I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will.Mark 10:6-9 is packed with information. Since it is an utterance of Jesus, the words are the words of the Father and are therefore final and eternally authoritative. Jesus delivered it in response to the Pharisees question, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" Therefore it directly addresses the topic of divorce. It also defines the essence of marriage, which we must realize if we are to comprehend Jesus' doctrine about divorce. This utterance is the source of the following insights. But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother And be joined to his wife, And the two shall become one flesh. So, they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, Let not man put asunder.
LISTEN TO HIM! (Mark 9:7)Jesus, Mark 10:6-9
Jesus Defines Marriage
What constitutes a marriage? Jesus did not elaborate on this question, but the answer is implicit. First, marriage is the joining of a man and a woman (hence the title of this chapter). Jesus said,
Next, who performs this joining? Only God. Is it not clear in the phrase, "What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder." Again, what is the binder that cements this joining? It is the sexual differentiation, and God is the joiner because he alone is responsible for the sexual differentiation. As Jesus said, "What God has joined together . . .? What is the essence of this joining? It is the flesh. The flesh is the essence because the sexual differentiation enables the joining. When two people have thus consummated the joining, the result is "one flesh." Therefore, the flesh is the essence."But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female, wherefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife . . .."
Is this a loose confederation, or is it a tightly bound unit?
It is a unit. The word is "one," in the phrase,
They are no longer two, but one flesh. Where there were two, there is one. That which was a pair suddenly constitutes a unit. As a unit, it is more than the mere alliance of two distinct entities."They two shall be one flesh."
Can any man divide this unit? No. Again, Jesus said it so clearly:
God alone is responsible for the joining. It is not possible for man to break it. This includes, of course, the parties to the joining."What God has joined together, let not man put asunder."
Can God divide them? Yes. As God alone has joined them, only God can divide them. He not only can do so, but he does. He always divides them. Jesus revealed this in the passage about the resurrection when he said,
The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are accounted worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die any more, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. (Luke 20:34-36)God has set a limit to the duration of the flesh. Men call this limit "death" because it separates us from the world of men. It is the dissolution of the flesh. Therefore it is also the dissolution of that union of the flesh that God has ordained by the sexual distinction that men call marriage.
When either party to a marriage dies, the other is delivered from the bond of flesh that joined them because that bond no longer exists. One gender that bound them has dissipated, therefore the bond has split and the one who remains is free to seek a new mate. This resurrection passage was a response of Jesus to the Pharisees. They had approached him with a question involving a woman whose husband died, after which she had married his brother. This began a cycle that they repeated six times, for there were seven brothers. Jesus took no offense at any of this, and in accepting the presupposition by the answer that he rendered, he also accepted the validity of all seven marriages. The realization that the flesh is the essence of the joining explains all. When death dissolves the flesh, it also dissolves the marriage. Until death dissolves the flesh, nothing can by any other means dissolve the marriage.
Do we then have any part whatsoever in the formation of a marriage? Yes. God has given to us, consistent with the essential freedom of the will, the choice of a spouse or of the single life. We choose both the time and the person. We are not married until we choose to marry, and God does not select our mates.
The Father never coerces the will of man. Still, once the man and the woman have chosen and have realized the joining, heaven seals the marriage while the flesh endures. This choice of a mate is, because of its absolute permanence, one of our most important decisions. It is not surprising, therefore, that many cultures have assigned to the parents the duty of making this choice. They, unlike the children, are not motivated by passion and should make a wiser decision. Anyhow the choice is a human choice and, once the joining has occurred, permanent marriage results.
What consummates the joining? Sexual intercourse. The legal precepts have generally viewed this correctly. Marriage is not consummated, indeed it does not even exist, until the male and the female are joined, because it is in its essence the joining of the two. Correspondingly, whenever two unmarried persons thus join, they marry. This may not have been their intention; they may have made no conscious commitment to one another. But they did choose to have intercourse, therefore they choose to marry because only the Father defines the joining that we call marriage. It does not depend on any condition subject to human adjustment. While both parties live in this world, heaven knows any sexual relationship they may choose to have with anyone else by one name only -- adultery. It is adultery because it is an adulteration of their marriage, in which God has joined them, and therefore it is also sin against God. Any man and woman who consent to share the sex act are married, unless either or both of them were married already, in which case they are adulterers. This may seem strange to you, but it is the only reasonable conclusion to derive from the voice of Jesus.
The absolute temporal permanence of marriage means that it also includes a very specific commitment that is distinguished from all others in that it is a "once in a lifetime" rendering of one person to another to begin and continue to the end a commitment of their persons. Once they have consummated it, it is permanent and irrevocable.
"Trial marriage" is thus a contradiction. It does not and can never exist. The same is true for a "temporary marriage," which would exist if divorce were valid, for the marriage was temporary if one can divorce a spouse. Marriage, like birth and death, is a "once in a lifetime" experience. After a marriage has been consummated, further sexual intimacy, cohabitation, legal ties, and procreation play very important roles, but the marriage exists with or without them all.
The wedding ceremony is not essential to the marriage, but if it is included it must be at the proper place -- at the beginning, unless that were impossible. Some couples join quietly and without fanfare; others spend a fortune on the fanfare of a public wedding. This alters nothing, for when two virgins come together in sexual union, they marry. They might dwell remotely, on a desolate frontier without benefit of either witnesses or ceremony, yet they are married still. Of course, they do have a witness even there -- the Father in heaven who notes and records their union for all time.
There is today great confusion about marriage in many cultures. Young people join and decide to cohabit and they say to unsettled parents, "We intend to marry, but not until we have enough money," or, "We will get married before we have children." They are thinking of a ceremony and a legal document recognizing their union as something that constitutes the marriage, but this is incorrect. They are married already, whether they realize it or not, for they are joined to one another and have become one flesh. Heaven decrees this to be a marriage; call it "common law" if you will, but it is no less a marriage. Death is the only release from it. Just as it is the sexual union that consummates the marriage, only marriage gives legitimacy before heaven to the sex act. Outside of marriage all sexual intercourse is, at worst, rape, which in the scriptures merits capital punishment. At best it is adultery, which in the scriptures merits eternal condemnation. More than this, when a man and a woman come together as pure virgins to experience the rapturous delight of sexual passion, their action seals their union. Each has become totally vulnerable to the other in the knowledge that each has of the other, that he or she has maintained purity for this union, and so remains pure forever, provided each remains faithful. Such a couple is to be envied by all who have squandered their virginity in a premarital sexual liaison, for their purity and their fathomless faith in each other. The husband by his faithfulness is saying to the wife, "You are the one person to whom I give my virginity, and I trust you to be the mother of my children and to be the prime influence in their young lives as we rear them, you and I together." The wife responds, "You also are the one person I trust to be the caretaker of my life, to be the parent of my children, and to provide for us for so long as we live. I also give to you my virginity, and I trust you to maintain its purity for so long as we both shall live."
Well, that is a fine beginning, you may be saying, but suppose he turns out to be a scoundrel. Or suppose she is faithless and sells her body on the streets. Or suppose one or the other becomes insane and requires confinement until death. What then? Are you saying that there is no release from marriage in cases like this? Suppose that one turns homicidal and attempts repeatedly to murder the other? Do you say that even in such extreme cases there is no divorce? Yes. Exactly, except that I did not say it. It is the Word of God! There is no condition that justifies divorce because, in heaven, divorce is nonexistent. It is the creation of perfidious man. The Father does not acknowledge it, never has and never will for he does not change. Surely Jesus has made that clear, in setting these words before us:
Divorce is of No Effect"What God has joined together, let not man put asunder."If a man or a woman could, by conduct, justify the other in ending a marriage relationship, would not man be putting them asunder?
This is a sharp contradiction of the Law of Moses, which served as the basis for Hebrew society and for the practices and teaching of the Pharisees. This law made ready provision for the dissolution of a marriage. If, for example, one wished to divorce one's wife, one need only write her a notice of divorcement and send her away. This divorce "certificate" was her proof that she was free to marry whomever she would, and of course he was free to do the same. The Pharisees therefore considered the practice as approved of God, and for this and other reasons unnecessary to mention they held divorce in high regard. Knowing that Jesus disapproved divorce, they sought to convict him of sin, that is, of disapproving what God has approved. So they approached him publicly with the question: "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" It was a crafty question intended to embarrass him publicly as they proceeded to prove from the scriptures that he was in error. But Jesus, who could out crafty the craftiest when the occasion demanded, responded: "What did Moses command you?"
By this question he drew out of them what was to have been their "big gun" without committing himself. They answered as expected, "Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to put her away."
Then Jesus replied:"For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one. So, they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder." (Matthew 19:3-8; Mark 10:5-9)After this there was nothing for the Pharisees to say, and they quickly retreated from their public humiliation.
His disciples also heard his words and they were dumfounded. No divorce? They had never before considered the idea, and they rushed to ask him about it. He responded:"Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery." (Matthew 19:9; Mark 10:11-12)This account comes from Mark's version of the incident where his teaching corresponds exactly with Luke 16:18:"Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery."There is absolutely no exception provided by these utterances, and those disciples who heard him immediately understood that this was his doctrine. Yet many churchmen take a position akin to the Pharisees in that they approve of divorce under certain conditions. They feel that they have scriptural authority to sustain them, quoting words of Jesus himself. For example, they are apt to quote the following from the Sermon on the Mount:"It was also said, whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce. But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery." (Matthew 5:31- 32)At first reading, it might be that one could misunderstand this language to provide grounds for divorce, for it does provide and exception of some sort. To hear Jesus granting a justification for divorce would be the normal thing for one whose mind was already disposed to accept such. Yet this utterance simply does not justify divorce under any condition, and an open minded reading would not understand it to do so. It does the very opposite, showing clearly that even under the extreme grounds of adultery there is no justification for divorce. What, then, is the meaning of the exception so clearly expressed, if not to justify a divorce?
Here, again, is the utterance in question:I have extracted only the essential language for the sake of simplicity. Now, solely for the sake of still further simplification, let me temporarily remove also the reference to an exception, and we have:". . . everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress; . . ."". . . everyone who divorces his wife . . . makes her an adulteress."But is this a reasonable statement? Look at it carefully. Something is wrong. As it stands, without the exception, it is not according to good reason in at least one circumstance. If a man sets out to divorce his wife because she has committed adultery, there is no way that his action can contribute to making her an adulteress. She has already done that!
So, what Jesus said, plain and simple, is that whoever sets out to divorce his wife makes her an adulteress, excepting only when she has already made herself such. This exception then says absolutely nothing about justifying the divorce, for in every case, he continues:"whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery." (Matthew 5:32)Far from providing an exceptional justification of divorce, Jesus, by this exception, excludes any justification whatever because always, without exception, whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. This can only be because, in the eyes of the Father, she remains bound to her husband. Divorce has absolutely no effect. This utterance is then perfectly consistent with Luke's and Mark's versions. The latter two disciples included no other teaching on the subject, and so wrote their entire accounts of the life and utterances of Jesus without any need to specify exceptional grounds for divorce. They surely would have done so if it were possible, seeing that this was a most objectionable doctrine that hindered the acceptance of the Gospel everywhere, and which they first viewed with great disdain. Instead, they recorded the words of Jesus that admit of no exceptions. If he had elsewhere provided an exception, he would have been contradicting himself.
Jesus was careful to avoid ambiguity. Had he intended to provide a justification for divorce, he would have done so plainly and simply. He might have said, for example: "Whoever divorces his wife, except on the grounds of unchastity, and marries another commits adultery with her." But, in Truth, this is not what he said. What he did say provided and exception of a different sort, to avoid any seeming ambiguity. Had he not inserted this particular exception, he might have been understood to say that whoever divorces his wife, thus moving her to seek another husband, was making her to become an adulteress even if she seemed such already. But if he makes her to become such only after the divorce and remarriage, then her pre divorce infidelity was not adultery! Opening the door to such conclusions could lead to misconceptions and so he both slammed and locked it by the exception given.
There is one other record of Jesus' teaching on this subject, parallel with the utterance in Mark. Not surprisingly, we find it in Matthew (Chapter 19:9):"Whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery."Now perhaps you will say to me, "There! That is exactly the language of the statement that you said he might have uttered in Matthew 5, but didn't."
I concede that you appear to have a strong point. If he did use this language, there can be no doubt that he justified divorce on the grounds of "unchastity." He also would be contradicting himself in every other utterance on the subject. He would have been thoroughly inconsistent. The fact is that the translators of the Revised Standard Version chose to select one manuscript rendition of many for inclusion here. Other manuscripts present the exception exactly as rendered in Matthew 5:
Therefore, since the R.S.V. rendition presents Jesus as contradicting himself, it must be an erroneous account of this utterance. It is probable that scribes somewhere in the dark past, with access to Matthew's gospel, altered the language of Matthew 19 to conform to their incorrect interpretation of Matthew 5. They did this to satisfy those in the church who insisted that God must do what he has never done: provide a justification for divorce. Scribes of a more recent dark past similarly selected an erroneous version of Jesus' teaching for inclusion in Matthew 19, a version that contradicts not one but every other utterance of Jesus on this subject. "Whoever divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her commit adultery."
Suppose that you were such a scribe -- a modern churchman-scholar assigned the task of selecting, from contradictory versions in different but generally equally reliable manuscripts, the one version that truly represents the Word as uttered by Jesus. Suppose further that as a cleric you also have officiated at the wedding ceremony of divorced persons, thus giving these marriages the sanction of both your person and of the church. Would you, under this condition, choose that version that perfectly matches every other utterance of Jesus but contradicts your practice and that of your church? Or would you opt for the version that accords with your practice but contradicts every other relevant utterance of Jesus? Well, we know now what the R.S.V. scholars did, and that they then sought to salve their consciences with footnotes!
The record is astonishingly lucid and uncomplicated. Jesus as Gods spokesman made absolutely no provision for divorce, but instead denied any such provision saying:"...whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery," (Matthew 5:32)and:"...what therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder." (Matthew 19:6)Now also consider this: Jesus presented every near relative as an object of forsaking when he uttered the Hundredfold Promise of Mark 10:29,30. He then told us that one would receive a hundred fold of every relative forsaken, except that he omitted two -- the spouse and the father. All the others -- mother, brother, sister, and children, he included.
Why did he omit the spouse and the father? If one is promised a hundred mothers now, in this present age, why not a hundred husbands, wives, or fathers? He had good reasons, but the reasons for the two exclusions are different and so I will address them independently. His reasons for excluding the spouse have been the basis for the present topic, and the reasons for excluding the father will become clear in the next chapter.
So, why did he not promise a multitude of husbands or wives? This is a simple question, and it has a simple answer that can be framed in its essence by only two words: marital fidelity.
Since the requirements of discipleship include the forsaking of every near family relative, one might infer that Jesus has a careless view of marriage and the family. This is not so. Such an inference is the grossest of errors, for in the Word of Jesus there is no human institution more sacred than marriage. There, marital fidelity is on the same level as fidelity to God. We begin to realize this when we acknowledge that he provided absolutely no grounds for divorce. Since God had provided for but one spouse and no divorce, Jesus, as God's spokesman, would hardly promise a hundred of them to everyone who forsakes a spouse for the sake of the Kingdom of God!
The carnal marriage relationship is a metaphor of the spiritual bond that exists between God and his people, whom he has called out from the world. The apostles and prophets used this metaphor, and so did Jesus. The Old Testament spoke of God's people, who had deserted him, as "whoring after other gods." In the New Testament, Jesus compares himself with the bridegroom at his marriage feast. It is suitable metaphor only if there is no divorce provision, according to which the bridegroom might divorce his "bride". Then we could not rely upon him to save and keep us. He might not keep his commitment to us. He might divorce us.
Marriage is also a test of individual integrity. If anyone does not keep the marriage vow for any reason, how is one to keep vows made to God? The spouse you can see and interact with immediately; but God you see only through the eyes of faith, and interactions with him seem often long delayed. Jesus foretold that God's children will suffer adversity in this world because they are God's children. Therefore, if a person is such that he or she does not keep vows to the spouse whom one can see immediately, just because some adversity arises, neither will that person faithfully keep vows to the invisible God in the day of adversity.
Jesus understood the power of the sex drive and the resulting purely human difficulty with this Truth. When his disciples first heard it they objected, saying "If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry." (Matthew 19:10)
He replied:"Not all men can receive this precept, but only those to whom it is given; for there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it." (Matthew 19:11-12)Marriage is not a human creation. Far from that, it is the most sacred ordinance of God, which he provided from the beginning. Divorce is the profane ordinance of perfidious man and lacks acknowledgment in the sight of our creator. Heaven makes all genuine marriages. Men on earth make all divorces. The Father does not acknowledge them. Therefore it is true as Jesus said:"..whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery with her." (Matthew 19:9; Luke 16:18)From this we see that such a second marriage is no marriage. Well then, you may say, let us take a different tack. Suppose a man gets a divorce to remarry someone who recently has struck his fancy. Years go by. Is the first wife still not free? There was no fault in her. Is she to live out her life without a mate because of his faithlessness?
Yes. She remains married to him. His divorce changes nothing because divorce does not exist in heaven where marriages are made. God is his judge, and he does and will bear the penalty of his faithlessness. She, if she is faithful, will be rewarded.
Why go on seeking exceptions when there absolutely are none? Marriage is the Father's sacred ordinance. He is the one who has joined us, and only he can separate us. He does this when one marriage partner dies, and only then is the surviving partner justified in seeking a new marriage. Still, there is no divorce; there is death instead. Divorce is invalid in absolutely all circumstances. It does not exist except in the fanciful imaginations of men and women.
Always remember:"What God has joined together, let not man put asunder.""If such be the case," you may be thinking, "then God is unjust." To this I respond by saying that I have introduced nothing new to your experience of God by the assertion that divorce lacks reality in his sight, whatever the circumstances. You have seen or heard of traffic accidents when innocent persons were permanently maimed. They are living out their lives on earth in an afflicted condition -- perhaps burned or blinded, while the person responsible for the accident survived unscathed. You have seen or read of tornadoes that killed or maimed all in their paths, from the tiniest baby to the eldest reprobate, without distinction. You have seen or read of the airliner crash that killed all on board, from the vilest sinner to the purest saint. There are the proliferating numbers of innocent infants born to drug abusers and AIDS carriers who are themselves hopelessly addicted or infected due to evils of their parents. You have heard of the famines that ravish some pitiful places, and you have seen the pictures of the hopeless faces and distended bellies of the starving children. You have heard of the plagues and pestilences that moved across whole continents with suffering and death, sorrow and pain, again without distinction between the innocent and the wicked.
So you see why I say that I have introduced nothing new with the supposed problem of the suffering that afflicts us without regard to guilt or innocence. The Father does not annul the law of gravity to restore the falling babe to the balcony, uninjured. He does not annul a bad or painful marriage to restore a man or woman to a new marriage, uninjured. Neither does he annul a birth to grant a new one into more favorable circumstances!
The natural law operates without exception and men and women have learned to live with it, but not happily. They are always attempting to overcome it with serum, parachute, ladder, and CARE packages. Sometimes it appears that they have had some success in their efforts to abrogate the natural law of God. They take encouragement from the eradication of various pestilences and the introduction of safety measures on the highways and in the airways, yet they have not touched the laws of God. They have only altered their circumstances, thus minimizing the probability of immediate injury. So it is with marriage and divorce. Men and women have not changed the moral law of the Father, which is even more inflexible than the natural law. They have only altered the circumstances, thus again minimizing the probability of immediate injury. Then, they deceive themselves with the thought that they have ended one marriage and begun a new one!
We are dealing here with the so-called "problem of suffering," in which people strive to understand how God, who is just, can abide a system of being wherein the innocent suffer. You accept the natural law of gravity. You must, because there is nothing you can do about it. You accept the finality of your birth. You must, for there is no way you can rebirth yourself into more favorable circumstances. So, accept also the moral law of marriage, for there is nothing you can do about it. This acceptance also will move you a giant step forward in the direction of understanding it. By accepting both, one can constantly apply this acceptance to the task of altering the circumstances of any situation to minimize or eliminate injury, both here and hereafter.
You are, for example, alone, never married, and seeking a spouse. You understand and acknowledge the moral law -- if you marry, you irrevocably commit yourself for life to the person to whom you are joined. Thus, the acceptance of this view of marriage, including its irrevocability, results in a lifelong irrevocable commitment to whomever you choose. You will therefore exercise extreme care in the selection of a marriage partner, knowing that there is no way to undo a mistake. Then, when you have found a partner and have made a commitment, you will do so in perfect faith and trust in your partner's love for you. This commitment will do much to sustain a marriage relationship for all time. Your marriage partner will, of course, make the same commitment with the same understanding of irrevocability, for you will have exercised careful judgment to select such a partner. Then the two commitments, working together, will create such a bond as can never be broken by any force on earth. How is that? Simply because both understand and accept the irrevocable nature of the ties that bind them.
What is the option? It is to marry with the mistaken idea that, if it should fail to work out, one can get a divorce and try again. Where, then, is the trust? Where is the commitment? Where is the basis for an enduring relationship? You have risked nothing, you think, for you can always try again if this is a mistake. By this means every day becomes, not a day of trust, but a day of trial. . . whether the relationship is good enough to last one day more. No matter how otherwise well motivated you are to make a marriage last, you have lost it at the outset if you enter it believing in divorce.
Now it is very important to point out something that Jesus does not say about marriage. Never did he say or imply that marriage partners must never separate. The violation of the moral law of God begins only when there is an attempt at remarriage. It is at that point that one commits adultery. Separations may justifiably result for many reasons, including personal and religious incompatibility. Jesus set forth one specific reason that results, not in penalties, but in great rewards:
Separations are Permitted"There is no man who has left house or wife. . . for the sake of the Kingdom of God, who will not receive manifold more in this time, and in the age to come, eternal life." (Luke 18:29- 30)Yet the marriage, as commitment and divinely ordained union, remains intact while both parties live in this world. Any pretension to the accouterments of a new marriage, such as cohabitation, ceremony, sexual liaison, or whatever, constitutes adultery.
Now when we consider the significance of adultery, we should first ask, "What is being adulterated?" If, for example, someone has added an impurity to the drinking water such that it becomes undrinkable, the water has been adulterated. If someone takes the author's manuscript and on the way to the printer pauses to make and insertion, then the manuscript has been adulterated. If someone steals into the gallery and alters the artist's masterpiece, the painting has been adulterated. Also, when a married person takes to bosom a person other than a genuine spouse, for sexual intercourse, it is the marriage that is adulterated, because this act is reserved by the Father for the marriage relationship. It belongs exclusively to the marriage, just as the author's words belong to the manuscript, and just as the artist's paint belong to the portrait. As the foreign substance, one that does not belong, defiles and corrupts the water, just so, the marriage is corrupted and defiled and therefore adulterated whenever anything is added to it or taken away from it by anyone other than its author, the eternal artist, the Father in heaven!
Like the water, the book, and the portrait, the marriage has its pure form and substance, which its creator has imparted to it. The elements of its form and substance include sex, cohabitation, economic sharing, birthing and parenting children. These things are pure when, and only when, we experience them as elements of marriage. Whenever we enact them apart from the first and only legitimate marriage, they are impure. Whenever we willingly experience sex before marriage it then constitutes a marriage, though that was not our intent.
How is that? Again, it is simple. When pure hydrogen and oxygen come together and interact, they become water without reference to the intentions of the hydrogen and the oxygen. It is God's natural law. In precisely the same pattern, when pure man and woman come together and sexually interact, they are marriage, without reference to the intentions of the man and the woman. It is God's moral law. Of course, all aspects of the two situations are not precisely the same. The hydrogen and the oxygen have no choice in the matter: when put together and catalyzed with the addition of a spark, they cannot help becoming water. The unmarried man and the woman cannot thus be forced into marriage, but if they mutually consent to have sexual intercourse, they marry.
Look again at Jesus' words:"But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder." (Matthew 19:4-6; Mark 10:6-9)The Sexual distinction is therefore the sole basis of a marriage. The marriage exists only because of the sexual distinction of male and female, and because of the necessity of the two coming together for the procreation of children. A "unisex marriage" is a contradiction. No such marriage is possible. As contrived by humans, it constitutes but another adulteration of marriage. Therefore, unisex "marriages" are but another form of adultery.
Perhaps in no other area of life is the will of God and the free will of humanity more clearly illustrated than in marriage. There God reveals his will as the permanent, irrevocable joining of male and female that only he can break. Contrary human divorce codes and marriage practices reveal the operation of our free will. The Father does nothing to enforce his will. He has only informed us through the voice of Jesus. We remain perfectly free to respond or not to respond. There are no sure punitive, temporal consequences should we choose to ignore his will by divorcing and entering a new, pseudo marriage relationship.
No discussion of marriage and divorce can be complete apart from a definition of the motive that underlies them. What motivates people to seek divorce and remarriage? This question has a simple answer. They are motivated by the love of life, which cannot be understood without first considering other utterances of the Lord about the hatred of life. This consideration is the subject of a later chapter and the question will be answered there.
Finally, everyone who seeks to become a disciple of Jesus and take his words seriously (the only way to take them!), must inevitably investigate their significance for every situation. What about the present subject?
THE POSSIBLE SITUATIONS
Let us first define the spectrum of possible situations for each individual. They are:
(1) unmarried virgin, (2) married as a virgin, (3) unmarried non virgin, (4) married as a non virgin, (5) divorced, (6) divorced and remarried, (7) widowed, and (8) widowed and remarried. This categorization represents a human point of view, since that is the way you, the reader, are most likely to view them. The alternative is the point of view of Christ, who sees these things differently.
The first situation, or circumstance, is easy to analyze. Without contradiction, such a person, an unmarried virgin, is perfectly free to seek, as a marriage partner, anyone of opposite sex who is also an unmarried virgin. One can go even further and say that such a person is also free to seek as a spouse anyone who is in Truth unmarried, though perhaps not a virgin. This would be a person whose prior sexual experience was, in Truth, adulterous, or a widow or widower. Also, of course, the unmarried virgin is perfectly free, in Truth, to remain an unmarried virgin. Keep in mind that any two unmarried virgins, male and female, who join in sex, are, in Truth, married.
The second circumstance is that of the person who married as a virgin. For this case it is only necessary to ask whether the marriage partner was, in Truth, without a prior marriage. If so, the marriage is genuine. That the spouse may have been an adulterer or adulteress does not invalidate the marriage. It is only necessary that they be, in Truth, unmarried.
The third circumstance involves an unmarried person with sexual experience. The question to ask is, "Am I, in Truth, unmarried? If the prior sexual experience included anyone who was at the time, in Truth, unmarried, they are not truly unmarried. They are married to the first such person with whom they joined. All other experience was adulterous. If such is your case, you are married to that person as long as he or she lives, and thus you are not free to marry anyone else.
The fourth circumstance prevails when you were not a virgin when you married. Here, to determine your status, in Truth, you must ask two question: (1) What was my status, in Truth?, and (2) what was the status of my spouse, in Truth? If all your prior sexual experience was adulterous, then you were, in Truth, free to marry. As regards the second question, if your partner was either a virgin, or one whose sexual experience was, like yours, all, in Truth, adulterous, both were free to marry, and your marriage is, in Truth, valid. Any other circumstance results in an adulterous relationship, and no marriage.
The fifth circumstance is divorce. Here, to define your status in Truth, you must ask, Was I ever really married? You need only answer the same questions specified above with regard to yourself and your former spouse. If you find that you were, in Truth, married, then you are married yet. If you find that you were, in Truth, unmarried, then you are unmarried yet. The divorce is irrelevant in either case.
If you are divorced and remarried as specified in circumstance No. 6, the exact same questions again apply, keeping in mind that the divorce is irrelevant. If any prior marriage was, in Truth, a marriage, and if that partner yet survives, your current marriage is adulterous. You are already married.
Circumstance No. 7 is that of the widow or the widower. You must again ask the question, Was ours a true marriage? If so, then you are, in Truth, a widow or widower, and you are as unmarried as if you had never married. You are free, in Truth, to remarry. But if not, the death of your apparent spouse was irrelevant to your status. You may still be, in Truth, married to someone else with whom you had sexual experience, or you may never, in Truth, have been married.
The last circumstance on the list, No. 8, prevails if you are widowed and remarried. Your status, in Truth, is established by the answers to the same questions which prevail in all the other cases. You need only consider two basic premises:
You see, there are not many status options, in Truth, from which to choose, regardless of your circumstances. One is either a virgin, married, an adulterer, a widow or widower, or what is very likely, both married and an adulterer. In the latter case, the marriage may have preceded the adultery, or may have come subsequently. It may have issued from your current "marriage", or from a previous one. In no case, however, can one be a virgin and married, because the latter is consummated only by sexual intercourse.
- (1) Marriage is consummated by the sexual "joining" of two unmarried persons, male and female;
- (2) Marriage is terminated only by the death of either person. Divorce is, in Truth, nonexistent and irrelevant.
God has had the first word. The extreme seriousness of adultery was manifest long ago when he made its prohibition one of the Ten Commandments. He also had the middle word as he spoke through the voice of Jesus. He will also have the last word.
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