Defeating Divorce (3)

Looking more closely at the immediate context of Jesus’ words, we see that divorce moves in two directions: Away from our current marriage, and towards another, "better,” one. Even if they no one else in mind, most who divorce do so with the expectation of remarriage to someone more suitable. Let us look at the first direction: Those who contemplate divorce want to distance themselves from their current spouse. They look for the death of the marriage. In fact, they may long for the death of their mate! Sometimes that desire manifests itself in fantasy (“If my husband died, then I could remarry…”), and sometimes in an exaggerated fear (“I’m so afraid he is going to die of a heart attack!). Usually, there are two reasons why we might want our marriage to dissolve: Denial and damage. When our spouse denies us something we think we need, then we become very angry. We may perceive this as hurt, but it quickly turns to resentment, even bitterness. Just as murder issues from the heart (5:21-22), so the urge to kill our marriage comes from deep dissatisfaction. If a wife does not receive affection, or attention, or care, or provision, or leadership from her husband, she will lose heart. After a long period of unmet expectations, she loses hope. Along the way, she has lost whatever love she may have initially had for him. The husband goes through a similar process if his wife denies him sexual satisfaction, either by withholding herself or by becoming unattractive to him. Men desire respect and admiration almost as much as they do sex. If she also does not afford him companionship or support in his work, and if she neglects her domestic duties, resentment and bitterness will build in his heart, too. If damage is added to denial, then the reaction will be even worse. Utter abandonment (perhaps through irresponsibility) and outright meanness (in words or deeds) will crush a woman’s spirit and cause her to want to run away. Likewise, criticism and contempt will so enrage a man that he will distance himself as much as possible from his wife. The remedy? Jesus told us to pursue reconciliation (5:23-26; 18:15 -16). He taught us to turn the other cheek (5:38-42), and to love our “enemies,” blessing them, doing good to them, and praying for them (5:43-48). Above all, He commanded us to forgive, just as God has forgiven us (6:12,14-15).