Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people.
The hottest deacons’ meeting I ever attended in my previous church had nothing to do with church government or eschatological issues; it had to do with whether a divorced man could serve as a deacon. Some argued that even though the Bible allows for divorce and remarriage, we ought to have a higher standard for leaders. Others said, “Shouldn’t we be dispensers of grace, especially to those who are hurt by an unwanted divorce?” On and on the argument raged.
How does a proper understanding of grace relate to divorce and remarriage? There are some who say divorce and remarriage should not be allowed for any reason whatsoever. They want to impose a stricter requirement than the Bible does in this matter. In Jesus’s day, the Pharisees did that very thing. They said, “God’s law is not enough. We have to tighten things up if we are going to keep people in line.” So they added over six hundred regulations to what God had said. What did Jesus have to say about that? “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people” (Matthew 23:13).
On the other hand, there are those who try to lower God’s standard in the area of divorce. They say that grace gives us a free pass to exit a troubled marriage in search of greener pastures. They argue, “What if you and your mate are incompatible, or your mate is a financial time bomb getting ready to explode? What if you are unhappy? God does not want you to spend the rest of your life unfulfilled, does He?” That is the highest standard: What makes me happy?
Bad grace says if I am unhappy in my relationship, grace gives me the freedom to divorce. But for a follower of Jesus Christ, the issue is not what makes me happy, but what makes God happy.
Maybe you have already divorced and remarried, and you are feeling a little bit defensive. Or you are fearful that I am going to tell you that if you want to please God, you need to divorce your current mate and go back to your original mate. Trust me, I am not going to say that. The Bible forbids doing that. If you have divorced and remarried for other than biblical reasons, you can be forgiven by God of that sin. Admit that mistake to God, and then seek to be the best husband or wife you can be in your current relationship. But even though every sin can be forgiven, I do not know of any mistake that has more lasting consequences than divorcing for non-biblical reasons.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Good-Grace Marriages” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2020.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org