If I weren’t married, and I didn’t have a girlfriend, I’d ask that girl out… I’m an honorable guy. —Jarod Kintz, This Book Title is Invisible
A woman asked me, “My friends who had unbiblical divorces have been told they’re unable to remarry. How is this grace? It feels more like Law.”
What does new covenant marriage look like in today’s changing culture? This is a complicated question but there is a “jumping off point” for conversations, and it’s the unchanging nature of Jesus. When Hebrews 13:4 tells us that, Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral, that verse reads the same today as it did 2,000 years ago.
The Greek word translated as ‘honor’ was used elsewhere in Scripture to describe precious material possessions, words of teaching, the promises of God, as well as the blood of Jesus. Marriage is precious to Jesus.
This was radical thinking. Ancient Rome was far from chaste. If you told someone to be monogamous for the rest of their lives, they might give you the crazy eye. Even in Jewish circles, divorces were handed out for minor infractions, and the women were always the ones who suffered.
So when Jesus was asked about divorce in Matthew 19:4-6, he spoke into a culture not unlike ours—one that struggled with fidelity and purity, “Haven’t you read … that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?’ … Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
Except in the case of pornia, or sexual immorality, Jesus said “no” to divorce. In addition, Paul, in 1 Corinthians 7, described divorce as permissible if an unbelieving spouse abandons their partner. There is much discussion and debate as to what constitutes abandonment. Let me simply say if you find yourself in an abusive marriage, get to a safe place and tell someone so that they can help you navigate these difficult conversations.
When we’re invited to speak into common law marriage or loosely defined marriage or no fault divorces—as people of grace, we can adopt Jesus’ unchanging stance. We love others well when we unwaveringly confess how precious marriage is to Jesus.
Lord, first, show me how to esteem my own marriage as highly as You do. Speak through me to those struggling. Make me a refuge for those suffering. Make me an advocate for the preciousness of this union. Amen.