Thursday, January 8, 2015

Jesus on Divorce Causing Adultery

This is a verse I’ve always puzzled over:

Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery. (Luke 16:18)

The thing that bothered me before was I couldn’t understand how divorced people could ever be able to marry again and find happiness if any man who marries a divorced woman has committed adultery.

Finally it hit me that Jesus is describing a situation with certain preconditions that may or may not be true in our modern age of increased mobility.

In Jesus’s day, people stayed in the same place and hardly ever moved far from their ancestral home.  People knew everyone in their locale.  We are also to remember His previous pronouncement in the Beattitudes that he who looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery already in his heart. 

So, the man who puts away his wife and then marries another woman immediately after has been looking and lusting after that second woman who lives in the same locale.  The second marriage is essentially legalized adultery.

Likewise, the man who pretty quickly marries the woman who was divorced is one who knows her and has been looking and lusting after her all the time she was married to the other guy.  His marriage to her is legalized adultery as well.

The principle Jesus was teaching was you don’t look around and people in your community and pick out who you would marry if you or they were unattached.  And singles aren’t supposed to pick out potential spouses from people who are married.  And if the way seems to open to do something about it, to act on any ideas you’ve had of that nature is adultery, even if it is legalized, because God knows what has been happening in our hearts.  That kind of thing does not stop if the itch is scratched.  It will itch again.

Now, having established this, we can see then that if two singles meet, want to marry each other, and find out that one or both of them have been divorced before, then that is not adultery because there is no history of them knowing and wanting each other while married to other people. 

Now, let us examine another version of this.

But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.  (Matt. 5:32)

This is also puzzling,  the part about how woman who are put away for any cause besides fornication are being forced to commit adultery.   How does that happen? 

I suspect this goes back to the idea of looking and lusting.  Women are not visually stimulated like men, but after being rejected and divorced for a lesser cause than fornication, they might find themselves looking at other relationships around them, looking at the men and wondering if that man or that man would have treated them better than their ex had, wondering what it would have been like to marry one of them instead.     The way women are so relationship-oriented, Jesus implies that those kinds of thoughts are practically inevitable in a frivolous divorce, to the extent that He declares that the ex-husband is to blame for it.  That’s a pretty heavy condemnation, I’d say, especially since this verse comes in the middle of a lot of commandments about guarding thoughts.

Understanding these verses really teach how important mental loyalty is in marriage. They no longer seem unreasonable or nonsensical, but instead are plain in requiring purity of thought.