the heart of divorce

It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. -Matthew 5:21-22 NIV

Here is a companion passage to this one from the tenth chapter of Mark's gospel:
Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?"

"What did Moses command you?" he replied.

They said, "Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away."

"It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law," Jesus replied. "But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female.' 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."
It makes me really sad that the main question a person sometimes asks is whether divorce is lawful. By asking the question the person reveals a desire to know the letter and not the spirit of the law. Wanting to know the letter of the law can be an evidence of having a heart hardened to the spirit of the law.

Many today seek to understand the letter of the law concerning divorce and in doing so often miss the spirit of it. Interesting that Jesus spoke about hard hearts. Sometimes a marriage can be destroyed by the hard heart of one party. Sometimes adultery is involved but many times other hard heart factors are at the root of problems that result in divorce.

I have many wonderful friends who have divorced. Most of these never wanted divorce and all of them wanted their marriages to be successful. I have seen the devastation that often results when some harden their hearts to their spouse. But I have also seen the redemption that follows when hearts are soft towards God. In the end, people need us to come along side of them in time like this.

Soften my heart Lord. Help me to know the spirit and not the letter of the law.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.


  1. Hi Bob,

    I have indeed been very blessed to have a committed husband for 32+ years, yet my heart aches for friends whom have not enjoyed the same. In that same regard, I find it difficult to NOT wish ill consequences upon adulterous ex-spouses who tell bald-faced lies to their children and don't even live up to their financial responsibilities. I am very thankful that Jesus told us to pray for our enemies, but didn't command us to like them. With God's help I can set aside my emotions temporarily to pray for them, but there have are times when it takes nearly every last shred of my self-control just to remain civil in their presence. I guess that means God isn't finished with me just yet. :/

  2. I get that crownring. Glad that He is not finished with me yet.


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