“You have heard the law that says, ‘A man can divorce his wife by merely giving her a written notice of divorce.’ But I say that a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful, causes her to commit adultery. And anyone who marries a divorced woman also commits adultery.” (Matthew 5:31–32 NLT)
In a 1963 speech, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “It may be true that the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless.” Every law – whether it’s from the law of Moses, Hammurabi’s Code, an Act of Parliament, or any other system of laws – is designed to restrain the heartless. None of us are trustworthy; all of us are suspect.
When God gave Moses the law to hand down to the Israelites, it was designed to restrain the heartless, the laws concerning divorce included. Since the joining of Adam and Eve in the garden, God’s intent for marriage has been as consistent as he is: marriage is to be a lifetime commitment. Because we are all flawed and broken, this intended reality is not always the lived reality.
When Jesus talks about the law that allows for divorce, he is emphasizing the intended reality. If a healthy marriage is a bridge that spans the chasm that exists between two people, then Jesus is calling on both sides to continually cross that divide by promoting the shalom of the other, seeking their completeness and wholistic well-being.
Regardless of whether you are married or not, Jesus is calling on all of us to be bridge-builders rather than wall-builders. As his agents of change in the world, Jesus is inviting us to join him in promoting the shalom of God.