On Divorce, Oaths, and Retaliation

“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

“Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.”

Matthew 5:31-42

These three passages are along the same lines as yesterday’s, though not quite as sensational to the modern Christian. Here Jesus rebukes some of the traditions that had come up over the years that were contrary to the heart of the law, though did not directly contradict the law. For example, divorce. The law has a lot to say about adultery, but (as far as I know) the word “divorce” is not once mentioned. So, over time, divorce had become relatively accepted in their society. But Jesus said, no, divorce is not okay because your marriage is sanctioned by God. These three ideas would have been extremely radical in Jesus’s day.

And yet, we still have trouble following them! Divorce is rampant in our culture and, here’s the kicker, the divorce rate inside the church is no better than the divorce rate outside it. Even more mind-blowing, church leaders get divorces! My church offers divorce coping courses. Instead of repeating verses 31-32 to us, the church basically says, “Well, if you must.”

And we still take oaths. Members sword in to the office in the US government even take oath on the Bible, exactly the opposite of what Jesus said to do! Instead of just saying “I promise” we sear on graves, on the Bible, in God’s name. And don’t even get me started on retaliation. The death penalty, law suits, self-defense shootings. These are all proof that we aren’t taking verses 38-42 to heart.

So what I want to know is this: Why do so many Christians struggle each day to be the right kind of person, but chose to completely ignore Matthew 5:31-42?

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