In The Divorce Dilemma 1: Matt 5:31-32, all I have laid out are what has been drawn from the teachings of Jesus in Matt 5:31-32 and Matt 19:1-10 concerning divorce and remarriage. Let it be clearly stated once again that Jesus was really addressing the issue of adultery.
At this point, it is perfectly understandable that there are now more questions than there are answers. However, these cannot be addressed generally over the pulpit or in an article as such. Rather, these are best dealt with personally and directly, taking all factors into careful and prayerful consideration as we seek to remain obedient to the Lord’s commands.
Yet, through the preparation of the message, I felt it would be helpful to provide some pastoral exhortations. Having heard what the Lord has said and taught, what does it mean for us and how should we conduct ourselves as disciples of Jesus Christ? Allow me to do that by way of addressing the different groups of people and the various stages of relationships.
1. Pre-Marriage: God views sexual purity very seriously.
To the singles, those seeking to be in a relationship or presently in one, keep yourself pure for your future spouse. Treat all as brothers and sisters, not as sex objects. Stay accountable with leaders and others in the church community.
Beware of exposure to a highly-sexed world which promotes fornication, sexual experiences and co-habitation. Avoid going on holidays or trips alone. Don’t think that you are that strong to resist sexual temptation. If you engage in any of these, according to Jesus, you have already opened the door to fornication and adultery. Don’t compromise your walk and your marriage!
While waiting for the right one, don’t just pray for a godly spouse. Instead, pray and prepare yourself to be a godly spouse. In the meantime, serve the Lord with all your time and energy.
2. Marriage: God views marriage as a permanent union broken only by death.
After deciding to follow Jesus, who you choose to marry is the next most important decision you will make in your life. Believers are to marry “in the Lord”, preferably one who loves Jesus and not just one who wears a Christian label. Don’t rush into anything; but don’t delay or procrastinate either.
Beware of buying into a “marriages made in heaven” philosophy. However romantic this sounds (especially to you ladies), don’t fall for it. This only sets you up to look for the one when you are unhappy in your marriage. Be convinced that the one you married is the one. So choose and decide well. Seek godly counsel.
There is no perfect spouse. But your spouse will be the perfect one to spur you towards Christlikeness.
Be convinced that you only have one shot at it — for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness or in health, until death do you part.
If you have an unbelieving spouse (or a back-slidden one), all the more you must shine for Jesus and be the salt that preserves and flavours the marriage. Don’t nag them into the Kingdom but win them over “without a word” (1 Peter 3:1-6).
3. Singlehood: God loves the singles too!
Yes, the marriage institution is to be promoted, celebrated and protected. It is upon godly marriages that godly families will form the bedrock of society. However, this does not mean that singlehood is less honourable or to be frowned upon. Scriptures remind us that some are called and gifted to be single and some choose to remain single (as did Paul).
Dear single brother or sister in Christ, you are not second-class citizens at all! Do not feel condemned or less special. Our Heavenly Father loves you dearly! Determine to live for Jesus and not just for yourself. Keep yourself pure and holy. Devote your time and energies to serve the Lord and to serve others. You can do so many things for the Jesus and His kingdom that those who are married are unable to do.
4. Divorce: God hates divorce. Don’t use it to justify adultery.
This word should not be in a Christian’s vocabulary at all. Remove the back door for this is not an option to be considered. Husbands and wives, stop threatening each other with divorce. You are only prophesying and confessing it over yourselves!
Forgiveness and reconciliation are to be the order of the day for Christian relationships, especially marriages. Be aware of and acknowledge the “hardness of your heart”. But know also that in Christ, God has removed the heart of stone and replaced it with a heart of flesh. We have been given the Holy Spirit to enable and change us.
Acknowledge that when two imperfect people come together, there will be challenges as both travel the road to sanctification. Learn and determine to always see one another through the Cross of Jesus Christ. Remember that we have been forgiven, and so we forgive.
Every marriage can be redeemed and restored in and through Christ! If you need others to walk with you, seek godly counsel and help.
5. Adultery: Sexual Immorality is sin. Full stop. Deal decisively with lust!
Remember that in Matt 5:31-32, Jesus exposed the intentions of deceitful hearts, using divorce as a guise to be adulterous “legally”. Adultery is committed when lust is not dealt with! Therefore, safeguard yourself against this “lust” for another person other than your spouse.
Rely on the Holy Spirit and not on your own strength. Flee pornography and internet temptations. Beware of workplace relationships and romances. Beware of ex-flames which may be rekindled over Facebook. Be accountable to others.
Dear single Christian women, beware that you do not fall for a married man and commit adultery. I have come across too many who too readily throw themselves at such men, especially when they are Christian and appear godly. Please do not be blinded, dear sisters! If he was really Christian and godly, he wouldn’t be in a relationship with you in the first place.
The best safeguard is to build your marital relationship by understanding what covenant really means. Re-introduce yourselves, share, talk, pray and be great friends. Sexually, physically, intimately and sacrificially, serve and enjoy one another as husband and wife. Serve the Lord as a couple so that you share a common Kingdom purpose.
This is just an excerpt of the sermon “The Divorce Dilemma” preached at Covenant Vision Christian Church on 8 Sept 2013. Hear the full message at Covenant Vision Media Centre or download the podcast from Covenant Vision Christian Church Audio Podcast. It should be uploaded by 13 Sept.