Reading the Word
Luke 16:18 (ESV)
18 “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.
Parallel Texts: Matthew 19:9; Mark 10:11-12
Understanding and Applying the Word
Luke’s Gospel does only addresses the issue of divorce in this one verse. Matthew 5:31-32, Matthew 19:9, and Mark 10:11-12 give us a fuller understanding of Jesus’ teaching on this topic. Jesus’ teaching on divorce went against the common Jewish practice of his day. The common understanding, based on Deuteronomy 24:1-4, said that a husband could divorce his wife if he “found some indecency in her.” This was taken to mean that if the husband found anything at all he did not like about his wife, he could divorce her. This was known as an “any cause” divorce.
Jesus’ teaching stood in stark contrast to the accepted practice of divorce in his day. Jesus taught that marriage was given by God and that when a man and woman married the two became one. This union was to be lasting and only the most severe things should be cause for divorce. So, when a man and woman divorced for small or minor reasons, such a divorce was not recognized by God. When the man or woman then entered into a union with another, they were guilty of adultery because the previous marriage was still in force in the eyes of God.
Sadly, we have become a culture that treats marriage and divorce much like the people Jesus was addressing. We are quick to divorce due to the smallest problems, rather than keeping our vows to remain committed even in the difficult times. Our marriages are supposed to be a picture of God’s relationship with us. Though we are often guilty of neglecting him, he remains faithful to us and stands ready to forgive and renew. We need to learn to practice the same patience, forgiveness, and grace in our marriages if they are to last and reflect the love of God.
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