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A Put Away Message

Matthew 19:3-9 / Malachi 2:11-16

 

Christmas is a season of God’s love.  He came into a loveless world.  Satan is today lying about love, and stealing it from us.  And though we think of this as a happy season let’s not forget that our world is hurting, and that the Lord wants to enter our world and change things.

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This is a topic often ‘put away’ by churches these days because it’s not popular…for half of their people are divorced.  But I believe we should talk about it, and see what Jesus has to say about it...for the same reason.  Those who have suffered divorce are my strongest supporters today!  One thing is certain—we need more compassion in our preaching and more mercy...so long as it’s not at the expense of the truth.

 

As we go verse by verse thru Matthew, this is where we’re at.  Now I know there’s good people who differ on this topic and interpretation.  If I err, it’s on the safe side of being too literal...let’s just let the Word speak for itself, and you’ll know where I stand and what FBC officially believes.  If you differ and can base it on Scripture, then I won’t fall out with you if you won’t with me.  But we can all agree w/ God in Mal. 2:16 that ideally there would be no ‘putting away.’

 

Clarifications:

I want to be a church that forever lifts up God’s institution called marriage.  I want to be a church that forever lifts and loves people who have been divorced.  I want to be a church that takes Biblical steps to help prevent divorce.

 

The purpose of this sermon is preventative…we’re not throwing stones at people who have been divorced.  You can’t unscramble eggs!

To the divorced person we offer acceptance, love, help and healing…and a fresh start.  Some of the sweetest, most fruitful Christians you’ll ever meet are people that God loves, that have been divorced.

And I believe that the divorced of this church are my strongest supporters for giving this message of prevention.

 

With that said, I will say that one of the biggest problem that faces families today is easy, quick, cheap divorce.  We live in the age of the throw-away, disposable marriage. 

 

1920        1 in 7 marriages resulted in divorce

  1.        1 in 6
  1.        1 in 4
  1.        1 in 3
  1.        1 in 2

Today, divorces outnumber marriages!  It is an epidemic!  The mindset is “if it doesn’t work out, just bail out!”

 

Divorce is so common today, and so widely accepted as just a normal part of life, that churches like ours are considered old-fashioned for preaching against it.

 

Today’s popular culture says, just live together…and Hollywood portrays a couple deciding to move in together as “taking a big step…making a major commitment.”  Again, it’s become so commonplace, that today it’s just accepted as normal.  And the sad reality is, in America, many have been penalized financially for getting married. 

 

As commonplace as cohabitation is today, why do people get married anyway?  Perhaps because if it goes wrong, it’s so easy to dispose of.

 

In Malachi 2:16, the Bible says that God hates divorce.  Where many people are offended is what they think they hear in that statement.  A divorced person is usually more defensive about their situation, naturally, and all too often they think they hear, “God hates people who divorce.”  And nothing could be further from the truth.  While God hates divorce, certainly He loves the divorcee.  Just like God hates alcohol, yet loves alcoholics / hates homosexuality, loves the homosexual… in each and every case, the God who hates the sin, loves the sinner!  Our God is not a cosmic killjoy, looking for ways to make life miserable, and if the Lord God Almighty says that He hates something, it is only because He knows that it will bring heartache and turmoil into our lives.

 

Mt. 19, let’s look at 3 things: 

 

The Original Pattern*

v. 3-6               The Lord narrows it down to 3 things:

How couples are made / married / merged

 

How couples are made:        Divorce was controversial back then, just as it is now, and the Pharisees would love to trip our Lord on this one, so they decided to come to Jesus before a large crowd to ask, what are the valid grounds for divorce?

 

2 schools of thought in those days, named after 2 leading Jewish Rabbis:

Rabbi Shammai (conservative)  He and his followers believed there was only 1 justification for divorce, and that was marital infidelity.

 

Rabbi Hallel   (liberal)  He and his followers believed you could divorce for any reason.

 

The Pharisees here ask Jesus to choose sides…asking Him, “Which way do you believe?”

 

You’d expect Jesus in His answer to go back to Deuteronomy, to the law of Moses…but Jesus goes all the way back to Genesis…for in Genesis we see the original pattern

 

v. 4  “male and female”

 

In the garden of Eden, God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. By the way, v. 4 puts to rest the idea of same sex marriage.  Homosexuals cannot reproduce…only recruit…think about it!

 

And aren’t you glad that Adam didn’t identify as female?  She too, was made in God’s image, fearfully and wonderfully.  She accepted her gender from God.

Men and women are different physically / emotionally / biologically…

And one of the keys to success in marriage is found in learning to appreciate the differences.

 

How couples are married:

v. 5  “leave and cleave

 

Scripture makes it clear that we are to honor our parents…until death we should honor our father and mother.

 

But many marriages get into trouble when a man holds his mother in higher esteem than his wife.  There should be no comparison…she shouldn’t even be an equal in his eyes.  The same is true when a wife thinks more highly of her father or mother than her husband.

 

The “leave” of leave and cleave is not only a physical leaving of the home, but also an emotional breaking away.

 

Then there’s the cleaving.  The word cleave literally means, “glue”.  You know what that means, don’t you…look at your spouse now…yes, you’re stuck w/ each other!

 

Ma’am, you may have married him because he was an athlete, but now his six pack has turned into a keg.  What do you do now?

 

Sir, you may have married her because she was the high school beauty queen, and because you envisioned her meeting you at the door when you came home from work, in her silk negligee...but here we are years later, and she’s got curlers in her hair, goop on her face, a cotton gown on, and there’s ketchup here, mustard here, and baby vomit down the back!  What do you do now?

 

Remember, it’s not your love that sustains your commitment, it’s your commitment that sustains your love.  (repeat)

 

Way we’re made:           different

Way we’re married:        leave and cleave

 

How couples are merged:

 

v. 6          That’s God’s math: 1 + 1 = 1

 

One physically / one emotionally (when they hurt, you hurt) / one spiritually

 

Ill.—marriage is like 2 potatoes: you’re skinned alive / put in hot water / mashed together into 1!

 

You say, you don’t understand, we’re complete opposites!

 

Great!  That’s the best kind.  Opposites attract…problem is, when we get married and try to change each other, instead of celebrating the differences, and completing one another.  Kimberly makes me the complete person that I wouldn’t be w/out her!…why?  Because she thinks weird! (differently)  She’s my help-meet…she helps meet my needs, strengthening my weaknesses!  She’s like a powerful supplement for my malnourished life!

 

Only God can change people…& I hope you’re not 90 before you realize you WILL NOT CHANGE THEM!

 

v. 6  “let not man put asunder”

 

That is God’s statement concerning the seriousness and sacredness of marriage in God’s eyes.  You’ll never understand the seriousness of divorce until you get a grasp of the seriousness of marriage in God’s eyes.

 

It is not the judge that made 2 into 1, it’s not the preacher that made 2 into 1…it is God who worked that miracle, and you don’t have the power or authority to break that bond.

 

That’s the original pattern…that’s God’s best for us!

 

The Ongoing Problem*

 

  1. after God gives us the “ideal”, He deals w/ the real!

 

“suffered” in v. 8 means permitted.  Jesus corrects them…Moses never once commanded divorce, he permitted it at times.

 

God already revealed His preference in v. 6.  And so even in instances when the “exception clause” comes into effect, God still would prefer forgiveness and reconciliation, where possible.  Just because divorce is, in rare circumstances of infidelity, allowed, it is never recommended!  Even when it was permitted, it was for the hardness of their hearts.

 

Nothing will more reveal what’s in your heart like being married.  I’ve counseled with couples before, and one looks at the other and tells me, oh, they just make me so angry!  No, she can’t MAKE you angry, she just caused the anger that was already there to surface.  “They just bring the worst out in me”  [not if it wasn’t inside!]

 

Ill.—you can’t squeeze anything out of a dry rag!

 

I never knew how selfish I was until I got married / such a jerk / so insecure / so prideful / how angry I could be

 

Original pattern / ongoing problem…

 

The Only Permit*

 

v. 9  There is an exception here.  I said “an” exception…there is only one.  I don’t know what kind of theological gymnastics a person can do to get around this very clear statement from Jesus Christ, “except for fornication”.  Nowhere does scripture say, “unless you don’t get along…or, unless you don’t love them anymore…or, unless they hurt your feelings, abuse you mentally or even physically!”  Some of those may indeed be grounds for separation, temporarily, in view of correction and reconciliation, but never for divorce.  Matter of fact, you took a vow ‘for better or for worse.’  Well, when it gets worse guess what?  You said that if it gets worse you’ll keep your commitment!

 

This passage says very clearly that the marriage contract is completed by the physical consummation of the marriage bed, and clearly the contract is broken in the same way it is sealed, by another sexual union, outside of marriage.

 

Again, even in that circumstance when the exception clause is in effect, divorce is not a train to immediately jump on just because it’s there!  Rather, it is a last resort when one has graciously tried to forgive and reconcile, and you’ve prayed and pleaded, and there is no reconciliation to be found.

 

 

Back to Malachi 2 for a brief word to those who are single / married / divorcees

 

If you are single:   Avoid the travesty of an unequal yoke.

 

v. 11        What’s the abomination?  To marry the daughter of a strange god.  That’s a believer marrying an unbeliever.  That’s an unequal yoke, the Bible condemns doing that unequivocally!  “Be not unequally yoked together w/ unbelievers”, II Cor. 6:14

 

It doesn’t seem to matter what the Bible says though, for wherever I go, I hear from a young lady that she is dating this guy, and she thinks in her case she’ll be the exception to the rule.  She thinks God is telling her, “Just marry him, and I’ll see to it that he gets saved.”  God WILL NOT tell you to do that, He’s told you not to!  We hear about the lucky ones whom that works out for...but just praise God that He worked that out in His exceptional grace.

 

If you do, you can expect 3 problems:

 

1.     Spiritual Disagreement        .       Amos 3:3  “Can 2 walk together, except they be agreed?”

 

2.     Spiritual Decay.            Only in rare instances will you be able to live for God…it’s such a struggle…there’s that constant drain on you!

 

Olivia was her name, she married Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), an unbeliever.  Olivia was born again.  In disobedience to God, she married him.  One day she was reading the Bible out loud at home.  He said, would you please put that down, and he said, I forbid you to read that anymore.

She lost all her spiritual zest and fervor…not her salvation…the joy of her salvation she lost.  One day the family went thru a major tragedy, she fell apart.  Her husband said, Olivia, if it helps you to lean on your faith, then feel free.  She said, I have no faith left to lean on!

 

Spiritual disagreement / decay

 

  1. Spiritual Division.

 

Statistics prove if you marry outside your faith, you are 3 times more likely to get divorced.

 

Singles, avoid the travesty of the unequal yoke.

 

If you are married:  Avoid the treachery of an unkept vow.

 

I don’t care if this is your first marriage, or fifth…you honor that vow!  Once in a while someone says, pastor, I realize I divorced unscripturally, but I remarried, what do I do?  (asking if they should divorce and try to reconcile w/ first partner)

 

Absolutely not!  2 wrongs don’t make a right…just decide you’re gonna keep this vow!

 

Malachi 2:14-15     the word treacherously means “unfaithfully”

 

  • Unscriptural divorce disobeys the word of God.

 

We have a high calling:  it’s obedience…it’s God’s highest calling for us!

 

“I owe it to myself to be happy”

No, you owe it to God to be holy!

 

  • Unscriptural divorce diminishes the worship of God

 

v. 13        God says, you come to the altar crying, weeping, and I don’t buy it!  God says, behind it all, there’s no real repentance.

 

I’m not saying that if you’ve been divorced, you can’t worship God…I’m simply saying that until we deal w/ these things in honest confession / repentance, and until we do all we can to make restitution and reconciliation, God is not impressed w/ our external exercises in worship.  “To obey is better than sacrifice”.

 

  • Unscriptural divorce destroys the work of God

 

v. 15        “did not HE make one?” 

 

  • Unscriptural divorce distorts the witness of God

 

v. 15        Why did He make 2 into 1?   To produce Godly kids.  Hey, if I win the world and lose my kids, I’m a failure.  I’m not saying that divorcees cannot raise good kids…but they will tell you it’s a constant struggle, and a bigger challenge because of it!  And it’s the kids that often suffer, isn’t it.  But God’s grace can help them as we seek it.

 

Do you know how my son is to learn how to treat his future wife?  By seeing how I treat his mother!

 

Married couples, avoid the treachery of an unkept vow.

 

If you are divorced:  Enjoy the treasure of unreserved repentance!

 

v. 17        We weary the Lord w/ our words when we constantly try to justify that which scripture clearly forbids.

 

Can God forgive the sin of divorce?  Of course He can, and does.  Is divorce the unpardonable sin?  Of course not!  The past has passed...no looking back.  But we can all take the words of God today for the future, which is unwritten, and build something great for His glory!  If you have questions relating to this topic, please see me privately.

 

For now, may we always be a church that lifts up marriage / lifts up divorced people / follows scriptural principles to help prevent divorce!

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