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Divorce is a controversial issue, but it needs to be talked about over and over. Let's talk.

The sanctity of marriage, homosexuality and divorce

Postby I can dothis all day » Wed Sep 02, 2015 8:08 am

If the sanctity of marriage is what's so important in the anti-gay crusade, then why hasn't there been a bigger crusade against divorce? It's especially ironic because some of the biggest anti-gay people I know are divorced Christians. I guess it's different when you might be attacking and persecuting members of your own congregation instead of "immoral" outsiders.
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Re: The sanctity of marriage, homosexuality and divorce

Postby Tiger » Wed Sep 02, 2015 8:12 am

It's not entirely irrational or hypocritical that there has been more hostility towards same gender marriage equality than towards heterosexual divorce.

For one, most of the anti-gay churches are anti-divorce as well. But they also recognize that there are times that divorce is warranted. Even biblically, divorce was allowed in cases of adultery. And few churches oppose divorce in cases where one spouse is abusive. And even when divorce is allowed within these churches, it's generally regarded as a bad thing. Even when necessary, as in cases of abuse, it's still treated as a unfortunate. If someone gets divorced without their ex-spouse having committed adultery or abuse, it's treated as shameful.

Same gender marriage, on the other hand, is recognizing same gender couples as equal to their opposite gender counterparts. Legally, socially, and in the case of churches like mine spiritually, these couples are celebrated through marriage. Through marriage, two people who were once strangers become family.

The anti-gay churches are horrified at this. Divorce has always existed, but they imagine that until about 20 years ago same gender relationships were always and universally considered unacceptable. They see celebration of same gender relationships as new and catastrophically different than anything that has ever existed before. It isn't, but they imagine it is. Something new is always scarier than something you're already familiar with.

And they regard same gender relationships with contempt and disgust, often imagining our relationships as inherently disordered, abusive, dysfunctional, and based solely on disordered lust and the desire to use another human being for one's own sexual gratification. So the suggestion that these relationships are equal to their own in any way seems horrifying and insulting to them. They aren't joking when they compare us to people who f*** dogs, they really think that is an accurate comparison.

And divorce is something heterosexuals can easily comprehend. Same with premarital sex or adultery. Almost everyone has at times wanted to have sex with someone they aren't married to, or wanted to get out of an unhappy relationship. Even if they never actually have premarital or adulterous sex, or get a divorce, the desire for it is understandable. Desire for sex and relationships with someone of the same gender isn't. So it's easy to imagine this as some special, unique perversion. And it's easy to condemn people who have same gender relationships, because it gives them a convenient bar that they can measure themselves against and feel better about themselves. "I may be cheating on my wife, but at least I have no desire to f*** a man!"
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Re: The sanctity of marriage, homosexuality and divorce

Postby jimwalton » Wed Sep 02, 2015 8:28 am

That's quite a good observation. Many churches *are* against divorce, and recognize that divorce is against God's ideal and it is destructive to individuals and to society at large. The Bible allows for divorce in under certain conditions, so despite that divorce is displeasing to God, there are times when it's allowed (as in when there's been adultery, among other conditions) and when it's encouraged (when there is spousal or child abuse). I know many churches who stand very strong against divorce,and help couples in every way they can to stay together. Divorce should be the absolute last alternative after everything else has been tried, and there is no other recourse.

Homosexuality, on the other hand, is never allowed by the Bible under any conditions. Every time the Bible mentions it it is under the category of immorality and displeasing to God. Biblically there is no wiggle room for justifying it or making it OK. Though the Bible never explains why it is wrong (it doesn't describe why anything else is wrong either, for that matter), it is uncompromisingly consistent in its teaching that it is.

While some churches celebrate gay relationships in the name of love, others don't recognize them as moral because the Bible teaches that it's sinful. And while love is the greatest command, it is never given the power to change the definition of sin. And so we love each other, but still recognize what has been defined as sin in the Bible. It's not because same-sex relationships are new or scary, or because we're homophobic, but because God says it's sin. It's a moral issue, not a personal one.
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Re: The sanctity of marriage, homosexuality and divorce

Postby Redneck Ralph » Sun Sep 06, 2015 12:54 pm

Jesus said the only grounds for divorce are adultery. He did not approve any other conditions to my knowledge. Chapter and verse for other allowed situations?
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Re: The sanctity of marriage, homosexuality and divorce

Postby jimwalton » Sun Sep 06, 2015 1:32 pm

The issue of divorce is a complicated one, and there is disagreement about it among Christians, because none of the texts in the Bible are meant to give a list of rules about it, but are only written as responses to certain situations or questions that have arisen. For instance, the only OT text about it is Deut. 24.1-4, in which vv. 1-3 set up a sample situation, and v. 4 is the rule. Divorce seems to have been practiced, and permitted or tolerated. The point of the text is that when a court of law rules that a divorce may take place, there must be justice and fair economic compensation. Later in Malachi God says he hates divorce, but no rules are given.

Jesus gives the "grounds" you are mentioning in Mt. 5.31-32, but anyone can tell right away that Jesus is neither setting any rules or grounds for divorce. The context is a section in the Sermon on the Mount, and if he's not setting rules for anger (5.22), lust (5.28), or revenge (5.39), then neither can we rightly interpret that 5.32 is rules for divorce.

Within the Jewish context, marriage vows included the three provisions of food, clothing, and love. Paul taught that these expectations were legitimate in 1 Cor. 7.3-5, 33-34. The Jews allowed for divorce when any part of the marriage vow was neglected, and Paul never teaches any differently. Paul teaches that a Christian should not abandon a non-Christian spouse, but if the non-Christian spouse were guilty of abandonment, divorce was allowed (1 Cor. 7.12-17). Putting all this together gives us a more clear picture of divorce in NT days, and can help us understand Jesus and Paul. Divorce is only allowed for a limited number of grounds that are found in the oT and affirmed in the NT:

- Adultery (In Dt. 24.1, affirmed by Jesus in Mt. 19)
- Emotional and physical neglect (In Ex. 21.10-11, affirmed by Paul in 1 Cor. 7)
- Abandonment and abused (included in neglect, as affirmed in 1 Cor. 7)

Therefore, while divorce should *never* happen, God allows it (and subsequent remarriage) when your partner breaks the marriage vows.
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Re: The sanctity of marriage, homosexuality and divorce

Postby Redneck Ralph » Tue Sep 08, 2015 9:12 am

I disagree. Jesus was clear, adultery was the only grounds.
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Re: The sanctity of marriage, homosexuality and divorce

Postby jimwalton » Tue Sep 08, 2015 9:56 am

Well, for one, you're not dealing with 1 Cor. 7.15, where Paul teaches that if one of the persons in a marriage becomes saved, he or she should not divorce on the basis of that religious commitment, but if the one who did not become a Christian wants a divorce, it's allowed. That has nothing to do with adultery.

Secondly, you're not dealing with Dt. 24.1-4, which is the only law in the OT about divorce, and which doesn't say anything about adultery. We can infer from these verses that divorce is only for good cause, to be handled in a legal setting before a public official, and legal rulings and documents should be provided to protect both of the involved parties for the aftermath. According to these verse, a husband apparently could divorce his wife for personal or for economic reasons.

In Mt. 5.32, this law, like the two others before it, first deals with an action (divorce), and then addresses the motives behind it. While the law can deal with acts (murder, adultery, divorce), no legislation can deal with one's hidden motives. Jesus' statements about anger and lust were never meant to be incorporated into the social and legal code of Israel. What he's talking about is how futile it is to think you can have a relationship with God by your own good works. God is not concerned only that our behavior be in conformity with the letter of the law. Our righteousness must exceed that (Mt. 5.20).

It would also help you to understand the cultural context of Jesus' statement. A few decades before Jesus, some rabbis (following Hillel) had invented a new form of divorce called the "any cause" divorce. By the time of Jesus, this "any cause" divorce had become so popular that almost no one relied on the literal Old Testament grounds for divorce.

The "any cause" divorce was invented from a single word in Dt. 24.1. Moses allowed divorce for "a cause of immorality," There was debate about what "indecent/improper behavior" meant. They debated whether divorce could be for any reason or if there needed to be just cause. But the Hillelite rabbis wondered why Moses had added the word "thing" or "cause" when he only needed to use the word "immorality." They decided this extra word implied another ground for divorce—divorce for "a just cause." They argued that anything, including a burnt meal or wrinkles not there when you married your wife, could be a "just cause"! The text, they said, taught that divorce was allowed both for immorality/improper behavior and for "any cause."

Another group of rabbis (following Shammai) disagreed with this interpretation. They said Moses' words were a single phrase that referred to no type of divorce "except immorality/improper behavior"—and therefore the new "any cause" divorces were invalid. These opposing views were well known to all first-century Jews. And the Pharisees wanted to know where Jesus stood. "Is it lawful to divorce your wife for any cause?" they asked (Matt. 19.3; 5.31). In other words: "Is it lawful for us to use the 'any cause' divorce?"

When Jesus answered with a resounding no, he wasn't condemning "divorce for any cause," but rather the newly invented "any cause" divorce. Jesus agreed firmly with the second group that the phrase didn’t mean divorce was allowable for "immorality" and for "any cause," but that referred to no type of divorce "except immorality." Jesus himself doesn't use the word for adultery in Mt. 5.32, but a much more generic word, πορνείας. While πορνείας is often used of sexual unfaithfulness (though it isn't their word for adultery), it is often used of general unfaithfulness (infidelity) to God. In Rev. 2.14; 9.21, and chapters 17-19, πορνείας is used as a comprehensive term for degeneracy. This is the word Matthew uses to explain what Jesus was saying.

This was a shocking statement for the crowd. It meant they couldn't get a divorce whenever they wanted it—there had to be a lawful cause. It also meant that virtually every divorced man or women was not really divorced, because most of them had "any cause" divorces. Luke and Matthew summarized the whole debate in one sentence: Any divorced person who remarried was committing adultery (Mt. 5.32; Lk. 16.18), because they were still married. The fact that they said "any divorced person" instead of "virtually all divorced people" is typical Jewish hyperbole—like Mark saying that "everyone" in Jerusalem came to be baptized by John (Mk. 1.5). It may not be obvious to us, but their first readers understood clearly what they meant.
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Re: The sanctity of marriage, homosexuality and divorce

Postby Redneck Ralph » Wed Sep 09, 2015 1:31 pm

So suddenly we are following OT law and Paul's words modify and nullify Christ's words? So, Christianity as usual. Gotcha.
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Re: The sanctity of marriage, homosexuality and divorce

Postby jimwalton » Tue Oct 20, 2015 3:30 am

Oh my, that's not even close to a gotcha. We are not following OT law. The OT law was fulfilled in Jesus. But the Deuteronomy text is important because that's what Jesus was referring to both in Mt. 5.31-32 and Mt. 19.3. To understand Jesus we have to understand the context of his conversation—that only makes sense, and Deuteronomy is the context. So it all counts. We are not following OT law, but OT law matters. Paul's words don't modify or nullify Christ's. Both Jesus and Paul work off the premise that God hates divorce, that it was never part of the design, but there are circumstances under which it is allowable. Jesus is talking to Jews and specifically referring to Deuteronomy; Paul is talking to Gentiles and is referring to the culture's understanding of marriage, the content of their wedding vows, and how Christianity has brought social change to people's lives.

So it is Christianity as usual: the perfect harmony of thought and theme, and consistency of teaching from different authors.


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