from Jarvis Williams for “Marriage”
In Matthew 19:3, when the Pharisees’ questioned Jesus about a no-fault divorce, Jesus responded with absolutely clarity. Divorce is only permissible if one commits sexual infidelity. Jesus responded this way because of the nature of the Pharisees’ question.
In Mark’s Gospel, however, Jesus’ remarks regarding divorce are starker than in Matthew’s because the Pharisees pose the question to Jesus differently. In Mark 10:2, the Pharisees simply ask whether it is lawful for a man to divorce his wife, without adding the no-fault phrase “on any grounds.” Jesus basically responded by saying that divorce is never lawful, even if permissible in the law of Moses. Mark likely left out the exception clause of adultery since no Jews disputed but assumed sexual infidelity as a ground for divorce. Instead, as Matthew 19:3 suggests, the debate among Jews was whether or not a man could divorce his wife for any reason.
Nevertheless, we can infer from both Gospels that citizens of the kingdom of God honor God’s plan for marriage by staying together until death since Jesus appealed to the creation narrative in Genesis 1–2 in both texts and because both discussions of divorce occur in the context of Jesus’ larger discussion about the kingdom of God. Consequently, marriage should never be entered into lightly because God’s expectation is that marriage is until death.
Pause and Reflect
• What are some practical ways husbands and wives can guard themselves from the sin of divorce?
• How can husbands and wives keep their commitment to each other fresh?
• What ray of light does the gospel shine on the issue of divorce?