Saturday, August 10, 2013

Divorce hope

To find the truth about divorce I recommend the website

A key issue related to the topic of divorce is that the word that is translated as divorce in many Bibles actually means 'send away' rather than divorce. (See KJV and many other more literal translations which use 'send away'). The cultural context is that in the Middle East then (and still today in some parts of the middle east) men were sending away their wives for trivial reasons but without giving them a certificate of divorce. In that situation they'd be then marrying a second person and committing adultery if they remarried.

Matthew 5:31-32

"It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife [apolyse], let him give her a writing of divorcement [apostasion]: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife [apolyon i.e. sending the wife away without giving her a certificate of divorce], saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced [apolelymenēn] committeth adultery."

I've added in the Greek words. You can see that putting away is a different Greek word than is used for certificate of divorce.

All of this is important, not because I want to trivialise divorce, but because the church, and Christians in general, need to be very careful not to add extra burden and condemnation onto those who have been through the heartbreak of divorce.

John Piper is an example of a Christian leader who gets this issue wrong. In his article on Divorce & Remarriage he says that Christians who get divorced should never remarry. 

I'm not a Greek expert but the study I've done of this matter makes much more sense to me of the text than John Piper does. I wonder how much study John really did of this issue and how he got it so wrong. Even if I am wrong, he should be far less dogmatic about these topics given the implications for those who have gone through the heartbreak of divorce.

Woe to us if we end up being like the Pharisees who Jesus condemned for adding extra burdens onto people without being willing to lift a finger to actually help. Regarding the teachers of the law and Pharisees Jesus said: "They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them." (Matthew 23:4)

To presume to be so sure on these issues to such a degree that some would tell other Christians that they should not remarry or that they were sinning when they got a divorce is the kind of legalistic teaching that puts divorcees off going to church. Even to presume to know that a married couple is automatically joined together by God is going too far.

For example, if a couple got drunk and got married on a whim at a Vegas chapel, would God consider that couple as joined and therefore "what God has joined let no man separate?" To think that is just absurd. How do we know that a married couple is joined before God even if they have been married for a number of years?  Surely we cannot be certain of many things when it comes to the complex topic of marriage, divorce, and remarriage.

It is my hope and prayer that Christians would not misrepresent God in the things that they say or do, especially on such a sensitive topic as divorce.

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