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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A Heart Confession

I have tried to articulate why I do not believe Jesus gives permission to pursue divorce because of adultery. If you're new to the discussion, you can click my summary (and follow the links for more detail) to see my textual discussion.

I have also proceded in expressing other problems I see with the popular perspective of Matthew 5:32 and 19:9. One such post is that I don't understand the logic of the argument.

I would also like, before presenting another problem, to again state that this series is not intended to rebuke those who are divorced, but rather is intended as a study in marriage for those married and considering it. My apologizes for any insensitivity in language that may have caused additional pain from the tragedy of divorce. (And please contact me privately so I can correct it.)

The Hardened Heart

Jesus answers the Pharisees that Moses mentions divorce (does not endorse it, but does give rules regarding it) because of "hardness of heart." However, it is important to realize, when Jesus says, "your hardness of heart" the "your" is plural. Therefore, he is speaking to the Pharisees, who would be the ones pursuing the divorce. The passage is not referring to the adulterer's hard heart, but rather to the one pursuing divorce.

Unfortunately, when I've explained that distinction to some, they've answered that their heart truly is hard, but they believe God understands. Now Scripture certainly supports that God understands pain and a greiving heart, but I am unaware of any passage that excuses a hardened heart. Rather, it is a broken heart that is pleasing to God (Psalm 51).

But usually, I do not get such a blatant statement of hardness. It usually comes across in a more acceptable, yet theologically inaccurate perspective. I will often get a person who says, "I understand God doesn't want me to divorce, but I do believe He gives me permission."

First, this seems to be a misrepresentation of I Corinthians 10:23-33. Here Paul is making the statement, "Everything is permissible"--but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"--but not everything is contructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.

Contextually, "everything" seems to refer to food for consumption. It is the point both before and after these verses. Furthermore, Paul seems to speak elsewhere that "everything" (sin) is not permissible (Romans 6). Therefore, it seems to be a distortion of this passage to apply it to principles of marriage and divorce. Furthermore, Paul says that your pursuit of that which is permissible is not for your own gain or comfort, but for the good of others.

This really becomes the defining line between pursuing a divorce, and having one divorce you (as in I Corinthians 7). In a condition where a person pursues a divorce they have to either blatantly admit a hard heart, or they must attempt to construct a system where God does not want them to divorce, but gives permission.

However, is the believer called to merely avoid sinful behavior, or is our calling something higher? Aren't we called, not only to abstain from sin, but to seek God's ultimate glory. James gives us a view of the God pleasing life when he says,
Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.--4:17
Christian obediance is to pursue God's highest desire and will (Romans 12:1-2). Therefore, a believer has created a false dichotomy if they believe they can be aware of God's desires and yet obediently choose alternative route.

Therefore, it is important, even if the person sees the "exceptions" as permission, that if they acknowledge God would desire the marriage to remain intact (which He does), that they would pursue that goal.

Otherwise, they must admit (either actively or passively) a heart that is hardened to the will of God.


  • At 4:34 PM, Anonymous peppo said…

    In Jeremiah 3:6-10, Jehovah says that because Israel had committed adultery (moicheuo in LXX) He had put her away and given her a bill of divorce. There is a sense, then, speaking figuratively of course, in which God himself pursued a divorce, and that for the cause of adultery. Doesn't this lend at least some support for the "popular" understanding of the exception?


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