Mark 10:10-12 (ESV)
And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter.  And he said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her,  and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."
This will give a person a few things to ponder. What strikes me right away is that there is an equal warning to women not to divorce their husbands. This strikes me, because it is absent from other events in which Christ speaks on divorce. And the absence isn’t conspicuous, its presence here is. Women simply didn’t have the right to divorce under Jewish law. Men divorced their wives. For a woman to divorce her husband was but impossible. Of course, they could easily manage to get their husbands to divorce them, but legally it was always the husband’s duty to write the note. Women normally didn’t want to do this sort of thing, because divorce came with stigma, and the kids stayed with the husband, and there wasn’t any alimony, and it might be near impossible for her ever to find another husband or livelihood.
But this passage is quite egalitarian, what is good for the goose is good for the gander as they say. Divorce is divorce no matter who leaves who. Interestingly enough, it was the leaving that constituted a divorce, which is framed in the language of “freeing, untying, unloosing.” I could make a few hundred jokes about that. I won’t. It would probably indulge my more chauvinist side. I also found it interesting that looking up 1 Corinthians 7:13 in relation to this, the language for marriage is to live together. That wants to get me going on a completely different topic. And I will. I hereby break to talk about this language found in 1 Cor. 7:13 and just for a minute because I want to write those thoughts down, I may never get them again. The idea of marriage is two people, a man and a woman living together. This is at the base of it. In reality, Biblical reality, reality as God sees it, a man and a woman can’t live together, share sexual relations and not be married. But people seem to think the marriage is a piece of paper signed at the court house to be avoided at all costs. Over and over again I hear, well we don’t ever want to get divorced. If we don’t get married, we won’t divorce. Right, if you don’t move in, you won’t move out. But the minute you move in, you are married, you move out, and Biblically speaking you are divorcing. And this puts a conundrum to the church. These people are married. We in the LCMS don’t commune people who are “shacked up”, we say because they aren’t married they are living in sin. They are living in sin, but the sin isn’t “having sex outside of marriage” it is really a sin of not recognizing they are married, treating the marriage as something superfluous. The sin is actually one of wanting to pursue divorce. Because they are really refusing to love their spouse fully, refusing to make a commitment to each other. The whole idea of “shacking up” is keeping the door slightly open so that when using and abusing each other is no longer fun, you can make a quick exit. But it is still divorce all the same. Sure you kept the State out of it, the court has less to do with the division of assets, but it is divorce all the same. (Of course this arrangement is the original no fault divorce, so the state in making all divorces “no fault” has essentially, as far as they are concerned made the whole institution one of more or less shacking up. And this to the detriment of society as a whole. But more than that, they have really made it a no win situation for the man. Shacking up, the man still has some legal protection for himself, getting married, the legal protection goes to the woman, with no reciprocation for the man. Unless of course he is smart enough to get a prenup, which is just a man trying to win the same legal protections his grandfather had when he married his grandma. The problem is, if you think you need one, then you probably shouldn’t be getting married to the girl. It does sort of set a bad few first steps in the marriage. That’s why the state should be doing it. And there are times when those protections are nice. The woman you marry is definitely a different one after the honeymoon, the birth of children can cause all sorts of things to go wrong. The old saying is Men marry women hoping they will never change, and they always do. Women marry men hoping to change them, and they never do. When the woman has incentive to divorce, which with no fault divorce is precisely what they have, then it is more likely that when the man doesn’t change, and the woman does, divorce is going to be in the making. Really, no fault divorce, is society, through the state, breaking the tenth commandment by enticing one’s wife away from him, at least as Luther explains the tenth commandment. No wonder they don’t want those posted there anymore….) well hey, there are those thoughts.
Now back to Mark. This of course isn’t everything Jesus or the New Testament has to say about divorce. There are reasons for divorce. And at times one finds oneself divorced for various reasons. Jesus is warning men here that though it may be legal it is morally wrong to divorce so you can go marry the next hottest model that walks by. He warns the same for women, who in Roman law were allowed to divorce their husbands, and occasionally would secure a divorce to marry up. Here one only has to recall Herod and his brother’s wife, the arrangement for which John the Baptist had his head chopped off. Paul in 1 Cor. 7 indicates he himself was divorced. He also in that passage thinks it is better for those who find themselves divorced not to remarry. Of course, he seems to think that was good advice for anyone in the state of singleness, remember when the disciples learned the ramifications of marriage and divorce they thought it better no one ever get married. (Sometimes I just love the disciples for their complete humanity, the thoughts of men that clouded their minds.) And who can say there isn’t truth to that? It isn’t something to be taken lightly. And taking sometime after going through a divorce to sober up, and by that I mean, to let the emotions clear, before getting married again is but the best advice one can give. But there is no law saying you can’t get married again. (And by the way, a man who does this is still a man of one woman, assuming he isn’t a womanizer as well as a divorcee.) Paul stops very well short of making his advice anything near a law, and with good reason. The gift of celibacy does not come with divorce papers. Man was never made to be alone. It may even be that you were in the wrong with the previous marriage, things may be at the point where no reconciliation is possible. Getting married is still a better option than whoremongering, womanizing, and addictions to pornography. Really, there is only one thing to do when the divorce is done, be absolved. But don’t think because your divorce and remarriage are legal, they are then necessarily moral.